How to Make A Restaurant Employee Schedule

Crafting the perfect restaurant employee schedule is a dance between precision and flexibility that affects every plate served and every customer’s experience. In an industry where timing is everything, errors in scheduling can lead to a domino effect of service delays, overworked staff, and unhappy diners. This article peels back the layers of restaurant scheduling, highlighting both challenges and solutions.

Whether you’re a first-time manager or a seasoned restaurateur, the insights we share may revolutionize your approach to staff planning. This post puts the spotlight on best practices that promote both operational excellence and employee well-being, ensuring your establishment’s smooth operation and your team’s satisfaction.

Understanding the Importance of Effective Scheduling in the Restaurant Industry

Effective scheduling is a cornerstone of restaurant management, critically linked to several factors in your restaurant:

  • Financial stability (labor costs especially, which often inflate when over or under-scheduling occurs)
  • Employee productivity and morale (which is highly influenced by the fairness and consistency of scheduling)
  • Customer satisfaction and dining experience quality
  • Foot traffic (because consistent, quality experiences translate to a steady flow of business)

Understanding and implementing different shift schedules, whether stable, flexible, or composite, is essential to satisfy the diverse preferences and commitments of restaurant staff—leading to a motivated, reliable, and efficient team.

Now that we’ve talked about the importance of scheduling, let’s go over how to make a restaurant employee schedule.

How to Make a Restaurant Employee Schedule

There is no one right way of making a schedule, especially given that restaurants differ in the level of demand they can handle, their needs, and so much more. That said, there are a few steps to the restaurant employee scheduling process that should be followed:

  1. Gather all necessary, relevant data. Necessary data can range from business needs, like hours of operations and historic patterns of demands, to employee needs, like days off and sufficient hours for their personal lives, to customer needs, like quality food and level-headed staff that guide the dining experience from start to finish. Considering the whole picture gives you a more informed, higher-quality staff schedule.
  2. Divide your hours of operation. Take your hours of operation and divide it into a set group of shifts that your employees will work. Consider making this into a template that provides a fair, balanced schedule to each employee and that can be rotated occasionally for higher employee satisfaction.
  3. Schedule your employees. Now that you have your set shifts, schedule your employees into those schedules. Start with priority shifts like weekends and known busy times, then fill in the rest. Try to avoid back-to-back shifts because longer shifts can drain employees. 
  4. Share the schedule. Show the schedule to your employees, ideally in a way that is easy to access (we can help with restaurant scheduling software). Invite feedback. Adjust as necessary and allow employees to swap shifts if needed before actually running the schedule.
  5. Run the schedule. The best way to know how the schedule works in your restaurant is to run it. Observe and note where departures from your plan happen and figure out why. Again, evaluate and adjust as necessary. Honor time-off requests wherever possible.

 Now that we’ve talked about how to make a restaurant employee schedule, we’ve got some key tips for you, the scheduler.

Key Tips in Restaurant Staff Scheduling

Creating an employee schedule in the restaurant industry involves various considerations to ensure operations run smoothly, labor costs are controlled, and staff are content with their work-life balance.

1. Communicate

Clear, prompt, frequent communication with your restaurant team is vital in all aspects of your business. If you do it nowhere else, however, make sure you communicate regularly about scheduling. Gather feedback on the schedule to address any issues and align it with their needs. This not only improves schedule accuracy but also fosters a collaborative environment.

2. Be compliant

Compliance with labor laws prevents unnecessary problems and costs related to labor management. Overlooking this can result in substantial fines and can damage the trust and sincerity you’ve built with your staff. Being mindful of these laws, and scheduling accordingly, is not only financially astute but also morally sound.

3. Support employees

Be clear that you’re there to help. When employees feel supported, they are more likely to remain with your business, reducing your restaurant’s turnover rate and fostering a stronger team dynamic. Don’t just say it; show it through efficient but fair schedules. Also, employees will be more willing to communicate their needs if they can tell you care about them.

4. Leverage staff experience and skill

Consider scheduling your senior staff evenly across various shifts. This approach maximizes their influence, offering support and training to other employees while enhancing service quality during all service times. On certain days, particularly those with anticipated higher customer volumes, ensure that senior staff work day shifts to directly contribute to a potentially augmented customer experience and, by extension, sales.

