*The following is an excerpt from the guide Driving Operational Excellence. Click here
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The economy is sluggish now, but even in a strong economy the slowing of expansion in the maturing QSR market means that restaurant operators are going to have to find new and innovative ways to increase revenue and compete for market share.
"So when you start to talk about ‘Where does the profitability come from?’ it’s all going to come from leveraging technology and particularly information technology and gaining efficiencies," said Joni Doolin, founder and CEO of Dallas-based People Report, a research and consulting firm specializing in restaurant labor-force trends.
The QSR industry for years has been ahead of the curve in terms of growth and expansion, much of it international. While that has been a boon to the industry, it could soon start to turn into a stumbling block.
"As a result of the maturity of that industry, again, you run into 'How do you improve your business?'; 'How do you continue to be able to increase revenue share if the growth isn't necessarily going to come through new units?' Which is what they're facing," Doolin said. "That's when a savvy technology solution can be a big piece of your overall business strategy."
The right person
Gaining efficiencies in workforce productivity can be about simply making sure the right number of people are in the right place at the right time…but it also can be about making sure the right person is in the right place, doing the right job to be most effective and continue to drive the guest experience.
Automation comes into play again when discussing efforts to maximize workforce productivity. By automating tasks such as scheduling, processing time and attendance or tracking leave, software applications can save managers’ time, which makes them more productive managers, says Jeff Maier, industry principal of retail and hospitality industry marketing for workforce management solutions provider Kronos Inc.
Managers who spend less time on the administrative side of the workforce management coin are able to then allot more time for improving productivity, by increasing the speed and accuracy of service and more thoroughly training employees — both significant drivers for improving customer service and repeat sales.
"In a QSR you want your managers on the floor, making sure that people are delivering good customer service in a timely fashion," he said. "And if you've got managers in the back office, dealing with schedules and all the manual operations, they're not able to be on the floor doing the things that you really want them to do."
But workforce management software often goes even to deeper lengths below the surface. Using personality profiles and skill set assessments, some scheduling solutions also work to improve productivity by making sure that the employee best suited to a particular job is the one working that job. If the best fry cook is working the fry station, for example, then that employee is going to be at his or her most effective, and most productive, Maier says.
While cross-training and job flexibility remain vital components of the quick-service worker skill set and the organization, this ability to break down employee strengths in even greater detail can be just one of the many small human resource steps that cumulatively contribute to big savings.
"The scheduling application is really multidimensional in that it takes into account the forecasted volume and labor demand; it takes into account employees' availability, it takes into account any rules and regulations around when the employee can and can't work, but it also takes into account skill sets, which is very important,” Maier said.