8 Tips for Improving Your Scheduling Practices


When running a restaurant, it's a given that amongst your many duties in the coming weeks planning employee work schedule will fall upon you. When creating a weekly schedule planner, you have to think about the business and the employees and find the middle-ground in making both cohesive.

Some employees may have school or even a second job, making your scheduling tasks that much more challenging. Trying to accommodate your employees' limited availability is certainly easier said than done.

Another factor to consider is abiding to the ever-changing labor laws. The overall idea behind these laws set in place is to protect employees from an unfair scheduling process. All great things, but creating an employee schedule becomes that much harder.

One - Check for Schedule Abuse

There are generally two people that can perform scheduling abuse your employees or whoever is in charge of creating the schedule (so, potentially you).

Now, most of your employees are probably model citizens. They're doing their fair share of work and they aren't causing any problems. Some may even rarely ask for a shift swap, and when they do, it's because they truly need it.

Schedule abuse is the opposite of this. Here are a few examples of what schedule abuse may look like for employees

  • Consistently asking to leave early
  • Constant switching of schedules with others for busier peak time shifts to get more tips
  • History of calling out of shifts
  • Multiple no-shows
  • Consistent emergency call outs
Some of these observations are quite obvious, however, if multiple managers are in charge, it may be difficult to keep track of repeat offenders. The use of scheduling software will definitely assist in making these occurrences more apparent, as well as take note of them.

When scheduling abuse is coming from management, you can detect it by looking for similar patterns. Here are some examples

On-call scheduling This is basically scheduling a shift for an employee that might be needed, and if they're not needed, they're not called to come into work. This prevents the employee from getting a different job, but also might not provide work or income.

Last-minute shift canceling Just like last-minute employee shift swaps are a nightmare, most employees won't enjoy a last-minute shift cancellation. There's no time to make other plans or work something else.

Creating shortsighted schedules A lot of businesses create schedules at least a week in advance, and that is acceptable. But there are businesses that create a schedule just days or hours before an employee needs to come to work. This makes nearly impossible for employees to properly organize their lives.

Holding employees after their shift ends Sure, some employees like working overtime to gain more income. But not all employees with for that. You need to be upfront with them about it and ask them if they want to stay instead of forcing them to stay.

Two - Hire On-Call Employees

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A lot of restaurants have a varying amount of customers, so they need to have on-call employees. Instead of scheduling your regular employees, it's much better to hire specifically for on-call work. With this method, your on-call employees know that they may or may not have to work within a certain call-in window.

Here's what you need to do in order to create fair on-call scheduling.

You first need to decide a few rules. Write down what is expected of you and what is expected of the employee when doing on-call work.

Then you need to look for people who are interested in on-call work. These are individuals who typically want to earn additional money on the side, but do not require a designated amount of hours to work each week.

Three - Analyze Your Business

In order to create the best possible weekly schedule planner, you first need to know your business. This means analyzing which days and hours of the day are busiest. This will help you determine

When to schedule more employees If the first shift serves 10 tables, but the second shift serves 30 tables, you need to schedule 3 times as many employees for the second shift.

Which employees to schedule You want to schedule the right amount of each employee level seasoned and intermediate. On busier days, you need as much help as you can get. Find out how many waiters, cooks and other employees you need in order to keep your restaurant running butter-smooth.

It's important to schedule the right amount of people underscheduling can cause a loss of customers and overscheduling can cause you to lose money while your workers stand around doing nothing.

Four - Learn About Your Employees

Knowing your employees is crucial to the scheduling process. Do some of your employees have little children? Do some of them go to school? It would be much easier if you adapted the schedule to fit your employees' needs.

Speak to your employees. Ask them some questions that might help you in your scheduling process.

  • Which time of day do they need to be free?
  • Do they want to work full-time or part-time?
  • What is their class schedule like?
  • Which holidays would they like to be free on?

Five - Explain Your Schedule

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Most businesses work like tyrants with their weekly schedule planner. This isn't how it should be.

Your employees need to understand why they've been scheduled that way, otherwise, conflicts and resentment can arise.

This is especially true when you're overscheduling an employee. For example, you can say something along the lines of

I'm sorry Jane, but because of an expected increased load during the second shift, you've been scheduled to stay for two hours after the first shift ends Is that okay with you?

This sounds much better than just telling an employee to work two more hours and expecting them to simply run with it.

You can also allow your employees to suggest changes to the schedule, this will ensure for much fewer conflicts between employees and the business.

Six - Allow for Reasonable Shift Changes

Unless an employee is abusing the schedule, you should adapt your business to fit their needs. This makes the employee much happier and increases his performance.

This doesn't mean that you should always change your schedule for an employee, but rather communicate as to why you can or can't help him out right now.

Try to implement a system for suggesting schedule changes. This is pretty easy with weekly schedule planner software. But if you don't own such software, you can create a different system for this such as calling a manager. This should be part of your rulebook along with details like how much notice the employee should give.

With this should come other things such as a shift-change policy and an explanation on what you deem scheduling abuse.

For example, some employees are easily able to find replacements, but those replacements can start feeling anger (because they don't want to say no to their friend), even if they're still accepting the shift. You need to get in front of this and stop accepting those kinds of shift swaps.

Seven - Schedule Employees Who Truly Want to Work

While some employees might have complex lives that won't allow for shift swaps or working additional shifts. There are those employees that have a bit more freedom to work with and can engage in shift swaps or additional work.

You need to find people who are willing to take extra hours. It's never a good idea to have someone who doesn't want to be there. It will affect the mood of your other employees and possibly the customers.

With that said, you can't just take anyone for an additional shift. You need to know who fits into that shift and then look for people to have there.

A separate spreadsheet can work for this, but weekly schedule planner software has integrated functions that solve this problem with much more ease than spreadsheets.

Eight - Make the Schedule Available 24/7

If you've been creating schedules on a piece of paper, then you have been complicating the process. At the very least, start using spreadsheets, but if you really want to upgrade, then convert to a digital scheduling software approach.

Once you do, this will make it easier to create the schedule, as well as distribute it.

If you currently have it posted in the break room, people have one or two chances of seeing it and remembering it throughout the day. It's very likely that they're calling other employees to check the schedule again. Other than wasting time, this causes frustration between employees and can quickly create resentment.

Fortunately, there's a quick solution to this. The solution is to make your schedule available online by using Google Drive or another tool for his.

Scheduling software is by far the best way to do this. It will automatically create your schedule for you and it will notify employees of any changes that affect them. It also provides an easy way for people to find shift swaps and organize their life much better.