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6 Considerations for Handling Complex Scheduling Challenges in Retail

February 4, 2013

Guest Blog post by Jennifer Ardery, Product Marketing Manager, Kronos.Inc.

retail scheduling

While preparing to attend the National Retail Federation’s annual conference this month, I came across a few articles on the trend to offer in-store restaurants to boost sales.  Retailers continue to strive for ways to bring customers back into the store versus shopping online.  Creative ways to diminish showrooming – when customers check out products in a store, but then go online to buy – is critical to success.

One effective way for traditional retailers to combat online shopping is to provide a social shopping experience that includes good food, drink, and sometimes even entertainment.  But how do you schedule that?

Sales at Tommy Bahama’s combination store-restaurants average more than twice sales at regular stores.   So it’s no surprise its newest global flagship store in NYC called “Manhattan Island” includes a 1,300 sq foot bar on one floor and a 6,700 sq foot restaurant-bar on another.   Nordstrom is adding a new restaurant to its California Bay Area’s store during its ongoing $19.6 million expansion project.  And down at the Town Center Mall in Boca Raton, FL, customers have 4 in-store dining experiences to choose from:  Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Bloomingdales.

Hos-RestaurantWe’re accustomed to having restaurants available in a shopping mall to make the experience more social and convenient.  This is typical – A restaurateur schedules its workforce just like all of its other restaurants.  But what happens when a retailer attempts to run a restaurant inside the store themselves?  It can have great rewards in higher sales if done well.  However, one thing is for sure; staffing the combined restaurant-store becomes even more of a challenge.

Here are 6 considerations when scheduling employees at the restaurant-retailer:

  1. Forecasting demand is more complicated operating 2 businesses in one.  Labor forecasting software can help managers predict the number and type of employees necessary to meet anticipated demand.
  2. Planning the schedule to ensure the right person is in the right place at the right time becomes more complex.  Over-staff and you waste payroll dollars.  Under-staff and you lose customers.  Staffing to anticipated demand improves both employee and customer satisfaction.  Place special consideration on how meal time affects traffic.  Automate the process of scheduling breaks to ensure proper coverage. 
  3. Tracking skills becomes more critical.  Is there one keyholder role for both the store and the restaurant, or two?  Can the same cashier work in both operations or should that role be kept separate?
  4. Task management is central to getting control of those corporate-driven, promotional programs.  Consider how you will manage all of the tasks that go into your next seasonal food event. District managers should have a tool to verify that event tasks are being executed consistently across stores.  Schedule associates to work on indirect labor tasks during slower times. Focus on maintaining good communication between corporate and stores. 
  5. Filling unplanned absences quickly with qualified people is essential to maintain customer satisfaction.  Avoid counting on the same people to take on overtime which can hurt profits and morale.  Automate the process of tracking who’s approaching overtime and minors approaching too many hours so you are more comfortable extending that next shift.
  6. Instant visibility into operations data helps managers make better, faster staffing decisions.  Analyze coverage graphs and move people from overstaffed areas to departments that need help.  Consider using your tablet to manage staffing levels and shuffle employees between departments to see the benefit that much quicker.

 Tommy Bahama’s president, Doug Wood, put it best when he said to Bloomberg Businessweek, “It’s challenging to operate, but if you execute it right, it’s magic.”  

Are any of you retailers out there considering adding the food experience to your stores?

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