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Shift Readiness Separates Great Restaurants from Good Enough Restaurants

We are going to do a deep dive into the concept of restaurant shift readiness. Shift readiness is making sure that your restaurant is 100% ready for each meal period from a: cleanliness, stock (FOH/BOH), food taste, freshness, and safety perspective so that you can make the most of your sales opportunity each shift in every location.

Shift readiness is one of the most expensive labor periods for every restaurant and shift readiness activites are undertaken by every restaurant in the country. Getting it right is super important from a sales and profitiability perspective.

We are going to go deeper and define shift readiness as the restaurant management philosophy that it is, break it down tactically, and explain how you can achieve it.

One of our clients, Darrin White, said this the other day around Shift Readiness:

We want to be habitually brilliant at the basics. If we do…. we will blow the competition out of the water.

Philosophy:

Shift readiness is a restaurant management philosophy that understands how operations decisions affect profitability, accounts for the perishable nature of the meal period, has an absolute focus on maximizing guest satisfaction and sales on a shift-by-shift location-by-location basis.
Shift readiness is more than just a bunch of tasks that you do each day it is management philosophy that guides your decision making and prioritizes your actions to achieve operations success.

Perishable Meal Periods

The hospitality product by definition is a perishable product. There is only one January 10th, 2018 lunch ever in any single location, in the entire history of the world there will never be another.  Every day our meal periods expire, like brown lettuce, to never generate us another penny of revenue.

If you only get 1 shot at every meal period, you have to maximize your guest satisfaction, sales, and profits each shift. This is a different way of thinking, good enough just won’t cut it when you only have 1 chance to get it done. Perishability adds a level of urgency to your thinking.

Here is some quick math to illustrate how important every meal period is to your restaurant’s success.

  • There are 13 – 28-day accounting periods a year.
    • That means that for any period there are on 56 lunch and dinner meal periods.
  • Average restaurant profit margin is between 5 to 15%.
    • Most restaurants are closer to 5% but for our math, we’ll use 10%

You only have 6 meals periods a month to turn a profit. No do-overs and no second chances!

This equation assumes that all meal periods are equal, which they probably aren’t, but that is ok. The point is, that only a few meal periods a month are going to generate all of your profits for that period. 50 of the lunch and dinners are just going to pay for your costs.

Most importantly – you don’t know which 6 meal periods are going to be the profit generators. Nor are you guaranteed 6 profit generating meal periods, as a matter of fact, you only get the 6 profit generating meal periods if you crush the other 50. 

If this doesn’t create some urgency to focus all of your efforts on maximizing each shift opportunity, you are in the wrong business.

You must use this urgency, this perishability, as a motivational battle cry to your managers and your teams. Have we done enough, are we perfect, are we 100% ready? Because if we aren’t then we are going to squander this opportunity and then it’s gone forever.

Every meal period where you fail, where ticket times are long, where your guest satisfaction is low, where the restaurant isn’t running great, can actually put you in a hole that you then have to dig out of.

Operations Decisions Affect Profitability

Operations are the running of the business, the selling and delivering of food to our customers, they are how we generate sales and profits.

How you operate, the decisions that you and your team are making every day affects your sales, costs, and profits. A lot of the time your team is making decisions that affect your profits and you don’t even know they are making them. 

This is the no-accountability trap that so many have all fallen into. We train our teams on how to do their jobs, we have checklists and procedures posted on the wall or on a clipboard in the office, but nobody is using them.

94% of restaurant managers we surveyed said that their teams weren’t following their procedures.

If you aren’t holding your team accountable for following your shift readiness procedures every single shift, then you are allowing your team to decide how to run your business and how much money you should make. Not to rub it in, but your team that isn’t compensated by restaurant profitability, that will go across the street if your business slows down,  the same team that has a 73% chance of turning over in the near future is in control of your livelihood when you don’t hold them accountable to working your way.

The profitability equation breaks down like this:

Sales – Costs (labor, food, & fixed) = profits

For this analysis, we can ignore fixed costs because a lot of that is out of the restaurant manager’s control.  We are also not going to spend a ton of time diving into controlling food and labor costs as those concepts are pretty well known.  We are going to focus most of our conversation on how operations affect sales.

Labor Costs

When we talk about labor costs in regards to shift readiness we really want to focus on making sure that the employees that you are paying for are working as efficiently and accurately as possible to achieve your shift readiness goals.

