Chick-fil-A’s three-day workweek gives ‘the gift of time’ to associates

Discussion
Photo: Chick-fil-A
Nov 08, 2022

Justin Lindsey, a Chick-fil-A operator, has been getting a lot of press attention for designing a full-time three-day-a-week work schedule that has eliminated turnover at the restaurant and made it a magnet for job seekers.

That level of employee satisfaction wasn’t always the case. Mr. Lindsey’s Chick-fil-A locations consistently posted high sales and profits, but he understood that there was a cost being borne by employees that needed to be repaid.

“I realized, I’m asking a ton of these folks,” he told QSR. “They’re literally working 70 hours a week, week in and week out.”

Staff members, he said, were giving up vacations and going home exhausted after shifts all in the name of making the business a success. “Honestly, I can do better,” Mr. Lindsey thought.

Doing better, by Mr. Lindsey’s definition, meant “leading with generosity” as he told Business Insider.

Traditionally, we had used the term ‘the gift of time’ to refer to serving our guests in a quick and timely fashion. But we had always left employees out of that equation,” he said. “My idea was to provide staff with this gift of time by creating a scheduling system where they would know exactly what days they worked for as long as they work here.”

Mr. Lindsey has split his 25 team members and 18 team leaders into two pods who work regular shifts every week. Most of those working the 13- to 14-hour shifts are full-timers. Pod members only have to work two Saturdays a month and workers are not on-call on days off. All Chick-fil-A restaurants are closed on Sunday.

Proof of Mr. Lindsey’s approach is clear in the restaurant’s staffing numbers, which show zero manager turnover and an influx of new job seekers. It’s also supported by new research from UKG’s third annual “Retail’s 2022 Holiday Season Outlook.”

Results of the survey, which was discussed last week on a RetailWire Live webcast, found that increased flexibility is key to job satisfaction for both associates and managers on the frontline. That includes a better work/life balance but also, particularly in the case of managers, in how they go about doing their jobs.

Forty-one percent of managers feel disconnected from their jobs as they too often feel chained to their offices instead of leading their teams and interacting with customers.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think are the biggest challenges for retailers looking to recruit and retain frontline associates and managers? Do you expect restaurants and retailers to test work schedules similar to that being used by Justin Lindsey at Chick-fil-A?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"It’s a more reliable way to enhance the bottom line, and develop devoted staff and loyal customers."
"A living wage and a flexible schedule are the keys to hiring the best associates, and Justin Lindsey seems to have captured the formula for success."
"I would love to see a larger retailer test this option. It is a win for work/life balance if it can be executed and maintained."

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16 Comments on "Chick-fil-A’s three-day workweek gives ‘the gift of time’ to associates"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

This is a great approach and the results make that clear. Retailers face myriad challenges with recruiting and retaining frontline staff, and schedule flexibility is a key issue. I think other restaurants and retailers should get very creative about how they support their workers, and the lessons learned from Justin Lindsey are worth exploring.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

This is a great approach, especially in the retail business. If you have full-time people putting in three long shifts a week instead of five (or even six) shorter/normal shifts, this could be a big benefit. The key to make this work for managers, is to ensure there are good assistant managers (who become the manager on duty) to fill the role of the managers who may be on their day off. This also gets assistant managers to be “manager ready” when a new store opens or if there is turnover at the top management positions. It is working for Chick-fil-A. Can it work for other retailers? Try it and find out!

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Yes, it presents an entirely new opportunity for workers to consider growth an opportunity in quick-serve restaurants. I see this as a game-changer.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Politics aside, Chick-fil-A does a magnificent job with its employees. I wonder how effective anyone is on a 14- or 17-hour shift compared to fully rested, but the numbers speak for themselves. The days of scheduling employees by algorithm and laziness must go — they are humans and have lives to live.

