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Episode 5: Jordan Boesch

For Episode 5, we have a conversation with Jordan Boesch, founder of 7 Shifts. Jordan built an employee scheduling platform for his parent’s restaurant, which grew into a company. We talk about the challenges restaurants face in the current labor market and how technology can improve employee satisfaction and retention.

Episode transcription 

JamesWelcome to episode five of the Food Tech podcast, where we explore the changing nature of the food industry and technology. We give operators quick, actionable ways to improve their business in the new omnichannel environment. I’m your host, James Shea, publisher of Food Delivery News. Today’s guest is Jordan Boesch, founder and CEO of 7 Shifts. The company makes a host of different tools to help restaurants with scheduling and employee engagement.

Welcome to the show, Jordan.

Jordan: Hey, James, thanks for having me.

James: No problem at all. Hey, why don’t we start off by  you telling me a little bit about your background and how you started 7 Shifts.

Jordan: So the idea of 7 Shifts was really born out of this kind of seeing my dad, who ran some Quiznos locations, go through the pain and challenges of just managing his staff and communicating with them. So I thought, hey, I can maybe program and build something really small and rudimentary to try and help them solve these pain points. So I taught myself how to write some code and build something really small where he could upload an Excel spreadsheet and staff could download it. And that was really the beginning stages of 7 Shifts. I then worked as a software developer for many years, and I always just loved building things and solving problems. It wasn’t until much later that I was able to do 7 Shifts full time and managed to convince a few co-founders do it with me that we actually thought, OK, this is a really exciting business, but it also solves a lot of challenges and pain points that restaurant operators were feeling.

James: I would imagine that back in the old days it was just paper and put the clipboard up in the hallway kind of thing, right?

Jordan: And it’s so crazy because in so many restaurants that I still go to, it’s still like that. But yes, it was absolutely key to have folks coming in scratching their names off certain days. Putting their names on other days is that’s how you treat. A shift in communication was just kind of challenging because it was there. There would be shift changes that would occur, but they wouldn’t be approved by, you know, the manager and or the manager didn’t know about it and certain people would show up and serve people within them. And it was just this very weird, disconnected kind of thing. And there was some method to the madness. You know, a lot of the time in terms of who you scheduled and why you schedule there, maybe you needed someone that was more senior on at certain times because you were had had a few new hires that needed to be trained up. But all the folks that showed up were new hires. It’d be kind of challenging.

James: And it sounded like from what I read, you kind of went with a bunch of different hospitality industries and really kind of honed in on the restaurant industry. What is it about restaurants that you enjoy being around and working with?

Jordan: So when 7 Shifts first started, although the idea was initially thought of from just working for my dad, who ran some quick service restaurants, it took on a life of its own in the sense that it started to. We kind of opened it up to the world, and tons of industries signed up for accounts and tons of industries were giving feedback. I’m talking like everything from retail to medical construction, you know, hair salons, and it became hard to kind of really hunker down on what it is we wanted to truly build because no matter what we did, it seemed like it was never appeasing that other industry. And while there’s a lot of common things involved in shift management and scheduling there, the really kind of key things that each industry needed that were very nice to that industry. And we thought, I think it was just a a feeling I personally had, which is I don’t like being the jack of all, master of none. I really wanted to be and be part of building something with a team where we all felt like, you know, the emotion that we could evoke from our customers was like, Oh my God, this is the best product in the market. If you’re not using this, you have to use this. And so we felt to evoke that emotion. We wanted to really hunker down and focus on restaurants. And the reason being was, I mean, there’s a few reasons. One was that nobody was building stuff for restaurants in 2014, and everyone just said, like, you’re crazy to like, try and sell something to an independent restaurant. Like they’ll never pay for it. And I just thought, like, man, like this is such a great opportunity to help people that have been without good technology for a long time. So that was the first reason is we thought there was a huge opportunity, despite everyone saying that they weren’t worth it. And the second reason was, I love restaurants and I think many of us do. And there’s just something so culturally intriguing about them in the sense that there’s not very many industries that can facilitate the amount of social bonding that takes place at restaurants, whether it be at the bar or over a dinner or with friends like you. Don’t finish your job at best buy and hang around. The iPhone stands because it’s cool. If you go to a restaurant and like restaurant people, when they get off work like they hang out at other restaurants and before going out somewhere else like, there’s this. Very there’s this very magical thing from like a social context that that takes place and that I really want it to be part of, you know, further uplifting and just I wanted to add tons of value to to make this even a better culture to further for not only people to work in, but for customers to experience.

