Restaurant Scheduling and Communications Software

What is it and What is it Worth?

Benefits.  Scheduling software should greatly reduce scheduling time, reduce miscommunication between staff and management, and increase employee morale. It needs to pull its own weight by saving money through better shift management and providing a flawless dining experience to customers.

Features may include:

Immediate Employee Schedule Notification
Trade Board Management
Time Off Request Management
Tentative Approval for Time Off Requests
Anywhere, Anytime Access to Schedules
Availability & Contact Information Listing to Cover Last Minute No Shows
Templates
Automated Scheduling
Training Videos
Easy Navigation (i.e., Set Up Wizards, Templates)
Drag-and-Drop Editing
Automatic Upgrades & No Installation (Web based)
Secure, Encrypted Internet Transmissions
99%Data Availability

Let’s Make it EASY.  Shift Scheduling Software needs to be easy to navigate and input. Look for a set up wizard to input data in a logical sequence quickly and accurately.  Look for a choice of templates that provides a partially filled in schedule the manager knows delivers quality service at a reasonable labor dollar.  The software should be easy to change through drag-and-drop editing.  Trading shifts/approvals should be simple and efficient.  A tentative management approval gives the manager complete control of his scheduling.

Buyer Beware.  Software isn’t always as easy or good as it first appears.  Look at the monthly subscription cost for the amount of employees to schedule.  For example, if software is offered at $15/month, it may only handle 10 employees and you may have 50 employees.  A free trial lets you test drive the software and a monthly subscription allows you to “pay as you go.”  If all else fails, a satisfaction guarantee with a full refund is another good feature.

What is it Worth?

At this point, shift scheduling software may look promising.  It may have many features and benefits that you desire and will help you manage your restaurant.  But what and where are the savings?

Let’s take an example of scheduling a 50 person restaurant with a high percentage of part time employees, 6 or more shifts, changing availabilities and multiple requests for time off, training, and special events.  With this mix, an Excel schedule may not function or communicate changes efficiently.  Setting up a schedule and miscommunications may be costing more than a software program.  The Annual Savings Calculator table calculates the savings of using arestaurant scheduling software vs. an Excel spreadsheet. The table is followed by additional benefits that affect a bottom line. Consider inputting your numbers into the table to calculate your savings.

1. Savings through Faster Scheduling

A manager with 50 employees may spend 6 hours making and maintaining an employee schedule. At say, a modest $10/hour, this is 60 dollars/week, times 52 weeks is $3,120/year.  A scheduling software may cost at $10/hour making a schedule in 1.2 hours/week (1.2 hours is based on current customer feedback) is $12/week times 52 weeks, totaling $624/year.  If you add in a $588 yearly software subscription, the total is $1,212.  Using a Scheduling Software in this example saves $1,908/year.  What if a scheduler is salaried?  By using a restaurant scheduling software and communications package, the scheduler now has almost 250 more hours a year to focus on running the restaurant, ensuring customer satisfaction, and planning for the future.

2. Lowering Overtime Costs

With 50 employees, it can be difficult to satisfy employee availabilities, requests for time off, and the restaurant’s needs.  Under this scenario, reducing overtime costs becomes more difficult. When using some software schedules, customers have seen up to a 30% reduction in overtime costs.  Say you average 20 hours of overtime a week and you pay an extra $4.75/hour for this.  Over a year, overtime would cost $4,940. Using this example, a restaurant scheduling software saves $1,482/year.

3. Enhancing Communication and Retention

When schedules or important information is sent to employees by email or text messaging and is available over the Internet, time is saved and communication is greatly enhanced.  Employees do not have to call in or wait until their next shift to see their schedule.  Working employees are not disrupted to go check someone’s schedule.

Additionally, employees can communicate their availability and find replacements swiftly and easily.  Through the approval process, the shift manager controls the schedule so that a balance is maintained between employee and business needs.  Tentative approval gives managers flexibility without risk.  Additionally, by accommodating employee preferences, employees feel they are being treated fairly, which contributes to employee satisfaction and retention.  This benefit is not included in the table, but I believe is very real.

