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4 Expensive Problems Created by Scheduling Your Staff Outside Their Availability.

This is how it starts: Your eyes dart back and forth from the blank schedule on your screen to the notebook filled with handwritten time-off requests from everyone, it seems.

Cheryl has an exam. Jeff’s grandma died. Erica’s sister is getting married in Mexico.

And yet your ears hear the sounds of a bustling restaurant or store: laughter, beeping debit machines, rushed footsteps in the aisles.

How will you get enough bodies on that floor, when everyone wants the weekend off?

Juggling availability and time-off requests—the fixed kind, like when Cheryl has her bio lab Tuesday afternoons; and the variable ones, the weddings, funerals, ski trips and birthdays—is an incredible feat for managers who do the schedule.

And while the sales numbers and your dwindling roster suggests you just need bodies on the floor (this is a business!), forget their availability…your gut knows scheduling against employee availability is apt to backfire.

How does it affect your team and your restaurant or store when you schedule against availability? What can you do to help ensure you won’t face that scenario?

The impact of ignoring availability and time-off requests

It’s easy, in the day-to-day of just getting customers in and out and smiling, to forget that your employees are people outside the store.

They have kids. They’re going to school. They live on McDonald Street and they have rent to pay.

And because their lives include both worlds—in and outside the store—they need some predictability.

When all of that is in flux and an employee gets scheduled to work a Monday even though they don’t have childcare that day, or you don’t let them off for that family reunion, several potentially devastating things begin to happen:

1. It’s not good for employee satisfaction.

The schedule is up. Employees race to see it and make notes, make sure they’re off when they need (or hoped) to be.

And then they see that they’ve got a Monday shift and they’re working all weekend, despite submitting their availability and time-off requests.

What happens?

To put it politely, employees are not happy.

In this Globe and Mail article about erratic and unforgiving scheduling for part-time workers, labor economist Jim Stanford says focusing on your business needs instead of employee needs is bad for morale.

“…If you’re treating people like a disposable input, you’re not going to elicit a lot of loyalty and creativity.

And that leads us to the next point.

2. It’s not good for customer satisfaction.

When you lose goodwill and loyalty, you also risk losing service standards among employees who, prior to time-off requests being ignored, were always happy to go above and beyond for customers.

Zeynop Ton, adjunct associate professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management has studied retail operations and says, in the same Globe article, that “lean staffing strategies” prioritized for business needs hurt companies more than they realize.

“…Employee morale is lower, turnover is higher, workers are not engaged, they make more errors and they’re not as productive.”

As Ton suggests, when employees aren’t happy, there’s a good chance they’ll walk.

3. It’s not good for retention.

Let’s take a look at this example from, in which an employee who works in fast food describes how the new store manager writes the schedule late, often the day before it starts, and schedules against employee availability.

It sounds like this worker already has one foot out the door.

In this article about outdated employment standards “holding workers hostage,” it’s clear there’s an upshot to keeping staff happy when it comes to their schedules.

At Costco Canada—where the national bulk goods chain ensures scheduling stability by guaranteeing full-time staff 40 hours a week and part-timers 25 hours, with schedules posted one week in advance—the company has “one of the lowest employee turnover rates in the industry—12 per cent, compared with the retail average of about 21 per cent.”

Ross Hunt, VP of Costco’s human resources in Canada, says employee-friendly scheduling “gives (workers) a better quality of life. And if they’re stable and they stay with us, it’s great for us, too,” he told the Star.

4. It’s not good for profits and sales.

When your resentful employees stay and don’t do their job up to standards, it impacts sales and profits.

When your employees leave, it impacts sales and profits because they take with them the dozens of hours and hundreds of dollars you’ve invested in their training, as well as a poor brand experience that could ultimately impact sales in other ways.

Ton, the MIT professor, says there’s a business case for treating staff well, more like assets rather than liabilities: “If you invest in your people, and complement that with a great work design so that people are productive and can do work without making errors…the result is better jobs, higher customer service, lower prices and great returns to shareholders.”

Now that’s it’s clear why scheduling against employee availability is more than just a faux pas, it’s bad for business, how can you foster employee-friendly scheduling?

How to schedule with staff needs in mind

An article about work schedule abuse highlights data released by the Employment Instability, Family Wellbeing and Social Policy Network (EINet) that shows, “46 per cent of women say their employer determines their work schedule without any of their input.”

For most managers, consistently scheduling against availability isn’t a method of operation. It’s an oversight or it’s seen as a one-off necessity, but it’s a slippery slope, and an expensive one as we’ve outlined above.

Thankfully, it’s almost completely avoidable with these three steps:

Select the link below to follow through to the rest of the article.

#Restaurants #Ameego #Scheduling
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Are You Paying Your Restaurant Staff Properly? Common Employment Standards Mistakes & Questions [Part 2: United States]

Overtime. Breaks. Minimum wage.

For restaurant operators, finding the clauses and calculations to determine these ever-changing location-specific factors can be dizzying. To help answer some of those questions, we've created this two-part blog series to point you in the right direction!

