How Nowsta Helps Footers Catering Schedule Staff 66% Faster
with Director of Hospitality Megan Stewart
and Head of Operations Sam Totten
on time & attendance
A distinct catering culture
Footers Catering & Events has been one of Denver’s premier caterers since opening in 1981, known for its excellent work on weddings, corporate service, and charity events. Footers is an Achievement in Catering and Events award winner, and founder Anthony Lambatos is a well-known thought leader on company culture and employee engagement within the catering industry.
But despite Footers’ expertise on employee relationships, the company was losing valuable time to ineffective staff management processes — particularly around shift scheduling and time tracking. Those inefficiencies add up for a caterer deploying over 150 staff to dozens of events every week. Footers Director of Hospitality Megan Stewart knew she could save tons of time with better tools, which prompted her to try Nowsta.
She wasn’t disappointed. Read on to learn how Nowsta helps Footers schedule events faster and spend less time on time and attendance.
Before Nowsta, Footers used StaffMate to schedule shifts for its part-time events staff. “It had a very basic, archaic design. I didn’t think it was a good compliment to the Footers brand and culture.” Beyond its outdated interface, Megan was frustrated by glitches in StaffMate, such as one that enabled staff to remove themselves from event shifts without her knowing.
But even when StaffMate worked correctly, Megan found that it took too long to fill event shifts. When she scheduled someone to work, StaffMate would send the person an email asking them to accept the shift. But it was easy for staff to miss the email, so Megan often had to follow up herself for a response. “Let me put it this way,” she says. “If I asked ten people to work an event on StaffMate, I’d probably hear back from three within the first two hours, the next three or four in the next day or two, and then I’d have to track down the last three or four myself.” All in all, it took about three days to schedule staff for an upcoming event using StaffMate, with some manual intervention from Megan.
Come event time, Footers staff clocked in and out of shifts from their phones, using a time clock web app built by Footers’ payroll provider, Mosaic. You’d think that a time clock feeding tracked hours directly into the payroll system would minimize work on Megan’s end. But while the time clock-payroll connection is undeniably helpful, time and attendance still took up hours of Megan’s time each week.
The biggest issue was that Mosaic’s time clock wasn’t designed with events-based businesses in mind. For one thing, Mosaic required staff to reset their passwords if too much time had passed since their previous login. The extra security makes sense given the sensitive payroll information Mosaic housed for each employee, and of course, people working a set schedule for the same employer every day were unlikely to trigger a password reset. But like most caterers, Footers’ event staff is made up of part-time workers, some of whom only work a few times a month. So on event days, staff would routinely get locked out of Mosaic and either ask Megan to help them, or simply not clock in and ask Megan to manually add their hours later. “Most of Mosaic’s users are probably traditional, 9 to 5 businesses who don’t have these issues. But we did, and it cost us a lot of time.” Megan estimates she spent 1-4 hours a week helping staff log into Mosaic and updating missed time punches as a result of the password issue.
Even when staff were able to clock in smoothly, Megan had to do a lot of work to correct and verify their tracked hours. For instance, Mosaic only allowed staff to clock in under the default position they chose when they first set up the app. But as any caterer will tell you, staff typically work different jobs at different events — today’s waiter can easily be tomorrow’s bartender. Many positions have different pay rates, so each payroll period, Megan would have to look back at the StaffMate schedule and make sure everyone’s time and attendance reflected the right positions. Similarly, Mosaic could display the hours a staff member worked on a given date, but had no way of showing what specific event they worked. Again, this meant Megan had compare Mosaic’s tracked hours to the StaffMate schedule each payroll period. Overall, Megan had to spend 4-6 hours each two-week pay period verifying her staff’s hours before she could run payroll.
Megan knew she needed a better, faster way to manage the Footers workforce.
Luckily, her colleague Sam Totten found the perfect solution at the Catersource conference in February 2018. As Footers’ Head of Operations, Sam is always on the lookout for new ways to run the business more efficiently, which is exactly what he saw when he walked by the Nowsta booth. “The team was demonstrating how you can drag and drop staff into open event shifts,” Sam remembers. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is lightyears ahead of what we’re doing now.’” Sam arranged a Nowsta demo for the team, and Footers was up and running on the platform by April.
“The process of transitioning from one software to another is scary. We were nervous. But everything went really, really smoothly,” he remembers. The Nowsta customer support team made onboarding fast and easy for Footers.
Right away, Megan noticed that Nowsta’s scheduling interface was a lot more user friendly. Whereas the StaffMate calendar only displayed each event’s name, the Nowsta calendar shows each event’s time frame, venue location, and an indication of how many shifts are filled and unfilled. Instead of scheduling staff for each event one at a time, she can now pull up multiple events at once, see all the open shifts, and filter her staff list by position to find the right person for each job. “It fits the way I think about my staff.”
More importantly, Megan can schedule staff faster thanks to Nowsta’s mobile-first communication system. Whenever she chooses someone for a shift, they immediately get a notification from the Nowsta app asking them to accept or decline. Whether they’re at home or out and about, they can respond to Megan with one tap of the screen, rather than having to dig through their inbox looking for an email from StaffMate. “I’ll use the same example of scheduling ten staff for an event. On Nowsta, I’ll hear back from nine of them within an hour or two, and maybe have to track one person down myself. I’m able to fill shifts for most of our events in under a day.”
Time and attendance is much easier now as well. Event staff clock in on the Nowsta app, and Megan reports that she no longer has to deal with any login issues. Plus, since Nowsta pulls each shift directly from the calendar she builds, staff are always clocking in under the correct position. When it’s time to approve everyone’s hours, Megan can pull up the rosters for all her recent events and see exactly when each staff member clocked in and out. Nowsta compares those tracked hours to the original schedule, and automatically flags discrepancies for her.
“I especially like the GPS verification,” she says. Whenever staff clock in from their phones, the Nowsta app records their location to confirm they’re actually at the venue. If they’re too far away, Nowsta flags it for Megan and shows her where they clocked in from. “We found that some of our staff were checking in from their cars, and we’ve now been able to take action against it.”
Verifying staff hours on Nowsta is so easy that Megan now has each of Footers’ three other department heads approve their teams’ hours themselves, while she focuses on event staff. The process now takes about 15 minutes per week for each department. Once Megan knows that everyone’s tracked hours are correct, she can export them as a CSV file tailored to Mosaic, upload them, and run payroll in just a few clicks.
Nowsta has drastically reduced the amount of busy work Megan has to do in order for Footers events to run smoothly. While it used to take her three days to schedule staff for a typical event, she can now do it in less than one — more than a 66% reduction. She no longer spends 1-4 hours a week troubleshooting the Mosaic time clock app, and the company’s time spent verifying staff hours has gone from 4-6 hours a week to just one, spread out across four managers. Taken together, she’s saving anywhere from 200-400 hours a year.
But Megan isn’t the only one who’s benefitted from Nowsta — she says it’s made things easier for the staff as well. For instance, Megan can now attach banquet event orders and other key pieces of information for each scheduled event, which staff can then access on the Nowsta app. “I can’t tell you how often before Nowsta staff would call me and ask how to get to the venue. Now, they can just look up the address on Nowsta, see where they’re supposed to park, and even set up carpools with the other staff working that event.”
Even the less tech-savvy Footers staff love Nowsta. “We’ve got people who barely use smart phones and they get it. That’s been refreshing.”