Modern eateries come in many forms: traditional standalone establishments, bare-bones ghost restaurants, fun and hip food trucks, and many others. But one thing they all have in common is the need for committed, high-caliber staffing. However, restaurant work is demanding and sometimes grueling, making your attention to careful employee scheduling crucial to the health of your business and your employees’ well-being.
It’s also important to consider how challenging it is to find and retain employees today in many industries amid the ongoing, post-pandemic Great Resignation. The restaurant industry is not immune.
According to Brian Sozzi at Yahoo News in October 2021,
‘This week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that quits rates in the food service industry hit 6.8%, compared to an overall quits rate of 2.9%. Guggenheim analyst Gregory Francfort notes the quits rate for food service is well above the 5% peaks seen in quits in 2006 and 2019, and 4.1% average over the past 20 years.’
Some restaurants now offer various perks to show hospitality workers they are valued. One of the best ways to let your employees know you value them is by maintaining a restaurant schedule that serves their needs, allowing them to manage their personal and family lives better. That peace of mind means they can fully focus on your business during their shifts.
Developing a high-functioning employee schedule that makes as many staff members happy as possible is both an art and a science, along with a lot of listening and compassion.
Suppose you are finishing up your Bachelor of Science in Business Administration or Bachelor’s Degree in Culinary Arts and Food Service Management and want to open your own restaurant. In that case, you might find yourself seeking some additional practical tips to reinforce what you’ve learned in school. Many of these tips directly address front-of-house servers, but they can also speak to the needs of every employee—cooks, dishwashers, bussers, etc.
1. Schedule Busy Shifts First
Depending on the type of business you are starting, your busiest schedule may vary. Here are some examples of busy shifts by types of establishments:
- A family restaurant is likely to experience busy dinner hours.
- A food truck might vary, but many have busy lunch rushes at job sites, colleges, and high schools. However, many might also frequently attend local festivals, fairs, and other less predictable events.
- A diner might experience an early morning breakfast rush.
Focus on finding a server or two who understands how critical those hours are and how valuable their commitment to showing up on time every time is to your business. The people you put on the frontline for these shifts are your A-team, even if you never say so explicitly.
2. Honor and Monitor Time Off
Time-off requests when managing an employee schedule can become challenging. While most employees frequently vie for as much time on the schedule as you can offer considering labor cost, they also value their time off.
The best thing you can do is establish your time-off policy as soon as possible when starting your eatery; ideally, you define your rules before hiring the first server. The sooner you do it, the fewer headaches you will have from staff disappointments and in-fighting.
Here are a few things to include in your time-off policy:
Boundaries and Limitations. Some employees might continually ask for time off, especially for weekends and holidays. On the other hand, some employees might be timid and worry that they aren’t allowed to ask for time off when they truly need it. Set parameters so employees feel confident, without abusing time off or burning out for lack of it.
Deadlines for Requests. Suppose you leave the time frame for submitting requests open to interpretation. In that case, you can expect some employees to take advantage of your self-imposed vulnerability, leaving you without servers for busy weekends. Set what you consider to be an acceptable deadline for requests, whether it is a week, ten days, or a month.
Monitor How Much Time Off Employees Request in a Given Period. Let employees know that you plan to monitor and record time-off requests and that significant requests for time off might lead to reduced hours. They might be cutting into hours other employees would love to take on consistently.
Finally, once you’ve established your policies and made them available to everyone, honor your employees’ time-off requests.
3. Plan for Holidays
Some restaurants might experience an uptick in business on certain holidays such as Thanksgiving or Christmas. Others might slow to the point that they only need one server. Find out what your holidays will look like, and ensure that you have adequate coverage for these special days. Alternately, let employees know if you plan to close on those days or only schedule a limited number of employees.
Ask that servers submit requests for holidays further in advance than other time off requests.
4. Give Everyone a Chance to Work a High-Dollar Shift
If everyone wants to work the high-dollar shifts that promise big tips, create a rotation for these coveted time slots. You might want the best of the best every time for these shifts, but you need to ensure that everyone gets a chance to shine and cash out. The best part of this is that you benefit too. These shifts are likely to be prone to higher levels of stress and worry, so the more your servers get used to it, the better they become. This way, you’ll always have a deep file of last-minute all-stars to cover high-value shifts.
5. Provide the Schedule as Far in Advance as Possible
The same way you need to know your employees’ schedule and time-off requests, your employees need to know how to plan their time. They might work more than one job, go to school, or have family obligations,.so The sooner you let them know their hours, the sooner they can plan out their lives efficiently.
6. Build Flexibility into Your Scheduling
While you do have to stand firm in some areas, such as covering busy shifts, there are some ways to build flexibility into your scheduling. In ideal situations, your employees develop a bond wherein they call each other to fill in for shifts. If you are lucky to have this situation brewing in your business, take advantage of it and encourage it as long as shifts are covered and everyone is happy and earning money.
7. Have On-Call Employees
On-call scheduling is a classic safeguard for restaurant owners who want guaranteed shift coverage but understand that employees get sick sometimes and have to call out at the last minute. Ideally, employees might call out sooner, but if someone gets sick a few hours before their shift, there is nothing anyone can do. One way to build an on-call employee roster is to cultivate relationships with talented servers who either work full-time or go to school who want to work occasionally. Another way to do so is to hire employees designated explicitly with an on-call status until more shifts become available. This way, they gain experience, get to know your menu and customers, and save the day as needed.
8. Watch for Overtime and Labor Laws
To protect you and your employees, the U.S. Department of Labor has developed a series of laws for restaurant owners at the local, state, and federal level. These laws ensure that everyone works in a healthy, safe, and fair workplace while guaranteeing workers’ rights. A few key areas to watch out for include:
- The minimum wage requirements must align with your state laws for non-tip-based restaurant employees.
- The minimum wage for tip workers is no less than $2.13 per hour, and tips must add up to at least the state’s minimum wage.
- Overtime employees should receive pay at one and one-half times their regular rate.
- Overtime servers who work based on tips should receive pay at one and one-half times the applicable minimum wage rate and not at the $2.13 minimum.
9. Hire More Than One Manager
Everyone knows that there can be too many cooks in the kitchen, but can there be too many managers in a restaurant? The answer is no. Depending on your business, you might have breakfast, lunch, and dinner shifts. One person can’t cover it all, so find someone to cover each vital shift, whether that is lunch and dinner, or breakfast and dinner. Otherwise, a sole manager would experience burnout and not have a way to take time off.
10. Make Sure Your Employees Have Time to Rest
It can’t be overstated that restaurant work is hard on your employees, especially during busy hours. Remember that your employees are human and that you want to keep good people on the payroll, so do what you can to ensure they have the time off they need when they need it. If you see that a dedicated cook or server is suffering from fatigue or struggling, ask them if they need to schedule some time off to recover. And if they ask for time off to ensure they stay healthy, consider their request seriously.
11. Utilize Restaurant Scheduling Software
Once you have developed your policies and gotten to know your employees’ needs, you can plug the information into your favorite restaurant scheduling software. Search for one that features comprehensive scheduling, payroll, and timesheet tools and a mobile and desktop app. These tools streamline your scheduling process and keep everyone happy, from your servers and employees to your bottom line.
Would You Like More Ideas and Experience in Creating Schedules Your Restaurant Staff Will Love?
Are you interested in managing or opening your own restaurant? Earn your bachelor’s degree in Culinary Arts & Food Service Management or your bachelor’s degree in Business Administration – Management from Johnson & Wales.