How To Manage Teams Across Multiple Restaurant Locations

How To Manage Teams Across Multiple Restaurant Locations
AJ Beltis

By AJ Beltis

Are you managing one location (or several) of a multi-unit restaurant business? If so, you're not alone - 3 in 10 restaurants are part of a multi-location business.

One of the biggest challenges that comes with multi-location restaurant ownership is managing teams across locations. Regulations, red tape, and disconnected technology make staff management in a restaurant group or franchise difficult and time-consuming. But with the right processes, software, and organization, it's not only possible, but easy to manage teams across multiple locations.

The Challenges of Managing Large Restaurant Teams

Managing multiple staff members across multiple locations can present some common obstacles - particularly if the restaurant group operates in multiple states, if certain employees work at more than one location, or if there's a mismatch of labor technology.

Here are some of the most pressing challenges to multi-location staff managers.

1. Managing the demand for staff

Restaurants only have so many employees - and even if some work across locations, you can still find yourself understaffed when all locations are at max capacity. Things get complicated further when demand fluctuates. For example, some staff members might find themselves working a slow shift at one location, while those at an understaffed sister location are in over their heads.

2. Labor compliance

Complications arise when dealing with compliance for multi-location businesses. For example, in Massachusetts, employees who work more than 40 hours across two locations run by the same enterprise must be paid overtime. There may also be restrictions regarding fair workweek in your area, specifically around working clopens in different locations and eligibility for adhering to fair workweek laws.

3. Miscommunication

Teams - particularly big ones - need to be able to talk to one another. Otherwise, it's near impossible to coordinate schedules and keep the right people informed.

4. Manual Reports

Time spent on reporting can quickly add up if you're not using the right systems. Running labor reports, analyzing them for errors, and conducting payroll is time-consuming enough to those running sole establishments.

5. Measuring task assignment and performance

Whether it's retraining servers to follow COVID safety protocols or making sure the floors are mopped each night, restaurant task management and communication is what keeps a restaurant running smoothly. When several locations and staff members are involved, difficulties might arise for tasks like off-premise catering setup or cross-location inventory ordering.

6. Tracking employee engagement and satisfaction

Perhaps things are going great for your favorite server at one location, but at another, she's easily overwhelmed and doesn't mesh as well with the staff. You can only be at one restaurant at a time, so getting a gauge of staff engagement across locations creates an added layer of difficulty. This disconnect could cause staff to feel undervalued and increase the likelihood of your restaurant's employees quitting.

How to Solve These Common Restaurant Management Problems

While the above situations can be difficult to navigate, your restaurant has a bevy of tools and resources available to ease the process of multi-location staff management. Here are some easy ways to alleviate the stress that managing teams across multiple restaurants can induce.

1. Automate compliance

The larger your restaurant group, the more likely it is to be susceptible to region-specific fair workweek laws. For restaurants that operate in multiple states, it's adds another layer of complexity

To stay on top of these laws and (avoid the lawsuits and fines that come with breaking them), use restaurant labor compliance software. It ensures your schedules follow regulation and save the most money no matter where the restaurant is. Compliance software also flags any labor violations so that managers can adopt a set-it-and-forget-it scheduling policy. Talk about a huge time saver for restaurateurs!

2. Standardize operating procedures

A standardized approach to common tasks will help drive consistency for guests and eliminate confusion for your team.

Some restaurants print out restaurant checklists for each shift, but that makes it nigh impossible to analyze task performance. Instead, task management software standardizes restaurant tasks across locations, with custom edits available for different locations and roles. Managers can then learn which teams are most efficient at completing their tasks and which ones might need more support.

Task management multi location

3. Forecast demand and schedule accordingly

One of the smartest ways you can set your schedule is to sync it with demand using an automated scheduling tool . In practice, if you expect Fridays to be significantly busier than Mondays, staff more employees on Fridays.

But you can get even more granular than that. By digging into the forecasted sales by day, shift, and location, you'll generate a schedule that reflects the need for staff in your restaurant for every hour of operation.

