Two restaurant employees prepare food in the back of the house.

pexels/Elle Hughes

Managers should schedule employees based on their strengths.

10 Ways to Make Restaurant Scheduling Easier

Organizing shifts can be one of the hardest jobs for a restaurant manager to undertake, but it doesn’t have to be.

One of the biggest challenges for restaurant managers is creating an employee schedule. There are multiple shifts, servers, cooks and bartenders to juggle, and emergencies inevitably crop up where people need to rearrange their schedules. However, it doesn’t have to be so difficult to coordinate everyone’s shifts. Here are 10 ways to make restaurant employee scheduling easier.

1. Schedule Early

To help things run as smoothly as possible, restaurant owners and managers should create and publish their employees’ schedules as early as possible. Ideally, workers should be aware of their scheduled hours weeks in advance.

This allows people to plan time with their families, make doctors’ appointments or take trips out of town without missing a beat. It also allows students to decide which classes they will take that semester. Employees that can build their school schedule around work hours don’t have to stress over rearranging shifts.

2. Communicate With Employees

Restaurant managers should encourage people to request time off or schedule changes far in advance. Employees should feel safe communicating their needs, and managers must let them know if their requests are approved or denied.

A positive restaurant workplace culture means being open to employee time-off requests. Managers shouldn’t feel obligated to approve every request—people still have to help keep the restaurant running, after all—but they must acknowledge their workers’ life outside of work.

For example, one employee might be a single parent whose child has the flu. Another might have car trouble and need to take a day off to visit the mechanic. Communicating with people about their personal needs makes restaurant employee scheduling much easier.

At the same time, managers must be comfortable with rejecting time-off requests when they would be infeasible.

3. Use Restaurant Scheduling Software

Investing in restaurant scheduling software is perhaps the best way to make things easier. Software can use data to automatically highlight and solve staffing problems, predict employee absenteeism, point out overstaffing or fix scheduling gaps.

Ideally, it allows everyone to see the same schedule so they can communicate with each other. This makes it easier for employees to swap shifts.

It can also help managers avoid accidentally scheduling people for overtime, which would cut into the business’s overhead costs, or scheduling doubles by mistake. Software can also be a valuable tool for managers who want to pair up stronger, senior employees with new workers who need more training. In short, it’s an important tool for management.

4. Enlist Someone to Help

Many managers try to do all the restaurant employee scheduling on their own. This may work for some people, but most employers can benefit from delegating part of the job to someone else. This could be an assistant manager or senior employee with a thorough understanding of people’s work abilities, peak customer hours and everyone’s preferred schedules.

Even having someone help with a rough draft can free up extra time for the restaurant manager. The manager can then check the schedule for errors and finalize it.

When delegating responsibilities to another employee, managers should clearly explain how their normal scheduling process works to streamline the process.

5. Create a Restaurant Employee Scheduling Template

The schedule doesn’t have to be completely different every week. Employers can create a general template and tweak it as needed. If someone normally works evening shifts from Monday through Friday and performs well, then there’s no need to change anything unless they don’t like their schedule.

A basic template also makes it easier for managers to move people’s shifts around. If someone needs to see a dentist on their usual Friday shift but still wants to work 40 hours that week, they can easily swap shifts with someone rather than take time off.

6. Stop Using Spreadsheets

Advanced software means there’s no need to manually build a spreadsheet with everyone’s names and work hours. Spreadsheets are hard to read and edit on a phone, and employees might not have their computer handy when their schedule changes. It’s also easy to make mistakes due to the amount of human input required.

Restaurant scheduling software is a far better choice. It’s easier to use and can automatically rearrange people’s schedules.

7. Have the Right Amount of Employees

One thing that makes creating schedules easier is having the appropriate amount of staff. Being overstaffed will leave fewer hours for people to pick up, and employees might resent being sidelined. The business owners will be overpaying for their labor force.

Meanwhile, being understaffed means people will have to work longer hours, rush to serve customers and have less time to relax at home. Customer service will likely suffer. Having the right number of workers allows flexibility.

8. Give Two Days Off in a Row

Employers should keep this in mind when doing their restaurant employee scheduling. If given two days off in a row, people will return from their weekend refreshed and ready to work. A single day often isn’t long enough for people to do laundry, buy groceries, clean the house and catch up on sleep, and employees may request the next day off—often in the form of asking for a sick day—simply so they can rest.

Giving employees two days off in a row will likely reduce the number of sick days taken, making scheduling more consistent.

9. Avoid Back-to-Back Shifts

Employers should schedule staff to have a break between shifts. This means workers shouldn’t close the restaurant one night and immediately do a breakfast shift the next morning, since it would leave them little time to rest.

Employee performance will be higher, and people will likely ask for fewer sick days if their shifts are spaced out. This makes scheduling easier overall because people will work more reliably.

10. Schedule Based on Skills

Managers should schedule employees based on their strengths. Some people are better at morning shifts, while others are willing to work long into the night. Employers must figure out when individuals work best to make the schedule run as efficiently as possible.

Improving the Restaurant Workflow

Organizing shifts can be one of the hardest jobs for a restaurant manager to undertake, but it doesn’t have to be. Managers can streamline the scheduling process by using scheduling software, playing to people’s strengths and using clear communication.

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine. She has over five years experience writing for the food and beverage industry.