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Digital Checklists are More Important Than Ever To Minimize the Effects of High Employee Turnover

I’m going to do my best to keep this blog short and sweet. Here is the deal:

  1. Employee Turnover is at an all-time 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 this turnover and their associated costs.
  3. Checklists are a key component in reducing employee training costs and running more consistent daily restaurant operations. The only checklists that actually work are ones that are managed through a Checklist App where you have visibility and accountability.

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. Add to that the lowest unemployment in decades in the US and things are bleak for restaurant hiring.

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 systems 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 your employee’s phones to your advantage: Nothing infuriates me more than wanting something from an employee at a restaurant, waiting for them to see me, and they are looking at their phone. I get it. Phones can distract people from doing their jobs and there should be consequences when that happens. On the flip side, tablets are expensive. Cheap Android tablets with cases cost around $125 to $200. iPads can cost $400 to $1000’s of dollars. 99% of your employees have smartphones that can be used on your Wifi for free to engage in training and to complete checklists. You can’t mandate that they 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.

Short Checklists for All Repeatable Tasks and Job Aids for Singular Tasks

Most Pilot checklists are 5 or so questions. Turing the engines on isn’t one 50 question checklist that takes an hour, it might be 3 5-question short checklists with high-level items on them. We have a chain client that has a 30 to 40 total, 5 to 6 question checklists for every station. They take a minute to complete but they cover the most important items from a shift readiness perspective for each station. Their readiness went through the roof when they implemented this system.

Short checklists get done at higher percentages of compliance than longer checklists. You are always going to have a need to have some very thorough checklists and they tend be longer, line checks, food safety checks spring to mind and that is fine. Focus on making a lot of your checklists, short and easy to complete. Also, if you have long checklists, make sure you choose an app that supports real-time collaboration where multiple people can work simultaneously on the same checklist, that will help speed it up and drive higher compliance.

You should use checklists for tasks/processes that require multiple steps or multiple items. Job Aids should be used for single steps. You would use a checklist for setting up the beverage station because it involves multiple steps and multiple items. You would use a job aid to show how to make the Iced Tea.

The concept of multi=checklist and single=job aid can be applied to all departments. Also, use common sense when it comes to creating job aids. You don’t need a job aid on how to clean the front door with windex. You may want one on how to cut lemons because lemon slice size affects food cost and customer satisfaction.

Digital checklists and the OpsAnalitica Platform

Your restaurant’s team is constantly turning over. In a lot of restaurants, the most senior person could have 4 months of tenure or less. Everyone is new all the time and you are constantly training and on-boarding new employees.

You need to create systems that they have to follow so you can ensure food safety, shift readiness, and consistent customer experiences. You need systems that can be easily updated and centrally managed so that changes to operations can be quickly implemented at a minimum cost.

You also need a way to hold the team accountable for using the checklists and systems you have created. Because institutional knowledge of your operations in this environment can be very low, you need a way to bubble up issues to upper management in real-time and an ability to view what is happening at any location from any device.

Don’t forget about deep clean and preventative maintenance. You need to bring those activities into your checklist system so you track them. To make sure you are doing those activities so you don’t incur unnecessary repair costs, downtime, and losses. Also, because of the short tenure of employees, the current employees won’t have a clue if the last maintenance activities happened before they worked for you.

The entire restaurant industry has managed itself with paper checklists for years. The problem is, paper checklists don’t get done and there is no way for an above store leader to manage operations with them easily and effectively. We all know that our paper checklists are getting pencil whipped, 94% of managers surveyed said they knew their employees weren’t following them.

The OpsAnalitica Platform is the perfect platform to replace your paper checklists with. As the low-cost leader in the restaurant digital checklist space, we can provide your team with the platform that will replace your paper checklists for a cost that is less than the Red Book per month per location.

Our platform will provide you with real-time visibility, enhanced accountability, and critical notifications, in a fully customizable app that works on any Android or iOS device.

As the overall economy continues to grow, as the labor pool continues to shrink, restaurant employee turnover is going to stay a concern for the near future. As restaurant operators, we need to look for ways to streamline our hiring, on-boarding, training, and daily operation processes so that we can minimize the effect of this high turnover on our teams and on our customer satisfaction. One of the easiest and quickest ways to do this is to move your paper checklists, that aren’t getting done, to an app where you can hold your teams accountable to following your ops procedures.

High Turnover = Lower Ops Consistency

The number one issue facing restaurant operators over the last couple of year, as told to us by restauranteurs at all levels in the business, is staffing and turnover. It is so hard to find good people to work in your restaurant and to keep them for any length of time.

I’m sure you are familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, thank you grad school.

