How restaurants rank for employee satisfaction

Fast food chains are competing to recruit and retain talent, with some businesses doing better than others when it comes to employee satisfaction, according to a new report from financial services firm William Blair.

In the study, the company analyzed more than 350,000 Glassdoor reviews of more than 90 restaurant concepts, including fast-casual, quick-service, specialty and casual dining.

At the top of the list, 87% of In-N-Out Burger employees would recommend their work to friends, followed by Barcelona Wine Bar at 79% and Snooze at 77%. Newcomers to the top 10 this year include Black Rifle Coffee Company, at 76%, MOD Pizza, at 73%, and Chuy’s, at 73%.

Overall, two publicly traded restaurants made the top 10: Black Rifle Coffee Company at No. 4 and Dutch Bros at No. 5, both of which came in with 76% of employees saying they would recommend working there.

The company’s overall findings were consistent with previous years: culture trumps compensation.

“We’ve seen this really consistently since 2015 when we started doing this analysis — where culture and values, senior management, diversity and inclusion — seem to correlate much more highly with overall employee satisfaction in the restaurant industry . Of course, those are the hardest things to get right. It’s easy to raise wages. It’s hard to change your culture,” Sharon Zackfia, head of William Blair’s consumer research group, told Yahoo Finance .

In the report, the company noted that when “companies get the fundamental intangibles right, the payoff is often seen in many years of top NPS [net promoter score] related to how many employees would recommend their work to a friend.”

SANTA ANA, CA – APRIL 01: An In-N-Out Burger employee walks past the signage and the new In-NB-Out on North Bristol Street in Santa Ana on Thursday, April 1, 2021. The restaurant opened after the original building it was demolished in 2020 to make way for the new building which now has dual carriageways. The original restaurant could only queue about 11 cars, this new design will accommodate up to 34 vehicles. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz/MediaNews Group/Orange County Credit via Getty Images)

Zackfia noted that as a privately held company, the flagship In-N-Out Burger has a family feel.

“It’s family-owned. I think because it’s family-owned, it has a very family-like element to it. They don’t have to try to hit quarterly earnings targets or sales targets for Wall Street, so I think there’s a little less of that constant pressure that can be you see for a public company,” said Zackfia.

Although Starbucks did not make the top 10, seventy-one percent of employees said they would refer a friend to work there.

“Starbucks has obviously been in the news a lot for its employee relations,” Zackfia said. “But if you look at Starbucks on an absolute basis, it’s been one of the top 20 net promoter scores for the entire time we’ve been doing this since 2015, which is remarkable given that Starbucks has over 30,000 locations right now, so the scale is not”. It’s not necessarily the enemy of employee relations, but it’s obviously hard to stay small as you get older.”

While the breakdown came when founder Howard Shultz was named interim CEO, Zackfia says “we’ll see what happens” this fall.

“Clearly, Howard Schultz is back as interim CEO, [he] he has a strong vision for the company and all expectations are that he will remain chairman of the board, so there will be that founder-led dynamic, obviously, with a new CEO working with the board to lead that of vision,” Zackfia added.

According to records from the NLRB, an independent federal labor agency, 228 Starbucks stores have voted to unionize so far as of Tuesday. While 208 of them have been certified and must now start negotiating in good faith with the union.

Some other well-known brands ranked here: Shake Shake, 64%, Dave & Busters, 59%, and Bloomin’ Brands, which has the following brands under its umbrella: Bonefish Grill, 69%, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, 65%, and Outback Grill , 65%.

The company said it saw “disturbing trends” among workers at Chipotle, 53 percent, BJ’s Restaurants, 66 percent, sweetgreen, 54 percent, and Kura Sushi, 39 percent.

Zackfia noted that the downward trend in employee satisfaction at Chipotle was “probably one of the more surprising findings.”

“I think with Chipotle they’ve gone so digital during the pandemic and that’s a different muscle memory for employees when they’re serving mostly Uber Eats drivers delivering the food or when orders are being placed and consumers are just coming in Now that those lines are coming back back to the front of the stores, which I think we’ve all seen, that’s a different dynamic. This is a different level of pressure for these employees,” he explained.

Brooke DiPalma is a producer and reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @BrookeDiPalma or email her at

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