Pizza Hut wants to staff up heading into Super Bowl weekend and beyond to make sure service meets rising customer expectations.
The pizzeria chain, part of Yum Brands (YUM), said on Thursday that its franchised and owned restaurants are aiming to fill as many as 11,000 U.S. jobs, many pre-existing positions as well as new jobs, in time for the February 5th National Football League championship game, traditionally Pizza Hut’s busiest weekend of the year. The jobs include pizza makers, delivery drivers, store managers and others.
The company currently employs about 120,000 people in the U.S. and has said it plans to get its store count to 8,500 locations from 6,300 currently within a few years.
Though timing of the announcement is clearly intended to leverage interest around the Super Bowl, the jobs are not temporary and are aimed at helping Pizza Hut meet two goals, Kelly McCulloch, senior director of human resources at Pizza Hut told Fortune.
“It’s tied to the fact we are heading into one of the busiest weekends of our year so we absolutely want to make sure we’ve got enough people in our restaurants,” she said. But making sure existing and future restaurants are adequately staffed at a time diners are fussier is key too. Filling the jobs reflects “our commitment to delivering on a better customer experience.”
With the advent of more tech in its restaurants, jobs are getting more complex and so Pizza Hut wants to be adequately staffed. Last year, for instance, the restaurant chain introduced a Facebook Messenger and Twitter chatbot for ordering. Additionally, to be competitive in attracting talent, Pizza Hut offers a continuing education Life Unboxed EDU program to new hires and their families that entails at 50% tuition discount at Excelsior College, a nonprofit online school. The program was launched in 2015.
Pizza Hut’s moves echoes those of some rivals in attracting, and perhaps more importantly, retaining talent in stores. In the retail industry, chains are facing similar issues. Walmart (SBUX), for one, has raised its starting wages but also ramped up its training of staff by setting up “academies.” The discounter has played a central role in launching a new retail-industry initiative called “Rise Up” that provides continuing education and credentials to retail workers with a view to reducing turnovers.
Though McCulloch said there is no hard deadline for filling the 11,000 jobs, she is confident Pizza Hut can do just that in time for the football season’s finale.