Shake Shack is trying a four-day workweek

Even Shake Shack is trying a four-day workweek

The burger chain joins restaurants like Maaemo and Aloha Hospitality trying shorter workweeks to attract and retain employees

Shake Shack is trying a four-day workweek in some of its Vegas restaurants.

By NICOLE LYN PESCE Mar 15, 2019 1:34 p.m. ET

Shake Shack SHAK workers are getting a taste of the four-day workweek.

Danny Meyer’s gourmet burger and milkshake chain is the latest company experimenting with a shortened schedule, its CEO Randy Garutti revealed at an investor conference in Las Vegas on Thursday, hoping that the new perk helps attract employees during this tight labor market. The turnover rate in the hospitality sector was more than 70% for the second year straight, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and three in 10 restaurateurs say staffing is a challenge.

“Here in Las Vegas, in some of our Shacks, we’re testing a four-day workweek. That’s a big thing. Nobody’s really been able to figure that out in the restaurant business,” said Garutti, as reported by Bloomberg. “If we can figure that out on scale, it could be a big opportunity.”

“We’re not promising it yet,” he added, “but it’s something we’re having fun trying, and seeing how our leaders like it on a recruiting basis and ongoing retention basis.”

There’s been a growing consensus that switching from the traditional five-day, 40-hour workweek to just four days a week could be a recipe for success. It’s become especially buzzworthy after a six-week trial involving almost 250 employees at a New Zealand financial services firm was so successful (workers were 20% more productive and showed a 24% improvement in work-life balance after downshifting to a 32-hour week while still being paid for 40 hours) that the company has made the four-day option permanent.

Some places like Deloitte and KPMG have also implemented this by offering four-day workweeks with flexible hours, where workers are still responsible for putting in their full 40 hours over those few days. Others reduce the hours worked per week by about 20% in freeing employees up for an extra day.

It’s still the exception to the rule, however. A recent survey of 1,500 workers and 600 human resources found that about two in three workers (66%) said they wanted to work less than five days a week, but just 17% of their workplaces offer that option. Still, an separate Society for Human Resource Management survey found that 43% of companies offer four-day workweeks to “some” employees, and 10% offer the perk to all or most of their teams.

And it’s a major change of pace for American’s 15.1 million restaurant industry employees, which make up 10% of the overall U.S. workforce, and who sometimes clock in 15-hour days and 85-hour weeks.

So Michelin-star restaurants such as Maaemo in Norway and 21212 in Edinburgh are now offering three- and four-day workweeks. Maaemo maitre d’ Benjamin Ausland told Munchies that he switched to a three-day week once they eliminated Tuesday dinner service, “It was always tense before. People got tired of each other; they’d snap at each other. I’d be pissed off at the waiters because they weren’t smiling enough. But now we’ve turned into normal people. It gives you that boost.”

And Aloha Hospitality recently announced a four-day week for store-level managers at its Alabama restaurants as a response to the fatigue many restaurant industry workers experience from long workdays on their feet. “It’s a win-win for not just our team, but our guests,” said CEO Bob Baumhower in a press release. “We want our team to be fresh, energized and focused on a legendary guest experience.”


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