By Paul Molinari

Juggling restaurant staff schedules can be a stressful and time consuming process.  Even the best managers sometimes rely on a combination of sticky notes, bulletin boards and spreadsheets containing an ever-changing list of employee contact information, time-off requests, and schedule changes. It’s a big challenge to manage all of this information while making sure the restaurant is properly staffed at all times.  After all, it’s the staff on hand that can make or break the guest experience.

Enter Labor Management technology solutions.  A quality back office system will include an integrated labor management solution where the entire staffing process is streamlined and systematically controlled with easy-to-use functions that automate and optimize labor schedule requirements based on a number of critical factors -- all from a single platform.  Make no mistake, you’ll find no app for this in the App store.  Why? Because this is a big, honking business problem with a lot of complex moving parts and only an integrated enterprise-class back office solution sophisticated enough to understand your entire business will optimize the labor component of your restaurants.  Mobile is a vitally important component, but it is only one piece of the solution.

Labor management is all about labor optimization

To truly optimize labor you need to consider the following:

  • Forecasting Capabilities
  • Mobility
  • Real Time Access to Information
  • Collaboration Tools
  • Silo Busting
  • Labor Rule Enforcement
  • Integration to other systems

At the heart of labor optimization is having a solid forecast that accurately projects the ebbs and flows of your business days.  Forecasts should allow for a number of business drivers (sales, guests, transactions, menu mix) to learn and get smarter from historical data, but should also consider fixed tasks, holidays, LTOs, and other special events that impact the business day.  Next, you need to be able to build smart staffing demand templates that will translate your business drivers into a reliable staffing demand.  Finally as you build your schedules, you should have visibility into skill levels, certifications, pay rates, availability, budget information, and labor rules.  Sounds easy.  But then stuff happens.

As the day begins, sales may be off the mark, employees may not be able to cover their shift, weather could impact different day parts, LTO may not be predictable, or a media buy might have an unanticipated effect.  This is where mobility can really make a difference.  Having real-time access to evolving intraday sales trends, the timeliness and availability of your staff can empower your manager to make sound decisions on-the-fly as they run their shift. 

Further, right from their mobile device or desktop, managers can view a schedule, approve staff requests, and communicate messages to relevant team members about shift openings or important updates.  Mobility also facilitates collaboration with the restaurant team members who can easily offer, pick-up and swap shifts right from their own smartphones, tablets or desktop computers.  The manager should not have to get involved until it is actionable by her.  While this is awesome and helps streamline scheduling, have no doubt, there are other critical aspects to consider when optimizing labor costs.   

Labor scheduling can’t be in a silo – it affects everything…

An integrated enterprise solution should also include integrated dynamically generated task lists that ensure accountability to every core task of your restaurant operations.  You cannot silo labor scheduling because every core task in your restaurant can affect the delicate balance of ensuring that you have the right person at the right place at the right time.  So, if your suggested ordering system is off and someone needs to run to the grocery store to get supplies or if your daily prep plan underestimated demand and the kitchen gets backed up, then you will have team members running around performing tasks that are critical to your operation (like running to the store), that are not considered in your staffing plans.

Having the ability to optimize the restaurants staff size and quality for every shift is what sets Labor Management apart from Labor Scheduling.  Right-sizing your staff will reduce the costs associated with over and under-staffing. Using smart staffing templates will create labor schedules based on sales and guest-traffic forecasts, as well as past consumption and traffic patterns.

Good labor management solutions will have Performance Management capabilities, too.  These allow operators to reward top performers and coach more effectively by tracking employee performance, attendance, and task completion. 

OK, but what about overtime?  Better solutions will provide visibility to overtime during the scheduling process and will alert your management team well before it occurs.  If you are relying on systems to tell you about overtime as it is about to occur you are going to lose the battle.  Your team needs to know about OT far enough in advance to do something about it.  Finding out in real-time is not always helpful.

Navigate labor law and regulation compliance

Best practices are essential when it comes to labor law and regulation compliance, but navigating those laws and regulations can get confusing – and, um, laborious.  Make sure the labor management solution you choose can help enforce compliance with local, state, federal and company labor laws, including break laws, minor laws, and overtime guidelines.  Going even further, the solution should be configurable to enable the company to enforce best labor practices in every location anywhere in the world – in any language.  Finally, a secure labor solution will also create full audit trails for all critical transactions.

So, there you have it.  Labor management isn’t only about shift scheduling apps and it isn’t only about making sure your employees have an easy way to request time off or trade shifts.  No, labor management is really all about labor optimization and helping the company consistently find a perfect balance of staffing requirements-to-sales projections, day-in and day-out.

If you would like to learn more about how back office solution technologies can help your restaurants, reach out to CrunchTime, here.