Long and hard hours are a given when working in the restaurant business, but does this necessarily have to be the case? I’m saying no!
For as long as I have been in the hospitality industry (over 30 years) managers have been expected to work a minimum of 5 days a week pulling 10-12 hour shifts and sometimes more. We work weekends, nights and holidays. The result has been low satisfaction, low productivity and high turnover in our management ranks. I can’t show you definitive research on this but I’d bet my reputation on it. What has our industry done about this? Absolutely nothing. The same practices (and outcomes) that were around 30 years ago exist today. I should know about this as I was part of this unproductive approach for my entire restaurant operations career!
Similarly, the Emergency Medical Services field in Ontario suffered comparable problems up until the mid 1980’s. How do I know this, my brother was a paramedic for 20 years and is now an EMS administrator. What did that industry do? They moved to a different work schedule. Instead of asking emergency workers to work five 12 hour shifts a week they moved to alternative schedules. Some jurisdictions work 4 days on 3 days off (12 hr shifts), some even work 3 days on, 2 days off, then 2 days on and 3 days off.
Anyway you look at it, management realized they had a problem and adjusted. The result has been reduced turnover, increased satisfaction and a higher quality service. When I compare EMS and managing a restaurant I find many similarities, excluding the life saving of course. Both professions are physical and stressful. Both require the individual to be ‘on form’ for an entire shift. You also have to be physically present at all times, there is no going to the gym for an hour to blow off steam. On top of these similarities, both require you to work nights, weekends and holidays.
So what is my solution to this perpetual situation we find ourselves in with overworked and burnt out restaurant managers. If you hadn’t already guessed it I put forth that restaurants should look at schedules more comparable to EMS. If you are going to work people in 10-12 hour shifts, ask them to work nights , weekends and holidays then at least give them more days off, and give them more days off in a row to compensate.
I would love to see a restaurant company move to a 4 day on, 3 day off work schedule. My guess is you would see increased productivity which would more than make up for reduced coverage. I think you would also see quality of work increase and retention improve. Anyone willing to give it a try out there let me know!