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How to optimize labor operations for next holiday season

Now that the holidays are over, is there anything you wish would have gone differently? Were your restaurants short-staffed at the worst possible time? Were team members at certain locations simply trying to survive the holidays, rather than thrive? It is a critical time of the year for restaurants, so it is important to avoid scheduling challenges that can impact operational costs and diminish success.

What causes common holiday challenges?

When restaurants are able to create accurate sales forecasts, they can optimize each shift because managers know how many people they need and whom they should schedule. Traffic inconsistency and fluctuation make it harder to accurately forecast. 

According to a 2018 NPD group study recently posted on CNBC, Black Friday—despite being the busiest day of the year for mall traffic—was only the 14th busiest day for restaurants last holiday season. The busiest day was Saturday, Nov. 17 (the weekend before Thanksgiving). Restaurants experience this level of paradoxical inconsistency all season long, where shifts can be wildly busy or quiet, seemingly depending on the whim of their guests. Throw in outside factors like travel and weather and it becomes even harder to predict which days will require more staff and which will require less. 

Lunch at mall

Team member availability (or lack thereof) only heightens the stress felt by managers during the holiday season. Traffic might spike one day in December, and there simply aren't enough people available to meet the needs.  Guests don't want to take extra time from their busy holiday schedules to wait longer for a table or their meals than they anticipated. Meanwhile, those who are actually at work are doing everything they can to ensure guests are being served in a timely manner. 

Ultimately, this situation benefits no one and makes the season even harder on the restaurant's staff and management.

Overcoming the holiday blues

Optimizing schedules during a time when optimization is exceedingly difficult requires having the best data at your disposal and a labor operations management solution to utilize that information. Smart scheduling templates should incorporate traffic patterns from your own store’s trends based on your sales flow. Your data also has to factor in external elements that could impact traffic over the holiday season. 

Optimizing schedules during a time when optimization is exceedingly difficult requires having the best data at your disposal.

Real-time assessments and adjustments also help. Using metrics to determine how many hours an employee should have worked based on sales during their shift versus how many they actually worked allows managers to adjust schedules and minimize the variance between the two figures. It also holds managers accountable because it provides insights into how well they can adjust their staffing needs in response to actual sales conditions throughout the day. 

As for availability, the best way to mitigate the impact of short staffs and reduce the risk of no-call, no-shows is to streamline communication between team members and managers. The holidays are difficult for everyone. Giving employees tools to access their schedules, request coverage, and offer to pick up shifts will go a long way towards preventing those unpleasant experiences associated with short staffs. 

When everyone has the tools to communicate their availability and know when they are working, team members have little room to make excuses. This improves the scheduling process and doesn't leave staffs high and dry during certain shifts. While the holidays are over, it's time to think about how to utilize these tools next year so that you can thrive, rather than simply survive.

For more information about Business Intelligence tools for restaurants, request a CrunchTime demonstration and follow us on Twitter @getcrunchtime and LinkedIn.

This post is sponsored by CrunchTime! Information Systems

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