Because of the high turnover in the industry, we also want to focus on minimizing initial onboarding and training time by really focus on must know skills vs. nice to have info and to improve training productivity to get employees generating revenue faster. Check out our blog on increasing productivity here.

Food Costs

When we look at food cost specifically in regards to shift readiness we want to make sure we are practicing FIFO, proper portion control (make sure people are using the right size scoops and spoons and not just grabbing any utensils), and that we are stocking stations to PAR to keep ticket times low.

The single most important thing you can do before each meal period is to taste the food before you serve it to guests to ensure that it is delicious and safe, this will reduce comps and lower food costs.

Sales

So much of the shift readiness discussion we are going to be having is how proper shift readiness can positively affect your ability to generate sales and how poor shift readiness can hurt sales.

A restaurant is a lot like a factory, we have meal periods where we are producing goods and selling them. One of the biggest factors for success is that we maximize customer throughput during the meal period.

Another way to phrase that is we want to serve as many people as we can every meal period and anything that slows down our ability to take their orders, deliver their food, and get them out of the restaurant to make room for the next guest is costing us sales and profits.

Let’s look at a couple of common examples and how poor shift readiness affects sales and customer satisfaction.

When you look at these scenarios,  you should immediately see a few patterns:
  1. Each one of these scenarios negatively affects customer satisfaction, sales, and profits.
  2. Every one of these issues was 100% avoidable 

These are the types of scenarios that you run into all the time in good enough restaurants but rarely see in great restaurants. None of them are horrible, no one got a finger in their chili, but they erode customer satisfaction and lower sales and profits, it’s death by 1000 cuts.

Are these kinds of scenarios playing out in your restaurants?

How to be Shift Ready Every Shift

The good news is that any restaurant can be 100% shift ready, the key is to hold your teams, at all levels, accountable to work your systems. This was very hard to do in the past but technology has jumped forward, and it is now possible to hold people accountable for following your systems in every location on every shift with OpsAnalitica right from your phone.

The systems you have already created, the checklists, the procedures, the training will all work and deliver the intended readiness if you can hold people accountable in real-time to using them.  That is where OpsAnalitica can change your world:

  • Script out every shift in every restaurant, taking the guesswork out of what needs to be done and when to be ready.
  • Using our mobile platform your team will complete your readiness requirements on a shift-by-shift basis.
  • The platform will alert management when your team identifies a problem or isn’t getting things done.

By using OpsAnalitica in your restaurants you can get increases in sales, profits, employee productivity, and you will be running safer restaurants. To learn more, check out our case study. 

There isn’t a magic bullet to being successful, it is a relentless focus on the basics, of controlling what you can control, and inspecting what you expect that is going to deliver the results that you want.

Maximize Customer Satisfaction, Sales, and Profits

It all comes down to this. Every meal periods is a new opportunity to take exceptional care of guests, generate sales and profits.  The only way you can maximize this opportunity is to be 100% ready to go before customers come into the building.

Making sure that the restaurant is clean and inviting, that you are fully stocked at every station both FOH/BOH so that when you are in the rush you never have to slow down service. Most importantly, that your food is tasty, safe, fresh, and prepared to the recipe.

If you do all these things every shift in every location and your people are friendly and happy to be there. Then your customers are going to get exactly what they expected to get and turn into repeat customers.

The best marketing you can do is deliver on your brand promise in every interaction with your customer. 

That is how you organically grow your guest satisfaction, sales and profits. Scroll up and read our case study and be blown away at how much running better operations and being shift ready can do for your business.

Conclusion

Shift readiness is a restaurant management philosophy that understands that every meal period is perishable and that you have to treat it with urgency and respect if you want to be successful, that you/your employee’s operations decisions affect customer’s satisfaction, sales, and profits.

It knows that the only way you can be a profitable restaurant is to maximize every meal period opportunity. It holds ownership responsible to implement the tools that will hold your team accountable for following your systems consistently across all your locations on a shift-by-shift basis.

Every day, in every restaurant, you and your team make a conscious decision to do get 100% shift ready for that meal period and maximize your opportunity or by not holding your team accountable you making the decision that you only want to be good enough.

Great restaurants are systematized operations and focus on readiness and service every shift, and good enough restaurants don’t. 