 

Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs basically lays out a pyramid of human needs. Stating that you must fulfill the needs at the bottom of the pyramid first, food and water before you can move your way up to the top which is Self Actualization. To put it another way, you can’t become Self Actualized and achieve your dreams if you are huddled, starving, and cold, living in a damp dark cave not knowing when or if you will ever eat again and worried about being killed by an animal. Neanderthals weren’t self-actualized, they most likely spent 99% of their lives in pursuit of basic Physiological Needs. That is why there were no great works of art or literature that came from the caveman.

If there was a Maslow’s Restaurant Hierarchy of needs, then staffing would replace Physiological needs. You can’t run a restaurant without a team of people. We need good people to show up, work and take their jobs seriously. I remember when I was a restaurant manager at a large high volume P.F. Chang’s in the early 00’s. I was the floor manager and the worse part of my job was dealing with night shift call outs that took place every day. I would find myself on the phone after the lunch shift between 2 and 4 calling people to come in and cover shifts that people had called out of. Now a lot has changed with scheduling programs and that is great. It was hell.

What exacerbates the staffing problem in the restaurant industry is that we are always open. If you are a typical restaurant you are open at least 2 shifts a day 363 days a year. When you lose a person, and you don’t have anyone to back them up, customers don’t care. They want food and they want to eat it now. When you can’t find people or the people you have aren’t operating at full capacity because they are new and just out of training, it is the equivalent of your restaurant being deprived of oxygen and water. You can’t do anything else. You have to fill those shifts because the customers are coming.

One of the biggest consequences of not having a fully staffed and trained restaurant team is Restaurant Ops Consistency.

Let’s define Ops Consistency, it is the ability of the restaurant team to execute the daily operations of the restaurant to service guests.  It is running the restaurant. It is sidework, it is prep, it is making food and drinks and delivering them to guests, it is menu knowledge, providing tasty and safe food in a clean and inviting environment.

Think about going to a restaurant on the day that it opens, huge mistake. The team is new, they don’t know how to do everything yet, new employees tend to make more mistakes and they work slower,  they are green. The guest experience these teams are creating is the product of being brand new at their jobs.

Take this one step further, you could manage a restaurant that has been opened for years but if you have high turnover then you are constantly staffed with a mix of new employees and seasoned employees, in some restaurants the seasoned employees have only been there for a couple of months. The guest experience you are able to provide is going to be inconsistent and less than what an experienced team could provide. Your Ops Consistency, your guest experience, and ultimately your sales and profits will all go down.

OPERATIONS ARE WHAT THE GUEST IS PAYING US TO DO, IT IS THE CORE OF RUNNING A RESTAURANT, IT IS BASIC BLOCKING AND TACKLING. IF YOU DON’T OPERATE WELL YOU WILL GO OUT OF BUSINESS!!!

Operations consistency is probably the biggest challenge that is facing operators behind staffing and turnover and because filling shifts is the immediate fire that must be put out on a daily basis, it doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves, to the detriment to the business and the industry.

How do you make your operations more consistent in this staffing market?

Understand what your Employees are Costing You and create employee retention incentives:

How often do you give your restaurant employees raises or other incentives to stay with you? Executives in big companies get golden handcuffs, usually in the form of stock options or bonuses, to prevent them from leaving. As an industry, we have to figure out ways to create affordable golden handcuffs for our restaurant employees. If we know the average cost of hiring and training a new restaurant employee is $5,864 based on a report from the Center of Hospitality Research at Cornell University. Then we know that if we can spend less than that number and retain an employee for longer then we are winning. We have already agreed that a more veteran staff is capable of providing better customer experiences than a greener staff and that when you lower turnover it gives management more opportunity to proactively grow their business vs. focusing only on how are they going to get enough bodies to work the next shift.

Restaurant Managers need to understand the ROI for every new employee and job role:

  1. Calculate how much sales and profits an individual employee in a job role is responsible for creating per hour based off of past sales. The easiest way to do this would be to look at what a fully staffed restaurant looks like from a total hours perspective and divide that number into an average sales figure over a time period. The number you are ultimately trying to get to is how much profit per hour is an employee generating for your business, it is that number that you have to divide into your costs to determine the payback period and ROI for an employee.
  2. Then calculate your current new hire training costs, employee costs, etc. for each job role. Average out any slight pay differences.
  3. Look at what the payback period is for each employee, or how long do they have to work for you before they start to generate an actual return on your investment.

Once you have the number of hours an employee has to work before you make a dime on them, you will be able to make smarter decisions. Create incentives for them to stay longer, get rid of bad employees faster.  Every restaurant manager tracks labor cost % but very few know how many hours a new employee has to work for them to break even on that investment.

