- Noodles & Company has announced a new brand positioning, called “Uncommon Goodness,” which includes new menu offerings for Noodles Rewards members, a marketing campaign and six additional employee programs and benefits, according to a press release emailed to Restaurant Dive.
- Among the new employee benefits is immigration reimbursement. The company will assist employees in renewing, obtaining or supporting work authorization, citizenship or immigration status.
- Noodles’ new benefits come less than two years after the chain expanded its workforce perks during the pandemic to include pet care support, free flu shots, backup dependent care, tutoring services, and free dental services for children under 14.
Noodles & Company's immigration reimbursement program is an uncommon benefit among major restaurant groups. The new perk will reimburse team members up to $500 every two years to aid them with fees associated with their immigration or work status. The company would cover the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services immigrant fee of $220, as well as most work status fees, which range from $370 to $700.
Immigrants make up about 22% of the foodservice industry labor force. Executives, including former Domino’s CEO Ritch Allison have pitched immigration as a solution to the industry's labor shortage. Allison told CNBC in October his company needs immigration to continue to have enough team members.
Other new benefits include a General Manager Equity Partner Program; “Balance Bucks,” which reimburses expenses tied to mental, financial and physical well-being; a mental health series that includes workshops; and two employee resource groups, with one focused on the LGBT community and allies, and the other on BIPOC employees and allies. The company is also hiring a team of "ambassadors" tasked with doing good deeds for customers at restaurants, online and in the community.
The General Manager Equity Partner Program provides an opportunity for general managers to qualify for $50,000 of restricted stock units based on performance metrics. Several chains have developed new benefits specifically targeting GMs, who are critical to customer satisfaction and staff retention. Taco Bell, for example, expanded its vacation and parental leave last year to draw in more talent.
Employee mental health programs are also on the rise. In 2019, Chipotle added access to mental healthcare as a benefit, while Starbucks began providing inpatient and outpatient mental healthcare and mental health training. Foodservice has struggled with high rates of mental health issues for years. It is considered one of the three worst industries for mental health, according to a 2017 report from Mental Health America. A recent report from the National Library of Medicine shows COVID-19 only exacerbated the issue due to fear of being infected and customer demands.
While Noodles is one of many restaurant companies, including Chipotle, Wendy’s and Yum Brands, that offers employee resource groups, these programs can help the chain with retention. Such groups can better facilitate employee engagement and inclusion, amplify employee voices, create professional development and networking opportunities, and promote innovation, according to Paycor. Harvard Business Review found 70% of U.S. respondents ages 18 to 24 years old said they would be more likely to apply for a role at a company that had ERGs, while 50% of respondents said they would be more likely to stay at company that had such groups.
Retention is key as the industry deals with a historically tight foodservice labor market. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, quit rates for the foodservice industry grew from 5.1% to 6.1% from March 2021 to March 2022.