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From the editor: Data driven

From the editor: Data driven

Sarah E. Lockyer
Sarah E. Lockyer

The labor line. Workforce. Employees. Team members. Hourlies. Managers. Whatever you call it, your company’s people are top of mind right now as recruiting and retaining top-tier talent becomes harder with unemployment decreasing and wages increasing.

We’ve been reporting and analyzing the workforce quite a lot at Nation’s Restaurant News — from our monthly exclusive content from research firm TDn2K, parent company to Black Box Intelligence and People Report, to our own latest analysis of software solutions that can help operators manage their labor force better than ever.

We won’t stop providing information and solutions on this topic because, by all accounts, the expenses, difficulty and effort around a restaurant operation’s workforce will only increase.

According to preliminary results from the NRN Restaurant Operator Survey, fielded online this month, 49 percent of respondents said finding and keeping quality employees was their biggest challenge in 2016. Another 14 percent cited health care costs and 23 percent pointed to minimum wage increases. There were other selections, like securing prime real estate or changing consumer demands, both of which barely registered.

We’ll be analyzing the results of this survey, which includes additional data points on sales, unit growth and menu changes, in a special report in April and in a Facebook Chat later this month.

Another set of data we’re watching is restaurant valuations. Later this month I’ll beattending the Global Restaurant Investment Forum in Dubai, where I’ll be speaking about the strength of private-equity investment in the U.S. restaurant sector. The conference, which is powered by Michelin, brings together a global community of restaurateurs and investors to discuss trends, opportunities and franchising prospects.

The drop in stock prices seen at the outset of this year may put a halt on restaurant initial public offerings, temper prices in mergers and acquisitions and a affect lending terms. We have seen multiples come down a bit — but only from levels that were sky high. Even a slight correction hasn’t flattened prices, as private-equity firms continue to find restaurant investments attractive. Small concepts, we’re talking two or three units, are getting attention — and high valuations — from private-equity firms ready to put their money in the industry. There is no doubt demand is still high.

Data always helps businesses make decisions, stay informed and find opportunities for improved returns, whether we’re talking people or private equity. Just never forget to always read between the line items.

Sarah E. Lockyer, Editor-in-Chief

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @slockyerNRN

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