In today's economy, businesses in every sector are looking for ways to control operational costs. For the hospitality industry, one of the most controllable areas is labor. By monitoring time and attendance to ensure employees record accurate hours, eliminate needless overtime and forecast for accurate scheduling, operators are able to add money to their bottom lines.
"In these economic times, it's even more important to have the right people in the right place at the right time," says Jeff Weiss, director of store systems for the 56-unit, Dallas-based Dave & Buster's (www.daveandbusters.com). "Knowing that labor is the number one controllable cost in the restaurant industry, it's important to get costs down, but you don't want to be short-staffed either. You want to take care of guests or they won't come back."
Both lodging and foodservice operators are looking to the newest time and attendance technologies to stay on top of labor, while still providing employees with a certain amount of freedom when it comes to their schedule. At Dave & Buster's, employees log into the company's time and attendance system from TimeManagement Corp. (www.timemgmt.com), and using the My TMx module, can view their upcoming schedules, request vacation time or swap shifts with other employees.
"Instead of calling a manager to swap shifts, they can do it themselves and a manager can go in and approve it," Weiss explains. "We will be adding text messaging and e-mail to the My TMx next so an employee will know when a new schedule is available or a shift swap is approved."
Many operators that implement a high-tech time and attendance system see a return-on-investment quickly, especially when it comes to clocking in and out. Instead of relying on a manual system, or even a time clock that leaves room for buddy-punching, many are opting for biometric devices.
This was the approach Derek Leach, manager of a Hampton Inn (www.hamptoninn.com) in Bemidji, Minn. took when he implemented Timecard Monitor 6.3 from Count Me In LLC (www.countmeinllc.com). The system captures an employee's fingerprint when they register, and each time they sign in or out, it compares the fingerprint to the original enrollment images, confirming or denying a match, says Leach, who installed the system in September 2009 and quickly saw labor costs decrease by two percent.
"We started to see true hours coming in and were better able to manage when people were on break," he explains. "We saw benefits in the first month."
At Vi (www.viliving.com), formerly known as Classic Residence by Hyatt, based in Chicago and operating 20 adult living communities, being able to capture precise time entry information is a major benefit, according to Chet Phillips, vice president of information technology.
"In the service business, labor is a significant portion of our overall operating budget, and it's important to apply the right labor at the right times," he says. Vi employs nursing staff, facilities maintenance and restaurant workers, and it's the restaurant portion where Phillips sees the most benefits.
Like Dave & Buster's, the company uses TMx for time and attendance, which is integrated with their restaurants' Agilysys (www.agilysys.com) point of sale (POS) system, as well as the ADP payroll system. Time and attendance is tracked by employee and shift and has enabled Vi to cut their overtime dramatically. "We require managers to put the schedules into the system, and if an employee has worked too many hours the systems lets them know so they avoid overtime situations," Phillips says, explaining that the company also uses biometric readers. "It allows a certain amount of integrity in the sign-in and -out process."
In addition to avoiding overtime, the system won't allow employees to punch in or out if they are not scheduled, and if they forget to punch out, it won't allow them to sign in the next day, he says.
Predicting labor needs
In addition to tracking employee hours, break time and vacation, many time and attendance systems offer business intelligence tools that allow headquarters to analyze labor and forecast future schedules and hours.
"The data we gather from TMx feeds into our business intelligence system and allows us to measure volume against labor expended," says Phillips, explaining that labor in the adult living communities fluctuate based on occupancy. "If our occupancy fluctuates, we want to be able to adjust accordingly, and we measure the number of dinners served against the number of occupants."
In the future, the company plans to look at TMx Enterprise 5.0 to increase efficiency. "Right now each community has their own series of time clocks, but the upgrade would allow us to automatically extract that data into one central place each night," he notes. "Right now, we do it manually and once a month."
At Dave & Buster's, the company just upgraded to TMx Enterprise and uses 20 different performance measures in the system, including plate counts in the kitchen, says Weiss, who notes that the company chose to upgrade because it wanted the forecasting and scheduling abilities centralized.
"Individual databases at each location can become a nightmare," he says. "The system cuts down the time it takes managers to create a schedule, and it's based on formulas and historical data. We feed different measurements into the system and it generates what it thinks the location will do that week and applies a suggested schedule."
It's the increased sophistication of these time and attendance tools that continues to help hospitality operators monitor their employees, and save on labor without compromising customer service.