I’ve worked in great restaurants where we achieved amazing results and I’ve worked in good enough restaurants until they went out of business. Life is too short to not be striving to be great. Let us help you achieve your goals by making sure each one of your restaurants is ready to go every day.

Increase Employee Productivity

With the 100% turnover rate in the industry and some of the lowest nationwide unemployment in years, according to Modern Restaurant Management’s Success Survey 60% of restauranteurs indicate that finding and retaining employees was the top area of opportunity in the industry. #3 was attracting/retaining customers. #4 on the survey was optimizing speed and efficiency to drive productivity.

This has brought the topics of customer satisfaction and employee productivity top of mind for managers looking to maximize employee ROI and minimize the affects of employee turnover on their business.  .

When you are looking at employee productivity you only have two main levers to pull: reduce labor cost and/or increase sales.

The fastest way to increase employee productivity is to generate more sales with the same number of employees working the same amount of hours.

The easiest way to increase sales organically is to make sure your restaurant is 100% ready for every shift, this gives you the best chance to wow customers and exceed their expectations. Also, being ready is completely in your control as a restaurant manager and your job.

The best way to improve shift readiness is to use the OpsAnalitica Platform for holding your team accountable to be 100% ready for every meal period. Check out our case study to see how we helped increase productivity and sales for one our clients here.

In this guide, we are going to assume you are at maximum sales and you are looking for other ways to increase employee productivity.

Here are some of the realities operators are struggling with on a daily basis that affect employee productivity.

  1. High turnover – you hire employees, train them at a considerable cost, then they leave.
  2. No hand – to quote George Costanza “I‘ve got no hand, Jerry!” The Status Quo in restaurants today is that you have made huge investments in training and figuring out the best procedures to run the restaurant,  your teams kinda use them but it’s hard to enforce, and your customer satisfaction is taking a hit.
  3. Can’t get ahead – you are so busy staffing and training that you can’t focus on anything else.

Does any of this sound familiar? Here are some quick thoughts:

  1. You can’t stop people from leaving, don’t build your business around individuals, structure your business around roles and systems. Consistently move people into different roles throughout the restaurant, this could be different stations or jobs.
    1. Provide systems, a shift readiness app, to support your team and to ensure consistency of operations on a shift-by-shift basis.
    2. Take a more generalized approach to your team, don’t rely on a few rockstars or lock them into one role, try to create a deep bench of people who can do everything. Think Moneyball.
    3. Reward people for giving you two week and 1 month notices if they work out there time, this feels weird because their leaving, but your goal should be to keep the restaurant operating as consistently as possible and this could give you some breathing room to find someone new and get them trained.
    4. Pay a referral fee even if the person is leaving if they can help you find their replacement.
    5. Try to streamline initial onboarding training, to reduce the initial labor cost, and get new hires on the floor quicker.
  2. You know the best way to run the restaurant, you have spent countless hours/dollars training all employees on how to do their jobs and you have checklists/procedures posted on the wall, and nobody including your managers are using them fully. It’s your customer satisfaction, sales, and profits that are suffering. Now with mobile technology and apps like OpsAnalitica you can get literally script out the entire shift for each role by day and hold people accountable to executing the exact way you want them to on a location-by-location, shift-by-shift basis. This is a game changer for running better operations!
    1. You can dictate what needs to be done and when by each team member.
    2. You can see what has and hasn’t been completed in real-time.
    3. You can hold people accountable for following the system and making sure that the restaurant is 100% shift ready at the beginning of every meal period, which gives you the best chance to maximize your sales and profit opportunity every shift.
    4. One of the most infuriating things for a restaurant operator is to have to comp a meal, get yelled at by a customer, or get a bad social media review for something that the team was supposed to do.  You are shooting yourself in the foot for sloppy management. 
  3. I know from personal experience when you are caught in the turnover trap, that it is so hard to execute on other priorities because staffing is always the fire that needs to be put out immediately.
    1. Be patient, power through, and execute on items 1 & 2 above as much as you can every shift, keep chipping away every chance you get.
    2. Also, remember that OpsAnalitica offers our platform as a managed service, so we are that extra employee who can set-up and get the software set-up in your restaurants with minimal effort on your part and keep it up to date ongoing. Not one of our competitors offers this level of service or partnership.

Let’s dive deeper into how we can increase productivity. We are going to focus on efficiency, accuracy, and we are also going to look into strategies to shorten and maximize training efforts.

