In the worst of times — and in the best of times — maximizing a restaurant’s efficiencies within its perpetually tight operating margins is vital to remaining competitive in the ferocious feed-or-be eaten quick-service industry. Such concerns are even more important given the economic uncertainty of the past few years.
Often, the public face of a QSR operation belongs not to the owner or unit manager, but to the hourly employee working behind the counter.
Quick-service restaurant operators increasingly are turning to innovative solutions to hire the best people, tighten operational efficiency and save money in areas where the traditional standing dictum of “business as usual” just isn’t good enough anymore.
So they’re looking in previously overlooked or simply under-examined areas to squeeze the most out of every penny and drive increased productivity — areas such as workforce management.
Workforce management issues, such as the QSR industry’s prodigious turnover rates, are moving closer to the forefront as companies scour their spreadsheets looking for opportunities for improved efficiencies and cost savings, and workforce management companies are finding innovative ways to help operators leverage technology to build more streamlined — and efficient — labor practices.
QSR operators also are planning for an eventual economic rebound from the turmoil of the past few years. Jeff Maier, industry principal of retail and hospitality industry marketing for workforce management solutions provider Kronos, based in Chelmsford, Mass., said the company’s QSR clients are preparing now to return to hiring mode.
“Organizations today recognize that as we are on the cusp of a recovery from a devastating recession, they need to prepare their organizations for the increase in demand that will follow when consumer spending returns,” he said.
QSRs must find avenues for managing rising labor costs. For instance, by automating and streamlining previously time-inefficient processes and making smarter hires, maximizing the productivity of the workers they do hire. Other avenues include scheduling more intelligently; keeping workers’ job satisfaction and performance high; and continuing to control high turnover rates while retaining the best employees.Finding ways to keep workers happier while serving the needs of the business has never been more important.
It’s also becoming more important than ever to find simpler ways to keep track of the sometimes-byzantine labor laws and regulations that govern scheduling, overtime pay, leaves of absence and other legislative factors, to keep from paying dearly in fines and settlements. Companies such as Kronos, which provides software solutions to streamline everything from hiring applications to scheduling to payroll, are looking vigorously to fill these niches in the industry and lower the QSR operator’s staffing costs.
Labor expenses are going up, and they’re likely to keep going up. Wages aren’t likely to go down, so operators have to explore other ways to find savings in staffing administration without passing the costs onto their customers. Streamlining the application and hiring processes can help, as can hiring smarter, or making sure to hire the right person for the right position.
Labor laws are getting more complex, and they’re not likely to get any simpler any time soon. Scheduling software solutions from workforce management companies such as Kronos can help operators stay within legal standards — and avoid costly penalties — when scheduling and paying for overtime. It also benefits productivity by allowing managers to be on the floor, where profits are gained, instead of in the office.
Workforce productivity has always been a key point of importance for operators, and that’s not likely to change. But automating and streamlining employee management processes are simple and obvious ways to address this critical issue.
Using technology to determine whether the right employees are doing the right job at the right time - for themselves and for the company - creates a healthier operation from the inside out.
Keeping customers happy and coming back continues to be vital for success in the QSR industry. Labor solutions can help with this, by leveraging technology to provide better customer service and a happier and more productive workforce; and to reduce turnover and increase employee retention rates. This translates into an equal, more experienced and savvy labor pool, and to a customer who receives the experience they deserve.
What follows is a closer look at each of these critical business issues.