High Volume Hiring
5 min read
August 30, 2023

How to save a million dollars if you’re a restaurant franchisor in five easy steps.

Turns out cheddar isn't just what goes on salads and sandwiches. Southern Rock saved $840,000, and you can, too.

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Step 1: read this article. 

OK, that one is actually just a freebie. A given — sort of like conversational AI’s ability to transform hiring experiences and return bullion back to budgets. We know, because we’ve seen it personally time and time again. Recently, our Conversational ATS helped Southern Rock (a leading restaurant group that owns over 150 McAlister’s Delis) save $840,000.

And the thing is, pretty much anyone can do it, too. Contrary to popular belief, full blown transformation actually isn’t rocket science. It’s not even biology 101 — see, Southern Rock merely changed the basics: faster, simpler, better. Turns out, once you have the right technology in place to serve as your copilot, you can set your hiring to cruise control and coast; more candidates, less work, less money.

What does this actually look like, step by step? Let’s get into it.

Step 1: Automate candidate screening and interview scheduling with AI.

Over 150 franchise locations. One recruiter. Do the math on that. 

Yup. It equals disaster.

For Southern Rock, centralizing their recruiting through a team of one (one!) created a massive hiring bottleneck that led to a cascade of negative candidate experiences. Responses were slow. Directions were unclear. No shows and poor conversion rates followed. 

They clearly needed more recruiters, but didn’t have the budget for more recruiters, which is the talent acquisition equivalent of a snake eating its own tail. The solution? Technology that does the work of dozens (if not hundreds) of recruiters: a Conversational ATS that proactively automates tasks like candidate screening and scheduling via text right on a phone in just a few minutes. 

With a Conversational ATS that negative cascade is rerouted to go upstream. Instead of frustrating forms or other clunky entry points, candidates simply scan a QR code or text to apply (this could be located anywhere from a social media post to a sandwich board on the sidewalk to a sticker in a window), and from there the entire process takes place during a text conversation — and all those negatives quickly become positives. Now, Southern Rock's candidates are happy because applying was quick and easy, communication is mobile-native and 24/7, and gratification is instant (getting a job interview just feels good, and now it happens in minutes). 

Of course, this also meant way less work for Southern Rock’s team of one. So she was pretty happy, too. 

And the time she saved was filtered back into more valuable work that an AI can’t (or in some cases, shouldn’t) automate, like preparing for interviews, managing staff, providing great customer service, the list goes on… 

Step 2: Improve candidate drop-off by eliminating friction points. 

…and the list continues right here actually. Because now that you’ve automated screening and scheduling, you’ll see a few more things happen: Namely, higher conversion rates.

Southern’s Rock conversational AI — an assistant they named Savannah — helped decrease interview no-shows by 30%. Again, the logic here is quite simple. Previously, it could take days before Southern Rock was able to respond to a new candidate and schedule them for an interview, and communication over critical interview details (location, what to expect, what to wear, etc.) were equally as slow.

And if the candidate had to reschedule? Forget about it. No hourly candidate wants to work for you badly enough to deal with that frustration.

But the frustration evaporates with conversational AI, because there’s zero friction points. Once a candidate has texted to apply or scanned a QR code, Savannah is there instantly to say hi and make the application process as seamless as possible. Everything is fast and available 24/7 — even rescheduling, which happens automatically over text as well. To eliminate friction even further, Southern Rock reduced their application to just three core questions (could an application get any simpler?) and set their time-to-hire target at 36 hours, pushing their store managers to interview within a day. This maximized the amount of interviews managers have for a given role, and allowed them to select the best candidates from a larger pool.

So not only is Southern Rock getting to candidates first, they’re also the fastest in getting the best candidates through every following step in the hiring process, all the way to Day 1. Given that QsR’s are typically competing for the same candidates, this speed and seamlessness is everything. 

Step 3: Spend less on job advertising while hiring more than ever.

At this point, you’re moving faster than ever and converting candidates at significantly higher rates. What’s next? Well, how about scaling back all those job ads you’re running that are no longer needed?

Most employers dump thousands of dollars into paid advertising to make up for the low candidate conversion rates they experience. A classic band aid solution. But it doesn’t actually work — it’s like throwing a life preserver out to a sinking ship. Here’s the thing: You don’t really need more candidates, you just need to convert more of the candidates you already have.

And if your conversion rates go way up, guess what? Your paid spend can go way down. 

Case in point: Since Southern Rock’s new hiring process is automated, faster, simpler, and leading to a massive increase in candidate conversion … its drastically reduced their dependency on job boards and they’re now saving $70,000 a month in paid media. 

Add that up over the course of a year and you get $840,000. 

Add that up over two years. Five years. 

Step 4: Reduce turnover (on accident, which is awesome). 

OK, so you hired a bunch of new candidates faster and easier than ever. You saved a ton of time and money already. Your candidates are happy. You know what happy candidates become? Happy employees. And you know what happy employees do? 

They stay.

Surprise — you weren’t even trying to fix your turnover problem, but you did anyway.   

For Southern Rock, they’ve not only hired more people, faster, with less money, and with less work from their recruiting team, but they’ve also been able to reduce employee turnover by 60% because they're now hiring genuinely happy people from a much bigger candidate pool and training them in a fully staffed, highly functioning environment. And because their store managers aren’t handling hours and hours of recruiting work each week, they have much more time to invest back into making their employees even happier as time goes on.

Traditionally, hiring a new hourly worker can cost about $10,000 when you factor in how long it takes and how much business you lose every day by being understaffed. Let’s say you have to hire just one new employee every month over the course of the year — that’s $120,000. 

Tack that onto Southern Rock’s cost savings from ad spend and what do you get?

Step 5: Smile.

Congratulations, by simply making things more simple, you’ve just saved a million dollars and turned your TA function into a major ongoing revenue generator. 

It’s also not rocket science to see the value of that.

Written by
Erik Schmidt
Director of Content
Erik Schmidt
Written by
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