Crew at TDN2K’s Global Best Practices Conference

by Scott Van Brunt, on February 4, 2019

We had the distinct pleasure of spending three days with the TDn2K team in the Dallas area this week for their annual Global Best Practices Conference. While it was our first time at the event, we couldn’t have been more impressed with the TDn2K team, the quality of the content, and the amazing attendees and discussion throughout.

Our three most important takeaways coming out of the conference were:

It’s Not Just You. This Operating Environment Really Is This Hard
TDn2K showed us a lot of data that confirmed what we all know to be true; the operating environment in terms of hiring and retaining talent is extremely hard. With unemployment at historically low levels and turnover well north of 100%, having to operate restaurants at less than fully staffed has become the norm. With the inability to to bring on new employees fast enough the challenge of keeping existing employees, some 90+% of operators said they are understaffed in terms of hourly employees.

Did Someone Say Engagement?
Gallup similarly showed us reams of data that underscored the challenge around employee engagement. While the fact that only a small percentage of employees are engaged -- less than 30% of even GMs in fact -- might be cause enough for alarm, it’s the impact of low engagement on other key metrics and outcomes that was most troubling. Lower employee engagement directly translates into higher turnover, lower productivity, more absenteeism, and lower sales. Employee engagement is lower in the restaurant industry than in other verticals, which makes the above challenges with hiring and retaining employees that much more daunting.

The Best-in-Class Really Do Stand Apart
Despite these challenges, there’s a cohort of operators out there that are finding a way to break out and still achieve great results. TDn2K showed that within their consortium, there’s a group of ‘best in class’ brands and operators with strong same-store sales and traffic growth. Perhaps not surprisingly these are the ones with a more engaged frontline workforce and much lower employee turnover. It’s no secret that there’s a connection between the employee experience -- how motivated and equipped the frontline team is to do great work -- and the customer experience, and TDn2K’s data drove home that those companies that are doing a better job of engaging, recognizing, and retaining their employees are seeing that translate directly to their financial performance.

We’ll undoubtedly be back in Dallas next year to do it all again. And if you like data, insights, and a great group of senior leaders in the industry (as well as all things bigger and better), we imagine you’d enjoy it as well.

PS - On an even brighter note, easily the most inspiring part of the conference for our team was getting to listen to John O’Leary tell his story. It was pretty eye opening for us, and we imagine you’ll take inspiration from John’s story as well.