After December’s glut of sales, January can feel like a famine. With the public watching their waistlines and looking after the pennies once more, footfall at most sites will be down causing revenue to suffer. More than ever, writing efficient rotas must be a priority for managers. Effective scheduling minimises overstaffing, reducing labour spend, but also protects against understaffing, ensuring sales opportunities are not missed and service levels are retained. Here’s our best advice:
Accurate sales forecasting is pivotal to efficient scheduling. If you do not have a firm idea of how busy your business is likely to be, it will be very difficult to deploy the right level of staffing. It’s a great idea to equip yourself with as much information as you can before making a forecast; considering weather conditions, recent trading patterns, previous years’ data, and events in the local area will contribute to accurate predictions.
We think of overstaffing as slack – times of wasted capacity and labour spend – and understaffing as stress – times when staff are rushed to the point of missing sales and delivering sub-standard service. Understanding and identifying these conditions, and redeploying labour accordingly, is an ideal way to improve the efficiency of rotas without having to cut your employees’ hours. Taking one person off Wednesday afternoon and moving their hours to Saturday night may have little impact on Wednesday but allow your weekend team to work far more efficiently, having a big positive effect on sales and customer experience.
Efficient scheduling is not just a matter of how much you are spending on labour. Where the wage budget is spent is also of great significance. It’s important to consider the different areas of your business individually. You may be achieving your targeted labour percentage, but a deeper look can reveal major issues. An overstretched kitchen and underworked front of house team could at first glance balance to give the impression of an efficient site, but neither department is working efficiently. The best rotas are written by area, ensuring efficiency across the board and delivering the best results.
We often speak to operators who we feel apply an overly blunt approach to their scheduling. They might know they need five people front of house on a Saturday night, and that their site is open from five o’clock till midnight, and therefore rota five employees to start at five and finish shortly after midnight. We feel this approach is too inflexible. The peak of trade may come between seven and ten, so is there really a need to have all five employees starting at five and finishing after midnight? Shortening shifts, staggering start times, and utilising split shifts are all important tools in keeping labour spend tightly controlled.
It’s likely that your hourly-paid team members will be eager to retain their busy schedules from the festive period into January, but with reduced sales it is often very difficult for managers to do this and still hit their labour targets. It can often feel like a balancing act between keeping staff and area managers happy. An effective compromise can be scheduling employees for shifts where the focus is on tasks that don’t directly generate sales. Deep cleaning is probably welcome after a busy December, and it’s not too early to start planning for Valentine’s and Mothers’ Days, as well as Easter, which comes early this year. If you have any particularly social media savvy employees, it can be a great idea to schedule some time for them to create posts to advertise any January offers, potentially driving sales.