In an industry with high costs and low margins, it’s important to make the most of available resources to control costs. Labor is expensive, but how can labor costs be lowered without sacrificing service level and customer satisfaction? These labor scheduling best practices help manage schedules and lower costs.
1. Create a forecast by looking at historical sales trends. Historical sales trends remove the guesswork from what you can expect to sell. Occasionally, a large party will walk in at closing and you will need someone to stay late, but more often than not historical trends are a good indicator of labor needs. Pay attention to daily peak hours to see where you can scale back labor. For example, do you have a slow sales period in midafternoon between the lunch and dinner rush? Also, notice seasonal trends. When the patio is closed, you will not need staff to attend to it.
2. Mitigate labor by staggering the shifts. Increase labor as sales increase throughout the day. If each shift starts out slowly and builds sales, overlap labor so that employees are on the clock only when you need them. This practice also allows you to rotate opportunity.
3. Pay attention to part-time versus full-time employees. If you track full-time and part-time employees for benefits or ACA compliance, you need to be mindful of who should be scheduled as full- or part-time. Historical labor trend tracking helps you determine which employees have full-time or part-time status.
4. Honor employee time-off requests and preferences. Approving employee time-off and availability requests goes a long way toward building employee satisfaction and retention. Labor schedules that are mindful of employees’ lives outside of work create good will, lower turnover costs and can lead to happier employees. As a result, guest satisfaction increases.
5. Schedule to employee strengths. Know who your “rock stars” are, and make sure they’re on your busy shifts. But also note who excels at small talk or upselling to an empty restaurant. At lunch, it may be more important to have someone who is quick and efficient, and at dinner you may want someone who is more of a schmoozer.
6. Cross-train employees. Ensure that you have sufficient flexibility to react to any situations that arises. Cross-training also leads to a more cohesive employee team that has a chance to see each other’s tasks and roles first-hand.
7. Consider total labor cost. In addition to regular hours worked, labor costs also include overtime, double-time, shift or employee meals and drinks. If you live in an applicable area, special pay may also be included. If any of these costs apply to your business, consider the outcome when creating your schedule.
Scheduling is the backbone of your labor hours. Controlling the schedule can help streamline labor costs, lower business costs and increase employee productivity and satisfaction.
Robert D’Ambrosia is president and c.e.o. of Ctuit.