So, maybe you should just change your hours?

Back in the day (and I mean a LONG time ago), I used to work for Pizza Hut as a restaurant manager. I worked in several of their (mostly delivery) facilities over the years, in both Phoenix and Las Vegas.

As is the nature of chain restaurants, some of these locations were very busy, and some not so much. One of the first restaurants I worked in was so slow on Sundays that one person could work alone until 3 or 4 in the afternoon. Delivery was still new to Pizza Hut then, and we might only get 7 or 8 orders the first 5 hours we were open. You’d take the order, make the order, then lock the door and go deliver it. Later, the staff management systems were adjusted to always let you earn at least 2 labor hours per hour for minimum staffing, but when delivery was new you might only earn .4 hours of allowed labor in an actual hour. Needless to say, it as pretty difficult to make your labor numbers on those days.

The same thing happened at closing. Some restaurants that I managed were busy so late that we would still have 20 orders at closing. When working in a restaurant like that, you were fairly certain not to be going home for at least an hour after the posted closing, possibly two. Other restaurants died so completely by 9 PM that all the closing work would be done pre close, and at closing all you had to do was lock the door.

Managing the different situations was what made the difference between the staff leaving late on a slow night, or being horribly understaffed on a busy night and still having orders to deliver than an hour after close of business. In one case you waste money, in another you provide horrible customer service.

Apparently, the concept of labor management is alien outside of the restaurant industry.

2 weekends ago I was attempting to fix my son’s closet door. We have just moved into a new (to us) house, and the closet in his bedroom has sliding doors that would not stay in their track. The track had obviously seen better days, so instead of attempting to straighten out the flimsy metal, I decided to replace it.

I took my daughter and we went to Lowe’s. We arrived at about 8:10 PM on a Saturday night. The store was very quiet. There couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5 other customers shopping in the store. Perhaps two to three times that many staff were working in sight as I walked through the aisles in search of my item. I had the old closet track with me because I wanted to find an exact match, but I wasn’t having much luck.

Unfortunately, approaching an employee with the track in my hand and a questioning look on my face, would cause that employee to quickly move in another direction. They were all obviously busy, but they were all stocking, cleaning, and otherwise winding up the business day. They were all very obviously not interested in helping me with my issue, they were all focused on closing duties. I ended up leaving without my item and my wife picked one up the next day.

I tweeted about my experience, and Lowe’s replied with an e-mail address that they said I should submit a complaint to. I did, and the e-mail bounced. I wasn’t impressed.

Just this past weekend I went to Power Chevrolet to make an appointment for the following Saturday to get some repair and maintenance work performed on my car. Since I was there anyway, I asked if I could get one of their “10 minute express oil changes”. I was told no, it was too late because the service department closes at 4:00. (It was 3:10). Again, the importance of completing all the end of day duties was actually more important that performing the function they are actually in business to perform.

I realize that the US is the most efficient nation on Earth. With automation, management, and procedures, we get more labor per employee than any other country. However, if to “hit your numbers”, a company requires their managers to have all employees off the clock by x number of minutes after close, they need to allow a staffing level that gets those closing duties done without impacting customer service.

Of course that won’t happen, because companies don’t like to spend money (hence the record profits we’re seeing from almost all major corporations right now). However, it seems I’m learning that although a lot of places have a posted closing time, they actually stop serving an hour before. If you want something from one of those retailers, you better be willing to get it yourself…

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