James: So kind of springboarding off your love of restaurants. You know, the restaurant industry over the last two years, it’s been so challenging and hard. And then right now is is the labor issues, I guess, you know, you do scheduling software, but I’m sure you’re also working with restaurants kind of helping them attain and attract labor. Like, what are you talking to restaurants about how technology can be used to attain and and attract labor?

Jordan: Yeah. So like part of our product spans, we talk about the employee lifecycle. So everything from when the workers hired and onboarded, they’re trained, they’re scheduled, they’re paid and then they’re effectively retained. We’ve always had this lens of when someone’s in the door and they’re working for you, how do you keep them engaged? I almost want to back up to some of the issues just generally in the industry because I think there are some underlying and fundamental things that need to be addressed. I think even before technology can kind of further augment and make it a really great place to work. I think wages are a big issue, and I think that the pandemic shone light on that. And there’s a number of things that I think can be done on that front. But but the second thing is flexibility. So wages and flexibility are two top areas of why people left their jobs in the first place. And this was a survey that we had done that had about thirty seven hundred restaurant worker respondents in our own system. And so when we look at that, I think assuming you can address those, then I think that flexibility part is is obviously very key. But assuming the wages are there, the flexibility is there. How do you ensure that you are staying on top of your staff and ensuring that they’re happy at work and engaged? And so what are the things that we’ve been doing through the product is things like shift feedback. So at the end of your shift, we’ll send a notification to the mobile apps to the worker and just say, Hey, like, how is your shift? Like, give any feedback or happy face a sad face neutral. And this simple gesture is like such an easy thing to do, even in a non automated way. Like, you could do this from like a very manually with like a bunch of pieces of paper or like kind of cue cards and drop in a box. I know some restaurants actually do that, but what we found is that there’s such an important so there’s tons of value in having these managers that are often first time managers. Just stay on top of how people are doing. And, you know, maybe someone is a really high performer, but all of a sudden they’re saying their shifts are they’re not enjoying their shifts and being able to, like have the knowledge to kind of like just ask them and saying, like, how are things going? Is such a powerful, simple human thing to do? And we want to encourage more of that. You know, some of the things that we’ve also seen happen within our Engage product specifically was one of the multi-unit operators that we work with. They noticed all of these engaged scores dropped around the workers, meaning like people were ranking things low and maybe they weren’t showing up on time anymore. You know, our algorithms determine that there is a lack of engagement, and they found that it was a bad manager higher and that old saying, if you quit your manager, you don’t quit your job like that is so true in every industry. And so what happened was they got rid of that manager and all the scores went back up. So it’s such a valuable way and simple way to kind of understand the general sentiment of your team. But yeah, that’s just kind of like one of the things that we specifically do. But I think even outside of technology, there’s other things that folks can do to attract and retain talent. And one of our surveys showed that about thirty three percent of respondents said that they would like to see manager recognition more often than they are. And in the form of like promotions specifically. But if you think about that for a minute, like if folks are working hard and are they working towards those right things and it’s their clarity in their role. And if they’re and and are they being recognized then and a large portion of our folks that we surveyed said that they’re not. And so I think that there are simple things that we’ve seen being done around recognition, whether it’s if someone’s always showing up on time in there or some folks are always like giving props and helping others around them. And certain managers have like almost like different categories that they want to award people for for doing. And maybe they give them a gift card or it’s cash. I don’t know, like they can get creative and we’ve seen all sorts of things, but I think that incentivizing the behaviors that you want is really key. And also just asking your staff, like what are their long term goals to like? Yeah, some people might want to go back to school, and that’s fine. Like, that’s, you know, a lot of folks that are under 25. That’s the the third reason why they left industry was to go back to school. But anyone over twenty five, the third reason is manager recognition and promotion. So I think that understanding the growth trajectory of what those folks want is really important.

James: I noticed on your website a blog post. Swear, it was 17 awesome ways to motivate an employee. And it seems like a lot of what you’re talking about is just being a nice person and being empathetic being understanding right. I think that a lot of first time managers, they sometimes get so focused on the tasks that they don’t focus on just being a nice person and being empathetic to other people. 

