A well-timed upgrade helped the brand simplify human capital management at a critical time.

Team member management is no small feat for El Pollo Loco, a self-described “L.A. Mex” chain based in Los Angeles, California. Out of 485 total stores,196 locations are corporate-owned, and they employ nearly 5,000 workers. Until recently, managing such a large team was made all the more difficult due to outdated HR technology, which was used to handle the brand’s hiring, planning and scheduling, time & attendance, payroll, learning management software, and more.

“Prior to implementing Dayforce, there was little integration, so you needed to log into several different systems to get a holistic picture of key team member information,” says Jen Jaffe, Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer at El Pollo Loco. “There was no visibility into a team member life cycle. The system was so slow and so difficult to maneuver, enormous time was wasted trying to obtain information that we now have readily available.”

Clark Matthews, Vice-President of IT at El Pollo Loco, explains that this was because the company was operating several legacy platforms, as well as the custom middleware necessary to help make the workload more manageable. The result was a complex system and a large amount of paperwork, which were antiquated and cumbersome for restaurants and the support center.

However, company leadership knew that contemporary human capital management (HCM) software could unite all these processes and streamline the company’s workflow, so the team began evaluating new platforms in 2018.

“We knew we needed something modern,” Matthews says. “We wanted to explore platforms developed with a mobile-first perspective so our team members are empowered to use the system without us managing it on their behalf, and we wanted to reduce the quantity of team member data shared across systems while limiting the complexity.”

After evaluating six or seven different platforms, El Pollo Loco ultimately chose to work with Ceridian’s Dayforce software—an enterprise cloud HCM platform that includes payroll, HR, benefits, talent, learning management, and workforce management in a single application.

“This tight integration is what really sets Ceridian apart from other platforms,” Matthews says. “They are big on scheduling and have a strong presence in HR. Additionally, 97 percent of our workforce is non-exempt, so strong time keeping is essential, and their timekeeping software really works for quick-service restaurants. The sheer reduction in complexity we’d get from Dayforce was obvious, and none of the other players had such tight payroll integration.”

The software’s real test, however, came when El Pollo Loco rolled Dayforce out to all 196 of the brand’s corporate stores on March 12 of this year, just a few days before many regions of the nation began shutting down for COVID-19. While new initiatives are always challenging, launching such a large platform shift in the midst of a national crisis would seem to only add to the challenges. Yet the El Pollo Loco team says that not only was the rollout smooth despite the inopportune timing, but Dayforce actually helped the brand streamline their pandemic response.

“It was a real test of how well we had designed our system to use all of these tools for the first time during a crisis,” Jaffe says. “Early in the pandemic, we knew we could act quickly to any COVID concerns with access to all team member data efficiently, and, with Dayforce, we were able to easily access that information, see who else was working, quickly update team member contact information and make critical decisions when needed.”

Jaffe says another key benefit of Dayforce has been increased transparency with team members, who can now view schedules, request time off, and see their timesheets and pay statements through Dayforce’s self-service system. Additionally, El Pollo Loco’s managers were able to easily review prior wage increases, which Jaffe says was invaluable as the brand rolled out a nearly million-dollar merit increase budget. Also, because HCM influences so many facets of the business, the software has been equally as helpful with other teams, such as legal and finance, internal audit, and even the leadership team.

“We perform major team member related activities across the company, so using this system helps build cross-functional leadership,” Jaffe says. “It’s already been ridiculously beneficial not just in managing COVID, but also in identifying things that work well for our organization and what we can work on in the future.”

Meanwhile, Matthews says the brand is already planning to use additional Dayforce functions that will provide future benefits to team members and managers.

“We believe that having a solution like Dayforce that is matured and continues to evolve has been key to our brand and team member success,” Matthews says. “Dayforce recognizes that the restaurant industry has different needs than other industries, and the Ceridian team has been able to listen and find creative ways to help us solve problems.”

In the coming months, the El Pollo Loco team plans to continue looking for ways Dayforce can help the organization simplify its HCM procedures, but so far, it’s already had major effects.

“With the implementation of Dayforce, we were able to take 10 different systems and roll them into a single platform,” Jaffe says. “It really pulled us into the 21st century.”

To learn how Dayforce can help your brand streamline HCM, visit the Ceridian website.

By Peggy Carouthers

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