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Forget the 4-day workweek — one restaurant owner cut it down to 3 days

As more businesses across America experiment with a four-day workweek, one Miami-area restaurant owner is taking the concept even further.

Justin Lindsey, who owns a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Kendall, Florida, is allowing employees to work the equivalent of a full 40-hour week in just three days, with four days off. He hit upon the idea of an ultra-condensed and unchanging schedule this winter, when the restaurant had been open for about half a year.

"They could plan their life around it — they could plan vacation, child care, school," said Lindsey, 42, of employees who opted for a three-day week. "I wanted them to be able to look out six months from now and know what days they were going to work."

It took several weeks to bring his staff around to the idea, said Lindsey. In particular, he said workers were incredulous that they wouldn't be "on call" on their days off and required to come in on short notice if the restaurant was shorthanded — a common practice at fast-food restaurants as well as among large retailers. 

But months into the experiment, Lindsey said it's working better than he could have imagined.

"We  have a manager who's from Scotland — he's taken two trips back to Scotland this year and he still has PTO available," he said, noting that another manager was able to graduate from the University of Central Florida thanks to her three-day schedule and intends to keep it while she pursues a master's degree.

A view of the Chick-fil-A restaurant in Kendall, Florida. Facebook

To accommodate the shorter week, Lindsey created several "pods" of employees who would each work three extra-long shifts a week, rotating to spread out weekend shifts equally. So far, about a quarter of the restaurant's roughly 160 employees have shifted to the three-day schedule, according to Lindsey. 

The three-day schedule is made easier because his restaurant, like all Chick-fil-As, is closed on Sundays. That means six work days can be evenly split among two working pods. One set of employees works Monday through Wednesday, while the other works Thursday through Saturday the groups switch periodically so the burden of working Saturdays, the busiest day, is spread evenly.

Longer days

The tradeoff of fewer shifts, of course, is longer hours. Each shift of a three-day schedule can be a potentially grueling 13 to 14 hours. 

"It does take a little bit of an adjustment," Lindsey said, but added that most of the staffers working a three-day week were already working long days, so the additional stretch was manageable.  

For his restaurant, the chief benefit is consistency, said Lindsey. Previously, there would be kinks in service because staff would be working different, overlapping shifts. 

"For [workers] it's great because they know what the schedule is, and for us it's great because we can stretch the shift to cover all our peaks during the day," he said. "In the traditional schedule, managers would come and go throughout the day. Someone would come in to open and leave at 1 p.m., someone else would come in at noon and leave at 10."

A Chick-fil-A corporate spokesperson said no other restaurant in the franchise has tried to implement a three-day week. But Lindsey said many other Chick-fil-A owners have expressed interest and contacted him for help implementing the scheduling policy.

Lindsey's novel approach could also prove useful in attracting workers. He told CBS MoneyWatch that he's been flooded with applications since posting some open jobs. In one week, the restaurant got nearly 430 applications for the positions, which pay $15 to $17 an hour and include health benefits.

Job posting advertising $12 to $17 an hour and a full-day work week in 3 days at a Chick-fil-A in Kendall, Florida

Restaurant trade publication QSR reported that Lindsey's location is on track to pull in $17 million in sales this year — more than double the $8 million a year average for a single location. 

Lindsey has 12 years of restaurant experience, all of them with Chick-fil-A. (He owned a mall restaurant for 11 years before switching to the Kendall location in 2021.)  His unusual schedule is in sharp contrast with the trend in the food service world toward just-in-time scheduling, in which staff work unpredictable and irregular schedules, supposedly as a way to better accommodate the ebb and flow of business.

"Your time doesn't belong to me because you work for me — it's your time," Lindsey said. "I"ve made that mistake before. I've sacrificed time with my family for the business. And that's time that is precious, that you can't get back."

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