How P.F. Chang’s Keeps Its Talent and Technology Fresh

The hospitality industry has faced wave after wave of difficulties in the past few years. Learn how restaurant chain P.F. Chang’s has risen above those challenges thanks to its innovative approach to talent and technology.

group of 3 pf changs employees

When Philip Chiang and Paul Fleming opened the first P.F. Chang’s in Scottsdale, Arizona, the excitement was palpable. Lines snaked down the street, news outlets clamored for access, and there were even a handful of celebrities spotted inside. Thirty years on, the challenge P.F. Chang’s faces is how to keep that fanfare alive. How, exactly, does a restaurant chain stay fresh in such a competitive market? 

For P.F. Chang’s, the answer is twofold: investing in its people, and investing in its technology. 

Today, P.F. Chang’s operates 300 locations in 22 countries. With such a global presence, it’s critical that their operational processes are easy to adopt and understand—both for customers and employees. By adopting Workday as an enterprise-wide cloud solution, P.F. Chang’s has been able to: 

  • Gain a real-time single view of organizational data across HR, operations, finance, and IT
  • Empower restaurant managers and employees with mobile self-service options
  • Enable more efficient recruiting, onboarding, scheduling, and talent management

We recently spoke to several key figures across the P.F. Chang’s organization, from the CIO to the restaurant managers and servers. Read on for the main takeaways, or view the full video here

Adapting to Customer and Employee Needs

One of the major frustrations P.F. Chang’s has struggled with historically is siloed data, as is often the case at global companies. Having a unified system for operations and finance data has led to some seismic changes in daily operations. “[Workday] truly became a one-stop shop for all of our employees within the company,” explains Lisa Gressel, general counsel and chief human resources officer, “which made for ease of operations within our corporate headquarters, and also facilitated the growth within our restaurants.”

For frontline employees, having access to data on the go has opened up a whole new set of opportunities. The Workday mobile app brings everything under one roof, enabling servers to manage their payslips, set schedule preferences and availability, and even take part in ongoing training and growth initiatives. By readily addressing employee needs, P.F. Chang’s has ensured that its employees are as consistently satisfied as its customers.

It’s the strength of those employee and customer experiences that makes P.F. Chang’s so successful.  As Carlos Flores, senior executive chef, puts it, “Our restaurants are unique, especially when you walk in that door. The ambience is different—it makes you feel welcome, like family.” Fortunately for restaurant managers, handling employee requests is just as simple, whether they’re overseeing employee onboarding, team scheduling, or performance reviews. That access to real-time data has not only reduced the need for convoluted requests, but it’s also increased accountability and engagement, and created stronger employee and customer experiences.

“Our goal is to make the life of the restaurant managers more simple so they can make sure guests have the greatest experience possible.”

headshot of Lisa Gressel Lisa Gressel General Counsel and Chief Human Resources Officer P.F. Chang’s

The Future of Forecasting with Workday Scheduling

The restaurant industry has always been unpredictable, and the past few years even more so. As Art Kilmer, chief operating officer, explains, “One of the biggest challenges for restaurant operators is, ‘How do I know exactly what’s going to happen each day within my businesses?’” With more change always on the horizon, P.F. Chang’s has been utilizing Workday Scheduling to provide reliable demand forecasting and employee schedules.

Historically, team leaders with limited access to information and who have personal biases are responsible for scheduling. Without trusted data to inform schedules—such as skills coverage, employee responsibilities, and personal preferences—companies aren’t only risking being over- or understaffed, they’re risking decreased retention rates. Thanks to the automated scheduling suggestions provided by Workday AI, P.F. Chang’s has made its restaurant workers a visible priority across the company. 

A majority of that positive change has come from machine-learning-based demand forecasting. Not only does the data surfaced have a granular level of detail, but each new forecast builds upon the lessons learned from the previous iteration. “It’s learning while we’re learning,” explains Kilmer, visibly animated as he discusses the potential applications for continuous learning—and it’s easy to see why. Whether reacting quickly to specific requirements caused by new events, or freeing up managers to speak to customers on the restaurant floor, AI is behind every major innovation for forecasting.

“Our restaurants are unique, especially when you walk in that door. The ambience is different—it makes you feel welcome, like family.”

headshot of Carlos Flores Carlos Flores Senior Executive Chef P.F. Chang’s

A Deeper Dive into Talent Management

Every decision at P.F. Chang’s is made with one factor in mind: how will it impact talent? That means that when people speak up, senior management listens. “When I first went out to the field and started talking to our restaurant managers, the very first complaint that I heard at every restaurant was ‘The recruiting is horrible,’” says Gressel. The issue holding recruiting back? Disparate systems.

Previously, prospective employees would be left waiting hours as their information was transferred from one system to another. Now with Workday Talent Management, the process takes seconds. Whether an employee is going through onboarding or looking for development opportunities, their data is available at the tap of a finger. As Gressel explains with a laugh, “If you want development and you’re not getting it at P.F. Chang’s, it’s not because we’re not providing it.”

Discussing the overarching approach to talent, Gressel explains the company’s mission statement: “Our goal is to make the life of the restaurant managers more simple so they can make sure guests have the greatest experience possible.”

It’s that attitude that has made Workday such a strong fit for P.F. Chang’s. Whether it’s providing employees with greater transparency on the data that is driving the senior staff’s decision-making or restaurant managers with the tools they need to work efficiently and stress-free, Workday is the key. For more on how Workday can help your organization, learn more about P.F. Chang’s experience.

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