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Employee Scheduling for Restaurants: A Complete Guide

Scheduling is time-consuming as you have to consider the business requirements and the staff’s needs. Restaurant employee scheduling can be particularly tricky, as restaurant work is physically and emotionally demanding. Ensuring the staff gets enough time off while you have enough hands on the floor to continue services is a balancing act. 

Fortunately, solutions are available to help with restaurant employee scheduling. This guide will explore how to conduct restaurant workforce management for operational efficiency, employee satisfaction, and quality customer service. We also elaborate on the intricacies of creating effective work schedules for restaurant staff to ensure a balance between business needs and workforce management.

In simple terms, employee scheduling involves assigning work shifts to employees within an establishment. While employee scheduling can be simple for some businesses due to the nature of the operations, in the context of a restaurant, this task becomes particularly critical. A schedule for restaurant staff has to account for the fluctuating customer footfall, varying shift requirements, and the need for a diverse set of skills across different times of the day.

However, effective scheduling is necessary for restaurants as it helps manage labor costs, optimizes staff productivity, enhances customer service, and ensures that the right number of employees are available at the right time.

Types of Restaurant Employee Scheduling

Several restaurant employee scheduling models are available. The choice depends on how much automation and efficiency you require for your restaurant operations. 

Technology-Driven Scheduling

You must incorporate modern technology in scheduling. Modern restaurant scheduling software solutions like Truein are designed to facilitate more efficient scheduling through creating a custom schedule or using a previously used schedule. Such a technology-driven scheduling solution can help significantly reduce the time managers spend on creating effective schedules. 

Truein is designed to be the go-to choice for the restaurant industry, offering features like real-time attendance tracking, automated shift assignments based on predefined rules, and mobile accessibility. It allows managers to effortlessly create, modify, and optimize restaurant staff schedules for accuracy and adaptability to sudden changes in staffing needs.

Fixed Schedules

Fixed schedules are the most widely used type of scheduling, where employees work the same weekly shifts. This consistency helps employees manage their personal lives better because of predictable work hours such as 7 am—3 pm, 3 pm—11 pm, and 11 pm—7 am. 

However, the stability of fixed schedules makes it challenging to handle the dynamic changes in customer flow typical in the restaurant industry. Fixed schedules may be appropriate for your establishment if the volume of your business is steady and predictable.

Flexible Scheduling

Flexible scheduling, also known as open scheduling, allows employees to have varying shifts that they can sometimes choose based on availability. Flexible employee restaurant schedules are advantageous for both employer and employees as restaurant workers can accommodate other commitments such as schooling or second jobs. It helps restaurants manage labor costs more effectively by aligning staff levels closely with business volumes. 

However, flexible scheduling in the restaurant business requires more communication and coordination to ensure that all shifts are covered.

Demand-Driven Scheduling

Demand-driven scheduling utilizes expected customer flow forecasting to plan staff shifts accordingly. It is a proactive approach benefiting from historical data and trends to predict busy times and schedule more staff during peak periods while reducing staff during slower times. 

This type of scheduling is highly efficient in managing labor costs and can improve customer service by ensuring adequate staffing when needed. 

Rotating Shifts

Rotating shifts involves cycling employees through different shifts every week. This scheduling form ensures everyone shares the burden of less desirable work hours, like late nights or early mornings. In the hospitality industry, rotating shifts can help keep the scheduling fair and equitable among staff, potentially increasing job satisfaction and reducing turnover. 

Split Shifts

As seen in the restaurant industry, split shifts involve employees working a set of hours during the day, taking a break, and returning for another set of hours. For example, employees can work from 11 am to 3 pm, take a break, and return from 8 pm to 12 am. This type of schedule can be beneficial in bridging gaps during mid-day slow footfall and then covering the busy evening rush. 

Seasonal Scheduling

Seasonal scheduling is appropriate for establishments where footfall is significantly affected seasonally, such as restaurants in tourist areas or those impacted by seasonal events. This type of scheduling requires strategic planning and recruitment to scale up operations during busy months and scale down in the off-season. Restaurants in tourist spots use seasonal scheduling to ensure optimal staff utilization and service level throughout the year. 

Steps to Make a Restaurant Schedule for Employees

Creating a well-organized restaurant schedule is more than just a routine administrative task. Here are a few practical steps to streamline your scheduling process, ensuring you have the right staff at the right time, minimize labor costs, and boost team morale. 

1. Choose a Good Restaurant Scheduling Software and Create Your Restaurant Schedule Template 

The first step is to choose a robust employee scheduling software for restaurants that can help you use technology for your business operations. A good scheduling tool like Truein offers features that allow easy creation and modification of schedules, real-time communication capabilities, and integration with other systems such as payroll and HR. It makes the scheduling process efficient by minimizing human errors. 

To optimize the scheduling process, create a restaurant schedule template that works for you and can be used repeatedly. 

2. Pay Attention to Business Demands and Employee Strength

Understanding the ebb and flow of your business and recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of your workers is essential for effective scheduling. When you anticipate busy periods and customer demands, you can match them with appropriate employee skills, roles, and performance. Matching the right person to the right shift is necessary to ensure your team is strong when your restaurant is busiest.

3. Setting Up Shifts and Duties

You must clearly define the shift structure, including the length of shifts, the number of staff needed per shift, and the specific roles required during the shifts. Duties should be assigned based on the employee’s skills and the restaurant’s operational needs.

4. Schedule Busy Shifts First

The priority of the scheduling should be to cover peak times such as lunch, dinner, weekends, or special occasions. By prioritizing scheduling for busy shifts, you can guarantee that the best workers are available during the most needed hours. 

5. Assign Shifts According to Availability

You cannot have an effective schedule if you are not aware of the availability of the workers. Collect and consider employee availability before assigning shifts to avoid conflicts and last-minute changes. 

6. Handle Changes in Shifts

Your employees must be aware of the process for handling shift changes. This is another aspect of restaurant employee scheduling that can be well handled by using software that effectively informs workers about shift changes. You can establish a shift swap system among employees or have on-call staff for unexpected needs. 

7. Avoid Back-to-Back Shifts

You don’t want cranky staff handling your customers. Avoid scheduling employees for consecutive closing and opening shifts to prevent employee burnout and maintain employee well-being and productivity.

8. Maintain Communications Regarding the Schedule

Effective communication is an integral part of restaurant employee scheduling. All your employees should have access to their schedules well in advance, and any changes should be communicated promptly. 

9. Enhance Flexibility in Shift Changes When Needed

Shift schedule flexibility leads to higher employee satisfaction and retention. Allowing for shift changes to accommodate personal emergencies or requests fosters a supportive workplace culture.

10. Make the Schedule Easy to Access

Ultimately, you must ensure that your perfectly crafted shift schedules are easily accessible to all employees. Truein offers a mobile app that allows employees to check their schedules from anywhere at any time. This accessibility reduces confusion and missed shifts, ensuring smooth operations.

Best Practices and Tips for Restaurant Scheduling

Here, we discuss strategies and insights to help in enhancing employee satisfaction and operational efficiency through scheduling. Whether you’re looking to fine-tune your current practices or overhaul your scheduling approach entirely, here are the best practices. 

1. Cross-train employees 

Restaurants need specific skills and roles for each shift. However, if you cross-train your employees, you’ll be prepared for the days when you are understaffed. For example, a busy weekend evening might require more servers, and your cleaning staff can take on the role if they are cross-trained. 

2. Plan and honor time off requests

Ensure that your employees and new hires know the schedule requirements and how much time they are expected to work. Explain to them the number of consecutive working days, the duration of shifts, and their roles’ physical and mental demands. 

Honor the time off requests to ensure your workers know you care for them. Ensuring employees have adequate time off is crucial for maintaining a healthy and motivated workforce.

