In our restaurant industry, we face a significant challenge with employee turnover. Even in a post-pandemic world, 83% of small restaurants struggle to fill job openings, and average turnover rates range from 51% to 75% across the industry. At Balance Grille, the Asian Fast Casual rising leader, we have successfully tackled this challenge to find and keep employees. Let me delve into how we set ourselves apart from the competition and inspire other businesses to follow suit.
A People-First Approach
At Balance Grille, our business philosophy revolves around putting people first, which includes both our customers and employees. We prioritize autonomy within our close-knit and exceptional team by offering competitive wages and comprehensive training. Since our establishment in 2010, my co-founder CJ and I, have consistently valued the individuals who not only enjoy but also serve our feel-good Asian-fusion cuisine at Balance Grille. We have implemented practices and policies that positively impact our employees and the communities we serve.
Challenging Traditional Management Structures
In the restaurant industry, rigid management structures often cause problems, with distinct roles assigned to employees such as customer service, chefs, and managers. This leads to income disparities, limited advancement opportunities, and a lack of transparency, resulting in job dissatisfaction and high turnover rates. Hiring and training employees who only stay for a short period translates into significant losses of time and money for franchise owners.
In response to these challenges, CJ and I introduced a labor approach focused on autonomy, versatility, and inclusivity. We pioneered an employee-centered peer-to-peer management system characterized by transparency, continuous learning, and self-driven advancement. This groundbreaking approach has revolutionized the fast-casual labor market.
Redesigning Traditional Restaurant Management
At Balance Grille, our peer-to-peer management philosophy is built around a technologically-based badge system. This system not only curbs high employee turnover but also adds value for franchise owners while ensuring our employees’ long-term success and satisfaction. We strive to understand our employees’ wants and ask for genuine feedback, approaching them with the same mindset we use when thinking about our customers.
Recognizing the critical role played by a strong team of employees in realizing the true potential of our business, CJ and I developed operational systems that foster respect, care, and value for individuals, benefiting them both personally and professionally.
Each new employee starts as a “Brand Advocate,” emphasizing brand-centric, customer-facing skills. Pay rates for this role are consistent across the board and openly communicated. After initial training, employees receive badges certifying their competencies, enabling them to cross-train in various roles and earn increased pay as they progress.
Our system allows employees to train for multiple badges in positions of interest, such as working at the bubble tea station, food preparation, or serving as a Shift Lead. It not only boosts income but also provides scheduling flexibility to accommodate individual lifestyles and goals.
By implementing a personalized career progression system, we have achieved remarkable employee retention at Balance Grille. While other restaurant chains experience a retention rate of only 56% after 90 days, resulting in hiring and retraining for the same positions multiple times within a short timeframe, we boast an impressive average tenure of 2.46 years after the initial 60 days of employment.
Our technology-driven Balance Grille operating system also benefits franchise partners. The efficient use of technology enables the creation of the Balance Operational Leadership role, which oversees multiple units without the need for constant physical presence. Our technology systems simplify decision-making for franchise owners, tracking task completion rates, punctuality, and other essential data to make informed and objective judgments.
As Balance Grille’s first franchise partners and experienced restauranters, my colleagues Nick Costanzo and Brian Pfeiffenberger can attest to the key differences they saw in the brand that solidified the decision to open their own Balance Grille location in the Denver area. The Balance Grille brand and culture is something we are genuinely excited about, and we look forward to welcoming more passionate franchise operators across the country who share our vision.
Prakash Karamchandani (PK) is the cofounder of Balance Grille. Founded by Prakash Karamchandani (PK) and HoChan Jang (CJ), Balance Grille is redefining the fast-casual space by providing a fresh and flavorful take on clean eating and Asian cuisine. With 75% of its employees trained as shift leaders through its peer-to-peer management system and an average employee tenure of 2.46 years, Balance is proving that its unique approach to staffing is paying off exponentially.
Photo courtesy: Balance Grille