Efficiency

Let’s first examine a typical employee shift in the restaurant industry, this can go for managers and employees.

  1. Set-up: getting ready for the meal period – Employees are a Cost
  2. Meal Period: selling food to guests – Employees are Generating Revenue 
  3. Restock/Closing: getting prepared for next shift or closing down operations for the day – Employees are a Cost

Everything we do is in support of maximizing our sales and profit generating opportunity during the meal period and minimizing our costs during the before and after periods. If you can make your employees more efficient so they can execute their set-up and closing tasks quicker while maintaining accuracy then you are increasing employee productivity.

The best way to increase employee efficiency is to use a shift readiness platform for every position on the shift, including managers. Don’t just post checklists on the wall, use a system like OpsAnalitica, where employees can walk around the restaurant with the tasks on their phone or a mobile device. This cuts down on time and errors.

Here is an example of station set-up checklist with a help file spelling out directly what the employee needs to get.

Ex: Instead of getting one thing, the iced tea bucket, an employee can go to the dish area and grab all of the things they need to set up the beverage station at one time because you can spell out in detail everything they need to get in one trip vs. having to walk back to the station to consult the checklist posted on the wall or try to remember everything they need. Unnecessary walking around is a waste of time you are paying for and leads to missed items which reduces your shift readiness and is inefficient.

I hope you understand that making people more efficient and productive isn’t going to be one big thing, like everything else in the industry, it is going to be the sum of a lot of little changes that are going to add up to big savings.

Atul Kwande wrote the Checklist Manifesto, an amazing book about checklists how they are used in different industries, here are a couple of quotes to illustrate these points:

In a complex environment, experts are up against two main difficulties. The first is the fallibility of human memory and attention, especially when it comes to mundane, routine matters that are easily over-looked under the strain of more pressing events.
Faulty memory and distraction are a particular danger in what engineers call all-or-none processes: whether running to the store to buy ingredients for a cake, preparing an airplane for takeoff, or evaluating a sick person in the hospital, if you miss just one key thing, you might as well not have made the effort at all.

An example of an all or none process is getting the restaurant set-up for the meal period.  It doesn’t matter that you got the entire iced tea station set-up but forgot to make the tea. As a customer, I’m still waiting for my tea. In today’s world, something as stupid as that can cost you a customer or get you a bad review on Yelp.  Every person literally has 10, 20, or 50 other options in their area where they can go to eat.  We have to be perfect because the competition is so fierce.

The ultimate goal is to get more done with less: less employees, less hours, less mistakes. In real terms, you are looking to bring in fewer set-up employees or reduce the time it takes to set-up/close the restaurant. Even a 15 minute labor reduction per shift will have a positive affect on your bottom line and increase your employee productivity.

Accuracy

Using a shift readiness platform will also increase accuracy. Accuracy is as important as efficiency when trying to increase employee productivity. It doesn’t help you if you cut labor cost if the restaurant isn’t set-up correctly and you are upsetting customers. Once again using a shift readiness platform increase accuracy because everything is spelled out and mobile.

You will never achieve accuracy and meet your employee productivity goals if you aren’t holding your team members individually accountable to following your shift readiness procedures.  If you aren’t using a shift readiness platform in your restaurants and you are still using paper systems, holding your team accountable is a nightmare and quite frankly your systems don’t get done. What are you going to do, have everyone fill out a paper checklist, take a picture, scan it in, or fax/email it to you every shift. What a nightmare and a huge waste of time? We surveyed restaurant operators who weren’t using a shift readiness system and 94% of them believed that their teams weren’t executing their checklists properly or were pencil whipping.

When I was in charge of the Franchise Assistance Program at Quiznos I saw the wrong team destroy sales volume in months that took the owners year to build. The restaurant team isn’t executing, the customers stop coming back, sales start to drop slowly at first but then quicker, all the employees jump ship and go across the street and you as the owner or manager are left trying to rebuild.

If you want to increase employee productivity you have to implement a system that will effortlessly allow you to hold your teams at all levels accountable for doing their jobs. You can’t do it on paper, you need a shift readiness application that will alert you when things are wrong or not getting done so you can quickly hold people accountable and keep moving your operations forward. With our platform we focus on management by exception, we focus on alerting you to issues and when you get no news that is good news because everyone did what they were supposed to do.

