Scheduling is a big concern for restaurants, as it’s essential to successful operation; good scheduling will give employees consistency and control labor costs while still providing great service. Under-schedule, and your customers and profits suffer, but over-schedule, and your bottom line suffers thanks to increased labor costs. How do you find that perfect balance?

Following, we’ll cover just some of the steps that are necessary in constructing a modern and effective schedule for restaurant staff — from understanding your staff, to prioritizing punctuality, and simplifying the process through technology.

Step 1: Understand Your Business

The first step in effective employee scheduling is to keep an updated list of your staff’s availability and requested hours. Don’t forget to include notes about whether they’re part-time, full-time, or have any restrictions about overtime.

After you have a clear view of your staff, map out a typical week at your restaurant. List your busiest hours, and how many people will you need on hand to keep your customers happy. If you can predict the amount of customers you’ll receive, and which hours you’ll be busiest, you can organize your schedule to have more staff members on the floor when there is more work to manage.  

Step 2: Allow Your Team to Get Involved

Key to having a happy staff is finding a way to be fair with your schedule. Two of the most important things you’ll have to consider during scheduling is your labor costs, and quality customer service. Too few staff, and you upset diners; too many, and you’ll create discomfort amongst staff when you have to send someone home. There are bound to be unpopular schedule decisions along the way, but being fair will boost staff satisfaction and productivity.

Give your employees a chance to communicate their preferred work hours, and try to match your staff to your schedule while spreading around opportunity. Giving your staff the chance to voice their preferences allows managers to promote a more collaborative environment, and knowing employee preferences for scheduling can also allow you to place staff in shifts that are convenient for them.

Step 3: Use Technology to Simplify the Process

In previous years, developing work schedules for restaurant employees involved hours of sorting through lists of availability and time-off requests, as well as frantically reworking schedules to cover missed shifts. New technology allows for saved time and sanity in the restaurant business. Not only can managers download pre-made restaurant scheduling templates or programs if creating one by hand is too complicated, but they can even move scheduling process online to simplify the planning process. You can even provide your employees (and your customers!) with access to a free Wi-Fi network to make the process easier.

Some management systems allow you to give restricted access to all employees so they can see their set shifts and request changes online, while various POS (point of sale) systems can work to ensure each staff member clocks in at the right time – recording dates and times for further reference. Sometimes, these systems alone can be enough to encourage punctuality in workers, as they know their behavior is recorded. Using technology can help to reduce the amount of paperwork headaches involved with organizing a schedule manually.

Schedule Your Restaurant Employees

Restaurant scheduling is by far one of the most crucial tasks for your business to consider on a daily basis. The more organized your schedule is, the more assured you can be that workers will show up on time, rested, and available for the most daunting shifts.

Keep in mind, that no matter how perfect your scheduling system may be, unpredictable things are still going to happen in any working setting. Illness, injury, family emergencies, and various other issues can show up and ruin a schedule, so it’s crucial to be ready with a backup plan to make things work. Have a defined procedure in place for when an employee calls in sick or wants to change shifts, as this should reduce panic in the event of a schedule switch-up.