The Different Types of Work Shifts for Restaurants: Which Shift Patterns to Choose

You need a logical staff schedule to operate a functional restaurant or eatery. Unfortunately, though, you can’t rely on the normal working shifts that most industries use. Effectively, that means having a 9-to-5 shift for your restaurant may not be the best idea!

As it turns out, most restaurant owners find it challenging to come up with a perfect employee schedule. That also causes inconvenience to your staff and can affect their service. In fact, 58% of restaurant employees say that they had a shift changed or canceled at the last minute.

So what types of work shifts should you choose your establishment? Will a fixed shift be better, or a rotating shift will make more sense?

Such questions are important when it comes to the restaurant industry, and we have got the answers! Today, we will discuss 7 types of shift patterns that you can utilize for your restaurant. We will also tell you how to choose the most suitable one out of the types of work shifts we discuss.

7 Types of Work Shifts You can Consider for Your Restaurant

You can choose from 7 types of shift patterns that most restaurants use. The nature of your restaurant will determine the types of work shifts that will be most suitable for your establishment. You can depend heavily on one type, or mix and match the shift patterns to meet your needs.

We will provide a takedown on the 7 shift types and also provide the pros and cons so that you can make an informed decision.

1. Fixed Shift

A fixed shift is permanent or always fixed. That means your staff comes and goes at the same time, for as long as they work or till you change the schedule. Fixed shifts are really simple to schedule as you don’t need to accommodate many changes. You may only need to adjust the schedule when your employees take off or quit your organization.


  • Easy to create staff schedules
  • Your employees work predictable hours
  • Allows staff to plan their activities easily as the work hours are fixed
  • Makes room for work stability


  • Lacks flexibility
  • Can result in understaffing or overstaffing

2. Rotating Shift

Rotating shifts are where your staff switches between a few sets of shifts based on a schedule. For example, the batch of employees who worked during lunch hours this week can work the dinner shift in the coming week. You can rotate the shifts per week or per month based on your specific circumstances.

Rotating shifts are used by various industries which operate on a 24/7 basis.

You can choose from 3 types of rotation work shifts-

Each pattern of rotating shift provides a required number of ‘on’ and ‘off’ days to your employees. Generally, the staff also works a 40-hour week in a month under this shift pattern. You can give seven to ten days off to your staff in a month who work the rotating shift.


  • Ideal for restaurants that operate 24/7
  • Each worker can get their even share of working hours
  • Provides flexibility to your staff to attend to their duties and appointments


  • Staff may find it difficult to switch between different working hours
  • Can affect the sleep routine of your employees (especially if they rotate between morning and night shifts)

3. Split Shift

You can go for a split shift schedule for your restaurant, where your staff works two different shifts each day. For example, the staff working in the breakfast hours may come back to serve during the dinner hours.

Creating split shift schedules requires a bit of consideration. For instance, you need to provide an adequate gap between the two shifts so that your staff doesn’t feel rushed.

You may also need to factor in your federal and state labor laws. Some places like California mandates you to pay a split shift premium when your staff works two shifts a day.


  • Helps you schedule your employees optimally based on busy and idle hours
  • Enables you to save labor costs
  • Enables staff to take care of their daily responsibilities and tasks (picking up kids from school, attending personal appointments, and so on)


  • Some workers may not like working two shifts on the same day
  • Employees may have to shoulder increased commuting costs
  • You may have to pay more to your manager for handling two shifts

4. Swing Shift

Swing shifts generally start during the day and end at later hours of the night. The shift type is suitable to bridge the gap between early and late shifts. In many restaurants, swing shifts begin during dinner hours and extend till the closing time.


  • Your staff will be rested and fresh to handle their duties
  • Provides staffing for managing closing hours
  • Ideal for employees to need to attend to personal daytime engagements like a job or class


  • May not be suitable for working parents to need to pick up kids
  • Some employees may not prefer to work when others are enjoying free hours
  • Can lead to overstaffing

5. On-Call Shift

On-call shifts are best utilized for slower times. As the name suggests, on-call shifts keep your staff ready in case you need more hands. And you just need to give them a call when you need your staff.

