Pizza Hut COO: Restaurants Must Create a ‘Culture of Belonging’

As the labor crisis continues, restaurant employees are "looking for a pathway, not just a paycheck," according to Chequan Lewis.

  • To hire and retain high-performing employees, Pizza Hut COO Chequan Lewis says restaurants should carve out “pathways for something more.”
  • Lewis noted that the majority of Pizza Hut’s employees are people of color who deserve a safe space at work.

Related: Using your POS system to navigate the labor shortage

If you want to create a positive experience for your restaurant’s customers, you need to start with providing a better employee experience, according to Pizza Hut Chief Operating Officer Chequan Lewis.

As Nation’s Restaurant News reports, Pizza Hut is rethinking labor issues “as a human problem with a personalized solution.”

“We sit at [the] intersection of a lot of strife and challenge, and [the restaurant industry] can be a beacon of light for folks if we’re honest about the role we play,” Lewis said. “If we can take a step back and imagine ourselves as pathways for something more for people that work here, now is the time to do it. People are looking for a pathway, not just a paycheck.”

While some restaurateurs may think—or simply hope—robotics and automation will eventually make human workers obsolete, Lewis has his doubts. “The technology should always support the human experience,” he said. If you’re taking a serious look at increased automation, you’ll still need to put the “human touch first” and ensure that robots and technology are making your employees’ work easier.

When employees feel fulfilled in their work and believe they’re on a path to a real career, they might stick around longer. Restaurants have to create “cultures of belonging,” Lewis said. “I can talk about processes and products as much as I want, but if I forget that operations starts and ends with people, then that’s my loss.”

Lewis said a culture of belonging begins with a smooth and positive onboarding experience, with proper training to show employees how to do their work quickly and easily.

He noted that the majority of Pizza Hut store-level employees are people of color, and restaurant owners must be sensitive to their experiences and perspectives. “We have to be very intentional in how we proclaim things or name things,” he said. “The way that equity works is that we have to see, honor and dignify all people and make sure our restaurants are safe spaces for folks.”