Staffing For Operational Efficiency

In quick serve restaurants (QSRs), only 44% of employees work full time. This likely means staff are balancing multiple responsibilities, and may find that these affect factors such as availability, work ethic, and consistency. If a person’s work schedule adds unforeseen complexity to their lives, they may have trouble prioritizing it, or become frustrated with management and seek new employment opportunities. The QSR industry yields some of the highest turnover rates of any sector, reaching 144% in 2021. Many restaurant initiatives are implemented with the goal of reducing this value. Strategic scheduling benefits retention rates by increasing employee satisfaction.

Staffing for operational efficiency prioritizes minimizing roadblocks during each shift. When a restaurant is set up to run smoothly, employees are able to work productively without feeling overwhelmed. When a restaurant is understaffed, there is additional stress on employees, which negatively impacts employees and customers alike. On the other hand, overstaffing leads to increased labor costs and reduces employee productivity. Alternatively, a  quick serve restaurant that approaches scheduling with restaurant efficiency in mind will schedule the necessary number of staff to accommodate sales volume.

In this blog we discuss delegating shifts by answering the questions: How many people should you schedule for each shift? “Who” should you schedule and “When”? And “Why” should you practice strategic scheduling? 

Demand Forecasting – How Many People Should You Schedule?

Demand forecasting for quick serve restaurants is using data to predict business engagement over a future time period. This forecast is used in estimating key metrics like revenue, order volume, and order contents. These estimations are typically based on historical sales data, and adjusted for influencers such as market conditions, and seasonal preferences. The most accurate demand forecasts will also be able to be adjusted for less predictable influencers like weather conditions, and unexpected events such as a power outage. This helps a restaurant plan for things like inventory ordering and employee scheduling. Accurate demand forecasting can save on labor costs, overhead costs, and reduce food waste.

For actionable demand forecasting, begin by setting clear goals and intentions. For example, aim to determine the ideal number of employees to staff for opening shifts during the current month. This goal will help determine useful information to seek out for forecasting. Next, collect a variety of data ranging from historical sale volume data to weather forecasts, and market trends in foodservice. This data can be analyzed to form demand estimations either by hand or through an automated process such as specialized demand forecasting software. Finally, these findings can be put into practice. A restaurant manager can now review their findings to make staffing adjustments for opening shifts for the current month.

Labor forecasting in the QSR industry can hint at solutions to the employee turnover problem. By understanding how external factors influence sales volume throughout a day, and identifying more broad trends throughout a year, restaurant managers can optimize scheduling to staff the ideal amount of people at any given time, thus avoiding overstaffing or understaffing concerns.

Explore this resource from Patriot Software for additional details and tips for demand forecasting.

Evaluate Employee Skills and Preferences – Who Should You Schedule & When?

When considering which employees to schedule for a given shift, there are three key strategies: 

  • Fixed shifts: Fixed shifts provide employees with the same schedule week to week. While some employees may value the stability this provides, others may feel as though they are consistently stuck with busier shifts, while others receive lighter work.
  • Rotating shifts: Rotating shifts address this concern by having crews change their schedule on a set cadence, so that all employees take turns spending a set span of time working each shift. 
  • Open shifts: With open shifts, managers will leave several shifts throughout the week available to be picked up by whoever wants them. This method provides employees with some flexibility over their hours, and their mix of light and heavy shifts week to week. 

Picking the right scheduling method for your operation will rely on the preferences and skill sets of your employees. The scheduling preferences of your employees are critical in building out a satisfactory schedule. Request information on when employees can’t work due to outside obligations, or would simply prefer not to work, and avoid scheduling them for those shifts. If employees communicate preferred shifts, try to accommodate these. While diligently accommodating preferences and time off requests can make scheduling complex, it shows care for your staff’s well being, and can build employee morale.

When scheduling, consider a balance of employees who are more comfortable at the front of house and point of sale, with employees who are more comfortable in the back of house preparing food or taking inventory. This balance ensures a consistent customer experience shift to shift, maintaining efficient food preparation and high quality customer service. Additionally, consider the preferred schedules of high performing, seasoned employees and whether a newer employee can be scheduled alongside them for training opportunities. Experienced employees can share their experience with new employees – from optimal customer service to food safety protocol.

Employee Retention – Why Should You Schedule Strategically?

Strategically scheduled shifts can boost operational efficiency, provide employees with stability and boost employee morale. Each of these factors contributes to a higher employee retention rate, which is critical for restaurant longevity. By one estimate, restaurants lose $150,000 a year on average due to employee turnover alone. 

Strategic scheduling avoids the common practice of “just-in-time scheduling” in quick serve restaurants, where employees are informed of their schedule for the following week without ample notice. An in depth study of the service sector in Washington D.C., where just in time scheduling is highly prevalent, found that employees are granted too few hours on too short notice, resulting in unpredictable incomes and work schedules that make it hard for individuals to budget, arrange childcare, continue with education or hold down a second job to try to make ends meet. This inconsistency entices employees to seek different opportunities.

Avoid “just-in-time scheduling” by collecting time off and availability information as early as possible. Post schedules at a consistent time and place to convey respect and professionalism. When employees have advanced knowledge of their work schedule they can establish an effective work-life balance.

Refine Your Scheduling Strategy Using Employee Feedback

Increasing employee retention is pivotal to reducing labor costs. Collecting employee feedback is the most direct way to determine if your scheduling practices are well-received. Providing this feedback, whether positive or negative, should be encouraged by managers and collected regularly. The information collected during this feedback process is valuable to the creation of future schedules. Once you start using demand forecasting to predict sales volume and consider employee scheduling preferences and overall feedback, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by increases in employee satisfaction.