Win the Restaurant Talent War by Offering Innovative Benefits

When you found out that KFC had formed a partnership with the online Western Governors University to offer employees 100% paid tuition to earn a college degree, you probably rolled your eyes as an independent restaurant operator.

Or maybe the shock was so big, you simply choked.

But KFC is simply following the lead of Chipotle, which is offering an education benefit of 100% paid select tuition coverage and up to $5,250 for others.

The thought in your head: “How the #@%! will I ever compete with that?”

The key to retaining talent in your company going forward centers on benefits. 

Everyone has the same money, but different benefit plans.

Benefits, and policies that used to seem outlandish, like flexible scheduling or same day pay options, now just get you into the game. 

I predict that, within a few years, considering buying into an app-based education portal and offering some kind of tuition for your employees is a meeting you just attended.   

You won’t have a choice.

The Mega Bonus and Management Retention

Be astute and do anything you can now to increase benefits – to retain hourly, managerial, and corporate employees. 

An example of innovation comes from my longtime client Barry Katz (also a past Restaurant Owners Success Club member) and his team at the four-unit (and watch them grow more) Katz’s in Houston. 

They recast their bonus program – adding an amount equivalent to one-third of all earned bonuses into a mega bonus that accumulates over three years. 

At the end of the third year, for people who are still working at Katz’s, a lump sum equivalent to one-third of all their bonuses for the past three years pays out. 

The day they hand out those checks will qualify as legendary.

When they first brought this idea to me for my input, I loved three things about it:

  1. We could hand each manager an “account statement” every quarter and show them what they had “in the Katz bank” – their savings account if they stick around.
  2. Managers tend to live on their regular bonuses. Like everyone, they have a hard time building up cash. The lump sum retention bonus could allow them to do something big – have a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, remodel their kitchen, or put a down payment on some property. 
  3. Just the gesture of this program makes managers look forward, and that’s important in a company with aggressive growth plans. 

This kind of thinking is imperative, and it’s how you are going to retain talent.

Programs like college tuition, mega bonuses, and other seemingly un-providable things like child care eventually determine whether your company can be fully staffed in the future.

The independent restaurant companies that figure this out will be the employers of choice that every company aspires to be. 

Over to you. What can you do to increase your benefits program in order to attract and retain the talent you must have to serve your guests and grow your company?


What’s the point of owning a successful restaurant business if you don’t have freedom?

Download Matthew Mabel's Freedom and Flexibility Guide for Restaurateurs to learn how to...

  • Step away for extended periods of time
  • Contribute to your community in a unique way
  • Spend more time with friends and family
  • Travel for weeks at a time
  • Split your residence at a vacation home for several months a year


    Want to grow your restaurant company past 3 units?

    10 units?

    20 units?

    Enter your email address below to get our newsletter and the free guide to pushing through expansion barriers and mastering unit growth.

      Toolkit for Creating Dream Restaurant Business

      What would you rather own?

      A good restaurant company?

      Or one of the best restaurant companies in the world?

      Enter your email address below to get our newsletter and the free toolkit to learn the 4 ingredients your restaurant business needs to maximize success.

        Why You Need Senior Management

        Want to get the most enjoyment from the success you’ve worked so hard for?

        Want to maximize your net worth in addition to your lifestyle?

        Enter your email address below to get our newsletter and the free guide to learn how to bring experienced senior management into your company.