Jordan: That’s 100 percent true. I think you’re just seeing like a power dynamic shift a little bit to within the industry where employees are kind of voting with their feet is a term, I heard. And I think that’s like such. It’s so accurate. And I think people don’t want to work for bad people. They want to work for good people. That’s generally a good thing to have, and they want to work with great teammates as well. And it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. If you don’t feel like you’re working with good people and you don’t share a set of common values, you’re probably not going to stay there very long.

James: I know every job I’ve ever had, 80 percent is who you work with, right? I mean, you can get through and do any job. But if you loathe the people, you work with them, why do you want to come to work? Exactly. You also know to over the last couple of years that overall makeup of restaurants have changed where off premise dining, online ordering delivery are all a huge part of the business now, is that changing the type of employees that restaurants are looking for? 

Jordan: I think it plays a little bit, but in the sense that there’s probably more folks that require different skills for some of the roles that they need to be doing more of. So maybe there, if you’re doing less and dine in and you’re doing more online ordering, you probably need more back of house staff. And I don’t know that this skills has drastically changed or the type of worker has drastically changed. But certainly how you staff those workers has changed and we’re definitely seeing that. And so when we’re seeing more technology coming out, that has a focus on like figuring out how to predict your labor volume and needs, which is something that we do. But getting an understanding of where is that revenue coming and and how do you need staff for that area based on the revenue channel is becoming more of a question mark as it relates to the introduction of so much online ordering.

James: I know a lot of restaurants these days can get overwhelmed, right? Like they have the in-person. And then all of a sudden, at 5:30, the online orders come flying in and they have a hard time or have to figure out a way to manage that workflow yet.

Jordan: That’s that’s 100 percent accurate. And what we’re seeing in most of these restaurants is that these operators, they’re getting flooded with stuff and they just turn off the tablets as a way to say, Hey, stop, stop the bleeding. Like, we don’t have enough people to do this. And you know, obviously, if you’re one of these third party delivery channels, you don’t like when operators turn off their tablets because they’re not making as much money in the restaurants, probably not capitalizing on the potential opportunity they may have had they been staffed appropriately.

James: Yeah, I mean, it’s got to be hard to manage that flow right where you go from nothing to then this 45 minute window where the huge number of order comes in and how do you staff up for that right? How do you plan for that?

Jordan: Yeah. For those outlier orders like, that’s hard, no doubt. I think the best, the best, the best operators can potentially do. And by the way, like nobody’s really doing really today, which is saying, like historically, here’s what you’ve done on these delivery channels and automatically building a forecast around that. I know, like more sophisticated operators and larger chains are kind of doing some of that thinking, but it should be automated and it’s just not yet. And I think that, you know, there’s so much catchup that’s happening from the introduction of online ordering, but I think we’ll get there.

James: So are you saying like, you know, over the last six months, they’ve averaged this many online orders and you can then build out some projections kind of based on that. Is that what you’re saying?

Jordan: Yeah, it’s it’s kind of twofold, right? I think our product already does. A lot of we have so much historical data we integrate with the point of sale. So we understand what sales numbers you’re likely going to have in future days because we have those historical numbers and we see trends and we we factor in weather and all the stuff. And so that should be applied to some of these third party delivery and or just online ordering in general and also factoring in like when some of the third party delivery folks like say, Hey, we’re going to run a promo and they tell the VP of Ops, say, look and have you know, medium sized chain. And we’re running this promo of like buy one, get one free poutine or french fries or whatever it is that often doesn’t get communicated down to the managers. So the managers that are building the schedules and staffing up actually have no idea how to staff for the rush they’re about to have through their their front door. So if there are opportunities in this realm around how we forecast staff for the restaurant, that is just not anywhere close to where it needs to be

James: Yeah, I have heard that about promotions being done either by the business themselves or, yeah, like you said, like. DoorDash in that they get this huge rush because of the promo, and they can’t keep up with it because they were either understaffed or weren’t prepared or whatever. So a lot of restaurants kind of have transitioned to where they’re very much more technology focused and technology is such a huge part of the restaurant business. When you talk to operators, I assume a lot of them are overwhelmed by the number of technology choices that they have these days. What kind of conversations do you have with them about how to make good decisions around technology?