Kevin Graff
BrainTrust

Perfect example of how a retailer/QSR needs to reinvent their approach to employees. It’s a “dog-fight” for talent these days. As I often say, if a competitor opened a shop across the street from you, and was “stealing” your customers by running a better operation, you would quickly pivot your operation to compete and survive. The same approach is needed with how retailers think/act with their employees. While a three-day work week may not fit every operation, it shows that pretty much every retailer needs to significantly up their game to find and keep staff these days.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

From a frontline perspective, it is still incredibly difficult to get quality applicants and even more difficult to keep them. This is a great idea for a restaurant and I am glad it is working for them. I would love to see a larger retailer test this option. It is a win for work/life balance if it can be executed and maintained.

Joan Treistman
BrainTrust

I suspect it’s hard to near-impossible to change the attitude of certain restaurant and retail executives, i.e. get the most out of employees and see it in your bottom line. I’ve got to hand it to Justin Lindsey for recognizing that employees will be motivated by actions that attend to their needs. It’s a more reliable way to enhance the bottom line, develop devoted staff and loyal customers.

David Spear
BrainTrust

This is a wonderful example of a leader working very hard to figure out what’s best for his associates. In return, associates will reward this owner/operator with hard work and loyalty, as is already evidenced by the lower turnover numbers. Other restaurants and retailers ought to follow suit and test/trial similar types of schedules.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

The biggest hurdle to following Mr. Lindsey’s innovative approach is the mindset of management. He sees employees as assets to his business, not expenses. That is a rarity from the store manager level to the CEO’s office.

Al McClain
Staff

It’s a noble effort and the thing I like the most about it is it is optional for employees. Some will opt for it, but some will be exhausted by three 14 hour days in a row, once a week. There is also the nagging question of 3 x 14 not equaling 70 hours that the operator mentioned, but hopefully he has figured that out.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Do you mean those 3 required 14 hour days are followed by a couple “you don’t have to, but…” 14 hour “optional” days? Al, I think you and I are sharing the same cynical — or it it just questioning? — viewpoint.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
BrainTrust

A win-win-win for employees, management and customers. Truly embodies the mantra to treat your employees the way you want them to treat your customers. This is neither rocket science nor technology-dependent. Chick-fil-A has developed a template that should be adaptable to most retail businesses.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

14 hours shifts … really? Normally, with a few rare exceptions, I accept the information given in articles here; so am I saying this is one of the exceptions?

I’ll say that I think there’s a detail or two being left out: while it’s not uncommon to hear these “work ’til you drop” stories for investment banks or promising startups — i.e. situations with significant upside potential for the employee (or at least that’s what they think) — I’m having difficulty picturing it for a QSR.

Regardless, and in answer to the question: yes, I think we’ll see testing of various ideas, but I have to think his will remain an outlier.

Brian Numainville
BrainTrust

It’s a different world today that requires testing some different approaches. This is an idea that seems to work and others may test it, as well as other variations, to find what best works for their business. Will be interesting to monitor!

Ken Morris
BrainTrust

A living wage and a flexible schedule are the keys to hiring the best associates, and Justin Lindsey seems to have captured the formula for success. The gift of time is a simple yet rarely used tool that is incredibly powerful. Once you make your employees feel seen and give them respect for their hard work, they will want to work harder and show more motivation and loyalty to their company. It’s not just about wages anymore. I think this idea will spread wherever it’s legal to do it.

Brad Halverson
Guest

A brilliant move by Chick-fil-A. Front line retail team members work fluctuating schedules, often when other fellow family members are doing things together, like weekends or evenings. This allows team members to have some predicability in life.

Regardless of debates about shift hours and the math involved, this move helps Chick-fil-A to continue to attract high quality people who buy into company culture and succeed at what they do.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"It’s a more reliable way to enhance the bottom line, and develop devoted staff and loyal customers."
"A living wage and a flexible schedule are the keys to hiring the best associates, and Justin Lindsey seems to have captured the formula for success."
"I would love to see a larger retailer test this option. It is a win for work/life balance if it can be executed and maintained."

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