If you have operations in the Great White North, be sure to read Are You Paying Your Restaurant Staff Properly? Common Employment Standards Mistakes & Questions: Part 1—Canada. For those of you with restaurants in the US, read on.

To get a better understanding of the common wage and hour mistakes American restaurant operators struggle with, we turned to our friends at the Restaurant HR Group, which serves a mean mix of payroll, benefits and leadership training.

In this post, Carrie Luxem, Restaurant HR Group president and CEO, shares the payroll questions her team gets the most from the restaurant industry.

1. Staff or independent contractor?

As restaurant operators, you have more than just your chefs and servers to think about when it comes to payroll. There might be a guy you have in to wash the windows and take away empties, a woman who does the early morning cleaning, a plumber on speed dial.

When you hire someone, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA, regulated by the Department of Labor and providing state-specific guidelines) says your employee needs to be classified: employee or independent contractor.

“The classification options can be confusing,” says Luxem, adding filing staff as contractors when they’re not is one of the most common mistakes restaurant operators make.

How do you know which way to classify your new hire? The Restaurant HR Group points to the IRS and some of the factors it uses to determine if “an employer-employee relationship exists…”

The right to discharge the individual
The mode of payment
The supplying of tools and/or equipment
The belief of the parties as to the existence of an employer-employee relationship;
The length of employment
The HR Group provided a handy link to a few different scenarios to help you determine the right classification for your staff and situation.

2. Exempt or non-exempt?

Getting this step correct is critical for restaurant operators, says Luxem. That’s because non-exempt employees are eligible for overtime.

“The general difference between the two classifications is that non-exempt employees are usually hourly while exempt employees are salaried.”

Here it is again: Hourly = non-exempt (usually)

Salaried = exempt (usually)

As the Restaurant HR Group points out, the FSLA states to be considered exempt, an employee must be:

Paid on a salary basis, and
Paid at least $23,600 per year ($455/week), and
Perform exempt job duties
But what if you have employees in your restaurant who do a bit of both? Let’s say your bartender is on salary, but also washes the windows on Sunday mornings at an hourly rate.

Luxem says the answer lies in the ‘primary duties’ test:

“…Set apart the employees’ primary duties from their collateral tasks. The classification of their primary duties determines their overall classification as either exempt or non-exempt employee.”

3. Too much or not enough overtime?

The Restaurant HR Group says given the confusion about which staff are exempt or non-exempt, restaurant operators are often find out they’re either:

Paying overtime to employees who should be exempt, or
Not paying overtime to non-exempt employees
“Either way, it’s put you in a less than ideal position by opening you up to possible litigation, back pay, and unnecessarily stressful employee relations.”

The US federal government is also moving forward with proposed changes to who is
eligible for overtime. For restaurants, the new overtime rules could mean managers
would qualify for overtime, which could equate to big costs for restaurant operators.
However, it looks like there could be ways to mitigate the impact.

To view the rest of the article click the link below!

#Payroll #HR #FLSA #Ameego #Restaurants
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Are You Paying Restaurant Staff Properly? Common Employment Standards Mistakes & Questions (Part 1: Canada)

Does Erica qualify for the Good Friday stat?

What’s her pay for that day if she works it—or if she doesn’t?

How am I supposed to handle vacation pay for the new dishwasher? What’s the minimum shift length in Saskatchewan anyway?

For many restaurant managers, paying staff comes with questions, and more questions.

That’s because in Canada, no two provinces have the same employment standards, and in the restaurant industry, no two employees have the same hours.

“The main problem with calculations is it’s not necessarily difficult once you get your head wrapped around the rules, but it’s so time-consuming,” says Evan Drury, CPO of Payroll Connected, an online payroll processing software the automatically calculates all those things payroll managers detest—stat holiday pay, overtime and vacation pay—to each province’s unique rules.

To illustrate his point about how much effort goes into making these complex employment standard calculations, Drury gives an example: An Ontario restaurant manager walks into his office on January 2 to do the payroll. Now, Ontario recognizes three stats at that time of year: Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.

“The manager has to track which of those days the server worked. The first stat day is Christmas Day. To figure out her stat pay for that day, he has to calculate how much she earned in regular wages in the last four weeks (before the work week of the public holiday, plus all of the vacation pay payable to her in those same four weeks), and divide by 20.

Now he has to do the same calculations for the next one, which is Boxing Day. And then again for New Year’s Day. This is because the statutory holiday pay for one is included as part of the pay calculation for the next, and the next.”

And that’s assuming she was off all those dates. Is your head spinning? That’s just one employee. One pay period. One employment standard rabbit hole.

The Three Areas of Payroll Grief in Canada

Drury says restaurant payroll managers tend to make mistakes or have frustrations about these three areas:

1. Statutory holiday pay (also known as public holiday pay)

2. Vacation pay

3. Overtime pay

“A lot of people get these ones wrong, and, unfortunately, they vary greatly from province to province,” says Drury.

The only employment standard that tends to be the same across Canada is breaks.

“Generally speaking, coffee breaks are a nicety and anyone who gets one should be thankful because they’re not required, but a half-hour break after five hours is standard,” says Drury, adding rules usually state that it’s an unpaid meal break if the employee can leave the premises, and a paid meal break if they need to remain on-site and be available to the employer.

