In the restaurant world, downtime happens. It’s what you do with your downtime that decides how these ups and downs will impact your profits. With proper strategies in place, it’s possible to transform what we typically think of downtime into opportunities for increased productivity, more satisfied customers, and even enhanced cohesion among your staff. Let’s take a closer look at six techniques for making the most out of restaurant downtime.
1. Use Servers Wisely
Yes, servers are always looking for more hours, but paying them to stand around with nothing to do is not only counter-productive to your bottom line, but can also be hard on morale. After all, no one likes wiping down the same already-clean table over and over again.
Minimizing the impact of downtime starts with one simple strategy: proper staff scheduling. Staff hours should be scaled to fit demand. Assuming that quiet periods happen at the same time every day, cutting back during times of day when all-hands-on-deck isn’t efficient can immediately trim costs.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean cutting back unilaterally. For example, during the after-lunch slowdown period, you may require fewer servers to keep up with new tables, but a greater representation of bussers to clear tables and get lingering diners out the door. Conversely, when things start to pick up again, more servers may be a greater priority.
Don’t underestimate the side costs of having an unoccupied staff. In addition to taking money out of your pocket, a sluggish staff is more likely to leave a negative impression on diners than a motivated, energetic and busy team.
2. Define Tasks
The truth is that many of your staff members don’t like standing around with nothing to do any more than you like watching them stand around with nothing to do. The simple solution? Give them something to do.
Take a few minutes to prepare a checklist of all tasks which can be done during downtime. In addition to more obvious housekeeping tasks like resetting tables, checking ice machines, cleaning flatware and glasses, and sorting menus, this can also includes lesser-common jobs, like sweeping the front walk, changing signage, checking the bathrooms for cleanliness and restocking dispensers as necessary, and cleaning counters and machinery.
While some staff members may be slacking, others may legitimately be at a loss for what to do. Help them feel useful by taking away downtime ambiguity.
3. Get Busy
While it’s natural to want to relax and decompress following the madness of the breakfast, lunch or dinner rush, managers who slack off during this are setting a less-than-desirable example. On the other hand, managers who identify what can be done during this period of time and get to it will inspire workers to do the same. Not to mention that managers who pitch in are an integral part of positivity in the workplace.
4. Offer Cross Training Opportunities
All employees are looking for opportunities for growth. By offering cross-training during downtime, you can not only make your employees more useful, but you can also help them be more engaged, local employees.
Cross training also promotes restaurant teamwork: the more your staff knows about each others’ jobs and responsibilities, the more effectively they can work together when things pick up.
5. Save Energy
Saving money in your restaurant isn’t just a matter of human capital. Keeping lighting and temperature set to the same levels as busy periods is wasteful — both financially and environmentally, as is leaving on stoves, ovens, and other pieces of machinery when they’re not in use. As long as you can get everything up and running in time for the next rush, cut back when these items aren’t in use.
6. One last thing to keep in mind
While some downtime is natural, are there things you can be doing to bring more customers in the door during slow periods? The National Restaurant Association recently highlighted some ways to attract diners during nontraditional hours, such as offering more snack-friendly menu items and discounts. Just how effective are these techniques? According to the 2015 Restaurant Industry Forecast, 77 percent of people say they’d be more likely to dine during off-peak hours if a discount was involved.
Ultimately, while eliminating downtime from your restaurant operations is impossible, there are plenty of things you can do to make the most of it. These strategies not only promise financial savings, but can also lead to happier customers and staff.