Restaurant owners and managers are really starting to feel the effects of a rising minimum wage and increased labor costs. Today, more and more restaurant operations are turning towards automated solutions in order to most effectively control costs.

Highway Inn COO, tells us how an automated scheduling solution has help to save time and money on labor costs.  

Employee Scheduling Issues

We sat down with Russell Ryan, the COO of Highway Inn Restaurant in Honolulu, Hawaii, to find out how adopting Zip Schedules has helped to improve operations within his restaurant locations. Here is what he had to say.

1: Prior to adopting Zip Schedules, what would you say was your biggest challenge in scheduling and achieving labor budgets?

The struggle I having was because it was all paper scheduling previously, I had no way of seeing the impact of managers decisions until they would actually make them. I would see them in the biweekly labor reports and payroll. One of the things I noticed as we were getting busier and busier was what I wanted was sort of a leading indicator rather than a trailing indicator. For me, the biggest issue was visibility and seeing what my managers were doing.

2. Can you elaborate a bit further on how this visibility has helped you and your management team?

It was extremely helpful because a lot of our managers had been working in the restaurant industry for a long-time and they had been doing things their own way. That was becoming extremely difficult because they would say “ok, how many hours are you giving us this week?” and I would say “well, that depends on the demands for the day.”

With Zip Schedules we were able to get down to that level of granularity, hour by hour. Then, match shifts with the customer traffic coming in.

The results of that provided visibility and transparency to the process that helped us not only refine budgets but develop budgets more, making it more of a dynamic process. I could see what they were doing in advance, which was a much better thing for me as a manager and owner.

3. How would you say your management team has reacted to adopting a new scheduling tool?

We saw a little bit of resistance, it’s sort of a double edge sword here because the way it was done before was so low-tech. Now, what we’ve done is leap frog through the spreadsheet phase and through any other form of solution.

The issue was that some of our managers in one of our locations were not very computer literate, at all. But they have learned to be with using apps. This allowed them to go from the Stone Age, doing schedules on a sheet of paper to leap frogging over that intermediate stage.

So, yes, there was a little resistance because the change was so great, but once they did it, it was fine. And the way I did it was I just went to the wall and said “no more paper scheduling.” Took it off and ripped it up. I said, “If I see another hand-written schedule I’m going to rip it off,” then they really switched over. So, there was still, there was a little resistance, but once they saw how easy it was they switched.

4. How much time have your managers said this is saving them compared to the way they were scheduling before?

I think they’re spending more time upfront, but the savings is that they don’t make as many mistakes. The thing is that when there is scheduling operations such as the normal case a dish washer doesn’t show up, it allows a much quicker response time to look across the whole organization and see how we can respond more quickly as oppose to calling around to see if we can find people.

It’s much better responsiveness to problems. I prefer a manager that invests more time upfront to save upfront 20 hours of scheduling time in a day because we are paying managers salary and the people we are scheduling hourly. I prefer it that way around and uh, the benefits come when they have a good scheduling in place.

5. How challenging was it getting started with Zip Schedules?

It wasn’t difficult at all. I got both my restaurants started right away and it didn’t take me very long. I took the approach of I’m not going to spoon food my managers all this training. I am going to give them broad directions, direct them to the online (training) videos, and show them what I wanted.

I identified one person in each organization who was the most computer savvy and I tasked them with a little bit of coaching to those who were not as computer savvy.

6. Have you tried the Zip Schedules mobile App?

Yes, I use the mobile app, I have it on my phone. We managed to go from having nothing to having a sophisticated system leveraging a platform everyone has already has in their pockets.

7. Why did you choose Zip Schedules?

Well, one of the struggles I had was I had to choose something that would not sort of be an interim system that would not get accepted, that would be too difficult for them to use.

What I wanted was something that would be really straightforward and easy to use for the people. You know because a lot of people have low computer skills. The other thing I really wanted was integration with the POS and I’m sure you’ve heard someone mention the term “just in time scheduling” but the fear of being able to anticipate demands and bring in the right people for that demand.

So, I was looking for that as well as the ability for budgeting transparency, analytics, and visualization. I was looking for a system that would give me the insights that I thought I should be able to get. Zip schedules seemed to be the one that would do that in a cloud based way. Of course, you guys have been able to be flexible and responsive, which is a good thing.

List to the full length, podcast interview with Russel Ryan below!