Monday, January 25, 2010

Low Productivity can be the kiss of death.

New entrants to the food service industry, be it fine or casual dining or fast and furious will find labour management control a daunting task.
Here we take a closer look at productivity and its impact on profitability.
Too many hours on a roster burns margin, not enough hours  places stress on delivering a guest service philosophy that will maintain repeat business.


Restaurant scheduling software can tell you that Mary cannot work on Tuesday between 7.00 pm and 10.00 pm because of netball.
These systems are great time savers and report compilers, but invariably take considerable time and effort to understand whether your restaurant is operating at  peak productivity and profitability.
Easy with a calculator, just divide the total Sales in $ for any given week by the total hours worked  in the given week.
So….Projected  restaurant sales of $ 10,000 and total hours worked 250 including Management hours …{ 10,000 / 250} = $40  Productivity per labour hour worked.
So low productivity is the kiss of death for restaurant profitability. This might sound like simple stuff.  “Like my Labour Scheduling software cost $ 4000  and I know every thing about labour control. “
……not the real thing.
How often have we heard, “How can we increase productivity”
Too many restaurant operators that  have state of the art systems but still struggle in this area of effective labour management. control.
The last POS /  labour scheduling  system we deployed in a La Porchetta in West Gosford near Sydney was  A$32,000 . WOW…  With all the bells and whistles we still had to rely on the basics of  labour management control to achieve results.
Back to basics then…
Productivity is king here and you need to have a very clear perspective of  what the real productivity of your restaurant or food operation is in $ sales per labour hour worked / scheduled.

Download the xlsx file for Rate,Labour % and Productivity Matrix here

This  is  a simple spreadsheet that will :-
1   Tell you how many hours to place on a weeks roster if you project $10,000 in weekly Sales and want $40.00 in productivity. Alternatively if you want 25 % labour then you need a $40 productivity to deliver 250 hours.
2 And if you have an average rate of pay of $10.00 per hour worked ( Including Management ) then the Labour % is 25.00 % and you don’t  need a calculator to understand that there is a 75% Gross Profit margin after labour costs . {10/40x100} = 25 %-100% =75%
Partial screenshot of  average rate, labour % & productivity Matrix 

Labour Matrix


This matrix includes Management/Owner Operator hours. This is advisable as we are looking at a Manager Controllable here and want a clear picture of the total impact of this cost on the business.
Every operation has its own roster or scheduling structure that will determine the optimum number of hours to allocate. This structure will allow for
    1. The ability to deliver a quality product in a short time.
    2. The ability to deliver a guest service philosophy that is FAST. Friendly, Attentive, Speedy and Thoughtful.
    3. The ability to maintain high standard in cleanliness and operational efficiency.

Low productivity is the absolute kiss of death in any food operation.  Quantifying, projecting  and tracking weekly productivity will quickly highlight where roster scheduling can be improved to maximise productivity.
Next, we will take a closer look at the average labour rate and how this can be structured to deliver a better bottom line.

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Sunday, June 15, 2003


Undertanding the basics........

To make your journey easier, it is advisable to download your .XLSX files of the SALES & LABOR PROJECTION form and the PRODUCTIVITY MATRIX or SCHEDULE as some prefer.

Download from here

These notes will be of particular interest to those Restaurant owners and Managers that operate Restaurants and have Rostering or Staff Scheduling responsibilities.

Due to the impact of penalty rates in many Restaurant Industry Award structures, labor control processes are probably the single biggest "headache" faced by an operator.

These notes apply equally in all States in Australia and for that matter in any Restaurant world wide, but you will find they are most useful in States with penalty rates (higher rates of pay) operating on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays. These controls are even simpler where Work Place Agreements are in place or the rate of pay does not vary from day to day.

Continual bombardment of having to react to extreme sales fluctuations, food cost control, staffing shortages, skill levels, training demands, Superannuation, Workers Compensation, special promotions, OH & S issues, HACCP and payroll processes makes the task of contolling labor costs one of the toughest responsibilities in the Food and Beverage industry.

There are numerous Computer Roster and Scheduling and Payroll programs on the market that do an excellent job of ironing out some of the "headaches" we experience every day. However it is the interpretation and forward planning that goes on prior to writing a Restaurant Schedule that matters the most.

But for those interested in a more hands on process of controlling labor costs, then these notes will lead you down the path to absolute control of labor costs to (+ or - ) .50 % of Sales Turnover. And with skill to (+ or -) .10 % variance between your targeted / budgeted labor % and the actual labor %.

"Impossible" you say.

The skills you will learn here will develop top of mind awareness of the mechanics that drive low labor % through the simple process of "filling out the form" and keeping your Sales and Labor Projection Form up to date.

Once the basics are understood then the user can easily transpose these controls to a spreadsheet that is tailored to individual needs. Once the basics are in place and understood then this function can be delegated to an Assistant Manager that has a rostering function within the organisation.

But first the " building blocks" have to be in place.

