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As we embark on the road to recovery, restaurant owners are naturally looking for creative ways to cut costs. Reducing unnecessary food waste is one way to go, but labor costs are often a big cost driver that’s worth exploring as well — especially if sales are a little slower these days. Here’s how you can get started:

Close the Revolving Door

To turn those tables, you have to figure out why people are leaving. A great way to begin gathering insights is by conducting exit interviews. You may not be able to gather much information from the no-shows, but the people who depart more gracefully will likely open up more than you may think. 

Some helpful questions to ask outgoing employees:
  • What did you like the most about working here?
  • What did you like the least about working here?
  • What makes your new job more attractive than your present job?
  • What would make you consider returning to our restaurant in the future?
  • If you could make any changes to our restaurant, what would they be?

You might think that pay is the main driver behind attrition, but often it’s the lack of growth opportunities or lack of recognition. Not to mention that Covid has made work incredibly challenging for restaurant employees in general. Added training and skill development opportunities are great alternative ways to improve the quality of your employees and help them see a brighter future that’s worth sticking around for.

A restaurant that cultivates trust and open feedback (both good and bad) will ultimately help you find ways you can improve your business on a daily basis. Actively engaging with your employees establishes a workplace that gets your A-players to stay, so that you don’t have to conduct exit interviews to begin with. 

According to a Gallup study, only 34% of US workers are engaged. This means 56% of employees are either uninterested or actively disengaged with their jobs. Using this thesis, Gabriel Stulman breaks down how you can create a restaurant culture that cultivates growth with positive engagement.


Sometimes, better management is all it takes to keep people around and keep them engaged and doing their best work.

If pay or leadership isn’t a factor (or isn’t easily changed), then providing a little schedule flexibility may do the trick. Letting people leave early on certain days or come in later is often something you can control and won’t cost you much. 

Automate Redundant Tasks Like Inventory 

Beyond the obvious benefits of controlling food costs, a restaurant inventory management solution can streamline your operations so that your staff is spending less time on dreaded tasks like counting inventory.

Naturally, that will lead to fewer hours worked and lower labor costs, which will always improve your bottom line. 

MarketMan gives your restaurant real-time dashboards, so you know your inventory levels at all times. It will also help keep track of which items are least profitable, reaching low levels, or are possibly going to waste.

Those kinds of insights are exactly what your restaurant needs to reduce waste, lower food costs, and identify your most profitable menu items. Software like MarketMan also enables your accounts payable team to easily scan bills with their mobile app and automate incoming inventory. 

Dream Up Some Creative Solutions

The beauty of owning your own restaurant is that you’re in the driver’s seat. All decisions flow through you, and you can decide to shake things up whenever you want. 

That’s true for the fun aspects, like planning a new menu, hosting dinner parties, and opening new locations, and it’s also true when it comes to cutting labor costs — the sky’s the limit. 

Here are just a few ideas to consider:
  • Switch to a rotating schedule to give people more days off or split shifts to cut costs during slow periods.
  • Trim down your operating hours by skipping weekend brunch or breakfast if they’re not as profitable.
  • Start closing on Mondays if that’s your lowest revenue day.
  • Schedule cross-training so turnover is less of a blow and so employees can perform more revenue-boosting or cost-cutting tasks when the restaurant is slow.
  • Invest in automation like self-pour beverage systems that let people pour their own beers, sodas, and mixed drinks.
  • Create a safer work environment by providing additional COVID safety training and establishing protocols. Check out ServSafe’s free COVID-19 training course.
  • Shift your focus to takeout and digital ordering, so you don’t need as many servers or hosts working at a time.
  • Simplify your menu, so your staff can fulfill orders quicker.

Optimize Your Shift Scheduling

Sometimes, the hardest thing to do for a budding restaurant is sticking to a labor budget. With the daily and weekly swings, you have to toe the line between being understaffed and providing a poor experience, or being overstaffed and paying unnecessary labor costs.

The best way to find the right balance is with restaurant employee scheduling software.

With ZoomShift, for example, you can easily compare labor costs with average revenue costs for the day so you can make better scheduling decisions. It also helps you identify unnecessary overtime, which can really add up in the long run.

You can also take charge of scheduling mistakes with a real-time dashboard, so you always know if someone’s running late, didn’t show up, or missed a time punch. Sometimes, catching the smallest insights like that in the moment can create an atmosphere of accountability. Employees will learn to care about the details and will go the extra mile every day.

The power of automation and real-time insights is a game-changer when it comes to controlling labor costs in a restaurant. Deploying the right software can help, and so will focusing on retaining your best employees.

Sign up for a free demo with MarketMan or ZoomShift today.

Sam Molony is part of the marketing team at ZoomShift. Sam’s goal is to inspire people to not just “hang in there” but to thrive. When Sam’s not publishing or promoting new content you can find him playing sports and cooking up a storm in the kitchen. Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn.