Software can help avoid staffing headaches

When it comes to the restaurant industry's top time-wasters, scheduling employees ranks pretty high for most owners and operators. Those paper schedules, splattered with grease stains and eraser marks, never manage to evade complaints from your staff about the days you’ve put them on the schedule. You find a vacation request hidden under the pile of paperwork on your desk…after you already scheduled that employee. It’s a constant juggle to make sure you honor as many days-off requests as possible while keeping up with the day-to-day fluctuating staffing needs of your restaurant.

Fortunately, technology has moved leaps and bounds to help make employee scheduling less of a headache. Scheduling software helps managers and owners keep track of requests and vacation time, analyze staffing needs, and cut down on unnecessary admin. Here’s how.

1. You Can Automate Your Schedule. If Joe has told you he can work every Friday and Saturday night from 5 until close, you can automatically schedule him for those days in your scheduling system and build the rest of the schedule around it. Chances are, many of your staff members have a day or two that they can always work. Automate what you can to save time. The fewer moving parts that you have in your schedule, the easier it will be to manage the rest.

2. You Can Match Trainees with Veteran Staff. The constant turnover in the restaurant industry means that at any given time, you’re probably scheduling veteran wait staff alongside newbies who are still learning the ropes. You don’t want to throw your new hires to the wolves, but that means you have to do some pretty fancy scheduling work to ensure that your best staff is scheduled with the new staff to train them.

With employee scheduling software, you can see who’s available to work on a given day and find the best trainer for a new employee. Maybe Bethany is a rising star on your bar staff, and is working Wednesday. Since it’s a slow night, you can schedule Rick, your newest addition, to shadow her.

3. No More Last-Minute Change Requests. There’s nothing more frustrating than to finally get all the puzzle pieces together on the schedule, only to have an employee tell you she forgot that she can’t work on Fridays anymore. With the right software, employees have to update their availability online. If they’re not available to work, you will know this when you schedule a shift. By managing your expectations (for example: all change requests should be input in the system by the Friday before the new schedule comes out), your staff will honor your system.

4. You Cut Down on Calls from Your Staff. Consider how often you stop what you’re doing to answer the phone. It’s an employee, wanting to know when he comes in. You’re taking time away from more important tasks, like running and managing your restaurant, for this unnecessary phone call.

Scheduling software remedies this. Instead of fielding a steady stream of calls, you can automatically email or text the schedule to your staff. Just like that, you've got two hours per week of your life back!

5. Avoid Over- and Under-Staffing. When building your sales forecast for your restaurant, you don’t want either of these scenarios:

  • Paying for staff you don’t need to sit around and wait for customers to show up

  • Not having enough staff working to cover needs

By tracking how many employees you schedule on a given day over time, you can begin to see patterns. If you've tried going from five wait staff down to three on Tuesdays at lunch over the past few weeks, you know that you can probably stick to three employees during that time in the future. This helps keep your employment costs tighter, and better ties them directly to sales. Busier days necessitate more staff.

Better Scheduling = Better Customer Service

When scheduling your employees is simplified and clear, your staff is happier. You have more time to work on administrative and management tasks. And your customers are satisfied when your staff meets their needs.

No one likes implementing change in an already stressful environment. But with so many benefits, moving from paper to digital employee scheduling makes sense, both from a financial and administrative stance.

The opinions of contributors are their own. Publication of their writing does not imply endorsement by FSR magazine or Journalistic Inc.

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