With the restaurant industry still struggling to recruit and retain employees, Pizza Hut COO Chequan Lewis thinks it’s time to completely rethink labor issues as a human problem with a personalized solution.
Lewis spoke on Wednesday during an Informa CREATE Digital Deep Dive session on “Why Now Is The Time To Double People” on how to provide support and opportunities to employees and treat all positions as careers with a possible upward trajectory, rather than temporary cogs in a wheel.
“We sit at the intersection of many conflicts and challenges and [the restaurant industry] can be a beacon for people if we are honest about the role we play,” Lewis said. “If we can step back and imagine ourselves as pathways to something more for the people who work here, now is the time to do it. People are looking for a path, not just a paycheck.
Lewis said he’s “under no illusions” that working in restaurants is easy, which is why it’s so important for Pizza Hut to use technology to make the jobs of restaurant workers easier. stores. Tech for tech’s sake is never the answer, he said, and that “technology should always support the employee experience,” whether it’s how pizzas are prepared, orders are shipped or shifts are managed. Although it is tempting to invest in robotics and automation, it is important to prioritize the “human touch” and that in the future, “cobotics”, i.e. robots and people working side-by-side, might be a more brand-appropriate solution.
Once conflict and friction are reduced or eliminated from the daily pains of a store employee’s workday, they may be more likely to seek greater opportunities with the company. These journeys have always been part of the Pizza Hut culture: for example, Lewis recounted the time he was in a room full of franchisees and regional managers and asked how many of them in the room had started out as drivers or line cook, and 80% of the room raised their hands.
“Our restaurants do more than produce the best pizza in the world, they should be cultures of belonging,” Lewis said. “I can talk about processes and products all I want, but if I forget that operations start and end with people, then it’s my loss.”
Creating that culture of belonging, says Lewis, starts with training. A good onboarding experience that easily communicates the speed and ease of an employee’s tasks is crucial. He also said it’s important to remember who their audience is. The majority of Pizza Hut store employees are people of color, and you can’t be color blind.
“We have to be very intentional in how we proclaim things or name things,” Lewis said. “The way fairness works is that we have to see, honor and honor everyone and make sure our restaurants are safe spaces for people.”
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