Having a light staff in the front can hurt sales
When I was first starting out, I didn’t schedule a lot of front of house staff. I thought it would hurt my labor cost. What I found out was that whenever we did finally get a rush, we weren’t able to handle it. Having a light load in the front was terrible for sales. Light on servers is worse than under-scheduling back of house … because even if the kitchen is overwhelmed with orders, at least a solid front of house can mitigate the situation with the customer. So I had this realization and I doubled my number of servers on the floor. And what I noticed was that it increased our profit pretty quickly. Customers came in and were taken care of quicker with a higher level of customer service.
As I grew into my second store, in the heart Tulsa, I made it a rule that we would only have three table sections. Now, depending on what style of restaurant and how big your restaurant is, sections might not be for you, but a three-table section is very small. So, at first I had a bunch of servers who were mad or thought they weren’t going to make money. What actually occurred was the opposite — they made double what they were making. Instead of getting $2 or $3 tips, they were getting 20 to 25 percent tips in the $10 to $15 range because they were really engaging the customer and not just being automaton order takers.
I’ve seen this done at not just fast casual restaurants, but even fast food restaurants. One of the best-run McDonald’s in America is in a Tulsa suburb, and the gentleman that owns that store overstaffs the store by about 15 percent above what McDonald’s Corporate suggests he staff it at. As a result, the average rush line of eight minutes never exceeds four minutes. His McDonald’s has customers all day because people know that it’s going to move quick. Even in fast food he has been able to take this approach and transfer it into sales. He’s also the highest-cost McDonald’s in the state and no one notices. In other words, on the range of what items can cost, he always sells it at the highest tier.
He’s above the scale on staffing and at the highest tier on charging. This guy made so much money that he demolished his store to build it up bigger and better and was closed for four weeks. In that time, he was able to pay every member of his staff their full wage. That’s EVERY STAFF MEMBER for a whole month with zero dollars coming in. Is your store liquid enough to do that? His is
because his store is always cranking with a solid crew.
So, what does that mean to you? Servers who want to have a lot of tables are shortsighted and you need to be long-sighted for them. You need to know that only when a full server crew can engage the customer, especially in the experience driven climate that we live in now, will they truly get the tips they want. And you will get the sales you need to thrive.
Mike Bausch is the owner of Andolini’s Pizzeria in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He is a frequent speaker at the International Pizza Expo family of tradeshows.