Elizabeth Navarro

HRIS Manager, Rubio's Coastal Grill

Supernova Award Category: 

Future of Work: Human Capital Management

The Organization: 

The story of Rubio’s is one of love. Love for family, fun, and most of all food. The inspiration for Rubio’s began in 1983, when Ralph Rubio, a college student at the time, was on one of his frequent surfing trips to Mexico. There he tasted his first authentic fish taco at a seaside taqueria and was blown away. He brought the recipe home with him thinking about how he could get people back home to experience the pleasure he felt when he took that first bite. Just a few years later Ralph founded the first Rubio’s in the form of a walk-up stand located in the Mission Bay area of San Diego, California. The fish taco was a hit with Americans and today, nearly 35 years later, Rubio’s Coastal Grill operates over 200 restaurants and has more than 4,500 employees.

The Problem: 

With rapid growth comes a variety of challenges, particularly workforce management – this is especially true in environments with high turnover. At Rubio’s, this turnover hovers between 100-150 percent. Most of this is attributed to reliance on a young workforce, whose availability is unpredictable, meaning recruitment and onboarding can become pain points. Rubio’s takes pride in its commitment to quality and impeccable customer service. The Rubio’s team is passionate about using quality ingredients, providing items like freshly made salsa, guacamole, and keeping the integrity of the original fish taco recipe, while expanding the menu to address their devoted customers’ evolving tastes. As a restaurant, customer service is paramount. It is important that the unwavering commitment Ralph Rubio showed his customers at his first Rubio’s is still felt by millions of customers across the nation as the company grows. Despite this continued commitment to quality and service, the HR team and frontline store managers were the ones most likely to feel the growing pains when tasked with efficiently recruiting and onboarding up to 8,000 workers annually. The teams and managers responsible spent most of their time doing administrative work, data entry and filling in paper forms, all with excessive back and forth communication. The team had to input information into multiple places, which increased the opportunity for error and confusion.

The Solution: 

The Rubio’s HR team knew it was time to find a solution that doubled as a trusted partner, one that would update their outdated processes and create efficiencies as they grew, and contribute to their company culture. Enter Dayforce, Ceridian’s cloud-based, SaaS-delivered platform for human capital management (HCM). “The first reason we selected Dayforce was really the one integrated platform. The fact that the other systems seemed bolted together creates potential problems. The second reason was related to Dayforce’s ease of implementation. We consistently heard that the hand-off between teams was seamless, and that the people at Ceridian were driven by a desire for you to succeed. We felt the most supported during implementation. I would recommend Ceridian and Dayforce to anyone because they deliver on everything that they promise.” – Angelica Gamble-Wong, Former Senior Vice President of HR (at time of implementation), Rubio’s

The Results: 

Initially, managers and users were elated to be rid of their reliance on paper and move to a modern cloud-based single solution that automatically updated employee records in real-time. Beyond going paperless, the team at Rubio’s quickly realized there were many other benefits of the Dayforce platform. Rubio’s biggest challenge of attracting, onboarding and retaining a young workforce was addressed in a timely, efficient and easy way with Dayforce. What used to take hours and involve several complex steps was now drastically simplified, which appeals greatly to Rubio’s millennial-heavy workforce. Rubio’s employees are also excited about the Dayforce Mobile App. It has been described as an incredibly intuitive and efficient way to access personal information and schedules, change shifts and get expedited approvals from management, all while improving job satisfaction.


With Dayforce, recruiting and onboarding up to 8,000 employees annually became drastically simplified. In the past, time was used inefficiently due to repetitive tasks and the paperwork burden on the organization was becoming cumbersome, with each hire taking 20-50 pieces of paper to process. Overall, Rubio’s was dealing with 100,000 pieces of paper annually making the percentage of time spent on admin work for its HR teams quite high when they could have been focused on more important things, like strategy.

Ultimately, Dayforce means that Rubio’s can ensure that from the moment a new employee is hired, they are engaged with the exciting and positive workplace culture and not bogged down by admin. And on the other side, the frontline managers can concentrate on what really matters: the guest experience.

“It makes me feel smarter. I feel I'm making better business decisions to be able to serve our guests better. Since Dayforce I have saved 70 percent of my admin time in the office. Now I can focus on things that really matter, like taking care of the guests, improving our service, and improving the efficiency in the dining room.” – Jamie Huizar, Restaurant Manager, Rubio’s Coastal Grill

The Technology: 

Rubio’s Coastal Grill uses Dayforce, Ceridian's flagship cloud HCM platform, providing the Rubio’s team with Payroll, HR, Benefits, Performance Management and Workforce Management functionalities. They also use Dayforce Mobile extensively. Rubio’s views Ceridian as a trusted partner and is continuously interested in implementing new Dayforce products and services as they become available. 

Disruptive Factor: 

Rubio’s is now an even better place to work than it was before the journey with Dayforce began. The people who work there are happier, more engaged and just excited to be a part of the team. Like Ceridian, Rubio’s highly values its people and wants them to bring their authentic selves to the workplace every day. These shared values and the use of Dayforce have improved the culture and made it feel that much more real and accessible to everyone - from corporate leaders to front-line workers.

These efficiencies, the time saved from front-line managers and associated cost savings means that more energy has been put into improving the Rubio’s employee experience along with the guest experience. This has made Rubio’s a more attractive, modern workplace for young workers and is helping the company to scale up in a way that is more pleasant for everyone involved.

Shining Moment: 

The fast-service food industry relies on student and part-time workers. Before Rubio’s implemented Dayforce, onboarding new hires was a long, complex process, filled with excessive paperwork and processing times, impacting morale. A real win for the company has been the significant increase in returning employees in recent years. They are showing higher levels of employee engagement and satisfaction, and with Dayforce, getting them back on board has been an easy and positive experience.

About Your Organization


Rubio’s first opened in 1983, in the San Diego neighborhood of Mission Bay. Today, counting the ocean as a source of inspiration, Rubio’s uses sustainable seafood in nearly all of its seafood dishes and continues to expand its menu with innovative recipes ranging from seafood tacos and burritos to California Bowls and crisp fresh salads.