(Blogger’s Note: This is the first of a three part series on payroll efficiency and how it can make the difference between profit and problems.)
Recently I witnessed the eventual disaster of what was perceived to be a well run restaurant. It didn’t occur on only one visit, but numerous times though out my frequenting this restaurant I saw the inevitable happening. Granted, the owner has other sources of income so the profitability of the operation may not matter to him but when an operator has more staff on the clock than people in his dining room, the end is closer than one thinks.
Payroll percentages are like playing Russian roulette: If you don’t pay close attention to what is going on they could kill you. And, for the most part, they are the one aspect of the business slowly nibbling away at profits.
The payroll percentage game is not one to be taken lightly. Although many operators love to be surrounded by a full staff of waiters, hosts, floor supervisors and bussers, the component to a successful operation is a manager, supervisor, or owner who knows the art of efficient scheduling, has the backbone to cut staff early, and can read an evening or a lunch shift using past performance and trends to evaluate need. The fine line between an efficient staff that can handle a full dining room without a misstep and an overstaffed dining room that cannot seem to get anything right has a lot to do with training and team work. In May restaurants, neither of these exists. Yet, they are important if you look to keep payrolls costs in line.
I personally think customer service is the one asset independent restaurant owners need to continually preach, train and develop if they want to succeed. It holds true that it has nothing to do with the amount of staff you have on the floor or on the payroll. The outcome will always be better with a more qualified, professional group of people who not only look at their jobs as careers, but enjoy what they do for a living.
Of course, finding these individuals is easier said than done. We face two problems in staffing. If we are in a very competitive market, the top ranking restaurants get the cream of the crop because of the volume they create. That leaves the second tier and the third string, or worse to fill other positions available in less than perfect places.
The problem is worse in areas where there I little competition. Because of a lack of population, it is difficult to recruit professionals.
I have always been of the belief that you build your staff around one strong professional who you know you can trust and rely on. This person usually makes a little more than everyone else per hour and has the responsibility to train the others on the staff. The individual is not management material and has no desire to become a manager. The difference between a great waiter and a great manager is the difference between a Ferrari and a Rolls Royce- both a great vehicles but each serves a different purpose. And, the professional server knows the ropes, how much money they can make and the hours they need to work.