Tools | Quinn Bowman
Quick-service companies have the opportunity to use the Internet for much more than hosting Web sites and posting their operating hours. With the emergence of virtual event companies, businesses of any type can perform a number of functions online that, a few years ago, were only possible in person.
While no Web technology substitutes for one-on-one interaction yet, virtual events could prove useful in two areas of the industry: recruiting and trade shows.
Existing virtual event technology allows companies to set up booths in an online environment and visitors can hop around with mouse clicks. Now the convention job fair or industry trade show can be transformed into an online show, complete with chat rooms and video.
Brent Arslaner, vice president of marketing for Unisfair, a virtual events company, says his events have all the basic components of a traditional trade show or convention.
“We emulate every aspect of a physical event—the grand entranceway, multiple-session conference tracks, and we are leveraging audio, video, and PowerPoint. We have an exhibitor floor with booths, a visitor center, and a lounge for networking,” he says.
While no quick-service companies have hosted an event with his service yet, Arslaner says that media companies host events and attendees can log on for free and attend training sessions for a fee. Companies hosting events pay for the service on a booth-by-booth basis.
Unisfair’s system can also be leveraged to help solve one of the larger issues for quick-serves: the need to replace rapid turnover in a restaurant. “If you’re McDonald’s or Wendy’s or anyone who is constantly looking to hire new people to work the register or as a fry cook, you could have an engaging online environment. Instead of having people come to the retail store, you have a virtual location online,” Arslaner says.
Unisfair is growing rapidly, Arslaner reports, with plans to host 150 virtual events next year. This fall, the company conducted almost one event per day.
He says recruiting through a virtual event, where a company employee would staff a virtual booth and meet candidates online, would not replace the job interview but could help reach thousands of prospective employees more efficiently. From a large online pool, a company could narrow the field to a smaller set of applicants with the right skills for the job.
According to Matt Smith, director of marketing and communications for human resource consulting firm People Report, companies have posted job opportunities online for years—its the idea of interviewing a prospective employee in an online environment that’s new. People Report provides consulting work to quick-serve chains across the country.
Smith says he is intrigued to see what happens as quick-serves gain the ability to interview and interact with prospective employees online. People Report has found that employees who get on board via an online process tend to have a lower retention rate than those who are hired from more traditional methods.