There are many Restaurant Operators out there that fly their operations " by the seat of their pants" but want to deliver productivity gains in their operation in order to deliver $$
So what are the "building blocks" of Labor cost control. These are :

1. SALES, and effective projection of SALES and the factors that impact our sales internally (through staff incentives) and externally. (through seasonal and holiday variations)

2. HOURS, the number of rostered hours (including training hours) and the relationship between HOURS and........

3. GROSS LABOR DOLLARS, leading to one of our most important measuring tools of.....

4. LABOR %, measured by {SALES divided by GROSS LABOR DOLLARS X 100 } plus another key measuring tool called.......

5. PRODUCTIVITY and measured in SALES divided by the HOURS on the roster on a weekly basis, which leads us to.......


The next blog will cover the 6 "building blocks" of absolute labor cost control.


Understanding and implementing a sales and labour projection can result in adding 5.00 % to the bottom line.

So what are the "building blocks" of Labor cost control. These are :

1. SALES, and effective projection of SALES and the factors that impact our sales internally (through staff incentives) and externally. (through seasonal and holiday variations)

2. HOURS, the number of rostered hours (including training hours) and the relationship between HOURS and........

3. GROSS LABOR DOLLARS, leading to one of our most important measuring tools of.....

4. LABOR %, measured by {SALES divided by GROSS LABOR DOLLARS X 100 } plus another key measuring tool called.......

5. PRODUCTIVITY and measured in SALES divided by the HOURS on the roster on a weekly basis, which leads us to.......


The next blog will cover the 6 "building blocks" of absolute labor cost control.


Download here


Monday, June 09, 2003



These notes will suport those in the Restaurant industry driving sales volumes in excess of $10,000 per week and are looking to drive their labor costs down without compromising standards in Quality, Service and Cleanliness.

We can assume that your payroll software is able to dissect costs and hours worked by Restaurant Department and could include :

1 Grill Section
2 Kitchen Preparation
3 Utility (wash up)
4 Front of house wait staff
5 Management

If you do not have department dissection within the payroll administration, then the system can be run on TOTAL HOURS WORKED and GROSS LABOR DOLLARS (including tax) just as effectively for the whole operation.

There are Two Primary Objectives

1. Project sales in advance & fine tune projections

to achieve a (+ or -) 5.00% variation

between actual sales and targeted sales.
2 Control the Labor % to (+ or -) .50 % variation

between actual labor % and targeted labor %

The achievement of these objectives is based on the use of a SALES and LABOR ANALYSIS FORM combined with a PRODUCTIVITY matrix (schedule) that is SALES per LABOR HOUR based.

The Sales and Labor Analysis Form is completed manually and kept up to date on a daily basis. The resultant "hands on" completion of this form will deliver "top of mind " awareness of all the factors influencing your Gross Labor dollar spend, productivity (Sales per Labor hour) & % to Sales control.



To achieve these results we need to measure productivity in SALES per LABOR HOUR to drive a productivity that can deliver:

a) The adequate maintenance of Quality,Service and Cleanliness standards.

b) Meet a target LABOR % as outlined in a budget or within the PRODUCTIVITY DEMAND
for your particular business.

3 Other Influences.

The process of achieving accuracy in labor projection also demands constant attention to :

a) Driving AVERAGE RATE down through award classification mix (varying rates for age
groups) and average age of all staff.

b) Efficient rostering in all sections(Grill etc) to maximise PRODUCTIVITY improvement

c) Thorough knowledge of seasonal influences on SALES patterns such as holiday periods,
special events and impacts on SALES due to weather and other external factors.

d) The ability to make training HOURS an on going weekly commitment.

4. Definitions
SALES: Total weekly SALES excluding tax (GST, VAT, IVA or TAX)

GROSS LABOR $ Total Gross weekly LABO R DOLLARS including MANAGEMENT

LABOR % {LABOR $ / SALES X 100 }

HOURS Total weekly scheduled HOURS including MANAGEMENT and TRAINING HOURS (non productive)
PRODUCTIVITY SALES / HOURS expressed as Sales per labour hour.

5 Mechanics of the System.

So our Restaurant experiences $25,000 in Sales Turnover in one week. (Ex Tax, VAT, IVA, GST)

We know that we are currently experiencing approximately $13.60 in average rate including management. (Gross Payroll $ / Total Paid Scheduled Hours)

Our budget calls for a 29.5 % Labor Cost Component. {Gross Labor $ / Sales X 100}

Our Productivity Matrix calls for $46.10 pruductivity. ( Sales per Labour Hour)

So we write a Roster for $25,000 { $25,000 / $46.10 } which equals 542 HOURS

Remember this 542 HOURS includes TRAINING hours for new employees and or existing employees.

6. Rate per Hour
The need to reduce the average payrate is a weekly priority and can be achieved through the application of Award Classification mix (varying rates of pay for different skill levels and age) and the correct mix or ratio of senior and junior employees for your organisation.

