4 Strategies Earls Deployed During the Pandemic

Stephanie Graham
February 26, 2021

The need for businesses to adapt, innovate, and work cooperatively has never been more pertinent.

The challenges of the pandemic inspired Earls to make fundamental and impactful changes that have strengthened the company in lasting ways.  By acting early and decisively with streamlined company-wide strategies focused on shared goals and values, effective communication, and innovative HR solutions the Earls approach has others in the industry wondering, how did they do it?

There is no denying that the impact of Covid-19 on the restaurant industry has been striking and widespread. The early days of the pandemic gave way to unprecedented fear and uncertainty, and while other industries have begun to recover, the food-service industry is still experiencing operating losses, rolling closures, and mass job impacts.

The distilled down answer lies within the 4 key innovative strategies Earls chose to deploy to overcome the pandemic.  Shared with us by Tomelise Stefan and Suman Dhaliwal from the People Operations Team at Earls, in partnership with Push,   this is the recap from the recent webinar outlining those 4 keys.


1 - Acting fast with planning and mobilization.


The impact of the pandemic on restaurants was sudden and striking, and the swift government response and lack of reliable information seemed to change the industry landscape overnight. It was clear that formal structures needed to be created to navigate the uncertainty and changing situation. 


It wasn’t long before the Earls’ Executive Team began planning and mobilizing resources before they became necessary. They immediately created a Covid Solutions Committee to facilitate interdepartmental collaboration and information exchange to respond to the crisis.


“We created a structure in response to the pandemic that allowed us to work quickly, be agile, and communicate effectively.”

- Tomelise Stefan, Manager of People Operations



This formal structure ensured the company as a whole was prepared to respond when circumstances inevitably changed, making implementing health and safety protocols, following government restrictions, delegating tasks, and communicating across the company much easier and more efficient.

Earls created and executed a carefully-planned strategic approach that spanned the entire company. Relying on Push’s comprehensive HR and management solutions, Earls was able to communicate these new strategies and protocols efficiently and effectively across the organization.
There is no denying that the impact of Covid-19 on the restaurant industry has been striking and widespread. The early days of the pandemic gave way to unprecedented fear and uncertainty, and while other industries have begun to recover, the food-service industry is still experiencing operating losses, rolling closures, and mass job impacts.



2 - Focusing on internal communication.

One of the most difficult aspects of the pandemic, not just for the restaurant industry but across the board, has been the sudden loss of our daily in-person connections to our communities.

Staying engaged and connected to one another in a time when we’ve all felt disconnected is vitally important for our social health and the success of our businesses.

In the early days of the crisis, all Earls restaurants were closed and there was a lot of uncertainty. Regular communication was extremely important, and Earls relied heavily on Push’s messaging function to stay connected, foster a sense of community, and reach a broad audience. 


“In a time of uncertainty, providing factual information from a trusted source provide[s] a sense of security.”

- Tomelise Stefan, Manager of People Operations


Using comprehensive HR software, Earls was able to provide a culture of community and clarity, which was especially needed during these uncertain times. Here are a few of the key tools we used:

  • Enterprise Push Messages provided a platform for distributing global letters from Earls’ President and Executive Team and for comprehensive, targeted information sharing.

  • An Internal Company Newsletter was used to deliver key Covid-related updates daily to managers and leadership on topics like product changes, innovations, and safety protocols.

  • Earls’ Internal Intranet served as a one-stop shop for all standard operating procedures.
    There is no denying that the impact of Covid-19 on the restaurant industry has been striking and widespread. The early days of the pandemic gave way to unprecedented fear and uncertainty, and while other industries have begun to recover, the food-service industry is still experiencing operating losses, rolling closures, and mass job impacts.



3 - Creating an agile workforce.

The restaurant closures and capacity restrictions imposed by governments in response to the pandemic created unprecedented labour-forecasting, scheduling, and reporting challenges across the food-service industry. The earls team leveraged their software, using scheduling and forecasting tools that  supported Earls in managing labour effectively, leading to increased efficiency and cost savings. Using this software allowed Earls to adjust scheduling and forecasting based on analytics and data rather than guesswork.


The way the restaurant industry operates in general has shifted dramatically toward at-home kits and takeout as a result of the pandemic, and using a data-driven approach to scheduling and staffing allowed Earls to focus resources where they were most needed.


“There has been more of a focus on delivery and takeout, and with Earls, we did chef’s kits and grocery programs, which really changed the way our jobs were organized. In a normal operation, we have a number of servers and line cooks that really prominently take over the schedule, but when your restaurant is closed, you don’t need as many servers. You need people who will help prepare takeout and delivery bags. So it really allowed us to flex our positions and job responsibilities.”

- Suman Dhaliwal, Director of People Operations


By improving scheduling and staffing practices, Earls was able to find efficiencies and cost savings that were key to enduring the pandemic and strengthening business practices as a whole.



4 - Taking care of our people.

The pandemic poses risks to the physical, psychological, and emotional health of individuals and communities. Earls believes that an organization’s values are an integral part of taking care of its people, especially during a pandemic. That’s why, company-wide, Earls made the decision to use the available resources to support the wellbeing of all employees while fostering a culture of connectedness and teamwork.


“Taking care of our people at Earls is really a North Star and all decisions were really filtered through that lens. When we first stated our response to Coronavirus, our CEO, our President, and our entire Executive Team first aligned on that ‘people value,’ so a lot of the actions we took actually involved this philosophy.” 

- Tomelise Stefan
, Manager of People Operations


Below are a few of the steps Earls took to ensure the wellbeing of our people during the pandemic:


  • Paying out all scheduled hours as soon as restaurant closures were announced
  • Continuing to employ and pay all salaried managers throughout closures
  • Acting as a standard of safety by developing and communicating health protocols right away
  • Creating and distributing information sheets and FAQs about available benefits through Push’s messaging feature for employees 
  • Prioritizing ROEs and distributing them digitally
  • Leaning into the conversation and encouraging open channels of communication with managers and senior leaders


In the end, it’s a values-based, strategic approach to new challenges.

Enduring the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for individuals, communities, and organizations across the globe. The restaurant industry has been impacted in unique and profound ways. Managing through this crisis isn’t an easy task, but the right combination of values and strategies can bring people together, even when times are hard. 


“We achieved a high level of consistency across the organization, and made sure we were transparent with our communication.  Because of that, we were able to have the entirety of the company moving in the same direction, and pivoting quickly. ”

- Suman Dhaliwal
, Director of People Operations


A pandemic doesn’t simply have to be endured. With the right goals and approaches, times of crisis can prove to be catalysts of growth and change.

With a focus on values and putting people first, and using the right tools and innovative strategies, the restaurant industry can transform and thrive, and Earls is an example, in real time of just that.




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