Right there, if you move to a system where your team uses mobile checklists to set-up and restock the restaurant. They will be able to accomplish these tasks faster and more accurately than the status quo of today. This will mean that you will be able to increase employee productivity, profits, and by being 100% ready for every shift you will organically grow sales.  Once again, we have seen this in the real world, check out our case study.

A New Training Focus

One of the largest employee costs is new hire training. The standard in the industry is a mix of book work (LMS/online training/training manuals) and practical following training, where the trainee follows the trainer, paying two employees to do the job of one.  It is incredibly costly and it is very focused on memorization and skill display. Any cost savings in that initial and ongoing training program can greatly affect employee productivity by reducing total employee labor costs and turnover by getting new employees productive quicker.

Right now in the industry, we are overtraining our teams. I know that sounds like heresy and let me be clear that I’m not advocating not to train people, but let’s look at the facts, we have had and will continue to have a 100% employee turnover rate in the industry. Every dollar of extra training that you engage in is one more dollar you have to earn back to get an ROI on an employee.

The goal should be to effectively train a new employee so they can execute their job to standard in as little time as possible. You don’t get extra points for overtraining someone who is going to leave; is there any amount of training you can do that will keep someone at your restaurant even though they can make more money across the street? 

The LMS companies will tell you all day long that job and culture training are the keys to everything employee related, and we have typically spent more on training than operations systems in the past because we could better control training than operations, OpsAnalitica has changed that paradigm.

  1. Training Musts
    1. Job role functions.
      1. Grill cooks need to know how to make hamburgers and servers need to know how to serve tables.
    2. How to be a human
      1. This covers customer service, sexual harassment, appropriate speech in the workplace, etc..
    3. Rely on Systems
      1. Train people to use the systems that are provided to them to be more productive. We don’t want people relying on their memory nor do we want to pay them to memorize.
  2. Area’s to cut Training Costs
    1. Culture
      1. I think it is important to impart history and values, but a culture has to be lived not preached.
      2. When it comes to culture hold your teams accountable for living the culture not wasting time training the culture.
    2. Repeatable Tasks
      1. This is where using a shift readiness app can greatly reduce training costs, don’t spend a dime teaching people how to do these repeatable shift readiness tasks other than how to use the app to complete the process. 
      2. Ex: Instead of paying two people to do closing sidework, hand the trainee the app that outlines specifically what to do and where to find everything and let them execute the list and complete the task. Then can ask questions when they aren’t sure.
      3. This will train the employee on how to use the app while actually completing the work.

By reducing initial training time, you lower labor cost, and total employee costs, and by using a shift readiness app to drive behavior you will drive productivity and consistent service. This is such low hanging fruit, any reduction will show up in your bottom line.

Next Steps

If I was your restaurant consultant and you tasked me with the goal of increasing employee productivity, this is how I would go about it:

  1. Focus on creating role-based shift readiness system for your restaurant.
  2. Implement a shift readiness app, OpsAnalitica, and get it implemented in my restaurants.
  3. Focus on achieving 100% shift readiness for every shift, in every location, each day. This will start to help you organically increase sales by wowing customers.
  4. Once I had my role based app working, I would turn my attention to streamlining my training program cutting out unnecessary training that is being covered by program.
  5. Evaluate how long it is taking my employees to set-up/restock/close the restaurant accurately with the new system and look for places where I could reduce hours or team members during those periods.

This methodology has you focusing on 100% readiness first, which will help increase your guest satisfaction, and lead to organic sales increases as guests get what they expect every visit and will make you a better restaurant.  It will also provide you with the system infrastructure to help you deal with employee turnover and get new employees productive faster and with less expense. Once you have achieved these goals, you can then start to look to optimize your labor spend reducing your costs. Basically, with this approach, you will be able to increase sales and reduce costs which is an employee productivity double whammy.

To sum this whole blog up, using a shift readiness app like Opsanalitica is one of the keys to increasing employee productivity. OpsAnalitica will:

  • Take the guesswork out of running the restaurant for your managers and teams
  • Make your employees more efficient and more accurate as they complete their job tasks
  • Reduce your initial new employee onboarding training time and costs
  • Provide you with the data you need to reduce labor costs without compromising your standards
  • Increase your guest satisfaction by ensuring that your restaurants ready for guest every shift.

To learn more about OpsAnalitica can help you achieve all of this, please click here to schedule a quick introduction call.