So, where should you look for answers to your questions about all the other employment standards in your province?

A Province-by-Province Guide To Employment Payroll Standards & Resources

British Columbia

The best resource: This fact sheet for restaurant employers, made by BC’s Ministry of Labour, answers questions about everything from how overtime is paid and the rate of vacation pay to how to handle split shifts and BC’s statutory holidays.

A stand-out standard: BC has the distinction of being the only province in which you can collect vacation pay on vacation pay (employees receive vacation pay while away on paid vacations).


The best resource: If you’ve got a restaurant in Alberta, you’ll want to have this guide to employment standards for the hospitality industry at your fingertips. This guide was made with restaurants in mind. It answers questions such as ‘How does an employee working an irregular schedule qualify for general holiday pay?’ and ‘Can a person under 15 work in a restaurant?’ Bookmark it, or, better yet, print it and tack it to that bulletin board.

A stand-out standard: If a stat holiday falls on a Monday, employers have to look back nine weeks. If an employee has worked five of the last nine Mondays and at least 30 days in the last 12 months, then they qualify for stat holiday pay. Also, daily overtime is time worked over eight hours. Weekly overtime is hours worked over 44 hours in the week. The employer is only required to pay the larger of the two numbers (the lesser number of hours being paid at regular rate).


The best resource: The government of Saskatchewan’s employment standards for restaurants and food services industry is a great resource for restaurant managers. This page includes some really intricate details, such as minimum call-out pay (if a hostess shows up and it’s so slow she’s sent home) and split shifts, but you’ll need to view the general Saskatchewan employment standards page for rules about overtime, vacations, holiday pay, etc.

They’ve also got a handy vacation pay calculator to make crunching those numbers simpler and more accurate.

A stand-out standard: Employers in the restaurant and food service industry must provide employees who finish work between 12:30 am and 7:00 am with free transportation to the employee’s place of residence.

To see the full list of regulations for other provinces, click the link below.

#Restaurants #Payroll #HR #Ameego
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Feeling Burned Out as a Restaurant Manager? 4 Ways to Re-ignite Your Spark!

There’s a misbelief that seems to run rampant in many industries these days, and the hospitality industry is no exception.

It’s the belief that by working more hours, you’ll get more done.While it seems logical, it’s not exactly true. There’s a tipping point where you actually become ineffective – usually after 50 hours per week. And for restaurant managers, many of whom are teetering on the edge of burnout, this is a very pressing concern.

While it might seem as though people around you are wearing their business like it’s a badge of honor, those extra hours at work can actually lead to poorer decision-making, sleep loss and related physical symptoms, as well as mental health issues like depression.

So how can you, as a restaurant manager, avoid the burnout and start loving your job again?

Here is some good advice inspired by our friends at Sirvo.

#Restaurants #Hiring #Sirvo
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Three Powerful Ways POS Integration Can Maximize Your Restaurant’s Profit

Those who have worked in the restaurant industry agree – it’s not for the faint of heart.

Whether you’re a line cook or an owner you probably know what it feels like to be overworked and under the gun. And if you’ve ever been fortunate enough to serve in a management role, you’ve probably been unfortunate enough to know the frustration of creating a schedule.

Maximizing efficiency means accurately forecasting sales, determining staffing requirements, and attempting to remember that trick in Excel you learned last week. You haven’t been out to check on the floor in hours.

This is the dilemma that restaurant owners and managers face: when so much requires immediate attention, there is hardly enough time to strategize over a weekly schedule.

To the untrained eye, the question of whether to have a fifth server come in at ten or eleven on Tuesdays may seem menial. But as those with more experience understand, these “menial” determinations can make or break their business.

Hearty costs, meager margins

Consider a term that any decent restaurateur lives and dies by: “Controllable Expenses” – i.e., food and labor costs.

Industry expert Dr. Jonathan Deutsch recommends that total controllable expenses be no more than two thirds of sales, with labor no more than 35-40% of sales.

In an industry where profit margins are notoriously low – about 3-6% pre-tax on average – survival is often determined by efficient payroll management.

So why do so many of us in the business continue to guess when traffic will pick up, which days will be the hottest, and how many employees to have on at a time? In a $850+ billion dollar industry – that’s about four percent of the GDP throughout Canada and the U.S – you’d think someone would have found a better way.

Well, that’s because they have.

Point of Sale (POS) systems are already used to calculate payments, keep track of cash on hand, and record information on repeat customers by almost half of all restaurants nationally.

But a lot of users are failing to reap its full potential by not integrating it with their back office software. If you have more employees than you can count on two hands, you’re tired of looking through ledgers for sales trends, and you want to boost your restaurant’s efficiency, then POS integrated restaurant scheduling software is right for you.

The Benefits of POS Integration

1. Save time, money and eliminate data entry errors

Having integrated systems enables information to flow freely from one to the next without any human interaction.

With some scheduling software, the schedule can be pushed directly into the POS so that you can enforce punch rules (Rules that dictate when someone can and cannot clock in for their shift). If enforced properly, these rules can help significantly reduce the amount of time theft that can occur and save a significant amount of labor cost. 15 minutes here and there may not seem like much but over the course of a year they add up!

