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Is Your Schedule Costing You Money?

We have all used or at least heard the age-old saying, “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.” If your staff consistently has excessive downtime, it’s probably time for you to take a closer look at your scheduling practices.

Nobody likes spending time writing weekly schedules. It’s so much easier to just have one schedule that doesn’t change each week. This way your staff knows when they’re working and you always know who’s supposed to be there.


Unfortunately, food service is one of those industries where having one set schedule each week will not always be effective. If you have a fairly regular stream of business, then having one set schedule may work for you. No doubt that you can use your previous schedule as a template to start a new week, but as business changes, so must your associate’s schedule.


Benefits of a set weekly schedule:

• Associates know when they’re working and there is less chance of missing shifts

• Saves you time from having to create a schedule each week

• You know how much you’re spending on labor each week

• Associates like having a set schedule

• Allows the associates to plan their life around their work schedule


Benefits of writing a weekly schedule based on operational needs:

• Better control of fluctuating labor needs and ensuring you have the right amount of staff

• Reduce unnecessary labor cost by scheduling staff based on forecast sales

• You can schedule associates based on their skill level and when you need them most

• Cross-training of associates by having them work different shifts

• Rotating staff so all associates can take advantage of preferred shifts


As hourly wages continue to creep up, controlling labor just like every other controllable expense will be an important part of your operation’s success. Producing a profit will become more of a challenge as costs continue to increase. Passing these costs on to your customers in the form of increased pricing may be the simplest answer, but it is not always the most viable solution.


When creating your weekly schedules, there are a few key points to remember. First, the schedule should be based on the needs of the business, not past schedules. Too often we write schedules based on the past shifts of the associates or what associates are used to working rather than writing a schedule based on the operational needs. It is important to schedule your talent when the operation needs their skills.


Additionally, unless your operation is Union, not every shift for every associate has to be 8-hour shifts. The same holds for scheduling days off. While we want to accommodate our associates to keep them engaged, unless your establishment is a Union operation, associate days off are not required to be consecutive.


When writing associate schedules, your projected labor cost should fall in-line with projected sales. While the business will always fluctuate, keeping some level of tracking will provide you a base of what to expect in sales for a typical week. Adjustments in projected revenue can be made up or down and these projections will be used to determine the amount of labor that is required for the week to ensure you hit your targeted labor cost.


While most operations can easily take on a certain level of increased business before having to add additional staff to maintain customer service, it is when labor is scheduled and no revenue is being generated to offset this cost of labor that becomes the issue. As sales increase and labor costs remain, a percentage of the increase in sales will flow through to your bottom line, increasing profits. When sales decrease and labor costs remain with no adjustments, your labor dollar amount may remain consistent with prior weeks but you will certainly see a decrease in the profitability of the operation.


In addition to making adjustments in the amount of labor scheduled, it is important to schedule staff when the business needs it. Your percentage of labor hours should mimic your percentage of forecast sales by days and shifts. If 20% of your sales for the week is generated on Saturday, your percentage of weekly labor hours should closely match that of your sales. You want to ensure that your labor matches your business not only to control cost but to also make sure you have the right amount of labor to properly service the business volume.


Another consideration to take into account is to allow for prep time and end-of-shift cleaning and closing. The amount of time needed for prep work and closing will vary depending on the position and even day to day, but needs to be built into the weekly schedule.


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