KFC Australia takes stand against customer abuse

By Nick Hall | 15 Jan 2020 View comments

Iconic fast-food franchise KFC Australia is taking a stand against customer abuse, partnering with Insurance and Care NSW (icare) on an innovative new project.

Icare’s newly created “Respect & Resilience” pilot training program was rolled out through one of KFC Australia’s largest franchisees. Designed to tackle customer abuse and misbehaviour, the program better equips employees with the tools to appropriately respond to conflict.

KFC Australia workers were taken through three specialised training workshops, covering topics such as understanding and preventing customer misbehaviour, along with supervisor skills and strategies for support.

Karen Ancira, chief people officer at KFC Australia said the partnership delivered on the chain’s mission to improve employee conditions and youth confidence.

“This partnership with icare shows our dedication to growing the confidence and wellbeing of all of our team members across Australia,” she said.

“When people under-25 make up 90 per cent of your restaurant team, it’s really important that we continue to build their confidence to help them succeed and bring their best self to work.”

Customer abuse

While from the outside, instances of customer abuse may seem few and far between, the statistics paint a decidedly different picture.

In its “Respect & Resilience” report handed down in October, icare revealed that over 88 per cent of staff at retail and fast food outlets reported up to five incidents of abuse per week. From incivility to verbal abuse, all the way through to physical aggression and violence, the results were wide-ranging and damning.

The Menzies Health Institute of Queensland at Griffith University found that widespread customer abuse can affect a worker’s physical, psychological and social health, which can be life threatening.

Sara Kahlau, icare chief of customer and community said that the abuse faced by retail and fast food workers had reached “epidemic” levels.

“As a community, it’s time to demonstrate that there is no tolerance for customer abuse and a need to stop the unacceptable behaviours in NSW workplaces that can lead to mental health issues,” she said.

KFC Australia results

The trial program has so far proven to be resounding success, with incidents of customer abuse reportedly falling by 48 per cent.

“Through the training that icare provided, our team members can quickly identify customer misbehaviour and have the ability to respond with de-escalation and resilience techniques,” Ancira said.

“It’s amazing to see the sizeable reduction in customer misbehaviour incidents across our restaurants since this pilot has been implemented.”

While the latest initiative takes employees out of the firing line, it isn’t the only way KFC Australia is backing its youth workforce. In 2018, the iconic chicken chain launched the KFC Youth Foundation, a dedicated organisation aimed at building confidence for the nation’s young people.

Speaking with Inside Franchise Business back in October, KFC South Pacific managing director Nikki Lawson said the foundation, along with a host of other initiatives were critical to ongoing success of the network.

“For a brand as large as ours, we have a responsibility to shine a light on the confidence deficit and make a difference to young people,” she said.

“Our people have told us that to them, KFC is first a training school, second a family and third, a place to be, where they feel truly supported and able to be themselves. It’s important to give young Aussies the skills and support they need to thrive, not just survive.”