The automated sync is also a great time saver as you don’t have to manually input the the entire schedule into the POS along with any shift changes that may occur. Depending on your staff size, that process alone can save anywhere from 30-60 minutes of management time per week.

Once punch times are captured in the POS, that information can flow back into the scheduling software along with other metrics (e.g. sales, guest/meal counts, etc.). That information is extremely valuable as you can now compile comparative reports, review trends and build better sales and labor forecasts in a fraction of the time taken if it were performed manually.

2. Use exact metrics for better labor forecasts

As mentioned above, once integrated all kinds of metrics can be pulled from the POS and used to create better forecasts and schedules. Some of these metrics include:

Guest Counts - Number of guests in your restaurant at a certain time.

This metric is valuable because it can tell you when guests are coming into your restaurant, and when you should be bringing on staff to service those guests.

Meal Counts - Number of meals being filled at a given period.

A valuable metric, especially for scheduling kitchen staff that prepare the meals for guests. In most cases this number can be broken down further to exact menu items so you can know which stations need to be staffed first.

Punch-times - When employees are clocking in and out for shifts.

Once you have this information you can compare forecasted labor with actual labor results to review and identify where you may be overspending in labor.

*Remember, if you can eliminate 15 minutes here are there of unnessesary labor, you can save significant money in labor cost savings.

Wage Information - Employee wages broken down by department.

Some employees have different wages depending on the shift/department they’re working. Having accurate wage information for all your employees is pivotal to understanding your true labor cost.

Sales - Sales in your restaurant at any given time (broken down as low as 15 minute intervals).

Many restaurant’s schedule different sections/departments based on a portion of the sales. Front-Of-House (FOH) may work on total sales (food and liquor), while Back-Of-House (BOH) may only work on food.

Being able to use exact metrics pulled from your POS takes the guesswork out of budgeting. As a result, both staff and guests receive a better experience and the restaurant is more profitable - a big win win all around!

3. Make data your friend

Sure, some trends are obvious. Any thinking employee knows the basics of her restaurant; business picks up on Tuesday’s for wing night, Sunday at ten for brunch, and weekdays for lunch.

What even the smartest employee doesn’t know, unless you’ve got a true rain man on staff, is what business does on an hourly (or even half- or quarter-hourly) basis. Mapping these trends week after week provides a far more detailed and comprehensive picture that gives schedulers a huge efficiency boost.

This can lead to more advanced sales strategies, like using discounts to boost sales during non-peak hours. When you consider that in 2015, 80% of consumers said they would be willing to trade peak dining hours for savings, it’s a tactic worth testing, and measuring using the analytics in your POS system.

For a manager, that means some major schedule revisions.

So what’s next?

If you’re that manager or owner that’s been slaving over Excel spreadsheets or a non integrated solution for some time now, it’s definitely worth taking a further look into integrated scheduling software.

If the time and financial savings alone aren't enough, what is your sanity worth?

#Restaurantscheduling #Restaurants #restaurantmanagement
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Patio Season is Upon Us! 3 Ways to Ensure Amazing Service For Your Outdoor Guests

It’s hot out, you’re hungry, and you’ve just stumbled upon a patio where people are tipping back cold margaritas and soaking up the sun.

We’ve all been there: Despite knowing full well that the service on patios is often sub-par, we ask for a table outside.
In many parts of North America, patio season is fleeting. Which is all the more reason why diners have a ‘seize the day’ attitude about patios.

"Most Canadians can only enjoy outdoor dining for a few months out of the year, and summer is a very popular dining season for us as locals and tourists take advantage of our vibrant outdoor ambience, from the lush surroundings of Stanley Park to the charming elegance of Niagara-on-the-Lake,” says Bryan Huehn, OpenTable Country Manager for Canada, in the company’s last announcement of the Top 100 Best Outdoor Dining Restaurants in Canada.

And yet, let’s face it, most of the time patio service…sucks. You know it’s going to take forever to get a second drink, never mind order mains or ask for a ramekin of mayo. And yet everyone, even restaurant industry veterans, can’t resist a patio—the warmth of the sun on those cedar chairs, the breeze, the mojitos and the steaks that somehow just taste better outside on a laid-back afternoon with friends.

But what if the service on that patio—and your patio—were really, really good?

It is possible, but only with smart patio scheduling.

How to schedule smarter for the patio

1. Ahead of time: Think about boosting your roster when snow is melting

Depending on the size of your patio or patios, the outdoor dining season can nearly double your usual capacity. But do you have double the servers lined up and ready to wait on all those extra guests?

To ensure you’ll have enough bodies on deck, start hiring long before it’s time take out the umbrellas and roll out the heaters. In addition to securing seasonal top talent just as the semester is winding up in colleges and universities, hiring to cover patio capacity ensures your new recruits will have enough training time to rock on those first flash patio days.

There are some great tips about building up bench strength in our post 5 Tips for Stress-free Holiday Scheduling.

