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.
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.
This was a big one, as one of the most difficult aspects of the pandemic, not just for the restaurant industry but across the board, was the sudden loss of 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 any 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 a 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 they used:
Internal communications play a large part when it comes to running a successful multi-operation restaurant workforce, and also help to keep everyone in alignment during war-time leadership, down to the day to day.
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. With this in mind, 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.
Although things are now starting to come back to normal, during this time the way restaurants operated shifted dramatically toward at-home kits and takeout as a result of the pandemic, so 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.
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 well-being 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:
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, strategies, and software can bring people together, even when times are hard.
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, of just that.
“In the labor numbers, we were reporting about a $300 to $400 difference than what we were getting through Push!”
-Tara Hardie, ZZA Hospitality Group, 16 locations