Case Study - Transformation

100-Day Innovation Challenge Improves Talent Results and Capabilities

Employee turnover created extra cost and hindered the customer experience.


A leading “quick service” restaurant chain with nearly 2,000 stores enjoyed consistent year-over-year growth. Their franchise based business model empowered independent operators with significant autonomy, while leveraging the strength of a common brand, menu, and supply chain.

Despite stellar business results, annual operator surveys revealed significant concern regarding finding and keeping high performing members. Excessive turnover imposed unnecessary costs and distracted employees from providing outstanding customer experiences.

In considering how to help operators respond to talent challenges, corporate leadership turned to Schaffer Consulting and our “Rapid Results” approach. By engaging Schaffer, leaders were able to help restaurant operators create their own recruiting and retention solutions and expand capacity to address future opportunities.


The company selected two major markets at different stages of maturity to participate in an initial proof of concept. Approximately 12 operators per region volunteered to be part of the effort.

Schaffer began by conducting a series of interviews with restaurant owners and internal consultants from each city to better understand their perspectives on talent pain points. We learned that traditional talent sources were no longer as fruitful as they once were and millennial work preferences were shattering conventional notions of how to engage team members. In addition to one-on-one discussions, the Schaffer team also administered a brief survey to benchmark participants’ self-assessments of their talent and leadership capabilities.


Schaffer facilitated launch sessions in each market to organize operator teams, help them set 100-day results goals, and support creation of initial work plans. Several talent thought leaders from outside the organization also participated to share their research and experience to stimulate operators’ original thinking.

One team committed to identifying 50 new daytime team members – double their average. Another agreed to establish two new relationships with local colleges to serve as recruiting sources and to hire at least three people with leadership potential based on those relationships. A third team decided to increase retention of new team members at 90 days by 50%.

Achieving these goals hinged on operators’ abilities to significantly expand their understanding of what made current and prospective team members tick – what they valued, who influenced them, and how they made decisions. Following the launches, Schaffer guided restaurant owners through a 30-day discovery process grounded in interviews, observations, and reflection. Each team developed a custom Employee Value Proposition (EVP), leveraging what they learned from their discovery experiences. The EVPs would serve as strategic reference points for recruitment and retention program development.


Following the discovery phase, Rapid Results teams of operators in each market set out to test new strategies to address their talent challenges.

One team hosted a series of in-store recruiting events, which they advertised through creative signage, social media posts, and word of mouth campaigns. After each event, they debriefed and tweaked the promotional approach to improve the quality and quantity of potential recruits.

Another team created a partnership with an online leadership development platform to entice high potential hires. They also developed a chain-specific learning curriculum to quickly build competencies in restaurant-specific focus areas – labor management, day-to-day operations, flow of food and cost, etc.

A third team created the “ultimate employee onboarding experience.” Operators assigned ambassadors to all new hires to make them feel welcome. Freshly minted team members also received a number of free meals that they could give away to friends and family, who were also invited to dinner parties to celebrate one-month employment anniversaries.


Teams in both markets achieved incredible results and showed measurable improvements in talent and leadership capabilities in just 100 days.

  • The team that set out to hire 50 new employees, exceeded their target and hired 63
  • The two teams focused on manager level recruitment established relationships with five colleges, including one of the top 20 hospitality programs in the US
  • Another team retained 23 of 25 new hires in their first 90 days – double the average
  • Participants self reported a 14% improvement in recruiting capabilities, 8% improvement in retention capabilities, and 8% improvement in leadership capabilities

Operators recognized that implementing sustainable talent solutions demanded ongoing focus and attention at the market level. Following the initial Rapid Results cycle, they created talent councils in each city to build on initial success. They also set aside budget – formerly used exclusively for marketing – to support future recruiting efforts.

The Rapid Results process enabled teams to drive talent innovation by helping them to focus on results-oriented goals, embrace human centered design, and instill a bias for action, learning, and iteration. Participating operators felt a new sense of empowerment and ability to work collectively to tackle seemingly intractable business challenges.