3. Plan for holidays

Create a holiday time off policy to ensure that your staff is available at certain times of the year, such as holidays or local festivals. To keep them motivated, consider offering them time and a half or double pay for working during the holiday season. Additionally, you can schedule time off shortly after the holiday rush to help them rest after working hard.

4. Analyze Previous Schedules

Regularly reviewing feedback on previous schedules can provide valuable insights. The data can help you decide what works and what doesn’t for your restaurant, discover any blind spots in your scheduling process, and learn from past schedules to make future scheduling more effective.

5. Gather feedback from employees.

Ultimately, your employees can provide valuable insights about the sore points of the scheduling process. Establish open communication channels to encourage employees to provide honest feedback on the scheduling process. 

Factors to Consider When Creating Schedules

When creating a schedule for your restaurant employees, you have to consider some crucial things. Here are the factors to ensure that your scheduling optimizes workforce management, reduces turnover, and complies with applicable labor laws. 

Compliance with labor laws and regulations

Restaurants require more dynamic scheduling than most businesses, which makes them susceptible to compliance issues. Adhering to labor laws and regulations, including regulations on minimum wage, overtime, working hours, and mandatory breaks, is essential.

Peak hours and busy periods

Maintaining effective employee restaurant schedules without identifying peak hours and busy periods will be challenging. You must analyze sales data, customer traffic patterns, and event calendars to anticipate peak hours and busy periods. 

Employee availability and preferences

It is important to consider when employees are available to ensure they are not turning down shifts or unhappy at work. If your schedules consider their preferred working hours, it can affect morale and reduce turnover. You will have a more engaged workforce, and they will perform better if they work shifts that suit their personal lives.

Benefits and Challenges of Restaurant Scheduling

Restaurant scheduling is a critical task that directly impacts both operational success and workplace atmosphere. However, the benefit of a restaurant’s efficiency and employee satisfaction comes with some hurdles that can complicate achieving these benefits. Here are the key advantages of restaurant employee scheduling and the common challenges that can arise as well.

Advantages of restaurant employee scheduling: 

  • Optimized labor costs as restaurant owners can align staff needs with customer demand.
  • Improved customer service due to adequate staffing during peak times without compromising service speed and quality.
  • Fair and flexible scheduling results in more job satisfaction, reduced turnover, and improved morale.
  • Streamlined scheduling improves overall restaurant operational efficiency by matching the right staff with the right skills to the right role and shift.

Challenges of restaurant scheduling: 

  • Accommodating employee preferences with the demands of scheduling is complicated and time-consuming.
  • Even with the best tools, anticipating customer flow can be difficult, making it challenging to schedule the correct number of employees for peak hours.
  • Shift changes, illness, and emergencies result in last-minute changes that can disrupt even the most carefully planned schedules.

How Truein Helps with Restaurant Scheduling

Truein has features tailored for restaurants that accommodate the various scheduling types needed to effectively manage a diverse and fluctuating workforce. Using Truein, you can automate the creation of shift schedules, reducing the time managers spend on scheduling tasks. Any changes to the schedule can be made in real time, and the concerned employees are immediately notified of the schedule changes.

The Truein app helps minimize tardiness and ensure punctuality with the scheduling and time-tracking capabilities. It enhances communication and satisfaction among employees. Truein offers comprehensive analytics and reporting for owners and managers to help track labor costs, staff productivity, and scheduling efficiency, enabling data-driven decision-making.

Truein is a leader in time and attendance management solutions with its robust scheduling features. We have focused on providing user-friendly, scalable, secure employee scheduling software for restaurants that is tailored to the specific needs of the restaurant sector. 

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The importance of effective restaurant employee scheduling cannot be emphasized enough. It influences every aspect of business operation, from labor cost management to customer satisfaction and employee morale. A restaurant scheduling software like Truein can help restaurants overcome common scheduling challenges and enhance operational efficiency.

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