According to the Bureau of Labor, food service employees are in the largest category of workers saying “no, thanks” to their pre-pandemic jobs. M’tucci’s is trying to stem the tide of servers, chefs and other restaurant staff who want out.

“It’s uncharted territory,” said John Haas, president and co-founder. “You don’t see a lot of companies our size trying to do it.”

By “it” he means redesign the individual shift hours at M’tucci’s so that hourly employees can choose when they work and have more days off in a row. M’Tucci’s currently employs about 300 people at all locations including the newest one opening soon in Nob Hill at the former Kelly’s gas-station diner, Bar Roma, at 3222 Central Ave. SE.

He said it took about six to eight months to prep for the changeover. M’tucci’s is still converting employees to the new system and expects to be 100 percent by midsummer. Where workers used to take on five to six days of shifts (and eight to 10 around holidays), they’re now signing up for four 11-hour shifts.

“We have people who don’t have schedules that allow them to work 11-hour shifts,” Haas said. “We work with them to rearrange their hours. Hourly employees can pick their schedules. It’s meant to be a perk.”

According to Black Box Intelligence data, the prevalence of flexible scheduling in the hospitality industry was up 54 percent in 2021. About 77 percent of food-service workers surveyed who had left said they would come back to the profession if conditions improved.

“This work and the (former) long hours grinds you down,” said Haas. “An extra day off can lighten the workload. The pandemic gave us all more time to reflect on what’s important. You’d much rather have that extra day off.”

Salaried employees, however, are still pretty much tied to their schedules. “You can’t have general managers and chefs out three days a week,” he said. “Also marketing and catering have to be at their positions on a regular basis. Maybe later we’ll be able to work out a hybrid schedule for management with four or five alternating days, for example.”

At press time, M’tucci’s planned to open the Nob Hill location in the first week of May and are ratcheting up preparations for Mother’s Day weekend.