The average wage of hourly workers is expected to increase to $18 by next year.
Chili's and Maggiano's parent Brinker International announced in a new Sustainability Report that it plans to increase the average total earnings of Chili's general managers to $100,000 within the next three years as the company continues to battle for workforce attraction and retention.
Chili's general managers across roughly 1,600 restaurants earned an average of more than $87,000 in salary and bonuses in fiscal 2021 while Maggiano's general managers in 54 stores hauled in an average of more than $100,000.
Hourly workers earned an average of $16.95 per hour in fiscal 2021, including tips, bonuses, and sick pay. In the Sustainability Report, Brinker set a goal to increase that figure to an average of $18 per hour by fiscal 2023. The wage boost follows more than $3.8 million in retention bonuses awarded to "heart of house" employees for their efforts during COVID.
In the past fiscal year, 2,011 hourly workers were promoted to certified shift leaders (CSLs) and 643 CSLs were bumped up to management. In fiscal 2022, which started July 1, Brinker hopes to internally promote at least 80 percent of Chili's managers and 90 percent of the brand's general managers. The company said it offers bonuses to the entire restaurant management team based on performance. Also, all salaried team members with at least 10 years of service receive an annual stock grant if they don't already.
Brinker expects to reduce Chili's and Maggiano's manager turnover this year to 24 percent and 28 percent, respectively. A spring engagement survey found 83.3 percent of Chili's operations leaders and 90.6 percent of Maggiano's operations leaders like their job. Additionally, 88.7 percent of Chili's leaders and 90.9 percent of Maggiano's leaders said they will still work for the company in six months.
“Who we are and what we do at Brinker is deeply rooted in support and kindness,” said Tammy Jones-Still, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion, in a statement. “Our goals and commitments to Passionate People represent the care and concern we have for our Team Members who mean so much to us. We know we’re bolder together – and together, we can do great things to create a positive, better world.”
The company's latest goals are the result of an ongoing labor shortage that doesn't appear to be yielding anytime soon. A recent study by Black Box Intelligence and Snagajob found full-service restaurants are operating with 6.2 fewer employees in the back of the house and 2.8 fewer in the front of the house compared to pre-pandemic figures. The companies also found that 51 percent of workers cited higher pay or the need for consistent schedules and income as a top reason for switching industries.
During its Q4 earnings call in mid-August, CEO Wyman Roberts said Brinker implemented a "full-court press" to hire, train, and retain employees. He noted that more servers became available as government stimulus tapered off, but there are still pockets of challenges with back-of-house staff. Labor inflation grew in the mid-single digit range in the fourth quarter, and Brinker expects that continue in the near-term.
To help restaurants manage labor more efficiently, Chili's is distributing handheld server devices to help not only with execution and labor costs, but also to give servers the opportunity to engage more guests and put more money in their pockets. The devices are in more than 250 restaurants, and the company anticipates full implementation by November.
In addition to improving wages and benefits, Brinker also aims to strengthen diversity. In fiscal 2021, 29 percent of restaurant support employees were People of Color, followed by 35 percent for operations leaders and 55 percent for hourly workers. At those same employment levels, 57 percent, 40 percent, and 53 percent were female, respectively. Brinker wants to increase minority representation among operations leadership to 40 percent by fiscal 2025 and grow female representation among that leadership group to 45 percent.
"It’s important that our restaurant teams and leadership reflect our communities," the company said in the Sustainability Report. "It’s also important that we create a workplace where every Team Member has the opportunity to flourish and succeed. We’re committed to breaking down barriers and pushing progress forward, with more racial and gender representation at all levels."