The Implications of Worker Behavior for Staffing Decisions: Empirical Evidence and Best Practices
Employees in service organizations such as restaurants are humans, and their productivity is often heterogeneous due to innate abilities, motivation, and environmental factors. However, none of these considerations are taken into account by typical workforce planning models and software packages. In this paper we describe the results of a study on how workers respond to workload, an integral work environment factor, and we provide operational insights to improve efficiency and strengthen restaurant financials. We study a comprehensive data set from a family-style restaurant chain to clarify how workload, which is defined as the number of tables or diners that a server concurrently handles, affects his/her performance (measured in terms of sales and meal duration). Among our findings, servers’s sales increase with the workload at a cost of longer meal duration, when the overall workload is low. However, their sales performance decreases and they work more expeditiously after a certain workload threshold. We find that this workload threshold is currently not reached in our focal restaurants and, counter-intuitively, the chain can reduce its staffing level to achieve both significantly higher sales (an estimated 3% increase) and lower labor costs (an estimated 17% decrease). We further discuss how companies can benefit by explicitly considering other aspects of employee behavior when scheduling workforce.