Ed Heskett
Blog, Operational efficiency

March through September for QSRs is like November through December for retailers: Busy.

QSR business often fluctuates due to the weather, school year, and sports seasons, but generally these seven months remain the busiest of the year.

When your store is busy, running a smooth operation is vital. Make sure you’re ready to handle the extra traffic by avoiding these 7 common operational hiccups.

1. Staffing struggles

High-quality service is important to your business, so you want to be fully staffed when swarms of customers walk through your door during the busy season. We understand employee turnover is high in the industry and you’re less likely to hire in the slow season, but the sooner you start accepting applications, the more time you have to interview and weed out the potential employees who won’t stick around long.

If you hire enough of the right staff, you’ll reap benefits far beyond the busy season.

2. Retaining top employees

It’s likely that your QSR has a plethora of “Now Hiring” signs and various recruiting materials to attract loyal employees. But industry experience shows that the big problem isn’t hiring, it’s retaining the employees you already have.

It’s important for you to learn why employees are leaving so you can put systems in place that help create and foster an environment people want to work in and be a part of for a long time. Conduct an exit interview and ask for candid feedback. The more open and accepting you are of your employee’s feedback, the more comfortable he or she will be sharing thoughts with you. Some questions could include:

  1. Why are you leaving?
  2. What did you enjoy most about working here?
  3. If you could change three things about the company, what would they be?
  4. What did you feel the company did right?
  5. Do you have ideas for the company you wish you could have implemented? What are they?

3. Advertising slowdowns

It’s common for business owners to think they don’t need to advertise during the busy season. However, if you planned ahead and have a full staff and strong budget, you should advertise.

So, ride the brand message and execute it in every location. It’s the best marketing tool of all. Then, mix in some local store advertising as needed but with a defined process and approval levels above the store level management.

Doing this will help you earn as much revenue as possible during the busy season, which in turn makes it easier to survive the slow season.

4. Unbalanced budgets

Most restaurants experience a swing in profits from season to season, so it’s important to spread profits across the entire year. This will allow you to run at peak efficiency year-round and prevent you from needing to cut corners later in the year due to a tight budget.

5. Pricing and consistency

If you have a brand-related QSR, you know there’s a baseline menu you must adhere to, with the possible addition of regional items. Although you don’t have much control over the items on your menu, you do have control over the pricing.

As QSR owners, you must balance the brand’s pricing to remain competitive in the marketplace, while keeping the health of the company’s profitability in good standing. It’s also important to keep in mind that your guests visit you for the food. They come to eat, so the food must be consistent and served correctly, with the correct portion size.

6. Labor costs

Balancing wage rates to remain competitive in the marketplace is a real challenge, but if everyone is paying the same or nearly the same, employees tend to stay where the culture is most satisfying.

As a QSR operator, you have control of balancing labor costs. To do so, you might be tempted to reduce employees’ hours and demand an increase in productivity. This makes sense until store management begins to take shortcuts in their processes. As a result, interviewing, hiring, onboarding, training, development, meetings, one-on-one meetings can take a back seat to managing the labor hours and meeting productivity demands. Less investment in these areas often leads to employee turnover. Then you’re right back where you started: short staffed.

7. Managing downtime

While the slow season may seem like a curse, it can actually be a blessing in disguise. Typically the first quarter is the slowest time of year for QSRs. So, use that time to recharge and train employees on important business tasks. That way, they’ll be ready for peak season in the spring and summer. Who knows? It may increase their productivity, enhance customer service, and result in increased sales.

Any preparation you can do during the quiet times, both in the front and back of the house, will benefit you when your store is busiest. Take advantage of it.


Curing the hiccups

Instead of holding your breath and waiting for the hiccups to pass, take action. Hire early, spread your profits, advertise, and take advantage of the downtime to get the most out of your business. Not only is this beneficial for you, but it’s beneficial for your employees and customers, as well.

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