Now that you’ve got a few stars at the ready and the forecast is consistently calling for patio weather, it’s important to schedule the patio with its two unique sittings in mind.

2. Lunch time: The ins and outs of patio scheduling for the noon-hour

Managers and staff love to hate weekday lunches. The restaurant gets flooded by 11:30 pm . It recedes just after 1 pm. In between, a very predictable number of tables will fill. During the summer months, that just so happens to be about the same time when the weather is heating up, and people are thinking ‘patio.’

What should you think about when you’re scheduling the patio for lunch?

The customer: The office worker who has exactly one hour to eat. That one hour on your patio is their paradise for good reason: the fresh air, that warm yellow orb above, the table that is not their desk, the new faces. There just so happens to be food.

Table turnarounds: Since the lunch crowd has to be back at their desks in an hour, they aren’t boozing or drawing out their stay. They order. They eat. They go. Generally, you’re looking at a 45-minute turnaround at lunch.

Server-table ratio: Since these guests are in and out, they tend to be lower maintenance, although they are on the clock and service needs to be snappy. Most servers can probably handle five to seven tables over lunch while maintaining your standards.


Server assistants, food runners, call them what you will. In patio season, hiring and scheduling these employees for lunch will help you please guests who have just 50 minutes to spend in your restaurant. Patio scheduling at this time of day calls for a ‘team service’ approach where everyone digs in to get the lunch crowd out.

Prepare, prepare, prepare. In its article 9 Tips to Set up or Improve Your Restaurant’s Patio, the Washington Restaurant Association says it’s critical that once you have staff on patio duty, to set them up for success.

“Make sure that both your front-of-house staff and kitchen staff are able to handle the extra covers that your patio may generate. Servers will have to walk a further distance to the kitchen to serve the patio, or may have to deal with stairs to a rooftop patio.

Setting up bussing stations on the patio will make it easier for servers to refill water, or get extra napkins, cutlery, condiments and other requests. Service on the patio must also meet the high standards of service you offer inside your restaurant.”

3. Long Island Time: Patio Scheduling for Nights and Weekends

You can guess why we say the joiners at these sittings are on ‘long island time.’

Patio shifts can be the most coveted for servers who want to be outdoors among this all-smiles ‘sure I’ll have another’ group. You just have to make sure your patio schedule makes it easy for them to do their job, and keep the long island crowd coming back.

The customer: At night and on the weekend, patio guests are often ladies who haven’t seen each other in a while, guys on their night out, couples out for dinner away from the kids. Let’s just say no one is looking at their phones to check the time.

Table turnarounds: Because everyone is off the clock and letting loose, turnaround times are longer—two or even three hours.

Server-table ratio: A good rule of thumb at night is three to five tables for each server since they’re apt to be busy getting round after round, orders for new joiners and bills for early-leavers.


Extend the life your patio and keep your patio servers on the floor as well as boost summer profits by making it warmer with heaters or even blankets for the ladies when the sun goes down.
By ensuring your patio team has the right amount of tables, set up and support—and by going against the norm to deliver awesome patio service—your restaurant is likely to become one of those places people think of first for patio weather.

#Restaurants #PatioSeason #RestaurantScheduling
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The 4 Building Blocks of an Amazing Restaurant Culture

This week I read an article from the Harvard Business Review entitled “Culture is not the Culprit.”  The gist of its argument is that – contrary to what many corporate leaders and consultants are preaching – when a company is struggling, fixing its culture is not the magic solution to all its troubles.

Now, to a certain degree, I agree with the idea that culture is an outcome and not a solution. But I think this particular article is missing the point a little bit.

To start with, let’s look at the word “culture.” Like the word “brand,” corporate culture has become a buzzword that has been overused so badly it’s almost lost all meaning.

For example, some people use the word “brand” as a synonym for “logo.” Others think of it as a product line from a particular parent company (like Cheerios and Lucky Charms - two of General Mills’ cereal brands).

Similarly, some people use the world “culture” to mean “ethnicity” or what area of the world an individual comes from. Others might say it has to do with the traditions of a particular group of people – so Canadian culture celebrates hockey, or a particular workplace culture is fun because they have a lax dress code or throw killer holiday parties.

For some reason, people feel strongly about the idea of culture, just like how they tend to be loyal to certain brands while passionately avoiding others.

A friend recently told me she’s leaving her job because of its “toxic culture.” Another friend just found a new job that was a great “culture fit” for her. These same two women will have friendly debates about which coffee shop to go to – one is fiercely loyal to the Starbucks brand and the other will only buy from locally-owned coffee purveyors.

So what is culture?
If you asked a room full of intelligent people, you’d get a ton of different answers. What is the culture of your restaurant? How do you measure it? Is it a good culture or a bad one? How can you tell? And what – if anything – does culture have to do with brand?

I bring up the two words at the same time for a couple reasons: they’re both tossed around like crazy and often misunderstood, and I believe they’re actually very closely related.  

Your brand is simply the collection of everything that people think and feel about your restaurant.

When you see a Starbucks logo, for example, what comes to mind? That logo serves as a sort of visual cue to trigger your feelings and thoughts about the company. And whatever comes to mind for you was created over time by every interaction you had with that company.