Remember that incentives don’t always have to be monetary but monetary ones will be more effective. Thanking people and buying them a drink or a meal can go a long way. If they make 100 bucks a shift with you and could make 200 a shift across the street, you probably won’t keep them.

One way to approach incentives is to create certifications or levels within their job role, tie skills acquired to pay raises, recognize longevity with raises and privileges. I will start you at $10 an hour and every 90 days that you stay with us, I will give you a $.25 raise. More senior employees get the best shifts, etc..

Be creative and know the actual cost of an employee leaving. Also, carry out exit interviews with no judgment, either over the phone or on an online survey tool. Try to understand why people are leaving so you can correct those problems. Also, if a person reports a reason for leaving that is an improper conduct issue, make sure to report it to HR to protect the company.

Invest in systems more than training:

I’ve said before, in other blogs, and I will say it again. I’m not advocating not training people. We have to train our teams to do their job functions but everything that is a repeatable daily task we should systematize.

Be Aware: The LMS companies will tell you that training is the answer to everything because they want you to buy an LMS system. In reality, training is important but paying people to remember things that are repeatable in nature is waste of time and money.

The culture systems people will tell you that high performing cultures are the most important thing and that you should buy a system that focuses on your culture. Culture has to be experienced by the team at the restaurant and provided by management not preached about.

There is that famous saying ” The beatings will continue until morale improves.” I always think about that when people talk to me about culture. I’ve worked at restaurants where we went through tons of culture training and then the management team wasn’t very good and didn’t live the culture they were preaching.

The reason historically the restaurant industry has put all of our eggs in the training basket when it came to operations consistency wasn’t because it was the most effective way to drive operations consistency it was the only thing you could really control in a multi-unit restaurant operation.

The technology didn’t exist to see what was happening in your operations or to hold your team accountable for following your procedures until the last few years. So everybody just pretended that the reason people weren’t following a procedure was that they didn’t know how to do that task. In reality, it was because they didn’t want to or didn’t remember or didn’t care about following the procedure as there was no consequence for not.

Things don’t get done in restaurants because management isn’t holding people accountable for following procedures. I’ve seen it myself, some set-up item isn’t done at the restaurant, if you walk up to the employee responsible and ask if they know how to do it, they can do it. They don’t need to be trained, they need to be reminded to do the task and held accountable for getting it done.

We as an industry have to break away from how we used to run restaurants and look at this situation critically. If you know that an average employee is only going to stay 6 months would you train them as if they are going to be with you for 10 years? Of course not. The reality is this; your employees will leave if they can make more money across the street. Stop training them on stuff that they don’t need to do their immediate job to lower your risk and cost.

Instead, invest in systems that can help employees become more productive quicker and that also increase your Ops Consistency. OpsAnalitica is Shift Readiness and Ops Consistency platform that allows you to script out the perfect shift in every location. It allows you to define what needs to be done every day from the manager to each job position so that those employees don’t have to think or remember what needs to be done.

OpsAnalitica can provide on the spot training and detailed instructions which will get employees productive quicker and ensure that all crucial tasks can be completed in a timely manner. OpsAnlitica provides you with real-time visibility into your operations so your location and above store management can see what is happening in the restaurant and take immediate action to ensure that Ops Standards are being executed and that guests are being taken care of. Most importantly it provides leadership with a feed of restaurant operations information so they can make data-driven decisions about their businesses.

This is one of the toughest restaurant labor markets in history. A combination of generational demographic changes, a strong economy, and overstepping government interference has made it harder and harder to find, train, compensate and retain good employees.  In addition to the stress of having to constantly find, hire and train new employees to keep the restaurant staffed. The second biggest consequence of this tight labor market is Operations Consistency.

Restaurants that suffer from high turnover always have a large complement of new employees who don’t have as much experience and aren’t as capable of delivering the same level of service as more experienced employees. The restaurants aren’t able to get ahead because all efforts are spent just keeping the restaurant fully staffed, leaving management little room to make the strategic decisions needed to grow their businesses.

Restaurant managers have to invest the time to create an ongoing and increasing incentive program to keep employees for longer to maximize their ROI on each employee. Restaurant companies need to invest more into systems, OpsAnalitica, that can take the guesswork out of running the restaurants for each position every shift and to focus on holding their teams accountable to following their procedures. By providing a system that can dictate what needs to be done and when, managers can get employees more productive quicker and reduce onboarding and training time, reducing those costs will increase employee ROI.

Your restaurant’s sales and profits and your strategic goals are going to suffer if you aren’t able to find, train, incentivize employees, and provide them with the systems that are going to make them better faster while ensuring that your operations consistency in every location is maintained. Ops consistency systems and retention incentives have to be your top priority for the long-term success of your restaurant.

 

 

 

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