4. Streamlining Customer Service

When employees receive emails and text messages with their section and shift, they are less likely to forget or get confused about when they are working.  They come to work confident, ready to concentrate on customer service.  The shift manager can concentrate on customer service instead of making scheduling and section assignments on the floor.  Customers receive a more consistent service because there is less scrambling if there is a no show or someone is late.  Again, this benefit is not included in the table, but I believe is very real.

5. Maintaining Management Coverage

If your scheduling manager becomes unavailable and schedules need to be made or maintained, using a restaurant scheduling software makes it easy for another manager to step in without missing a beat.

Summary.  Adding up the benefits and costs let’s you make an informed decision about what is best for your restaurant.  Scheduling software maybe a perfect solution─saving you time and money and providing better service.  In the worst case scenario if you find scheduling software not right, having a free trial, monthly subscription, and money-back guarantee allows you to change your mind without financial obligation or loss.  Seems like a pretty good position for the customer.

Link to Savings Calculator

Link to RestaurantScheduler.com

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Saving Restaurants Time with Templates

Yes, we have saved restaurants time by automating the majority of the scheduling process. Our algorithm rotates employees and the shifts they work using their availability, labor cost reduction, and use of randomization. We weren’t satisfied. We know there are certain employees that you need to work specific shifts every week. In our latest release we utilized your feedback to create Templates. Now using RestaurantScheduler can save you even more time scheduling – 3 clicks and your done.

  1. Upload your template.Uploading Template
  2. Populate the rest of your schedule. Populating the Schedule
  3. Post the schedule to your employees.Post to Schedule

RestaurantScheduler is constantly improving our product to save you time and money. Thank you for your feedback, keep it coming.

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Increasing Restaurant Business thru Motivated Management

Awhile ago my son was commenting about being promoted to Assistant Manager of a small franchised restaurant. As an Assistant Manager, he has more responsibility, works 10 more hours/week and earns about the same hourly pay as before. Then he looked at his bonus. Cha-Ching. If quarterly profit goals are met, he receives a bonus based on the percentage of profit. Let me tell you, the bonus is a huge motivator to bring in more business and increase profits. Suddenly ideas are percolating and goals are enthusiastically obtainable.

If your restaurant’s profit margin is tight and you can’t pay large salaries, a hefty bonus may be the incentive your managers need to increase restaurant profits. With a bonus, management becomes an active participant in growing the restaurant’s success. Instead of just providing customer service and oversight, my son is searching for ways to increase customers on slower days and has found local businesses with Monday sales meetings, car dealerships with Saturday sales catering, and churches needing consistent catering. He has come up with ways to cut food waste by doing away with trays, which often encourages taking more than needed, and reducing the amount of sauce used in many entrees. When management is highly motivated to succeed, inventory is organized and inventoried daily, office processes are streamlined through technology, and employee training and mentoring is systematically provided. It’s a great incentive to build your restaurant’s business.

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A Secret to Boosting Restaurant Sales

Secret Kiss From One Boston Terrier to AnotherCould your restaurant use a boost in sales…but maybe you are a little out of gas to tackle a big restaurant promotion?

Consider boosting restaurant sales using your secret promotional weapon—your employees. Employees, especially new employees, are eager to show off their new restaurant to their friends and family. So why not make it easy and give your employees a promotional card or a welcoming letter with a discount associated with it?

It may be a good time after orientation/training to reward your new employee with a promotional card. You may catch a seasoned employee providing exceptional service and want to reward them as well.

Heartily invite their family and friends to enjoy your restaurant’s hospitality. Personally welcome your new guests when they arrive, and ask for their candid response to the service and food quality. Make them feel special. Obviously, you have a great deal of room for creativity with this promotion so enjoy the fun and festivity.

This personal promotion attracts new, loyal customers. I always treat my friends and family to the restaurants my family works for. Friends and family tip well and are generally repeat customers because of their closer connection and fond memory of the restaurant. They are also motivated to talk eagerly about your restaurant to their friends. It seems like this kind of a promotion is a win for everyone.