So each time a guest visits your restaurant or calls to make a reservation or goes online to check out your menu, and every time someone else talks about their experience eating there – all of those interactions add up to equal your brand.

So if your brand is what outsiders – your customers, the general public – think about you, then culture is the flip side of that. It’s what insiders – your staff members – think and feel about your restaurant.
When your employees are getting ready to come in for a shift, how do they feel?

Is your FOH staff pumped and eager to get on the floor and serve guests?

Is BOH dreading what they might have to deal with when they walk into the kitchen?

How do your employees talk about the restaurant when you’re not around?

All of that is your culture.

Your restaurant has a culture whether you like it or not – whether you’ve given it a lot of thought or it has completely happened by accident. And that’s true whether you’re part of a large, nationwide chain of restaurants or are independently owned with one or two locations.

So, all of those thoughts and feelings that your employees have about the restaurant… where do they come from? They are built up over time by every interaction they have with your restaurant.
It starts even before they’re hired!

How did they find out that you were hiring? What was the application and interview process like?

Then it just keeps building up day after day: first day on the job, training, learning about restaurant policies, trying to book off time or change their schedule, getting to know their co-workers, communication with their supervisor or with you as the owner or GM… the list goes on.

Why should you care about culture at all?

You might be thinking, “OK sure, I’ve got a culture in my restaurant…  so what?” Well, here’s where I feel the HBR article is missing out. Even though culture is an outworking of a number of things, it really does have an impact on the success of a business. While the word “culture” might seem like just a theoretical concept, it has real-world consequences.

Your culture – whatever your employees collectively think and feel about the restaurant – influences the way they act at work.
Imagine one of your servers had a crappy experience trying to book some time off for a vacation or maybe they were scheduled against their availability.

How are they going to feel about coming in to work?

No matter how professional or perky they might be, those negative feelings are bubbling under the surface, and that less-than-awesome attitude will seep into their performance. Even if they can put on a happy face to take care of customers, there’s a good chance they might complain to other employees or let their feelings rub off in other, more subtle ways.

Now, that’s not a big deal if it’s just a one-off occasion. Stuff happens. But unless you’ve got the right systems and processes in place and you’re intentional about managing your culture, negative thoughts and feelings can multiply and spread like a virus through your team.  It might be one of the reasons good staff members seem to leave or your turnover rate seems extra high.

And consider this: your staff members are the ones preparing the meals for your guests and creating their experiences with your restaurant.

If your culture becomes one of drama or negativity, it won’t be long before your guests will be able feel (or even taste!) it.

Four building blocks of culture.

OK, so culture is an outcome …. but an outcome of what exactly? When you break it down, there are a few aspects that influence your restaurant’s culture. Once you’re ready to get intentional about shaping your culture, here are four to areas to consider: people, place, process and purpose.

1. People.

The people on your team play a huge part in building the culture of your restaurant. They set the tone for new employees who come on board. Explicitly or not, existing employees teach newcomers what is or isn't acceptable.

Say you bring in a young person who has never worked in foodservice before. When they hear the kitchen staff or other more established team members in the back complaining about picky customers, for example, they learn that behavior is normal.

There’s a famous business fable (loosely based on an actual scientific experiment), that starts with a roomful of monkeys and a ladder with bananas at the top. Every time a monkey climbs the ladder to get the bananas, it triggers cold water to be sprayed on all the monkeys. Eventually, after being sprayed a few times, the monkeys learn not to climb the ladder. Then when a new monkey is brought into the room, before it has a chance to climb the ladder and try for the bananas, the other monkeys stop it.  Very quickly, this new monkey learns from the others that climbing the ladder is a no-no.
As the story goes, one by one the old monkeys are replaced with new monkeys until none of the monkeys in the room have ever actually been sprayed by the cold water. But still none of them will dare climb the ladder.

The story serves as a bit of a cautionary tale about the power of socialization – the idea “that's the way we’ve always done things” can be quickly passed to new employees. So take a moment to think about the “monkeys” on your team.  Would you want their attitudes and behaviors passed on to new hires?

Ameego’s Kris Edwards has a great article on how to attract, hire and retain the best employees for your restaurant based not only on their skill set, but also on how they will fit in with your culture – either the awesome culture you already have and want to maintain… or the ideal culture you’re trying to build.

The right people make all the difference.

2. Place.
It’s likely that the décor and guest seating areas in your restaurant were chosen with care to create the right kind of atmosphere for your customers. But what about the areas only your employees see?

Do you treat them with the same kind of consideration? 

It’s something that people in traditional office spaces seem to talk about more often – people ooh and ahh over cool and innovative campuses like Facebook or Google, or they debate whether open floor plans or closed-in cubicles are better for employee morale and productivity – but it sometimes gets relegated to an afterthought in restaurants.

Look around some of your staff-only spaces and consider what messages you’re sending to your team.

Sure, you know you need to keep your kitchen and food prep areas spick and span, but what about admin/office areas or storage spaces? Cluttered, disorganized or otherwise unkempt areas can cause safety hazards and foster inefficiency, but more than that it can send a message to your team that they aren’t valued.

