It might seem like an oxymoron, but if you want to make more money, stop focusing on the money. Some of the restaurants with the strongest numbers are also the ones that prioritize their employees wellbeing and providing an exceptional customer experience.

According to research by McKinsey, emotionally engaged customers are three times more likely to buy from you again, and recommend your business. The study also found that the secret to delighting your customers starts with prioritizing your employees. While many business owners are tempted to cut corners and not offer strong wages and benefits, this perceived cost savings is short-sighted and ultimately reduces profits.

Chick-fil-A

It’s hard to find a brand that gives back as much as Chick-fil-A, and it’s hard to find a franchise that is as profitable. An average stand-alone Chick-fil-A generates more than $8 million in sales per year.

Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy always said he was in the people business, not the chicken business and it shows in how the company operates.

Knowing that it all starts with happy employees, Chick-fil-A treats theirs well. When the drive thru gets busy Chick-fil-A sends its employees out to take orders in the line, but instead of sweltering in summer heat, they have fans, misters and drinks to keep them cool. It’s a small thing that makes a big difference. Employees also get free or discounted meals each shift, Sunday off and flexible scheduling for work/life balance.

On a much larger scale, the company has a scholarship program for team members that awarded $19 million in 2021. Last year Chick-fil-A also launched a program to provide financial assistance to any team member in need.

By treating its employees well, Chick-fl-A has a happy workforce which shows in the friendly service the brands is known for. For the eighth year in a row, Chick-fil-A tops the American Customer Satisfaction Index for the best service in the business.

Chick-fil-A is known for going the extra mile in service, whether it’s an employee carrying a tray of food for parents with small kids or an operator surprising a customer with a little something extra in their order. And in today’s world where people post and tweet about everything and service is often poor, good customer service gets broadcast far and wide.

Rise Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken

A brand doesn’t need to be huge to focus on doing good. Rise Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken is a newer brand with locations coast-to-coast that grew because of its focus on its people and corporate culture.

Rather than assume what its employees wanted, Rise asked them. Based on the results, Rise eliminated the cashier function by adding kiosks, added heated lockers for pick-up and delivery orders, and increased pay. Open only for breakfast and lunch, Rise offers its franchisors and their employees a workday that ends at 2 p.m. While the restaurant industry has a 73 percent turnover rate, the average Rise employee stays with the company three years.

Rise caters to its customers by meeting them where they are. Today consumers want to order and pay online and either have the food delivered or available for fast pick-up. Rise uses online and kiosk ordering and texts the customer when the food is ready.

The Rise way of doing business has resulted in the company not experiencing the labor issues that most restaurants have faced after COVID, and doubling its nationwide footprint in 2022.

Sweetgreen

Sweetgreen is a fast casual that takes offering healthy food many steps further, by offering a healthy environment for its employees and the communities it operates in. The company focuses on passion and purpose and it’s clearly working, with a store AUV of $2.9 million.

Sweetgreen’s ethos revolve around six core values; make an impact, think sustainability, win, win, win, keep it real, add the sweet touch and live the sweet life.

Sweetgreen looks for people who are passionate and have a desire to grow within the company. Every employee has a personal development plan and the company provides plenty of training to help them achieve goals It offers unprecedented benefits in the restaurant industry with insurance, 401K matching programs, paid time off and even five months paid family leave.

In 2016 Sweetgreen launched its Family Fund Program, which allows corporate employees at the company’s headquarters the opportunity to donate a portion of their salary to a pool that gives Sweetgreen’s restaurant workers access to an emergency fund.

Post pandemic how a restaurant treats its employees matters to its customers. According to a Qualtrics study nearly half of Americans view an employee-centric operation as being more deserving of their trust and consequently their business. Franchise brands that embrace their own employees are reaping the rewards of higher sales and good public relations. These companies have found that when they focus on their people, the profits naturally follow.

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