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Manage Speed of Service amid High Turnover

Speed of service is one of the most important metrics that are tracked in a restaurant. It has an immense impact on sales. If you’re doing a great job you will maximize sales for your shift. If you aren’t you are losing customers to long lines at the drive thru or register.

It doesn’t make sense to spend the money to acquire a customer just to have them turn around at the last minute and go somewhere else without making a purchase.

In this blog we’re going to focus on employee turnover and how you can still manage speed of service levels and maximize your sales.

Here is the deal:

  1. Employee Turnover has always been high, but employee tenure is the more important measure to understand. Tenure is how long our employees are staying in their jobs.
  2. Because the average employee is staying such a short amount of time we have to re-design how we onboard, train, and operate our restaurants to minimize the effects of turnover on speed of service.
  3. Having access to and using real-time operations data are a key component in reducing employee training costs as well as identifying and remediating issues before they affect speed of service.

7 Shifts, the Scheduling Company, compiled 7 Restaurant Scheduling Stats of 2017. Click on the image below to see the whole infographic. The facts were crazy but these on how long employees on average stay in a job really stood out to me as scary.

High restaurant turnover is an all-encompassing thing, I know this because I’ve lived it. When you have high turnover you don’t have time to think about anything else, you’re constantly engaged in hiring, training, and backfilling positions. All other pro-active things that you want to do for your restaurant get neglected. How can you work on that new menu or special when you have 3 open positions for tonight’s dinner rush. It’s brutal.

The reality is, you have 57 days with a server, 54 days with a cook, and 124 days with your most expensive employee, your manager. These numbers really paint a picture of what restaurant operators are facing.

Now that you see what the average tenure of an employee is; do you still think it is prudent to spend 4 or 5 days on-boarding/training a person that is only going to be around 54 days? That training time for a server/cook could equate to 10% of their entire employment period at a higher than normal hourly wage.

Here is what we have to do in the industry to minimize these effects.

Shift your Training to Focus on Employee Productivity as Fast as Possible

You have an employee that is going to stay 55 days. The difference between 3 to 5 days of initial training is significant. 3 Days of training is 5.4% of their tenure vs. 9% at 5 days. Think about the ROI jump on that employee when you get them productive quicker.

The easiest place to cut training cost is to reduce the initial onboarding and training period. You do it by:

  1. Cutting all superfluous training out of the curriculum and focus 100% on must-have job role knowledge. Ex: Cooks need to know recipes, servers need to know how to use the POS and steps of service. Get new hires into their stations contributing to sales ASAP.
  2. Systematize Everything: Anything that is repeatable has to be in a checklist or in-station Job Aid. You can’t spend a second training people how to remember to do a repeatable task. Instead, you need to teach them that there are processes available to guide them through these tasks as they are doing them and how to use these systems.
  3. Shift to More Daily Training: You have to shift training from a front-loaded multi-day activity and move the non-job role must-have items to a daily format. Pre-shift meetings for all members of the restaurant are a way to still deliver this culture and non-job specific training in a short couple of minute sessions. Repeating this training over time is very effective.
  4. Simplify as much as you can. For instance, and a lot of people have done this, put allergen, gluten, health information right on your menu. That makes it easy for customers to find out what items they can eat and reduces the amount of training you have to provide FOH employees on the menu. For the BOH, reduce as many steps as possible for prep and in your recipes. Anywhere you can find efficiency without compromising quality, you should make the change. A great example is a lot of quick-service restaurants have assembly cards in the different cooking stations, this helps with consistency but can also reduce upfront training time because there is a job aid right in their station. You have to do that because your employees aren’t around long enough to learn super complex processes.
  5. Use mobile devices to your advantage: Offer the ability to engage in training and to complete processes on a mobile device. Processes then become simple to manage as everyone is always working off of the latest version of the process. You can’t mandate that employees use their own phones, you have to provide an alternative, but you can allow them to use their devices to make your business better and their jobs easier and more convenient. Treat their devices as a force multiplier.
  6. Use real-time operations data: Ensure that team members have access to all the data they need to make sure they are shift ready at every location. This includes dynamic corrective actions and job aides for each process. Provide above store leaders with the data they need to hold teams accountable and the ability to lead and coach.

If you follow those steps you will be able to maintain your speed of service levels even in the midst of high employee turnover.

Written by

I've been in the restaurant industry for most of my adult life. I have a BSBA from University of Denver Hotel Restaurant school and an MBA from the same. When I wasn't working in restaurants I was either doing stand-up comedy, for 10 years, or large enterprise software consulting. I'm currently the Managing Director of OpsAnalitica and our Inspector platform was originally conceived when I worked for one of the largest sandwich franchisors in the country. You can reach out to me through LinkedIn.