A little more care can do wonders to communicate the kind of culture you’re aiming for. Whether it’s fun and quirky or polished and professional (or anything in between), you set the mood for your guests … why not do it for your employees?

3. Process.

Your policies and procedures – any of the formal or informal rules about how things are done in your restaurant – play a huge role in shaping your culture.

One way to measure the impact of your existing processes is to ask who they benefit most.

Is it your customers? Your staff? Your bottom line? There’s not a right or wrong answer; it’s a matter of aligning your goals with reality.

There’s a saying that goes, “every system is perfectly designed for the results it creates.” So ask yourself: what results are your systems creating? Is that what you want? If not, something’s got to change! You can’t keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result.
Let’s take time off requests for example. If you’re using a paper calendar or a binder in the back room where people are scribbling in their requests, what’s the impact of that?

I can’t speak for your staff, but I remember one place I worked the book was always packed full of more requests than there were available spots (especially during the summer), and it always seemed to cause a long delay and a bottleneck as the manager sifted through and tried to juggle competing requests.

The experience it created for the staff was one of uncertainty – never knowing until the last minute whether your request made it into the schedule. I often wonder if the manager ever questioned that process or tried to find a better way – it couldn’t have been fun for him either!
Another way of identifying potentially broken processes is to watch for “shadow systems.” Human beings always seem to find the path of least resistance, so when faced with a process that is too labor-intensive or maybe even unnecessary, your employees will start making their own workarounds. Not really breaking the rules, but not quite following them either.

Instead of insisting they do things by the book, take a moment to consider whether the system is in need of repair. Sometimes a policy or guideline just doesn’t make sense anymore. Or here’s something to think about: If your employees were to rewrite the rules, what would they do differently?

4. Purpose.

Last but not least, consider the driving motivation for your business.
When you walk into a place that has a purpose, you can feel it.
New employees pick up on it.

Customers can sense it when they walk in the door.

And it’s more than just a mission statement tacked up on a bulletin board in the backroom. When your employees truly buy into a set of shared beliefs – those non-negotiable values that are at the core of your business – it impacts the way they behave. It’s something they can rally around and get excited about.

Whether it’s making the best burger in the city, sourcing local ingredients, having the most knowledgeable staff, or being the place where the neighborhood gathers to watch the big game, the purpose you set for your restaurant radically shapes its culture.  

How would you rate your culture based on these four areas?
If you’re not sure what your employees actually think and feel about your restaurant, maybe it’s time to gather some candid feedback.
You could do this through a quick online survey to all staff or even in person with a few key team members. In either case – whether your culture is totally awesome or kind of dysfunctional – it never hurts to check in with your team and take some steps to improve.

You’ll be amazed at the impact it has on your staff, your customers and ultimately your profit.

#Restaurantculture   #restaurantstaff  
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Usability=Use: Why The Restaurant Scheduling Software You Choose Needs Simplicity

If we asked a handful of restaurant managers and owners what’s important to them when choosing scheduling software, they’d probably mention cost, they may ask about integration with their point-of-sale system, and they might even inquire about features—labor forecasting or time tracking.

And somewhere down the list would be, It has to be easy to use.

And yet, in the long run, ease of use might be the most important factor of all.

Let’s set up a scenario. You and your management team realized a while back that you had to do something: It was taking hours to do the schedule every week, time-off requests written on napkins were getting lost, you didn’t have the insight you wanted (at least not at your fingertips) to forecast labor costs.

So, you spend thousands in time and dollars courting software vendors. You narrowed it down. You found one. You had it installed. And then it began: No one wanted to use the damn thing because they couldn’t figure out how to use it. They couldn’t even log in or easily change their own security password, nevermind being able to review if they were on budget to hit labor targets. You began to dread calls that began with, It won’t let me….

And you can imagine all the hidden costs of bad software you finally had to give up on.

Hopefully, that wasn’t the case for your organization. Hopefully you’re at the beginning of this journey looking for software that’s going to help your managers create the perfect schedule in minutes.

Now, to create a scenario with a completely different outcome—filled with happy people as well as improved productivity and profits—here’s why ease of use should be a priority when choosing restaurant scheduling software.

Easy to use software = adoption

Programmers call it ‘the user experience’ or ‘usability’ of a program. How easy is it for users to make the most out of it? Will they (gasp) like it because it’s somehow very simple and very smart?

In a Diginomica article titled Does the enterprise really need a consumer grade UI?, Jon Reed turns to the experts to answer his ‘burning’ questions about UX (user experience) in the corporate software landscape. One of his interviewees, Randy Wang of Constellation Research, “has been pushing UX before it was particularly fashionable to do so.” For Wang, enterprise UX is “crucial.”

To put it simply, Wang told Reed: “…It drives adoption, enables productivity and helps reinforce brand experience. It’s very important.”  

Easy to use software = happy millenials (and older folks too)

One of the reasons why your restaurant scheduling software has to be easy to use, now more than ever, is because all the other applications your team uses outside the restaurant is easy to use.