7. Further Notes on Productivity

We know that productivity is {SALES / PAID HOURS} and is called "sales per labor hour".

But Productivity also equals {AVERAGE RATE / LABOR % }

Therefor Labor % equals { AVERAGE RATE / PRODUCTIVITY X 100 }

So if our all up rate of pay per hour is say $10.00 and Wednesdays PRODUCTIVITY was $40.00 in Sales per labor hour then the LABOR % for Wednesday was 25% {10/40 X 100}

This is a very useful tool for calculating the Labor % on a daily basis, without having to know the value of the Labour $ for that day.

8. The use of the form is self explanatory.
The form can be customized to your own needs regarding department names and any other special requirements. It can also be simplified to meet any need.

The form contains:

Sales PLAN for lunch, dinner, total and accumulative sales for the week and ACTUAL for the same data.
Daily and Accumulative variance plan to Actual in $ and %
Variance to last week in $ and %

Weekly, Period and Year to Date.

Planned hours and Actual hours on a daily basis plus TOTAL for week.

Planned Productivity and Actual Productivity on daily basis plus TOTAL for week.

Planned Labor $ and Hours by Department and Actual Labor $ and Hours by Department and variance plus TOTAL for week. See which department is not meeting it's target.

Weekly Plan versus Actual, Plus Period to Date (weeks 1 to 4 Accumulative) and Year to Date on the following data. For those that break their reporting into 13 four week periods.

For ease of evaluating comparative data it is best to split the year up into 13 periods each of 4 weeks.

Rate per Hour $
Labor $
Allowances $ (uniform,taxi etc)
Gross Labor $ (incl tax)
Labor %
Productivity $Sales/Hour

9. Comparative Sales

There is also a section for Weekly, Period and Year to Date Sales plus provision for last year with a variance and % column to keep track of growth over the previous year.

10. Comments and Promotional Activity

A section is available to notate promotional activity such as special "giveaways" or comments on media campaigns in either radio, press, television or web activity.

11. Using the Form

a) Project a SALES (ex tax) figure and break up into lunch, dinner and total for each day and weekly accumulative in the PLAN section.

b) Break up the Department Labor plan $ costs, hours and TOTAL

c) Calculate the Rate per Hour {Labor $/ Hours}

d) Calculate the Labor % { Gross labor $ / SALES X 100}


e) As the week progresses place in the actual SALES and complete the variance ACTUAL to
PLAN and %

f) When the payroll is run for the week place in the Actuals and complete the Variance.

g) Complete the variance to last week columns this will assist in identifying trends which can be
reacted to either by putting in more hours or by taking hours out of the roster.

h) There is also provision for TOTAL GUESTS on a daily basis and AVERAGE CHECK which
needs to be tracked as a measure of the service level.

12. Results

When Sales are travelling along at a constant on a weekly basis then this process can become repetitive.
The by product of this repetiveness is that you will become an expert at Labor $ and % control, because you are constantly focusing on the key drivers and determinants of one of the single biggest costs your business will experience.

13. Sales Peaks & Troughs. (Highs and Lows)

A by-product of this emersion in Labor control mechanics is that you will have a case history of how to react to extreme highs and lows in the Sales cycle due to external influences.

That means you are alerted to periods of low sales and are able to react accordingly through the focus on the variance to last year.

Equally when periods of high turnover are experienced you are able to apply a measured response to putting more hours in the roster without the problem of over rostering due to lack of quantitive information.

This means that a reaction to a sales downturn will keep labor % the same. No more loss in profit when a sales downturn occurs. If you project the downturn and use the matrix then you deliver constant Labor % no matter what the fluctuation in Sales.


The use of this form will very quickly train the Roster Manager in your organisation to achieve a Sales Projection of (+ or - )5.00 % ACTUAL to PLAN

If the Productivity Matrix is used in conjunction with this tracking device then the Roster Manager will also achieve a Labor % Projection of (+ or -) .50 % ACTUAL to PLAN.

With repeated use a variance of plus or minus .1% to .2% of Sales can be achieved.

A 1.5 % saving on an average $25,000 per week restaurant is $19,500 per year.

Evaluate your Labor Cost Controls now and see what savings these Sales and Labor Projection tools can deliver in a matter of weeks.

Have fun.

Sunday, June 08, 2003


Restaurant scheduling can be a headache.... I can remember writing a schedule for a Sizzler Restaurant in Coffs Harbour in the third week of trade...2000 hours for the week 119 staff..a sales projection of 119,000 A $ for seven days...10,212 guests and one of the flashest computer scheduling programs you could purchase at the time.
Without proper planning and an understanding of scheduling scheduling program is ever going to maximise productivity.
After 35 years in the restaurant industry it is time to put down (post) some Roster Labor saving tools that will save you thousands of dollars per year when writing rosters for busy multi department restaurant environments.
These tools will improve bottom line profitability by (1.00 - 5.00)%
Have fun with this.