10 Top Restaurant Scheduling Tips to Increase Your Restaurant’s Bottom Line

Restaurant Scheduling Tips to Increase Productivity

Are you frustrated that employee turnover is higher than you’d like it to be or employees keep calling in sick at the worst possible times? Do you wish your labor cost was lower and employee retention and satisfaction was higher? Welcome to the world of restaurant scheduling. Get it right and your employees will sing your praises. Get it wrong and you could lose valuable workers. One of the keys to keeping your restaurant running is having an engaged workforce that produces at a high level. Enter the restaurant schedule.

Today we’ve got the perfect article for you, covering both how to schedule employees and ten top tips for effective restaurant scheduling.

How do Restaurants Schedule Employees?

Restaurants schedule employees by taking in all information that is or might be applicable to making the upcoming schedule. They then aside time to create a schedule. Part of the process involves figuring out what your business hours are and how you’re going to break them down into shifts. Many restaurant owners use restaurant scheduling software to make the task easier, but if you have another system that works for you, by all means, go for it.

The real question you have to ask when scheduling your employees is “How do I keep morale and profits high?” While you realistically can’t solve every problem for your employees, the biggest way to raise their spirits is to ensure schedules are fair and consistent.

Focusing on your restaurant staff schedule strategy may sound simple, but investing time in this area could pay huge dividends and help you avoid staff turnover and burnout.

Now let’s talk about the top tips we have for you. The more carefully you follow our tips, the more satisfied your employees will be, and the more likely you are to have higher profits. This TL;DR list summarizes our ten most influential tips and is a great starting point for you. However, neither the TL;DR nor the full list of tips should be considered an exhaustive list. If you come up with ideas yourself that you think will help better your restaurant, by all means, apply those with gusto.

The TL;DR List of Effective Restaurant Scheduling Tips

  • Listen to and communicate with your employees regularly, ideally in real-time where possible
  • Work on and post the schedule consistently; plan specific time(s) for each task
  • Treat your employees fairly, but focus on maximizing your team’s effectiveness
  • Use restaurant scheduling software
  • Schedule shifts appropriately for your restaurant, and evaluate and re-evaluate your scheduling often

The True List: 10 Top Effective Restaurant Scheduling Tips

1. Listen to your Employees

Before you even think about how you’ll improve your restaurant schedules, start by listening to your workers.

You can learn a lot about what’s working and what isn’t by taking an interest in what your employees are saying. Consider a simple anonymous questionnaire that asks how they like the way scheduling is going (emphasis on anonymity). Also, be sure to leave room for open-ended feedback and free-response answers.

But don’t stop at just gathering insights from your employees. Once you have a pulse on how things are going, be sure to make changes based on the advice. Obviously, you won’t be able to accommodate everybody, but you can look for themes and make any necessary adjustments to your restaurant schedule.

Bonus-Related Tip: Keep an eye on attendance data, employee requests to move to or from more lucrative shifts, and other data as well. This will help you get an even better idea of how the schedule is impacting your employees and business.

2. Maintain Real-Time Communication with your Employees Where Possible

If you ever hope to have the most productive team possible, you will communicate regularly and transparently.

The last thing you want is to have struggles in your restaurant due to communication issues. While you must be respectful of employees’ lives outside of work, it’s important to keep in contact about the schedule, especially when there are scheduling conflicts or last-minute changes.

Be particularly careful to consider employee requests for time off, shift swaps, or changes to a closing shift, because these are especially sensitive and can make or break an employee’s impression of your willingness to negotiate with them. Make sure to communicate manager approval promptly, as this can cause a lot of unnecessary stress for employees.

3. Post the Schedule at a Consistent Time

Consistency is key when it comes to earning and retaining employee trust. Servers, cooks, and hosts want to know when they can expect to see the weekly schedule. If it’s posted at the same time each week, they can get into a routine.

This will also save you a headache as a restaurant owner. People won’t need to ask when the schedule will be posted because they’ll know that it happens at the same time and on the same day every week.

Bonus Related Tip: Make your schedule available from anywhere through an app optimized for mobile devices. This allows employees to check their schedule for upcoming shifts at any time and for both sides to communicate if something comes up that makes a scheduling change necessary.

4. Plan Specific Time(s) to Work on the Schedule

Being consistent about posting employee schedules is great, but it’s tough to do if you don’t have a plan. It’s particularly difficult to post a schedule if you don’t have a completed one to post. In other words, you should be diligent and deliberate about when you put the schedule together.

Take some time to review time off requests and have a system for crafting the schedule. If you can set aside time on the calendar and stick to it religiously, you’ll feel much more organized. It’s best to do this a few days before the schedule will actually be posted. This will give you a chance to make any adjustments needed and keep you from feeling overwhelmed.