Adam Hartung, in a article titled Employees Refusing to Use Clunky Enterprise Software says today’s workers are too tech-savvy for bad software. Citing the results of a study by IFS, a Swedish enterprise resource planning (ERP) vendor that polled 281 managers in manufacturing companies, Hartung says, “…there’s a disconnect between the way software behaves in employees’ personal lives and the way it behaves in corporate America.”

The IFS study said: “Those who use Facebook, Amazon, Orbitz or other online functionality that is entirely intuitive may have a hard time understanding why it is so much more challenging to use the enterprise software functionality necessary to issue a work order or access key performance data.”

So, when your manager has 20 minutes before Friday lunch pre-shift to make some changes to next week’s schedule and the software won’t let her extend the hours of the bartender in the lounge tomorrow night or send out a notification about the free staff lunch on Monday, he or she inherently thinks, Why can’t this be as easy as Facebook?

Software that’s difficult to use...won’t get used

In that same article about “clunky enterprise software,” Hartung says across corporate North America, employees are leaving behind company-issued BlackBerrys and laptops.

“They prefer to use their personal devices—sleek, mobile and intuitive—rather than the company-sanctioned technologies perceived as outdated and hard to use.”

Hartung says IFS, in a presentation about their study, spoke of managers, particularly younger managers, simply bypassing enterprise systems in favour of Excel spreadsheets or even free cloud-based apps.

“Seventy-five percent of managers of all ages admitted to using an open-source tool or spreadsheet—or simply refusing to use the system—if the interface is hard to use.”

So here you’ve spent an incredible amount of money on software your managers just won’t use, and that will cost you too.

Software that’s difficult to use costs money

US research group Forrester conducted a study in which they tested enterprise software usability by performing standard tasks such as changing security profiles that turned out to require “inordinate patience and expertise.” In its article about that study, Enterprise apps are too difficult to use and cost businesses millions, says, “the costs to businesses can be substantial.”  

“Companies often end up investing tens of thousands of dollars in additional training they hadn't budgeted for. In the worst case, workers simply abandon the software altogether in favor of manual processes, negating the benefits of projects in which businesses typically invest millions.”

The hidden costs of software that’s too hard to use:

Employees spend more time on manual tasks, or spend too much time frustrated and/or make errors using the unlikable software with a very long onboarding process when you really want them out on the floor, making sure the kitchen is ticking and guests are happy.
Employees won’t use it (and you don’t see an ROI).
Employee satisfaction decreases.
Retention rates decline.
In its article The Hidden Cost of Bad UX, Momentum Design Lab warns companies about the impact on productivity and talent you don’t want to lose.

Here’s the thing, and David Kellogg captures it perfectly: “…Employees have become customers.” Correlsense’s Ron Miller was reporting on what Kellogg and others said in a 2012 panel about enterprise software.

Paraphrasing Kellogg, CIO and publisher of Foreign of Affairs at think tank Council of Foreign Relations, Miller says company owners need to shift how they think about ease of use for their employees.  “In the old days employees simply did what they were told and had no choice about tools, while customers were what you needed to respond to because they paid you.”  

Today, Kellogg says: “Employees have choices. We want our staff to do everything everywhere all the time and they want to be able to do that.”  

“We can’t do that by forcing employees to use “draconian systems,’” Miller adds.

Which leads us to our next point: If your team’s software is truly easy to use, it needs to be easy to use anywhere.

Easy to use software is mobile-friendly software

Given the online-all-the-time nature of today’s workforce, mobile-friendly software is a must.

In his key takeaways about a Forrester report on mobile workforce adoption trends, Ted Schadler says there’s good reason to consider cloud and/or mobile-friendly software.  

Twenty-nine per cent of the global workforce is defined as “anytime, anywhere information workers”—“those who use three or more devices, work from multiple locations, and use many apps.” The report predicted 905 million tablets in use for work and home globally by 2017.

Going back to the first article we mentioned that discusses why employees refuse to use “clunky” software, Hartung says today’s workforce expects “mobile access to corporate data via intuitive interfaces.”

“…They expect to get the corporate information they want by using their iOS or Android devices to gain remote access to corporate systems.”

Paul Randle knows firsthand the difference it makes it have instant access to a restaurant’s data from anywhere. He’s the VP of Operations for Canada and President of US Operations for Eatz Enterprises, the parent company of the Moxie’s franchise he oversees. He recently moved from Winnipeg to Dallas to help expand Moxie’s operations in the US.

Thanks to the franchise’s subscription to our cloud-based restaurant scheduling software, even across borders, it’s easy for Randle to see what’s happening at every restaurant.

“Before 8 a.m., I can see yesterday’s labor costs and sales. Ten years ago, even five years ago, that would have been really difficult,” he says, adding Ameego’s mobile-friendly notification features make it easy to communicate constantly and instantly with team members.

“Managers can send texts and emails to the entire team in a second to give people reminders about staff meetings.”

What would things be like for your restaurant if you had software that was easy to use, and easy to use anywhere?

In addition to usability, what else do you need to consider when you’re looking for restaurant scheduling software?  To help you evaluate your options, download your free copy of our buyer's guide by clicking this link:

#Restaurantscheduling   #restaurants   #restaurantsoftware  
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