My recent post, “Missouri Legislature Debates Wage Cuts For Servers” sparked some debate about cutting payroll expenses in your restaurant. Finding places to cut expenses as revenue falls is never an easy endeavor. And since labor is almost definitely your number one expense, it’s easy to look there first when considering ways to save money.
There may definitely be some places where labor costs can be reduced, such as cutting back employee hours or eliminating underperforming staff. All businesses look to their human resources department for cost cuts in tough times. But be careful here, because cutting labor is a task best left to a scalpel rather than an axe.
That’s because the one thing you need now more than anything else is good customer service. Actually, you need stellar customer service. When consumers start cutting back, their expectations of service go up, and the only way to get them to spend at all is to take care of them in every way possible.
Your staff is the best tool you have to make sure every hungry customer that walks through your doors leaves satisfied and full. If you start cutting back on staff to save money, you could start hurting your chances at increasing future revenue. Overall morale goes down when people are let go because of hard times rather than performance. And no matter what, customer service will suffer when you lose experienced staff.
Now is the time to focus on fulfilling the needs of your customers even better than before. If some staff have been a drag on your operation, by all means cut them now. But look for other ways to reduce costs before you start cutting quality staff. Your best customers will appreciate the attention, and hopefully maintain their regular visits to your restaurant. And new customers will be blown away by your commitment to quality service and hopefully come back, even if times are hard.
While Circuit City isn’t in the food service industry, a lesson can be drawn from their experience. When sales started declining, Circuit City decided to cut staff as a way to reduce costs and boost profits. It worked for a while. But then customers stopped coming in altogether. Circuit City’s rival Best Buy refused to cut back on customer service, and soon customers were flocking to their stores, not because Best Buy’s prices are better or because they have a better selection, but because Best Buy staff were always there to help.
Circuit City has since declared bankruptcy. Best Buy may not be breaking any profit records, but they’re still in business, and their customers are happy. Things could be a lot worse.
What do you think about this issue? Leave a comment below!