Nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, roughly six-in-ten U.S. workers who say their jobs can mainly be done from home (59%) are working from home all or most of the time. Among those who are currently working from home all or most of the time, 78% say they would like to continue to do so after the pandemic is over.
Flexible work continues to be an important factor for many applicants and it could be one of the reasons that restaurants are struggling to fill roles. New research from CareerBuilder found that jobs allowing employees to work from home full or part-time saw seven times more applications than in-person roles when compared to April 2022. With no work from home positions readily available, the restaurant industry simply can’t compete.
However, if operators are forced to either be short-handed or experiment with alternatives that will both retain current staff and attract new applicants, one option that is a shorter workweek.
Even offering an extra day of personal time for the employee’s mental health is touted to increase employee satisfaction, attract talent, and improve employee retention. While many companies world-wide are experimenting with this idea, some restaurant operators may struggle with what that model would look like for us.
A four-day work week in our industry will be a different approach than what one would see from a large corporation. Some restaurants may be able to examine their sales and determine that a certain day of the week is just not going to profitable no matter what tactics have been tried and choose to close entirely on that day. Yet others just can’t afford to have a shutdown day.
In the cases that it does not make sense to close the doors on certain days, it may still be feasible for employees to be introduced to a four-day work week by increasing the employee daily hours while reducing the days worked. Many employees would be pleased to work doubles over fewer days as opposed to showing up for a single lunch shift each day of the week. The hourly workers will not suffer financially because they are still being paid for 40 hours each week, but just completing the work in four 10-hour shifts instead of five 8-hour shifts.
This approach will mean that operators will need to work smarter to get more done in less time. Here are a few ideas on how to make that happen:
Stagger shifts to mitigate labor
Staggering clock-in times in employee work schedules allows you to increase labor as sales increase throughout the day. If each shift starts out slow and builds gradually in sales, overlap labor to have staff members on the clock only when you really need them.
Cross train employees
Cross-training employees to do multiple tasks could also allow for a horter work week. Training back -of-the-house employees on how to perform each other’s jobs will allow slower shifts to be run with fewer employees, allowing them to create a better work-life balance without compromising service. You can also increase productivity by cross training front-of-the-house employees so that they can be utilized in other areas of the restaurant when you are short-handed or need extra help during a rush. For example, train a few waiters how to jump behind the bar during happy hour when the bar is full and the restaurant is empty. Train your busser to take drink orders and run food when all of your tables are full and there are none to clean.
Consider tasks that can be done remotely
For managers and chefs, consider tasks that could be shifted to duties performed from home. While it may not equate to a four-day work week, it still provides the flexibility for higher level jobs to perform administrative tasks outside of the restaurant. With cloud-based restaurant management software, tasks such as creating employee schedules, paying invoices, ordering product, analyzing recipes, and more can be done remotely – even via cell phone in most cases.
Boost kitchen productivity
The kitchen hosts many hidden opportunities to reduce employees’ hours by increasing productivity. Consider teaming employees in creative ways. Let’s say that one employee can dice 15 pounds of onions in one hour. However – because these are human beings and not machines – the same person can only dice 10 pounds of onions the second hour. If you were change from one employee dicing onions for two hours to two employees dicing onions for one hour instead you end up with the same yield of onions in half the time for a similar labor cost.
Keep in mind that not all employees will be interested in a shorter week. The 10-hour workdays could potentially drive away great employees and candidates who have children, go to school, have long commutes, or have other commitments that do not allow them to work extended hours. There should be options for these individuals to be scheduled around their individual needs.
While we are not 100% sure that the restaurant industry is ready for implementing a four day work week, we are sure that we need to create a compelling work environment to attract and retain employees. It may not be the easiest transition, but if it leads to enhanced employee satisfaction, improved employee retention, and better candidates applying for your open positions then it’s worth a four-day workweek trial.
If you would like for your team to spend less time performing administrative tasks, consider an all-in-one restaurant management system. Restaurant365 incorporates labor reporting, restaurant accounting, restaurant operations, inventory management, payroll + HR, and scheduling into a cloud-based platform that’s fully integrated with your POS system, as well as to your food and beverage vendors, and bank.