Jordan: My thinking around this is, I think it’s becoming more common, which is that there’s so much technology out there. I think finding really good best of breed technology is important. I think that generally everyone wants everything in one system like, look, I also want everything in one system. But the reality is it’s like getting there is such an uphill battle and a lift that most companies aren’t quite there yet. Ours included, but we’re trying to kind of build on that team management lifecycle. And I think advocating for the best of breed in finding those really core needs that you need to address is important, but also when you find that best of breed product that is going to solve your pain point. The follow up question that I would have is what does it integrate with and what are the capabilities for the APIs? And are they open? And because so many companies still say we have APIs and but they’re a closed off ecosystem. And what I mean by that is unless the documentation is publicly available on their website, they’re not open. It’s like my general feeling around this, and I think looking for a partner and a vendor that has a truly open ecosystem is going to yield a ton of benefits because it’s going to allow you the flexibility, potentially either in-house or through this partner to kind of have that integration to integrate more pieces of your stack. So. And then my next kind of layer within this whole decision tree is how deep does that integration go? And what we find is a lot of folks kind of go wide and shallow and understanding by you saying, Hey, this integrates with why you should buy our product. Like, what does that mean? What integrates? What things do role see through employee sync? Do location sync? If I delete an employee in this system, has it delete it across these systems? Those are the types of questions I think operators need to be asking when they end up going with a software vendor

James: Yeah, I would imagine a lot of operators, they don’t understand necessarily the questions that need to ask to get to the answers that they need, right?

Jordan: Yeah, absolutely. And they only realize the shortfalls once they’re in it, right? They’ve bought in like three of the five pieces of software that also they talk to each other, but they’re like, Oh my God, they do the most basic of talking to each other. And it’s not actually giving me all those benefits that I was hoping for. I’ve seen this happen a lot, and I think that it’s unfortunate, but I think those are the best thing that that operators can do is really try and understand it and ask those questions.

James: Yeah, I mean, trying to go from your online ordering through POS through Backhouse House, I mean, to try and integrate all that for an individual operator or a small franchise operator. I mean, that’s got to be a huge challenge.

Jordan: Yes, 100 percent it is.

James: I guess, where do you think 7 Shifts is going and the industry in general over the next few years? 

Jordan:  I think the industry is going through a very big evolution within staffing and labor. And I think that going forward, there’s going to be a really big focus on retention and engagement in the workforce. And prior to this thinking, I would say that only a handful of operators really put this at the forefront. But I think we’re seeing what the labor crunch that people are trying to get creative and find new ways to attract talent. And I do believe you’re going to have to have the flexibility that the workers want and also the pay that they need to do what they need to do to fill their own personal goals. But really thinking through almost like back to basics like core values, behaviors and what does this company stand for? And I think that we’re starting to see some of these companies really stand out and it’s it’s it’s competitive and it’s kind of like, Oh, this company’s got very well. I think of the Union Square hospitality folks, Danny Meyer in that team, right? Like they’ve got core values and behaviors they celebrate. I love his quote of culture is the some of the behaviors you champion, minus the ones you put up with. And I think that that is so true in so many areas, and I think restaurants are no different than any other business in the sense that you’re hiring people and you want them to have certain behaviors. So what are those behaviors? And you will attract the right people and repel the wrong ones if you have a strong set of behaviors that are adhered to. And I think that that’s going to be important. But I also think people are going to be picking on where they work. They want to know who the manager is. They’re going to want to know who they’re working with, what is the culture like, what? What is this restaurant stand for, like what are what are my opportunities here? They’re going to have higher expectations on the employer, but that just means that this is an opportunity for employers to really stand out, though. And I think it’s a it’s a really interesting time. So I think those are going to be some of the big things that are going to happen in terms of 7 Shifts. Like we’ve always been an engagement and retention first kind of team management platform. And we’ve seen the outcomes in the benefits of kind of having this focus. And I think that we’re excited to just be a part of that transformation.

James: Yeah, I would imagine employees, you know, especially at the service level, you know, QSR fast food, I mean, they’re kind of in the driver’s seat right now, like they can pick and choose what they want to do. It’s not like they’re begging for a job these days. Exactly. All right. Well, thank you so much for your time. I hope you have a good day today. Awesome.

Jordan: Thanks for having me. James.