Jamie Baxter is the co-founder and CEO of Qwick, a Phoenix-based on-demand staffing company founded in 2018 that connects service industry professionals with food and beverage shifts in real-time. As CEO, Jamie provides technical leadership and strategic vision for Qwick on its mission of offering freedom, flexibility, and financial autonomy to professionals and partners alike. Prior to Qwick, Jamie led 7 HR technology products from concept to revenue. He previously led an international team of 380 people at Willis Towers Watson, where he managed eight product lines with $245 million in revenue and an R&D budget of $36 million. Jamie’s entrepreneurial passion can be traced back to when he started his first technology company at the young age of 16 and sold it at the age of 20. His early successes as a tech consultant led him on a non-traditional educational path and he left the University of Tulsa prior to graduation to launch his career.
Qwick is a real-time matchmaking service. Your platform connects industry professionals looking for work with restaurant operators looking for workers to fill shifts. Is that a fair description? If not, how would you describe it, and what are the key benefits it delivers?
Yes, Qwick connects service industry Professionals with food and beverage shifts in real-time. Our platform offers freedom and flexibility to Professionals, empowering them to make their own schedules and receive exceptional wages. In fact, shifts on the platform pay an average of $9.00 above hourly minimum wages in every city we operate in. With a 97% average shift fill rate, our Business Partners rely on us to seamlessly provide them with quality talent, ultimately enhancing and adding ease to their business operations.
Given the unprecedented labor shortages crippling the restaurant industry, it would seem that the timing couldn’t be better for adoption of a real-time staffing platform. To what extent is Qwick able to address the staffing challenges that restaurant operators are currently facing?
Qwick offers non-traditional solutions that are proving extremely impactful as businesses struggle with labor shortages. With over 200,000 Professionals, we’re filling an average of over 5,000 shifts per week for our Business Partners across 11 cities. As businesses struggle to find the staff they need to support their operations, they’re relying on Qwick to bring them quality talent. Professionals continue utilizing Qwick because of the freedom, flexibility, and exceptional rates our platform offers.
Can you provide some examples of how restaurants are utilizing Qwick? How do restaurants track and measure success? Are there performance metrics you can share that speak to how Qwick has helped restaurant operators fill staffing positions while cutting labor or recruitment costs?
Restaurants, as well as bars, hotels, catering companies, and event venues typically utilize Qwick to fill temporary positions, however, Professionals on the Qwick platform also have the ability to work repeatedly for the same businesses. Business Partners can hire Qwick Professionals at no additional cost, but we’ve found that many of our Professionals choose to remain on Qwick for the flexibility it offers. The thousands of Business Partners who utilize Qwick on a regular basis supply us with ratings and feedback after each shift. Our algorithm creates a custom pool of highly rated individuals to request for future shifts.
Who are your customers? What types of restaurants and/or other foodservice operators (you also work with country clubs, casinos, hotels, and catering businesses) are likely to benefit the most from Qwick’s platform capabilities?
Our algorithm matches qualified and vetted hospitality Professionals with all types of restaurants, bars, and hotels, along with catering companies and event venues all over the country. The biggest pain point for hospitality businesses right now is high turnover, and almost everyone is being affected. We help to combat this issue by making it easy to fill shifts with quality talent when needed, even last minute. Also, by giving our Professionals the agency to work shifts where and when they want and by paying them a livable wage, they are excited to continue to work Qwick shifts. We ensure our Business Partners always have the right person for a particular shift, whether they need a seasoned bartender, a prep cook, or a concessions cashier.
How does your revenue model work? Restaurants pay a monthly fee or on a per-fill basis?
Depending on the city, Business Partners pay 40-45% above the hourly rate. This is often less expensive for businesses than hiring full-time employees as they aren’t paying for recruiting, training, or benefits. There is also no fee to hire full-time if they find someone they love.
Qwick projects to close the year in 12 markets and close 2022 in 30 markets. We’re thrilled to launch our 12th and final market for the year this month in Austin, Texas.
What was the original vision for Qwick? How has that vision changed — or not changed — as the company has grown over the past few years and especially in light of the challenges facing the industry over the last year and a half?
Qwick was originally designed as a platform for hotel managers to fill short-term housekeeping shifts, which proved to be more difficult than anticipated. However, through that process, we realized that Qwick was a very effective platform for food and beverage shifts in hotels, event venues, and restaurants. Qwick was successful in that pivot.
