Employee Planning and Scheduling: 7 Best Practices for the Restaurant Industry

Staffing issues seem to be a natural part of the restaurant industry. According to the Toast 2019 Restaurant Success Report, problems like labor shortage, increasing wages and no-shows are quite common for eateries, restaurants and cafes.

One of the biggest challenges that managers encounter is employee planning and creating the day-to-day restaurant schedule. There are many factors to consider and challenges in the way. Some common challenges include

  • Employees asking for same shifts to earn most tips
  • Accommodating sick days, requests for vacations, off-days
  • Catering to last-minute changes
  • Making proper use of the skills of individual employees
  • Communicating changes to employees

Challenges also have solutions and that’s what our post is about. We thought we should make you aware of the best practices of employee planning so that you can schedule like a pro!

Using the right technology like a scheduling software surely helps, so do the best practices mentioned below.

1. Post the Schedule Well in Advance

You need to give enough time to your employees to adjust to the new schedule. Also, you will need enough time to accommodate any changes. That’s why it’s important your employees get to know your planning in advance. You should post the schedule at least 2 weeks in advance before it takes effect.

When your employees know their schedule in advance, they find it convenient to plan their activities. For example, an employee may need to reschedule personal commitments that come in the way of their work. Giving him adequate time to do so makes things convenient and also results in employee satisfaction.

You can also get a few benefits by posting your employee planning schedule while there is time. If there are any conflicting shifts, your staff will have time to trade them with other employees. They may also arrange a substitute from among themselves without you having to make any effort.

You can use employee scheduling software to post your restaurant’s schedule on the cloud. That way, everyone can access their shift timings from a single place. The schedule is also online 24/7 so that your staff can check their shifts, any time from any place.

If you make any changes to the schedule, it instantly gets updated in the document for everyone to see. You never have to print multiple copies or worry about where to post your schedule.

2. Find Means to Communicate Quickly and Easily

Based on your restaurant or cafe size, you may need to communicate with a large number of employees. You may need to notify about changes, find substitutes, or hand out information. Using means like email is not a foolproof way as your staff may not always check their inbox. Calling also is a waste of time.

So what should you do?

You can try automated notification applications or use the power of text or chatting apps to communicate with your team. You can, for example, send a text that a shift is open after three hours. Your staff can see your notification and message you back if they are available. Your staff may also coordinate among themselves to find a substitute. This saves time, keeps everyone in the loop and eliminates the need of contacting each employee individually.

Modern employee planning and scheduling software can do all of the above from a single interface. You can send texts and notifications directly to your staff’s mobiles and also automate the process. The built-in features let you handle all communication without the need of using multiple text or messaging apps.

Also, you can rule out all possibilities of problems that may arise while transferring information or documents from the scheduling tool to messaging apps. You can streamline the whole process and also carry out all communication seamlessly.

The time you save can be dedicated to growing your business, marketing your establishment and increasing your profits. This best practice of communicating optimally with your staff has a direct effect on your daily schedule.

3. Factor in Work Preferences and Time Off Requests

You will need to honor preferences and time off requests put forward by employees. Doing so raises employee satisfaction, creates goodwill and reduces turnover.

You will need to keep track of such preferences and time off requests while creating your schedule. The best way to streamline the process is to have a central document where all employees can list their requests. The file can be an Excel sheet on your computer, which you refer to while creating your schedule.

Many restaurants nowadays use a central, cloud-based software to keep track of such requests and preferences. Your employees can also have access to the application and submit their requests accordingly. This way, you don’t need to keep switching between documents again and again.

You should also have clear rules for requesting time offs and preferences. The rules should mention how to make requests, how many days in advance should the request be made, when requests can and can’t be made, and so on. If you have any organization-specific rules, don’t forget to mention them clearly. For example, employees may not be allowed to take five days off in a row during the holidays, and so on.

When you make the rules, also determine how you will deal with overlapping requests. You may face such conflicts more during holidays like Christmas. While your decision will depend on the situation, do factor in considerations like the reason for request and seniority. Sometimes, you may also take help of first come, first serve basis to grant time off requests.

Having clear rules about time offs brings on transparency and everyone knows what to expect. As a result, your operations go on smoothly with zero conflicts between the staff and management.

4. Make the Most of Your Employee’s Strengths

Your restaurant staff may have varied strengths- employee X is a master of efficiency, while employee Z  is great at striking up conversations with guests. You will need to consider such strengths of your staff during employee planning.

In the above scenario, employee X will be best suited for lunch hours when speed and efficiency are of utmost importance. On the other hand, employee B will be more suited for dinner hours, when extra communication can make guests feel welcomed.

Make sure you know your employees and their strengths and weaknesses. Then consider those while making your schedule.

You should also consider your business objectives while planning your schedule. Keep in mind the nuances that will make way for a successful shift. For example, you may need specific employees for particular shifts for the best results. Let your employees know the basis of creating the schedule so that everything is clear and no feelings are hurt.

5. Make Room for Changes

Every schedule undergoes changes from time to time. Some factors are beyond your control, so you should stay flexible to accommodate changes to the schedule. This can include changes due to employees falling sick, taking off due to personal commitments and so on.

Let your schedule be open to changes. You can use a scheduling software or a cloud-based tool like Google Sheet and give access to your employees. This way, they can make necessary changes about their shifts, put forward suggestions, or find substitutes. You can also get to know the changes instantly and can check whether they can be allowed. Giving most of the responsibility to your employees to make changes, you can stay free from unnecessary stress or strain.

There should be concrete guidelines on the extent of changes your employees can make. They should also know that changes will need to be verified by you or the manager before approval. This is necessary to make sure you have the necessary combination of skills to run a shift effectively. Also, when employees find a replacement among themselves, the new replacement should be able to do a similar job.

That means you should replace your receptionist with a cook, and vice-versa.

6. Prioritize Your Top Revenue Earners

Some of your employees will bring you more revenues compared to others. Such employees are assets to your organization and deserve better shifts. This not only keeps them happy but also results in more sale of food and drinks.

Let all your employees know that the best performers among them will have some advantages. It’s a great way to stir up a healthy competition in your establishment as everyone competes for the top spot. Using performance as a benchmark is also a better way of showing priority rather than using unfair means like seniority, social hierarchies, or personal connections.

Over time, you will develop insights on which employees make the best team. Such insights will help you do a better job of employee planning and also maximize your earnings.

7. Reduce No-Shows

No-shows are a big problem for the restaurant industry. Earlier, a single no-show would cause much tension to managers as they would have to find someone at the last moment. But with the popularity of mobile devices, no-shows are on the decrease.

You can take a few measures to ensure that everyone shows up for their shifts. The easiest way is to send your employees a message in advance, reminding of their shift. You can also use a scheduling solution to send auto reminders and texts to your employees so that no one misses their shifts.

Doing it in advance also gives you time to make room for any unexpected changes.

Always Keep a Backup Plan

Always have a plan B and if possible, also a plan C to adjust to sudden changes. Have an availability chart so that you don’t have to do without a helping hand if someone takes off. You can also keep a list of part-time workers who can come handy when other employees are not available.

Final Thoughts

Employee planning should be done with much consideration so that every shift has the right skill sets. You also need to stay open for day-offs and other requests from your employees. Keep the best practices we discussed in mind while creating your schedule for a smooth and seamless operation. You can also take the help of a scheduling software to streamline the process and make it easy for everyone- your employees, your manager and yourself.