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An Operational “Shift”

Alum’s Company Lowers Employee Turnover in Restaurants

By Sala Levin ’10

Office Space screengrab with Jennifer Aniston, manager

AF archive/Alamy Stock Photo

In a scene from the cult classic film "Office Space," disaffected waitress Jennifer Aniston endures a scolding for her lack of "flair" right before she quits. A new app developed by a Terp aims to raise restaurant staff morale and reduce turnover.

Demanding diners, physical exertion, late hours—all contribute to the astronomical employee turnover rate in restaurants. Ashish Gambhir ’03 wants to change that by gamifying the worker experience through his tech company, ShiftOne.

The app, used in restaurant chains including Five Guys, Applebee’s and Burger King, works “almost the way a FitBit helps you keep track of your steps,” says Gambhir. ShiftOne connects to a business’s central data system and tracks how each employee is performing—who sells the most margaritas, responds to customers’ requests quickest and more. Employees using the app can see how they’re performing relative to co-workers and earn recognition from their managers for a job well done.

Keeping workers engaged and happy, Gambhir says, is key to slowing the turnover rate, estimated at 73 percent annually by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

If ShiftOne sounds a bit like Big Brother is watching, Gambhir says employees who use the app actually have higher workplace morale. “It creates a greater sense of fulfillment and pride in what I’m doing if I’m being recognized on an ongoing basis,” he says. “A disengaged team member is four times more likely to quit, so that’s where we fit in.”

With more than 15,000 users across the country, ShiftOne keeps employees in their jobs twice as long as regular restaurant workers, according to an internal analysis performed by the company in 2018.

“They’re all enjoying the benefit: We’re extending tenure and results are improving—team members are selling more of the right product and earning better feedback,” says Gambhir, who studied information systems at Maryland.

ShiftOne got started three years ago, after Gambhir and his partner sold their prior venture, a software company that monitored online restaurant reviews. When the pair would present to restaurants, they noticed how unhappy servers often were and how frequently managers “didn’t know how to use data in a way that was going to engage the crew,” Gambhir says. A manager might print out data showing who’d sold the most drinks or appetizers and post it in the back, hoping to inspire some friendly competition, “but that was more often the exception, not the norm.”

Gambhir and his partner have secured $2.6 million in their most recent round of funding from investors including NRD Capital, which owns Ruby Tuesday. With 16 employees, they’re hoping to revolutionize employee-restaurant relations nationally.

“ShiftOne has given our local operators and multi-unit managers a completely new and meaningful avenue of connection with team members,” Dan Krebsbach, president of operations at Apple American Group, Applebee’s largest franchisee, told Food News Media. “It’s great for companies that care about recognition.”





Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications for the University of Maryland community on weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.