For brick & mortar retailers & restaurants there are six steps we recommend to customers to evaluate your staffing needs. Below are your six steps for a full overhaul of your staffing, starting from your first principles: customer service.

1. Evaluate Your Roster

When planning your labor, start with mapping out your ‘skeleton staff’ or the job roles that you need to staff your business at a minimum. For a restaurant this might mean 1 manager, 2 cooks, 1 cleaner, 2 servers, 1 host and 2 bussers.

Example:  An ice-cream franchisee might know they need a minimum of 1 opener, 1 closer, and 2 people during the peak ‘after-dinner’ day part. The skeleton staff is comprised of 3 team members for any given day.

Then look at the necessary skills and job roles needed to provide your very best customer service. You can’t provide ideal customer service if you don’t have your ideal levels of employees on the floor. You can buffer understaffing with good training and high productivity, but it’s a recipe for burnout. It’s important to have a dependable, capable and adequate number of staff.

2. Analyze

Look at your busiest times – your peaks – and your slower times. Keeping track of your sales and your demand during the day, the week, and the month will ensure that you’re not understaffed and overwhelmed during the day.

Note who your power-players are. It’s ideal to schedule these power-players on at the same time as newbies so that they can learn from each other. Shoot for that perfect mix. This is where laying out a shift schedule visually is much easier than looking at numbers in a spreadsheet.

3. Find Your Gaps

When looking at your shift schedule, do you notice any big gaps or places where you might be understaffed? Are there roles that still need to be filled or places where you need extra help? Are you missing a skill set? This is where you see if those gaps can be filled with internal actions like transfers, better training, or if you need to recruit someone new.


With labor deployment models you can predict where under-staffing is happening.

Example: For an ice-cream shop  it will be something like – one ‘scooper’ per $100 in hourly sales. When sales hit more than $100 for the second hour in a row, the manager knows they need an extra ‘scooper’ on the line.

Example: For a sandwich restaurant it might be 10 sandwiches per labor hour. In this case if productivity (subs per labor hour) drops below 10 they have too many people on the counter. Conversely, if the productivity is above 10 they’re pushing customers through too fast and not giving the experience customers are used to.

4. Absences

What happens when you get a late-notice call off? What if someone doesn’t show up for work? What are your backups? You can plan for these absences by keeping a few extra employees in reserve or if you are a multi-unit franchisee have a mechanism for sharing your staff between stores. Take into account when people go on vacation or have medical leave or you’ll end up with overworked and frustrated employees who are likely to go across the street.

5. Plan Ahead

Look at your turnover rate – how many employees have you hired in the last year as a fraction of your total employee count.

Example: A retail business has 60 employees on the roster at any one time and hires 40 employees over the course of a year. 40 / 60 *100 = 83% turnover.

What is your mission and what are your goals? Consider the possibility of a potential expansion, new customers, and  a general increase in business.  What will you need to satisfy this growth and find additional positions to increase your base staffing level?  Looking at trends and growth can give you insight into the future and help you plan ahead.

6. Make Adjustments

Your staff shift schedule should always change according to the changes in your business.  Track the busiest days and where you need additional support across the day.

By tracking trends in your staffing levels over time, you’ll start to see patterns in the data. You’re looking for trends like bigger sales days and how they correlate with the number of employees you have on the floor. Eventually you’ll find that ‘sweet spot’ in your numbers.

It’s that point where you hit maximum sales and have just the right number of people on the floor. If you visit your store and see things just humming take note of your numbers for that day. You might have found the sweet spot in your magic number!