Sonny's Bar-B-Q Streamlines Staff Scheduling with Web-Based Tool

For more than 40 years, Sonny's Bar-B-Q has served authentic Southern Bar-B-Q to guests across the southeastern United States. Sonny's now boasts more than 130 corporate and franchisee restaurants and employs more than 6,000 team members in nine states.

As do many restaurants, Sonny's had always relied on flat file spreadsheets to create its staff schedules. For managers, creating and maintaining these schedules was a cumbersome, day-to-day grind that took time away from more essential things in the restaurant, such as spending time with guests. Sonny's knew that it needed a better solution that could not only provide more robust employee scheduling capabilities for its managers, but could also enhance convenience and communications for its team members.

To meet this challenge, Sonny's selected the HotSchedules web-based restaurant labor management and employee scheduling solution to address its staff scheduling needs, and was immediately impressed with the easy-to-use functionality that the tool provided to its team members. With HotSchedules, Sonny's team members do not have to take time out of their day to travel to the restaurant to check their schedules; likewise, managers don't have to take time out during a busy shift to take a call from a team member asking about a shift change. Instead, employees can log into the online portal from a computer or mobile device, or dial a 24-hour bilingual toll-free automated line to access their schedules, view shifts available for pick-up, check on manager approval of shift changes, request time off and more. The ease of accessibility and editing on a web-based system also makes the weekly scheduling process much easier and faster for Sonny's managers.

Beyond efficient scheduling
Additionally, Sonny's store managers utilize the HotSchedules Digital Logbook, a powerful web-based logbook for communication and documentation that can be easily searched and reviewed from anywhere, anytime. It is the single most-used tool at Sonny's, enabling store and regional managers to track and document daily shift highlights, as well as issues with food and beverages, repairs and maintenance, guest services, safe count tills, team member performance, store deposits with tracking numbers and more.

In addition to improving its scheduling process, Sonny's has also used the online system as a key communications tool. Instead of printing copies of its monthly newsletter that may take weeks for the regional managers to distribute to each location (by then becoming old news), Sonny's publishes and distributes the newsletter through HotSchedules in the same online portal that all of its team members and managers already visit every day. This way, Sonny's knows the information is getting across in the most timely and efficient manner; as a bonus, it also saves on the cost of printing hundreds of newsletters. Similarly, Sonny's uses the portal for its quarterly store audits, allowing team members to fill out online questionnaires in the privacy of their own environment (at home, or wherever they choose to log on), ultimately providing the HR department with more candid and reliable feedback.

Since implementing the solution, HotSchedules has proven to be a very powerful tool for Sonny's team members and one that has become a core piece of the company's culture. At the end of the day, everyone in the restaurant industry is vying for the best employees, and any benefits and tools that operators can provide them will help slow down this industry's constantly revolving door of employee turnover, benefiting both Sonny's and all its guests that rely on consistent and quality service. Sonny's, believes that web-based scheduling offers a strong return on investment, while increasing productivity and enhancing the communication between managers and team members.

Darrin Heisey has more than nine years in information technology (IT) and over 20 years in the restaurant industry. He has served the last two years as the Director of IT for Sonny's Franchise Company, where he has implemented a number of technological advances streamlining processes for the company. Heisey is a graduate of Florida Southern College with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems.
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