By Jennifer Johnson/Kronos Incorporated Retail and Hospitality Group lead
The typical pizza restaurant today is a labor-intensive enterprise with high operating margins and labor costs as compared with the rest of the business world. To fully appreciate the pressures of this industry, just compare the average sales of a full-time non-supervisory employee in the restaurant industry —about $56,000 — versus that of that same full-time worker in a typical grocery store, whose average sales come in around $226,000.
In short, the need for the "right" restaurant employee is critical to derive maximum returns in customer experience and service excellence for every buck invested. But in an industry plagued by high turnover rates and a hiring environment that favors the employee, that can be a challenge of epic proportions. the difficulty in finding the right employees.
And just having the right number of employees may not be enough. Managers must be meticulous in scheduling, especially to balance front-of-house and back-of-house employees. This is so important in maintaining the right mix of customer-facing, service-oriented staff with kitchen employees responsible for producing the food for the ideal customer experience. Finally, all restaurants must always comply with new, evolving, and complicated labor laws.
Pizza restaurateurs simply have a lot on their plate
Clearly, it's a lot, but that's not all. Complicating matters is the fact that managers and supervisors are often over-burdened with too many administrative tasks. This means they're not as free as they'd like to be to spend more time on the floor and help the company overcome the challenges described above.
Often this is the case when it comes to managing employees (especially if the company doesn't have an advanced workforce management solution). For example, consider some of the manual, time-consuming tasks managers typically face each day:
- Create effective, demand-based, and compliant schedules.
- React to last-minute shift changes that occur when employees call out sick or when customer traffic is unexpectedly slow/busy.
- Manage employees' various requests related to time off or schedule preferences.
- Respond to questions about leave balances, shift swapping, or how many hours employees have worked.
- Fix time and attendance or payroll errors.
All of this adds up to a significant time commitment and prevents supervisors from spending precious time where it matters most: On the floor, providing exceptional customer service, mentoring/training employees, or contributing to so many other areas that will help the business succeed.
Fortunately, there is a solution: Employee- and manager-centric workforce management applications.
Some forward-thinking brands are already using comprehensive workforce management solutions to automate time-consuming, error-prone efforts related to time and attendance, scheduling, leave management, and other employee-facing processes.
But imagine if you could offer the following:
- A mobile-first and device agnostic solution: Latest workforce management solutions are designed to operate entirely on a user's preferred mobile device, and provide functionality as familiar as ones offered by popular apps. Business applications today must adapt to offering the same exceptional user experiences, while offering key insights for operations. Employees can be engaged and empowered by easy mobile functionality — accessible from anywhere, at any time. And managers can perform a variety of functions in just a few clicks, but more importantly, they don't have to be tied to a desk and can be fully productive anywhere they choose to be.
- Embedded analytics: Latest in workforce management technology deploys embedded analytics as part of the underlying technology — not necessarily delivered as a separate application. As a result, supervisors gain much more context, awareness, and analytical insight, all to support key decision-making in real time. Managers can sort, filter, group, and calculate data to discover trends and visualize using charts and graphs displayed the way they want/need — configured the way they need it.
- Artificial intelligence and machine learning: Today, AI can run in the background powering workforce management applications in an entirely new way. The added intelligence can automate routine work and more importantly enable workforce management technology to detect patterns that exist within mountains of data or learn from user behavior and other variables to make the most relevant recommendations possible. For example, managers can automatically approve time off requests and this approval is based on real-time information such as an employee's accrual balance, number of employees who have requested time off and been approved that day, etc.
- Machine learning, a subset of AI, can help resetaurants forecast accurately, by analyzing historical data and trends, to benefit customers, businesses, and employees. Algorithms can now factor external variables to fine-tune schedules – for example. Managers can ensure that the right number of qualified workers that prefer to work certain shifts are indeed available in case of a snowstorm, with machine learning.
- Allow managers to deliver continuous performance management to frontline workers: Today frontline managers can leverage an evidence-based approach that provides continuous feedback to staff. These advancements in workforce management ensure consistency; increase transparency by clearly communicating how an employee is performing and what can be done to make improvements; and inject fairness into compensation decisions by establishing clear benchmarks that must be achieved. Managers can use real-time scorecards when making strategic scheduling decisions. For example, they may assign the most critical shifts to employees with high-reliability ratings or provide a desirable shift to an employee with a low engagement score.
- Allow managers to engage employees with more options: With advanced self-scheduling, employees can make themselves available to work in more than one store or franchise, especially if there are a number of locations within a short distance. This option gives managers a better pool of experienced and engaged employees to select from when attempting to fill an open shift. With Uber-like ease, employees have more input into and control over how their schedules are built. So if a college student can only work specific hours and days to balance education and a job but is happy to work in different locations, s/he can set work preferences using an intuitive map interface and other familiar visual cues. This also gives brands a broader pool of employees who are empowered and engaged and can offer consistency in service across locations.
- Ultimately, empower managers to work smarter and get more done: No amount of innovation in technology including AI and mobile can help a restaurant set itself apart from the competition. Only its people can. And next generation of innovative, powerful workforce management solutions can help managers manage their people more effectively for the best customer service levels and business benefits.
Cover photo: iStock