The labor shortage that began in 2020 has not slowed, with restaurants continuing to struggle to fill open positions and keep employees long-term. As a result, they are looking for ways to better optimize their labor operations while also maximizing business opportunities. This typically includes creating staff schedules based on sales forecasts, trimming labor during slow times, and providing managers with more control – and accountability.
Successfully implementing these changes can often be a challenge, due in part to manual processes such as paper-based employee schedules and out-of-date sales forecasts. The solution: workforce management (WFM) platforms that enable intelligent automation through the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to help increase workforce efficiency and productivity while optimizing labor processes and costs.
Optimizing Employee Schedules
In the past, many WFM processes were done manually, in the form of written schedules and excel sheets. However, these ‘traditional’ solutions are notorious for causing headaches for managers, who have to rely on past experience and gut instinct when creating schedules that will meet both employee preferences and business needs. In addition, it takes a considerable amount of time for them to stay on top of new employment laws, to ensure their employee schedules are fully compliant with health and safety regulations.
According to a recent study conducted by Legion Technologies, 87 percent of managers reported they were stressed or more stressed about staffing than they were last year, with staff shortages being a top concern. Intelligent automation is the key to streamlining the scheduling process without missing out on potential revenue.
The latest WFM technologies utilize artificial intelligence to solve these problems. They enable greater precision in forecasting demand and schedule optimization. In addition, automated demand forecasting engines can factor in historical data, operations, and events to better predict customer demand by channel and location and ensure optimal staffing across all customer touchpoints. Modern WFM platforms allow restaurant owners and managers to stop wasting time on these tedious tasks and instead focus on what really matters: keeping their employees – and subsequently their customers – happy.
Forecasting Demand, Accurately
Demand forecasting helps restaurants plan for how many employees need to work each shift, with inaccurate forecasting resulting in wasted funds on labor and even overall operating expenses for the restaurant. The study referenced above also reported that one-in-three managers agreed that an automated demand forecasting tool would make their jobs easier during the busy season.
The latest AI-powered WFM solutions can predict restaurant demand at any given time through location-specific data – like local events and weather – to instantly create employee schedules. When coupled with automated scheduling, this innovative technology can help restaurants create optimized schedules that meet their business needs, while also supporting employee preferences.
Improving the Employee Experience
For many hourly employees, the pandemic revealed that they could find alternative, non-traditional gig work opportunities, such as delivering for food apps. These jobs offer the schedule flexibility they need to make money at their convenience. For restaurants, this shift highlighted they needed to make some changes and provide a better employee experience or risk losing their best employees. Replacing an employee is much more expensive than keeping a current employee, on average costing a company six to nine months of an employee's salary to replace them. When thinking about employee engagement, the importance of offering schedule flexibility and meeting employee preferences cannot be overstated.
WFM solutions using AI help alleviate this pressure for employers, providing hourly employees with the ability to easily swap shifts with colleagues or claim additional, available shifts. This gives them gig-like flexibility that will keep them happy to continue coming to work for their employer.
The latest WFM technology innovations also include modern compliance and communication tools. These tools give employees a place to collaborate, communicate, and connect with peers without the compliance risks associated with off-clock access, or the costs often associated with providing employer-hosted email addresses. They also allow employers to instantaneously roll out agendas, updates, and alerts in the same place for everyone, creating a much more open and streamlined communications process.
Labor Efficiency in 2023 and Beyond
Moving forward, it will be imperative for restaurants to invest in WFM solutions that use intelligent automation to help optimize their operations, maximize labor efficiency, and improve the employee experience simultaneously. Next-generation WFM solutions can help predict customer demand and manage labor costs by optimizing staffing for each shift. Not to mention, they have the power to elevate the employee experience by supporting their need for flexibility. Restaurants that incorporate automation into their workforce management processes will bolster ROI for their business, while at the same time ensuring their employees are happy to call your restaurant their place of work.