At the onset of Covid-19, we lost a significant number of our Business Partners who were forced to shut down. However, as Covid-19 receded in 2021, businesses began reopening amid a historic, nationwide staffing shortage. The Business Partners we momentarily lost turned back to Qwick to support their reopenings, and the majority have stayed with us since. As a result, Qwick’s business grew 1600% YOY from August 2020 to 2021.
Tell us a bit more about your career trajectory. Before co-founding Qwick, you worked in HR technology, which is obviously related.
Prior to Qwick, I led 7 HR technology products from concept to revenue, growing the largest to $130M ARR. I also previously led an international team of 380 people at Willis Towers Watson, where I managed 8 product lines with $245M revenue and $36M R&D.
My entrepreneurial passion can be traced back to when I started my first technology company at the young age of 16 and sold it at the age of 20. As an HR tech veteran, my passion for Qwick comes from my love of building technology products, assembling amazing teams, and a drive to help the thousands of individuals on the Qwick platform earn extra income.
What led you to launching Qwick? How did you identify the market need? Did you have any prior experience in the restaurant business? Anything about the industry that surprised you?
The idea for Qwick came from my Co-Founder, Chris Loeffler who owns and manages hotels. He found that his number one problem in running hotels was staffing and high turnover and was wishing he could request staff like he could an Uber. I proposed a solution to this problem with Qwick. There were other players doing something similar at the time, but we created an algorithm that could better match Hospitality Professionals with Business Partners. We’ve found that our algorithm and vetting process outperforms other platforms and makes for a much more positive experience for our Partners and Professionals.
What do you like most about your work at Qwick? What are the biggest challenges?
The people at Qwick are the most important part of our business. I recognize that the successes of Qwick are the efforts of my team as a whole and we pride ourselves in hiring people who make the workplace better for all. This also translates to the Businesses we partner with and the Professionals on our platform. Our Business Partner and Professional relationships are extremely important; by prioritizing these relationships and treating people with kindness and respect, we’re able to retain Professionals and Business Partners on our platform over a long period.
The biggest challenge for us right now is keeping up with the demand. Amid a nationwide labor shortage heavily impacting the service industry, businesses are seeking platforms like ours to stay alive. We’re working diligently to sign up talented Professionals and hire employees internally at Qwick in order to keep as many hospitality businesses as possible afloat and thriving during this time.
What changes, if any, did you make in terms of Qwick’s own organizational structure, business processes and technology capabilities in order to weather the storm wrought by the pandemic?
At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Qwick lost a majority of its revenue overnight. To sustain the business, we had to lay off a significant amount of employees.
To appeal to Business Partners who lacked the need for additional staffing during the pandemic, Qwick instituted the Business Recovery Rate, which cut fees by 50%. Qwick also transitioned from doing in-person to virtual orientations for our Professionals. As hospitality businesses began reopening amid a historic, nationwide staffing shortage in 2021, our Business Partners returned to Qwick searching for support during their reopening. As a result, we were able to start building back our team (we started 2021 with 20 employees and plan to grow to 150 by the end of 2022). As mentioned, our business grew by 1600% YOY from August 2020 to 2021.
Any thoughts or insights about where restaurant owners and operators should be focusing their resources and efforts, especially as they continue to grapple with labor shortage issues?
The demand for hospitality staff will always be there and the labor shortages are likely going to continue into 2022, so businesses should keep seeking resources to ease the problem. Tech-driven tools like QR codes on menus, scannable advertisements with job descriptions and application details, and on-demand staffing platforms are proving extremely beneficial for restaurant owners and operators. Qwick is working diligently to sign up as many new and talented Qwick Professionals as possible to ensure every business is adequately staffed. We hope to put Qwick in front of as many businesses that would benefit from Qwick’s services as possible.
What have been Qwick’s biggest achievements over the past year or so aside from the several we already mentioned? Anything else new and noteworthy in terms of technology advancements, strategic partnerships, customer wins, etc., you would like to share?
In 2021, Qwick reached 100,000 shifts worked through the Qwick app and we’re filling an average of over 5,000 shifts per week for over 2,000 Business Partners across 11 cities.
What will be the primary focus areas for Qwick over the next year?
Expanding! We hope to put Qwick in front of as many hospitality businesses and Professionals as possible over the next year and close 2022 in 30 markets. Qwick plans to continue growing in size as well. Qwick started 2021 with 20 employees and plans to grow to 150 by the end of 2022. Varying from entry-level to executive-level positions, Qwick is hiring for growth, marketing, ops, product, engineering, sales, and remote and hourly orientation specialists.