Hope this helps.

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Placing Restaurant Orders Using the iPad

iPadIf you are considering replacing your restaurant’s printed menus with a custom-made, touch screen iPad menu application, you may want to first look at ordering styles to determine what is best for you.

Style 1 – Server places order. After the customer has looked over the paper menu, the server approaches the customer and takes the order using an iPad. The iPad menu application contains all of the ordering variables resulting in quick, accurate orders sent to the kitchen.

Style 2 – Customer places order: Instead of the server taking the order, the customer browses the iPad, selects entrées, side orders, beverages, cooking preferences, and any serving notes. The customer reviews the order and clicks the send button—The order is on its way to the kitchen.

Style 1 seems simple with little customer impact. It may also be a good way for restaurants to make the transition to an iPad easier for the kitchen, wait staff, and management. Style 2 involves the customer taking more responsibility. It has the intrigue of changing the dining experience for customers, but it has more risk.

How will the new technology affect your restaurant?

  • How expensive are iPads vs. paper menus, considering both hardware and software? How often do iPads need to be replaced from breakage and wear?
  • How easy is it to change the menu and additional information? Who has the authority to make changes?
  • How will you keep customers from walking away with iPads?
  • Will ordering time be increased or decreased, and how much will this affect table turn over?
  • Can iPads be integrated into a POS system?
  • Is personal preference data useful to management? Should promotions and surveys be available and/or sent to customers from the iPad?
  • Will it benefit the restaurant to have the customer see the cost of the meal during the ordering process?
  • How are you going to help your technically challenged eaters get their orders in correctly?
  • How will you deal with customers who change or mix up their order?
  • How important is losing the interaction of the server vs. the iPad in terms of restaurant profit?
  • Will electronic suggestions carry the same authority as a server’s suggestion about specials or seasonal dishes?
  • Is the server tip less if the customer does the ordering and the wait staff runs plates? Will this affect the ability to attract and retain talented wait staff?
  • Could having the iPad actually increase customers because of the novelty?
  • Do you want your restaurant to have a mom and pop feel, or do you want a trendier restaurant?

I can see that initiating an iPad ordering application is a dilemma for restaurant management as there are many areas affected by a relatively simple change. Good luck!

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Increase Restaurant Employees Value & Potentially Make More Money

Man with Money

Ways to increase restaurant salaries. What can you do to increase your salary? Sometimes just being patient is the biggest factor in raising your salary. Restaurants tend to promote through tenure, and if you can be patient, a long tenure may work in your favor. I seem to need to learn this advice the hard way over and over. Be patient and keep making good choices. It will pay off in every area of your life.

Put yourself in the right place. Choose to work for a restaurant that rewards excellent performance and openly wants to retain employees. Try to choose your employer carefully. During the interview, ask how long employees generally stay at the restaurant. Try to get an idea about the culture of the restaurant and if the position is a good fit for you.

Bring attention to yourself as a leader. Can you increase your job responsibilities or do some repairs/housekeeping? Does something need to be calked, cleaned, repotted, or plants replaced? There seems to be an endless amount of small chores that build up. Is there a course or certification that can improve your performance? Can you post ways to take certifications on the employee bulletin board to help co-workers? Can you increase the perception that you are a high performer by your attitude, dress, and helpfulness? Your loyalty, attitude, and positive ideas may result in higher pay, free food, bonuses, or an invitation to join the manager’s meeting.

Add extra value by pitching in. Could you pick up a shift when no one else wants to, clean out and label a storage closet, or clean a bathroom. Could you help a co-worker bus or help serve a big order, fold linens, or sweep a mess a child may have made? Could you bring crayons or coloring books to a child? Parents are especially appreciative for your help and will often express their gratitude to management.

Learn, learn, learn. Read as much as you can about restaurants, both from a food and management aspect. Get involved in Restaurant Associations or social media groups. Learn new software applications and techniques that streamline restaurant processes. There is a video at RestaurantScheduler.com that depicts some of the challenges a restaurant manager faces and how to save time through better scheduling and communication.

