Updated: Jun 14, 2019
In every restaurant, labor costs are a primary focus. It makes sense, it's the greatest loss of revenue. But what is the break-down of labor costs? Person to person, employer to employee, what is the true cost of breaks?
In Washington, for every four hours you work, you receive a ten minute break, and it must be given within the first four hours of work. But staff can't just leave the dinner rush in order to rest. In every restaurant I've worked in, one manager or another has informed the staff that they signed their break away upon being hired, in order to work there. But did they??
You can't have an empty kitchen at 8pm, but what do restaurant breaks really look like?
Your employees signed away the right to have a sit-down period of ten minutes take place within four hour time frames, but they did not sign away their right to break time. Many restaurants have six, eight, nine hour shifts... Does your staff not deserve to eat during the time frame when most are hungry? What actually serves your best interest?
The solution to breaks is the recognition that your employees have the legal right to this time, and they can use it in little increments to nourish themselves. It's very simple, actually. Your staff understands the flow of business. They understand when they're needed, and when there are moments when everything is handled well enough. You can oversee this (and ask them to check in prior to taking one), but on some level you're going to need to allow breaks to happen, and even encourage it.
Not only does your staff have the right to their break time, you'll want to give it to them. Here's 3 reasons why:
1. People who are properly nourished are far better and more efficient workers.
Hunger and exhaustion lead to easily avoidable mistakes, slowly accomplished tasks, and sluggishness. That means that you lose money on product, get less done, and have potentially negative guest experiences - which is the exact opposite of saving money.
2. Employees who aren't respected and appreciated, do not in turn respect the company they work for.
This is a rule of thumb to remember across the board. When you do not value your staff, they do not value you. They do not strive to work efficiently, to save you money, to serve you well, because their interests are not being served well. They know they are not being respected. Though they might fear losing their job (and regardless of if they stay or if they leave), they will never truly work to serve your interests.
3. It actually costs you more money in labor, when you fight your employees' right to breaks.
I've actually worked for a company that was sued for militantly denying breaks and years later had to reimburse in bulk payments ... But let's forget that potential outcome. The reality is, it a break costs you nothing more in labor. That's right. People will still accomplish the same amount of work, if not more, when they can fit in the break they need. Financial loss comes when they aren't given the break. People know what's fair. When employees know they weren't given the time they were due, they will milk the clock an fit in that break after their shift when they wait to clock out. Those are the employees who will not work to serve you, because they are not being served. There are also the employees who will work sluggishly at the end of a long shift, because their bodies are tired and they can't be efficient.
The true cost of breaks, is when you don't allow them. When you value your employees, and when you look at the big picture, you can accomplish great things together. So much of business seeks to control things (and cost) on the micro level, without actually looking at the macro effect. When you come from a visionary space, and when you're able to treat your staff well, the growth of business is exponential.