5. Schedule your Highest Producing Workers for the Busiest Times

Everyone on the team knows which servers are great at handling pressure. Or the ones who consistently upsell and bring in extra profits.

These are the workers you want front and center during your busiest shifts. They’ll not only delight guests, but also help your restaurant make more money. At the same time, many of these workers take pride in their work, so it’s vital to keep these key employees happy.

Giving priority to the most productive and revenue-driving servers also encourages other servers to improve. If they get better at selling more food and providing impeccable service, they’ll get a greater chance to make good money on a busy weekend night.

6. Give Everyone a Chance

While you do want to have workers you can rely on at your busiest times, you should also give newer employees a chance to step up. You never know how someone might perform until they’re thrust into the fire, so open up the opportunities to your entire team.

It’s possible some of your newest servers could be some of the most effective. You won’t know unless you give them a chance early on. There could be some diamonds in the rough. And even if they’re not perfect, there’s no better place to learn than on the job during a busy time.

It’s worth mentioning, too, that if employees feel like you’re being unfair without good reason, this could impact their morale and consequent performance and loyalty. Make sure they understand that these opportunities are open to all who are willing to help make it rain.

7. Remember your Employees are People Too

The restaurant business is fast-paced and demanding both physically and mentally. This means you should be extra dedicated when it comes to scheduling days off, breaks, and contingencies for emergencies and unexpected situations, as well as granting vacation time.

If your workers burn out, they won’t be effective. Be considerate and give them the chance to take some time for themselves, especially when they request time off. Where possible, give them two days off in a row for recuperation. Also, if they need to step out of the restaurant to meet personal obligations, be sensitive and honor their requests.

If you show you value their time off requests, shift swaps, and other needs, striving to craft schedules tailored to them, chances are your employees will be fresher and more motivated when they are on-shift. Respect them and they’ll most often return the favor.

8. Use Restaurant Scheduling Software

You’d be surprised how many restaurants still use pen and paper to make schedules. Hopefully that’s not the case for you. If it is, don’t worry—there is a better way and better technology, and we’re happy to help.

Our restaurant scheduling software takes the load off and frees you up to focus on improving your restaurant instead of managing personnel. Enjoy automatic restaurant employee schedule creation, easily manage team requests, and get overtime alerts, all through an easy-to-use software solution.

9. Schedule your Shifts Appropriately

Mileage will vary here, but many restaurants work by set shifts, such as a morning shift from 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., lunch shift from 12:00 p.m. to anywhere from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m., then dinner shift from that time until closing. Some restaurants use a split-shift model where a server might work a few hours around breakfast and a few more around dinner.

Overall, it’s best to understand the needs of your specific restaurant and the limitations of your staff and plan accordingly. If it makes sense for your business, then use them. If not, do what works best for your restaurant.

Here are just two of the most typical restaurant shifts.

Divide the work into 4-hour increments

Restaurant shifts are sometimes split into four-hour increments when shorter shifts work better. For example, if a restaurant opens at 1:00 p.m. and stays open until 9:00 p.m., one four-hour shift works the first half of the day, and the other works the next half.

Often, however, restaurants are open longer hours, such as from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. If this is the case, there can be some overlap. (Since the possibilities are endless, we won’t go over schedules with overlap today). If there is no overlap, one shift might be 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and the next might be 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. with the final one being 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Dividing the work according to the 5-4-9 work schedule

The 5-4-9 work schedule is a modified schedule that works well in the restaurant industry. (5-4-9 refers to employees working four 9-hour shifts paired with one 5-hour shift, no matter how it’s configured, instead of five 8-hour shifts to achieve a 40-hour work week). Sometimes this means that each employee will work eight 9-hour days and one 8-hour day, for a total of 80 hours over two weeks.

It essentially ensures you have coverage and that employees get not too many or too few hours while splitting up work. Note that just because this type of schedule works for many, doesn’t mean it will work for you, so get feedback from employees and your data to make the final decision.

10. Remember to Reevaluate often

It’s best to reevaluate your restaurant scheduling strategy at least once a quarter to see what’s working and what isn’t. Remember to gather feedback from employees regularly and take time to look for trends to see which workers are most effective during which hours/days/times.

Over time, you’ll get a feel for who works best under which circumstances and plan accordingly. This will help you keep staff happy while also increasing profits.


Effective restaurant scheduling is crucial for increasing productivity and ensuring smooth operations.

There is no perfect schedule, and restaurant scheduling is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Each restaurant has its own unique requirements and constraints that must be considered when creating a schedule.

By following these 10 tips, restaurant managers and owners can create efficient schedules that meet the needs of their staff, customers, and ultimately, their business.

Need help? SynergySuite offers many helpful tools, including restaurant scheduling software, to launch or boost your restaurant or organization. Reach out today if you’re ready to get started on running a more profitable restaurant.

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