While seniority should be acknowledged, it’s also beneficial to give newer employees the chance to work during key shifts. This not only aids in their development but may also lead to increased productivity and a varied set of skills within the team. Senior staff often play an essential role in helping maintain a balanced schedule that can meet business needs while keeping the workforce content.

5. Build up the team

There’s only so much you can do for your employees. Encourage them to find substitutes if they can’t make a particular shift or want an extra day off. Distribute shifts that ensure all staff, including those at the senior level, get adequate exposure to various service times. Make opportunities for employees who don’t know each other to get to know one another.

Mindful distribution of shifts not only ensures an equitable distribution of desired and less-desired shifts but also promotes professional development and team solidarity. And company culture is a huge part of the job, especially in a fast-paced environment like the restaurant industry.

6. Schedule weeks in advance

By producing employee work schedules well in advance, employees have the chance to voice any concerns or request alterations, ultimately reducing potential stress and conflict. This advanced notice is especially crucial for accommodating their important commitments outside of work. It’s important to acknowledge that employee perspectives on schedules may differ vastly from those of management, making it imperative to weigh anecdotal feedback just as heavily as empirical scheduling data.

7. Plan ahead

Planning for holidays and standardizing time-off policies contribute to a proactive rather than reactive approach to scheduling, averting last-minute staffing scrambles that can incur increased labor costs. Fluctuations in sales and patronage should be considered to ensure that effectively-skilled employees are scheduled to work during busier periods, optimizing operations. When scheduling conflicts can and do arise, have a plan in place to resolve the issue before it happens. Utilize prior year data to analyze trends with technology.

8. Use employee scheduling software

Implementing employee scheduling software is a proactive step in planning that empowers staff through easy access to shift and time off management. This encourages time off, which is crucial for maintaining long-term sustainability and employee well-being in such a demanding industry. Furthermore, using restaurant scheduling software helps ease concerns about schedule fairness because it can be automated and then adjusted upon request.

9. Track and analyze data

Data-driven insights can inform decisions about when to schedule staff members based on business flow and individual performance. Monitoring efficiencies during peak times can guide you to assign shifts to those who are most effective, rewarding their high performance and optimizing restaurant operations simultaneously.

10. Manage slow times well

During slower periods, it is advantageous to adjust staffing levels to maintain balance and fairness, especially in establishments where tips are a significant part of employee earnings. Using data from your POS system or back office system can be effective in identifying patterns of slow and busy periods, allowing you to schedule the ideal number of staff.

To manage labor costs and avoid waste, consider the following strategies: offering productive tasks during quieter times, such as deep cleaning or training sessions; keeping some employees on call for unexpected rushes; and if necessary, sending staff home when it’s particularly slow. These approaches ensure you are not overstaffed during slow periods, thereby optimizing labor costs while maintaining a ready team.

11. Know workers interested in extra work

The reality is that some workers want to work more than others. Having a list of people you can call in a time of need is especially helpful. Not only will your restaurant’s needs be met, but you’ll also be able to meet those employees’ need for more opportunities to work.

12. Get your hands dirty

In some scenarios, restaurants can offset the need for extra staffing while helping to motivate the team through hands-on leadership of restaurant managers and owners, especially during peak hours. It also says a lot about your leadership that you’re willing to jump in with your employees.

Final Thoughts on Restaurant Employee Scheduling

Today, we’ve talked about the importance of restaurant scheduling and provided steps and tips on how to make a restaurant employee schedule. It isn’t an easy task, and there’s really no perfect schedule. Thankfully,our  restaurant scheduling software module can make your job easier with top-of-the-market features, and an easy to use UI. Now that you’re armed with this guide, you can create your restaurant’s schedules more effectively.

Leveraging Technology to Manage Restaurant Labor Costs Whitepaper cover image

Leverage Technology to Manage Restaurant Labor Costs

Between increased costs, labor shortages, and socio-economic complexities - staying on top of labor costs is more important than ever for franchise owners.

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