Our goal at Catering by Michaels is to wow the guests at every single event we cater — not just to serve them delicious food, not to make the venue look beautiful, but to leave them feeling genuinely delighted with all of the details of their event.
That’s no easy task. The only way to do it is to nail every detail. Everything from the table setting, to the linens, to the food, to the service is tailored to provide the perfect night for our clients. But surprisingly, some of the details that let us provide clients a great experience are things they’ll never even see. One of those details that is really important to us as a caterer, is the tool we use to schedule our staff: Nowsta.
Nowsta is a workforce management software that we use to build our staff’s schedules, track their hours, pay them, and rate their performance. I know, it sounds a bit mundane but stay with me. Why would our clients care how we handle scheduling, as long as it gets done? But as with the events themselves, the devil is in the details. Below, I’m going to outline some unexpected ways Nowsta helps us better wow our clients and give them an outstanding event experience.
We Can Build the Perfect Roster for Each Event
Most caterers, especially bigger ones like us, rely on a big network of part-time staff to work events. It’s difficult to manage relationships with all those employees when you’re not seeing them every day. There’s a huge range in the frequency with which these people work with a given company — some of them may only work an event with us once a month or so, while others may work with us multiple times a week. Plus, these people are taking on multiple roles. One day they might be a waiter and the next a bartender, so it’s hard to keep track of who’s qualified for which jobs. It also allows us to keep overtime in check and spread the workload across everyone who is available for shifts.
Before Nowsta, our staffing managers had a list of all our part-time staff, and would contact them by text or email as needed to ask if they could work events for us. This tended to limit the pool of people who could actually work for us at a given event, since our managers would naturally gravitate toward staff whose names they recognized. As a result, we may find ourselves needlessly asking the same server to work three events back to back which is no fun for him and increases chances of errors due to tiredness — when we actually have a great server we could call who happens not to have worked for us in a few months.
Nowsta fixes this by giving us a database of all our workers. As we schedule the shifts for our events, we can easily sort staff by the positions they’re qualified for, availability, and number of hours worked that week to find the ideal person for each event. We can even tag the preferred staff for specific clients we work with often, which is a huge boost to our clients. Many of them like to bring back the same function director, bartenders or waitstaff for corporate events or to venues that we have someone already familiar with the space. No matter the circumstances, we’re able to ensure that every client gets the right staff for their event.
Our Staff Are More Reliable
While caterers typically have extra staff on call to work in case of emergency, tardiness or absence, adding staff last minute or rearranging staff can throw off the rhythm of any event. A truck driver getting a late start can keep us from getting food in the oven and delay a dinner’s start time. A missing coat check attendant can lead to a bottleneck of confused guests. A late bartender can cause a rushed and unorganized bar set up which leads to slower service and bar lines are not a great way to kickoff any event.
Most instances of absence or lateness can be traced back to confusion. Most of our staff are working part-time for a few different employers, not all of whom are in the catering business. That means their schedules are inconsistent, as they rarely work the same hours at the same places week-to-week. They receive and accept offers to work over phone, text, and email, which makes it difficult to keep a schedule straight or perhaps forget to add a shift to their calendar.
Nowsta solves this by giving every worker a record for all their scheduled shifts, along with automated reminders as it gets closer to event time. Instead of having to sift through their inboxes and texts, they can just open the Nowsta app and see all the shifts they have upcoming with Catering by Michaels and any other caterer on the Nowsta platform.
In addition to reminders, Nowsta also gives staff extra incentive to be on time by giving us a more accurate way to track our team’s hours. Instead of staff signing in on a paper time sheet when they arrive at an event, they check in on the Nowsta app, with GPS to verify that they’re on site. This saves a catering company so much money by paying the staff to the minute of when they clock in and when they clock out. It alleviates any chance of the staff to write down that they arrived at 4:00 PM when they really arrived at 4:11 PM. All of those extra minutes all fall down to the bottom line for a caterer and encourages staff to be on time so they can get paid for the entirety of their shift. We also can now identify and reward staff who are consistently on time.
Everybody Knows What to Wear
Uniforms are an event detail that no one thinks about unless someone screws it up. An incorrect uniform sticks out like a sore thumb, and fixing it means sending someone back to HQ for new clothes or having to send them home — leaving us a man down and taking focus away from running the event.
Again, the fractured nature of communication between caterers and part-time workers makes this an easy mistake to make. Most of our staff work with a few different caterers, and there’s no standard way for all the managers across these companies to inform them of key event details like uniform selection. Some include it in an email, some text it to everyone, and some just mention it once over the phone. That mean’s staff often can’t quickly double check it, especially if they’re in a rush.
But with Nowsta, we can attach all the details staff need for each event on its calendar entry. All of our people know that when they’re working an event for Catering by Michaels, they can open the Nowsta app and see which uniform they need. Not only that, but they can see the venue’s address, parking details, and contact information for everyone else they’ll be working with. Our staff report this has been a huge help in organizing carpools for far away events. We can also make emergency announcements to all the staff working a particular event via Nowsta, which has been helpful in times with inclement weather or traffic issues. By giving us a single channel where everyone knows they can reach each other, Nowsta has streamlined communication for our events.
Working Behind the Scenes
The events our clients experience are the culmination of hours of work that happens behind the scenes. So, while none of our clients will ever see Nowsta in action, it’s one of the reasons we’re able to deliver them excellent events. It simplifies the relationships between our team members, provides clear and concise communication for every event which allows us to focus on the execution of a flawless event. As the Nowsta team continues to improve the product and add new functionalities, I look forward to seeing how else it helps us wow our clients.
Editors note: no compensation was received in exchange for this post.