Technology improves communication, accountability, and coverage.

Sponsored by Crew.

One benefit many restaurant employees enjoy in the restaurant industry is flexible scheduling. With differing shift times and the ability to swap shifts, employees have the freedom to attend school, care for children and family members, or even work another job. For many employers, however, shift swaps can be a headache. 

When employees need to trade or miss shifts, they often call a few coworkers. When no one is available, many simply call out of work, leaving the task of filling the shift to the manager the day of the shift or creating a staffing shortage. When shifts are covered, many times managers don’t know who has taken the shift, which reduces accountability and can create training gaps that dissatisfy customers.

In recent years, many restaurants have turned to technology to help solve these problems. RPM pizza, which operates 190 Domino’s stores in several states, relied on group text messaging chains for storewide messages and shift swaps. While this did improve communications, texting also brought other challenges.

“There were too many message notifications and icons, and it wasn’t clear who saw which messages,” says John Richards, COO at RPM. “Additionally, managers couldn’t always see who agreed to take a shift, so there was no real reliability.”

RPM began testing Crew, an employee communication app on a small scale to try to find a solution. Yet when the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, area suffered major flooding last May, regular communications were strained, and employees missed messages. Despite the challenges, messages sent through Crew were received. This reliability encouraged RPM to move all communication to Crew, streamlining team communications.

After employees install the app, the software manages all work-related messages in a single place. This stops annoying text messages from taking over regular text messaging notifications, which also keeps texting free for personal communication with family and friends. Additionally, the app shows managers which employees saw which messages so they can increase accountability. Management can also use the task assignment and picture messaging features to ensure consistency throughout the chain.

Because younger employees already incorporate apps and smart phones into their daily lives, Crew was a natural transition for RPM and was easy to adopt.

“Crew streamlined communications in a way that is friendly to millennials,” says Joe Vitale, vice president of operations at RPM. “We’ve seen much higher engagement from them because it’s how they are used to communicating, and it’s simple for the whole team to use.”

Since installing Crew, RPM has been able to drive double-digit sales growth, and on-time store deliveries have grown by 23 percent. Additionally, because the app gives employees access to their schedules within the app and increases communication around shift swaps, accountability around shift coverage has also improved, which keeps guests happy.

Smaller operations have also seen success with Crew. The app’s features are scalable to the size of businesses, so the app can improve operations even within individual stores.

Sheldon Aldrich, who operates a high-volume Dairy Queen in British Columbia, uses the free version of the Crew app to communicate with 40 team members. The improved access to scheduling has greatly increased his store’s efficiency.

“Before, it was always the employee’s responsibility to phone around and find coverage for a shift,” he says. “They would call 3–5 people and not get it covered and just take an absence.

Aldrich says absences were so high that he was scheduling extra people on the weekends to ensure shifts were covered, but this lead to inconsistencies in coverage and wasted payroll. In the time since he installed Crew, however, coverage for vacant shifts went from 15–20 percent up to 75–80 percent.

“We can see who has seen the shift and even approve who takes the shift, since some employees may not be qualified for a specific role or may already be working too many hours,” Aldrich says. “This technology has dramatically improved shift coverage and accountability and has been a great tool for staffing and communication.”

Additionally, the time managers save in scheduling and covering shifts after no-shows pays off, as leaders can spend more time where they are most needed. An impact study conducted by Crew reported that 96 percent of leaders and managers saved an average of four hours per week by using the app with their teams.

Improving communication with employees around scheduling can not only eliminate confusion and stress, it can boost the bottom line. By using technology to ensure shifts are covered, restaurants can better serve their teams and their guests.

By Peggy Carouthers

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