Do a little marketing, both externally and internally. Can you suggest a local organization that can use your restaurant to host events? Could you talk to persons who place catering orders and provide menus to car dealerships, repair shops, churches, schools, and businesses nearby?  If you do not provide catering, perhaps leave some coupons or specials for busy workers. Many campuses have a posting tree and a restaurant special posted here may be well received. Be affirmative to your employees and co-workers and talk about positive restaurant happenings. Not every restaurant is going to be perfect but accentuate the positive. It is amazing how being positive will uplift your spirits and those of your employees.

If you can bring addition value to your restaurant by saving time and increasing profits, your hard work and knowledge of restaurant technologies and processes will pay off. Good luck with your career path.

 

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Ways to Increase Restaurant Business

Graph going upWith the busy holiday season coming to an end, restaurant managers may be asking how they can increase their restaurant’s business during the leaner months of January and February. To increase your business, first let’s look at why customers choose your restaurant and then ways to appeal to a broad base of customers.

Whether it’s a casual Friday night out, special event, or visiting friends, many factors go into choosing where someone will dine. One of the single largest factors is location. Approximately 80% of your customers come from a 10-minute drive. Get to know your demographics. Chat with your customers to see what appeals them about your restaurant and then build on that appeal to retain and attract new customers. Below are appealing reasons customers often consider:

Practicality. Area you near a movie theater, school, or sporting event center? This may translate to smaller table sizes. Are you near businesses? Making it easy to get in and out in an hour and split the tab for customers having a casual business lunch will make your restaurant popular. Is your main entrée steak? Having an entrée for a non-steak lovers will often make the difference of a returning customer. Having a lower calorie entrée is welcome to persons watching a bulging waistline. Speaking of waistlines, some people are larger than others and larger people cannot sit on flimsy chairs.  Sturdy chairs are a very big deal.

Perceived value. Are your menu selections and prices perceived as a good value?  Should your menu be more descriptive about the quality and preparation of your food? Is your staff trained to enthusiastically explain the care that is taken in each entrée’s preparation? Is the food presented in a pleasing way?

Technology. There are restaurant downloads for location, price, cuisine, distance (some provide maps) ratings and reviews, links to websites, and featured selections using an iPhone app. By getting to know your customers, you can learn which apps are the most used in your area (i.e., Restaurant Finder, Find a Restaurant, Urbanspoon, Yelp, and Where to Eat.

If your restaurant offers To Go Ordering by phone, offering online ordering may make perfect sense. Many pizza restaurants are combining online ordering with local delivery or pickup with great success. Online ordering makes ordering accurate and convenient for customers. Restaurants can increase sales without adding many additional shifts, square footage, or clean-up time. How perfect is this?

I don’t particularly like technology, and I get confused and apprehensive. Learning to text message was an overwhelming sense of accomplishment for me 5 years after everyone was texting. For those of you like me, technology is here and it’s not that bad. Its application can greatly increase your sales. I hate it and I love it.

Large parties. Is there a way to attract and retain more large parties? For example, a partially or completely closed off room keeps the noise down and feels more intimate for someone needing to give a speech. A new grill in an upscale area of Austin has a dining room section with large doors. When you walk into this important looking room, there are tastefully decorated shelves along the wall.  This is where your concept and theme can shine.

Atmosphere. I recently went to another over-the-top restaurant that had black folding table tops to easily accommodate more guests. How clever is that? During off-peak times, it felt roomier. I hate being cramped in like a sardine. They skillfully closed off several party rooms, had an expansive entrance way, and an outdoor patio. A more intimate area near the bar had smaller tables, soft dim lighting, and was festively decorated. It was wow, wow, wow.

There are so many many ways to be creative and enhance the fun atmosphere and concept of your restaurant. Attention to detail and excellent service will keep your customers coming back for more. As your restaurant becomes increasing well known for excellent food and service, word of mouth will continue to increase sales.  Enjoy.

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