For example, you might find that on Sundays your total sales forecasts are the same as Thursdays. However, Sunday actually sees an uptick in demand for online and delivery orders. In that case, it makes sense to have an extra server working the floor on Thursdays, with an extra counter worker on Sunday to help organize takeout orders.

4. Automate your scheduling

Juggling staff availability with location-specific needs can induce frequent headaches. When the number of employees working a shift doesn't match the restaurant's demand, labor costs can be too high - or customer satisfaction can be too low.

With scheduling software that factors in forecasted demand, you can head into each shift with the right amount of people in the right roles for success. You can also allow employees to trade shifts across locations, which increases the chance of an employee finding coverage if they need to miss a shift.

5. Create better reports and dashboards

Setting up schedules is one thing -analyzing their efficacy is another.

Even a single digit percent improvement in labor costs can have a massive impact on the enterprise's bottom line. But with so many people to oversee, finding time to dig into the data isn't always easy.

That's why it's crucial to rely on restaurant analytics software, which generates reports on labor cost and variance compared to the restaurant's overall financial health.

Having quick access to accurate, digestible metrics on labor helps you assess the performance of region-specific locations, as well as the business as a whole. These insights give you the ability to make quick, relevant, and impactful changes to help your restaurants operate more smoothly.

restaurant reporting and analytics screenshot by 7shifts

6. Integrate your tech stack

Restaurants with a unified tech stack are more likely to succeed.

Think about it - comparing metrics, sharing systems with proven success, and utilizing the same operating procedures creates a lean, informed restaurant group. Consistency is key, and making decisions based on incongruent data is a recipe for disaster.

Make sure your restaurant technology operates seamlessly across locations. That way, numbers around labor, sales, inventory, and profitability can be analyzed with a bird's-eye view for the entire business, enabling you and other managers to eliminate the guess work and make decisions with confidence.

7. Keep your team happy and engaged

You might think you're keeping your employees happy. Are you sure?

As restaurants continue to struggle with staff turnover, your restaurant needs to do everything in its power to retain staff.

One solution proven to boost retention rates by 13% is employee engagement software. It gathers direct feedback from your employees across locations to see who your most reliable, satisfied, and at-risk employees are.

These tools give you the insights to reach out to all-star employees to see why and how they feel engaged. Conversely, reach out to unhappy employees to see if there is a better position or location for them in your restaurant group. Staying on top of performance metrics helps you work with the right staff members at the right time to reduce turnover and keep your staff united.

Team management engage dashboard

8. Develop consistent lines of communication

A large staff size means a large amount of work to maintain things - but it also comes with a large network of employees. Enabling communication among these coworkers brings this community even closer together. It's also a key factor in employee happiness and retention.

Rather than bounce around between phone calls, texts, and DMs, using a team communication app for the restaurant centralizes all communication for both individual outreach and team-wide announcements. Managers will be able to effectively communicate with any and all employees - whether it's those who work in multiple locations or only those who work at a specific one. This system eliminates the endless number of text chains and ensures you're being heard by the appropriate staff members - and vice versa.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I motivate teams across multiple locations?

One of the best ways to motivate employees is through gamification - or friendly competition among teams across locations. Michigan's Pita Way, for example, shares loyalty sign ups by location with its employees, who then feel motivated to outperform their colleagues at other locations. Other ways to motivate team members include wage and benefit increases, employee recognition awards, and upward mobility opportunities.

How do I hire for multiple locations?

The most efficient way to hire employees for multi-location restaurants is to set up a hiring tool that's capable of sourcing and tracking candidates for the entire restaurant group. Applicant tracking software centralizes the entire restaurant hiring process and helps multi-location restaurant businesses hire at scale. Remember to be proactive in hiring by listing job opening immediately, creating referral programs, and re-engaging prior applicants.

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AJ Beltis
AJ Beltis

AJ Beltis is a freelance writer with almost a decade of experience in the restaurant industry. He currently works as a content manager at HubSpot, and previously as a blogger at Toast.