This type of work shift enables you to schedule staff on need basis. If too many guests come over, you can call your staff and ask them to come over.


  • No risks of overstaffing or understaffing
  • Saves money in the form of labor costs
  • May provide flexibility to your staff
  • Staff can choose to be on-call, which boosts employee satisfaction


  • On-call shifts are not predictable
  • Employees may face difficulties in planning their daily activities
  • Doesn’t guarantee a steady paycheck as hours are not fixed

6. Overtime Shift

You can take help of overtime shifts if you need your employees to work beyond the hours of a typical shift. For example, if an employee works four hours in excess of his eight-hour shift, then the four hours will be counted as overtime shift.

Various states have different laws on overtime. It’s best to check out the local labor laws to find out the implications of having an overtime shift. For instance, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) makes it mandatory for employers to provide time and a half to all covered, non-exempt employees that work overtime (or beyond 40 hours each week).


  • Your staff can earn some extra income by working additional hours
  • Useful for covering unexpected busy hours or phases (like New Year or Christmas)
  • No need for hiring extra employees


  • Overtime shifts need you to pay more to your employees over their regular wages
  • You need to be aware of the labor laws to make use of overtime

7. No-Schedule Shift

The no-schedule work shift doesn’t depend on any fixed schedules. Managers create schedules based on need and circumstances. The staff is called in when needed, and there is no regularity. That means a waiter who worked breakfast hours this month may get something totally different in the next month.

Most restaurants who use no-schedule shifts create the schedule weekly. You should prepare the schedule in advance so that your employees have the time to be aware of their upcoming working schedule.


  • Provides the highest flexibility in terms of creating employee schedules
  • Thing like off times and vacations can be easily accommodated


  • Employees may find it difficult to adjust to an ever-changing schedule
  • You need to be aware of state and federal labor laws for creating a no-schedule work schedule
  • Now, let’s see how you can choose the right type of work schedule for your restaurant.

How to Choose the Right Shift Patterns for Your Organization

To choose the right types of work shifts, you need to consider several factors. Each shift-type comes with its own nuances for the managers and staff, so you have to strike the right balance. Here’s how you can determine the right option for your needs-

1. Consider Your Busy Hours

This is the most important step to determine the shift-type you will benefit from most. Say, for example, if you are a cafe that gets most crowd during breakfast hours, then it’s recommended to keep more staff for that duration.

On the other hand, if most of your guests arrive at dinner time, you need to ensure you have adequate staff to serve them.

2. Take a Note of Labor Laws

We have already discussed how some shift patterns are tied to labor laws. So before you choose any work shift, make sure you know the laws and comply with them.

3. Factor in the Needs of Your Employees

The needs of your staff like the days they want off, childcare needs, and others will also impact the choice of work shifts. You may have to choose a schedule that accommodates the needs of your employees and also your restaurant.

The trick is to strike the right balance, once again!

4. Research

Research what most restaurants in your area or niche follow. That will give you an idea about the work shift that will be the most suitable for your establishment.

5. Trial and Error is Important

It may not be outright clear which types of work shifts will be suitable for your eatery. For this reason, a bit of trial and error is necessary. After considering all the above factors, go ahead and implement a shift pattern you feel is the best for your needs.

The see what advantages and disadvantages it brings for you and your employees. Then you can refine your schedules based on the insight.

Now a few words on how to manage the best schedule for your restaurant.

How to Manage Your Restaurant Employee Shifts Effectively?

You may need some time to master the art of scheduling to the optimum level. Here are some tips to help you out in the process-

  • Have adequate employees, no matter which work patterns you choose. Make sure you have more employees for busy hours and less for idle hours.
  • Vary the shift time of each employee regularly if you opt for anything else than the fixed shift. This brings equality and provides a fair opportunity for each employee to earn tips.
  • You can always keep some staff on call and utilize them during unexpected peak times. Just let them know in advance.

One of the best ways to create and manage employee shifts is to use a scheduling solution. You can automatically schedule employees based on their availability and keep costs down while covering all shifts.