Checkers Gives Crew Schedules a Makeover, Sees Sales Rise
Checkerboard Restaurants, a 5-unit Checkers® franchisee, increased sales and lowered labor costs without sacrificing customer service.
ATLANTA — Service sells. It may sound oversimplified, but Shane Matheson, Director of Operations for Checkerboard Restaurants, Inc., of Opelousas, La., has proof that it works. Mr. Matheson said sales increased in his five Checkers restaurants after he began using software to schedule his employees in the right place at the right time.
Mr. Matheson said that using RTIconnect™ back office software from RTI, Inc. has enabled the company to lower labor costs by 2 to 5 percent, improve overall food cost from 3/4 to 1 percent, and save hours of management time forecasting sales and scheduling.
No Longer a Guessing Game
“We save hours doing our scheduling with RTIconnect,” said Mr. Matheson, explaining that before using the system “figuring out schedules was a nightmare. RTIconnect saves me two to three hours a week if not more, per store” preparing schedules. “Yesterday I projected sales for three stores; it took me 30 minutes. For two stores it took me maybe 20 minutes each to do a 7-day schedule. It used to take me 2 to 3 hours of work just at the stores.”
Before RTIconnect, Checkerboard Restaurants used a preset number of employees for each shift. For instance, “in one store, we ran 10 people from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Once we started using RTIconnect, we saw that we only needed 10 people from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. So I was able to push hard where I need to, save a half hour here and a half hour there, and put the extra labor where it was more needed. The software helps us put everyone where they need to go,” he said. “We’re saving labor hours, but they are also going in better places—we’re being more productive, which helps bring in more sales of course, which lowers labor.”
Going further, Mr. Matheson and his general managers use the RTIconnect Labor Tracking Report to monitor sales throughout the day and make on-the-fly scheduling adjustments. “I can track their sales all day long, and I can call them up at 12 o’clock and say ‘hey we need to cut back now.’ Whereas the old way we had to wait until the day was over, or we’d even have to wait two or three days (to see scheduling inefficiencies). Now we can make adjustments within a day, within a couple of hours. The access is so great.”
“In some of my stores I’ve saved anywhere from 2 to 5 percent labor,” he said, without cutting hours to hurt the store. We are still providing good customer service, but we’ve been able to save money, and put it in the right places where we can bring our sales higher. We’re not saving labor because we’re cutting back everyone. We’re saving labor because it puts them in the right spot. It’s not a guessing game anymore.”
With his closest restaurant an hour and a half away from the main office, he relies on web-based reporting to give him remote access to his stores’ information. Checkerboard’s restaurants are located in Lake Charles and Sulphur, La., and Beaumont, Texas.
With food costs making up such a large part of operating expenses, Mr. Matheson said tracking food cost is also a high priority. He uses the RTIconnect Daily Food Variance Report to identify differences in ideal usage (what should have been used) and actual usage (what was really used).
“If meat or chicken goes missing, it’s an obvious thing. You can track that; you can see that in waste. But not the smaller items,” he said, explaining that one of the biggest surprises of using the Variance Report has been its ability to identify waste of any size or expense. “Recently we saw that chili meat and cheese sauce were both off. So we started watching and saw that some employees were putting on one too many scoops of cheese sauce—and they were going back for more chili, too,” he said. When incidents like this are found, he said, managers retrain employees to correct the problem.
“The software has definitely helped control some of our waste issues. RTIconnect is just a great tool. I would say it has saved us three-quarters to one percent on food cost.”
More Customers Served
Beyond the impressive cost savings they’ve seen, he said, there is also a less tangible benefit: more time to run the restaurants. “The managers aren’t sitting in the back working on schedules or food cost. They can get that done quickly and get themselves back up front.”
Because the restaurants are operating more efficiently, he explained, not only are customers better served but more customers are served. The double-drive-thru, no dine-in layout of Checkers means there’s less room for error: if the drive-thru gets backed up, customers won’t stop at the restaurants.
Customer service, he said, is critical to success, and he values both giving and receiving it. “I find that in all industries nowadays most people don’t want to do anything for or talk to the customer. They just really can’t care less because they’ve got your money already and life’s good, you know? The fact that I can call RTI and get a quick response—to me that’s incredible. That’s customer service. I strive for my stores to be that way. I truly appreciate the response that I get from RTI.”
RTI has been a leading supplier of enterprise management and accounting solutions to the restaurant industry since 1985, driven by a mission to make restaurants more profitable through technology that’s powerful but easy to use. Today over 10,000 restaurants, including companies and franchisees of McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Arby’s, Checker’s/Rally’s, and Beef ‘O’ Brady’s rely on RTI solutions. For more information please visit www.internetRTI.com or call (800) 937-1290.
Vice President, Sales & Marketing
Director of Operations
Checkerboard Restaurants, Inc.