Region: Great Lakes
Number of Locations: 16
Restaurant Type: Quick Service
Problem: Manual scheduling processes that took too much time, siloed operations, and didn't resonate with a younger, tech-saavy workforce.
Solution: Cloud-based scheduling software that brings together operations across 16 locations, keeps staff accountable, and gives them tools to increase efficiency.
National Coney Island is a Detroit-area staple. In 1965, Greek immigrant James Giftos opened a stall at Macomb Mall in Roseville, Michigan, with a small menu including the Coney Island-style hot dog topped with chili, mustard, and freshly diced onions. Since then, the brand has grown to 16 locations across Michigan, continuing to serve those beloved All-American classics.
The food and hospitality hasn't changed all that much since '65. The restaurant industry has. You can't charge 35 cents for a Coney dog anymore. And you can't rely on the operating processes of yore.
National Coney Island found themselves bogged down by manual staff scheduling processes. They ate up manager time and didn't resonate with a younger workforce. They turned to 7shifts to bring together their 16 locations, keep staff accountable, and help their teams spend time on what matters most: hospitality.
We chatted with Brian Buck, National Coney Island's Director of IT, to learn more.
Complicated, manual scheduling
When it came to employee scheduling, National Coney Island had about as many methods as it did locations. Each store and manager had their own system: pen and paper, Excel, corkboards. And schedules took managers two to three hours every week. And it's time away from what's most important for National Coney Island:
“That sitting in the office setting in front of the Excel spreadsheet for two or three hours, when those two or three hours, they could have been walking the floor, talking to customers, making sure it's clean, making sure restrooms are clean, and checking the quality of the food coming out,” says National Coney Island's Director of IT, Brian Buck.
They also saw their young staff living on their phones—and wanted a way to reach them where they're most comfortable.
The solution was simple: scheduling software. Buck and his team decided initially on HOTSCHEDULES. But after an expensive and drawn-out onboarding process—they found themselves facing the same issues with another bill to pay.
Their managers just didn't use it. A third of the stores adopted it, and even they didn't use, really. It was too complicated, the migration was messy, and it took too much effort to learn. Not to mention, staff needed to pay for access to the mobile app.
“It was a two-day training for managers.” says Buck. “So I think it was almost two, eight-hour days training for the managers got to implement.”
The 7shifts solution
Even though National Coney Island didn't find a solution, they did what any great business does: adapt. Still recognizing the need for modern team management software, Brian Buck and the team decided to go with 7shifts for its ease of use and integration with Toast.
And the team was able to roll out 7shifts quickly.
“The training took like an hour for us to pick, pick it up and start using it,” says Buck. 75% of their stores adopted the software right away, with the remaining coming online soon after.
With 7shifts, the scheduling processes are consistent across the brand's 16 stores. Managers are saving countless hours, and now have access to their sales and labor data right from 7shifts free mobile app—helping to manage labor costs more effectively: “So they can look at [the] 7shifts app and see where they're at and say, 'Okay, I'll let you go early because we're slow, and I need to cut some labor off.'” says Buck.
No more games of telephone
With their original methods of scheduling, communication among staff and management was disconnected.
Staff would call into the store to get their schedule—pulling managers away from customers. Some would even take time out of their time off to go into the store and check. When changes needed to be made, staff would take it among themselves to swap shifts—but managers had no visibility.
“Servers and cashiers had their own text group and that's how they would trade shifts or communicate,” says Buck.
With 7shifts, communication between staff and their managers is simple. The lack of texts, emails, and phone calls frees up countless hours for GMs like Ashley Greco, who oversees their Macomb Township location.
“I don't have people saying, 'I don't have so-and-so's phone number. I can't see if they'll switch with me.'” says Ashley Greco. With that bandwidth freed up, Greco can focus on the important things.
“I can hold my staff accountable. And it takes a load of time off of what I have to do on my end for it,” says Greco.
The National Coney Island team offers up shifts to the shift pool about 119 times per month, and swaps 2 shifts per day.
A more connected, engaged staff
7shifts' communication tools help managers like Greco stay on the pulse, and gives younger staff a familiar way to communicate their thoughts: through their phones.
“I feel like sometimes people can be afraid to say something in the moment or if they have a problem, they're afraid to bring it to someone's attention. But if they're putting something [in 7shifts], I can go back and talk to them [and ask], “Hey, you know what happened Wednesday night?”
“It feels like I'm communicating with my staff more now because of [7shifts],” says Greco.
Top-down communication was difficult, too. By the time new guidance went from leadership to management to back of house staff, clarity guaranteed—especially important when topics included health and safety guidance.
7shifts' helped to unify messaging and empower their staff.
“We can push out announcements to front of house staff, back house staff, who usually from a corporate perspective, we can't get announcements out to them,” says Buck.
From menu changes to pandemic-related policy changes, the National Coney Island team sends an announcement every other day, on average. It also helps staff feel like they're a part of the larger business:
“Our staff feels like they're in the know, now. They don't feel like they're in the dark about what's going on up at corporate.
What started as 15 different stores operating like independent businesses, is a unified brand with consistent processes and a more engaged, empowered team.
“We are so happy we finally moved to 7shifts. It has been working great for us and most importantly ALL of our locations are using it,” says Buck.
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