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Tools | Quinn Bowman

Forecasting Change
A new software program promises to transform the way restaurants forecast and schedule labor.

Restaurant managers and corporate bosses who want a new way to forecast and schedule their workforce have a new software option that utilizes a bottom-up scheduling method. The option is called the Deterministics Labor System (DLS), and its designers claim the system can provide a more accurate and effective staffing situation. Co-creators Brian Sill and Paul Malmo debuted the web-based software bundle at the November 2006 FS/TEC show in Long Beach, California.

DLS has two basic components: a forecasting tool that predicts the amount of labor needed based on food purchased and preparation time and a labor scheduler that utilizes the forecast information to make a more efficient staff timetable. The system isn’t really about scheduling labor; it’s about scheduling work loads, measurable denominations of work that take into account all of the labor needed to serve food to customers.

Using detailed time studies, DLS has the capability to determine much time it should take to make each menu item, down to the ingredient level. Take a Caesar and Buffalo chicken salad, for example. Although both items are salads, the Buffalo chicken takes 3.3 minutes more time to prepare, according to DLS’s calculations.

Such information is combined with statistics on other labor-consuming activities that go on in restaurants, including host duties, serving, and delivery. The software factors all these activities in and comes up with an appropriate “labor recipe” that Deterministics says can cut labor-associated waste by 1 to 3 percent of sales.

DLS’s labor recipes take into account how many people are working at one time and where they are working in the restaurant. “We can apply a penalty factor to staff who have to work multiple positions. In peak lunch hour with three people at the drive-in and two people in the sandwich line, the time for those work functions has been measured,” Malmo says.

This level of complexity and detail, Sill says, beats the previously accepted sales-based method to predict labor needs. “A quick-serve restaurant is working off some generic productivity matrix that doesn’t tell them where to put workers and how to prioritize staff,” he says.

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