3 ways foodservice operators are offering staff more flexible schedules

flexible time

While many foodservice employees might be working for the payday, money may not be every worker’s top priority. Across industries, 15% of male employees and 21% of female employees say they would take a pay cut and slow their career progression for a more accommodating schedule, according to research from professional services firm PwC.

Scheduling shifts for a dining hall that serves approximately 2,300 meals a day can be a tall order, and one that's getting tougher each semester, says Todd Christopher, restaurant operations manager for Messiah College’s Lottie Nelson Dining Hall in Mechanicsburg, Pa. “The best strategies to alleviate these challenges would be to remain friendly, inspiring, fun, and as flexible and understanding as possible.”

Here’s how Christopher and other foodservice operators are baking more flexible schedules into their culture. 

1. Shift changes

shift changes

Rather than a few standard shift times and lengths, Christopher staggers the times at which staff clock in and out. He starts with a labor grid and gathers team members’ availability. Then, if a shift typically starts at 11 a.m., for instance, but a student-worker’s class ends at 11:10 a.m., he’ll alter the shift to an 11:15 a.m. start time. “It basically carves up the station’s schedule a little bit, and I can cover the small gaps with other workers,” he says.

A big part of being able to juggle all the various start times is remaining approachable with employees. “I am available at work with an open-door policy, and I can be reached via email 24 hours a day,” he says.

2. Hybrid positions

hybrid positions

Beyond cross-training, the University of Vermont Health Network—Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital has created brand-new positions to enable less rigid schedules for associates and managers alike. The Plattsburgh, N.Y.-based operation has merged some of its patient services assistant positions with foodservice roles. “It allows them to pick up more shifts and cover both positions,” says Shey Schnell, director of food and nutrition services for the hospital.

Schnell also added a staff lead position, where a team member takes on a leadership role one day a week. Not only does this allow team members to test-drive management, but it also gives managers a bit of relief, he says. 

3. Alternative hours

new work shifts

Giving full-time team members the option to work fewer days and longer hours is another way Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital empowers workers to have more control over their schedule. Instead of working five eight-hour workdays, some full-time team members can work four 10-hour days. “It’s really helped with balance,” Schnell says. “And team members really appreciate the three-day weekend.” 

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