5 Rules For Restaurant Scheduling That Works

5 Rules For Restaurant Scheduling That Works

If you’ve been tasked with making new schedules for your restaurant you’ve probably discovered that like most jobs in the restaurant, it’s not easy.

Proper scheduling will:

  • Reduce confusion and missed shifts
  • Avoid staff resentment from schedules they don’t want
  • Help staff provide guests with excellent service

There is a lot to consider, and it can seem overwhelming. But this guide will teach you scheduling best practices that will help you achieve these goals.

Read More: Choosing a Restaurant Business Structure

Good Scheduling Helps Deliver Great Service

Consider what you want from your employees when they show up:

  • A positive attitude to get things done
  • High energy to make it through a busy service
  • A clear head—able to think on their feet
  • Focus on guests’ needs, not personal issues

It’s a Matter of Respect

How do we achieve the best from our staff? First of all, we have to respect and understand that bringing their best to work means leaving their personal lives outside the restaurant.

Imagine what happens to our employees when they get their schedule. They have to build their lives around it for the next week. They make plans.

  • Late schedule postings
  • Being mis-scheduled for shifts they said they can’t work
  • Getting called in at the last minute

These things don’t just create chaos for the restaurant, they create real personal conflicts for your employees as they juggle second jobs, school, babysitters, and whatever else life outside the restaurant demands of them.

And that means their heads aren’t in the game when they come in for service.

Scheduling Managers Have to Resolve Conflicts

This is why it’s not easy being a scheduling manager. There are a multitude of conflicting interests when it comes to scheduling that can seem overwhelming.

Despite the challenge, you need to consider:

  • Their stated availability and shift preferences
  • You need enough coverage for a smooth service
  • You can’t over staff—though some people want more hours
  • You have to schedule training new employees
  • There are requests for time off and sick calls

Learning to schedule will take time and will get better with experience, but there are some rules you can follow so that your first shot at scheduling doesn’t make you enemy number one in the restaurant.

Read More: Choosing a Restaurant Business Structure

5 Rules for Restaurant Scheduling

1. Establish Availability

The first and most important step is to get everyone’s stated availability nailed down. Make sure they know that what they write on their availability form is what they have to be willing to work every week, unless they formally update their availability.

Explain that they could get called in, or they might not be scheduled for all the hours they’ve listed. However, what they write down and submit as their availability, is when they’re expected to be available.

This is a matter of mutual respect. You won’t schedule them for shifts they have not agreed on. But in return, they need to be ready when they say they will be.

2. Create a Master Schedule

Depending on how many departments you’re staffing, keep separate master schedules for kitchen and front-of-house. Now map out everyone’s stated availability onto the schedule.

Wow! Look at that, now you’ve gone from trying to figure out how to fill up your schedule to having some real options. Also, you can now identify any trouble areas that don’t have a lot of coverage.

Perhaps you’ll have to hire some new part-timers who can fill in. Or you’ll need to sit down with select team members to see if they’re flexible enough to change their availability. The benefit of this method is that you have a commitment from people to be available—even if it’s on short notice. So you can reduce some of the last minute call-in chaos that can scuttle a service.

Start scheduling your managers first, since they are the most reliable and least likely to call in. Then start filling in with your senior staff and superstars. Likewise, they have less of a tendency to drop a bomb on you last minute where you have to re-do the whole schedule.

3. Determine Hourly Staffing Needs

This takes time and experience because there are multiple factors affecting how much staff is needed. Hopefully, you have some idea about how many people it takes to run an ideal service based on experience.

Your POS or table management software can show you how many covers you serve each night. Compare this data over time to project the next week’s scheduling needs.

By observing good services and checking cover counts, you can begin to determine your nightly staffing needs. Do you find that certain shifts run better when some people are scheduled together? This can help you who discover who your strongest team members are.

Read More: Choosing a Restaurant Business Structure

4. Requests are Just Requests

This is important; staff members need to understand that if they request a day off, it’s not guaranteed.

It’s also imperative that you have a solid method for submitting day-off requests. You should not be confronted with a handful of random requests written on receipts, texts, and emails. The request calendar should be public and on a first-come-first-considered basis.

However, you always want to balance this with the reality that if someone isn’t going to show up it can throw service into disorder. Last minute changes are the main thing you want to avoid.

5. Don’t Create Burnouts

One of the keys to scheduling mastery is staff retention. Training new employees creates a scheduling burden and detracts from service. Since new employees need help as they get used to the restaurant’s processes, you need an established group of vets you can count on.

Burned out employees can’t bring their A-game and have a higher chance of calling in. To maintain a schedule you can count on protect your staff from burnout.

Tips for avoiding employee burnout:

  • Give 2 days off together if you can
  • Don’t schedule double-shifts
  • Split shifts are even worse!
  • Don’t have closers open the next morning (clopeners)

The reasoning behind these scheduling rules should be clear. No matter how much of a rockstar these employees are we don’t want to take advantage of them.

Everyone has a limit, even if they accept the shifts. A fried-out employee is going to make more mistakes — that’s just a fact. Those mistakes could cost you a return guest.

It’s better to hire additional part time staff than to lose senior employees due to burnout.

6. Bonus - Use a Scheduling Management Solution

With so many considerations to keep in mind at one time, many restaurant managers find it helpful to use a scheduling management app like 7Shifts.

You can set rules for each employee’s availability and the system automatically alerts if there is a conflict. Employees can text or email their time off requests and the app can even auto-schedule for you based on your presets. Staff can also use the system to trade shifts on their own, so you don’t have to organize an hours pool.

Rezku POS integrates directly with 7shifts making labor tracking and scheduling that much easier so you can schedule like a pro. Your employees will appreciate it and you’ll avoid the headaches.

Read More: Choosing a Restaurant Business Structure


Restaurant scheduling isn’t easy. If you’ve been thrown into the lion’s den it’s time to establish some structure before making your first schedule. The key to restaurant schedules that work is respecting your employees’ needs and making your scheduling policies clear.

Establish primary availability and make sure they know that time off requests require approval. Staff according to your service needs, established through hourly sales reports.

Don’t create burnouts by putting closers on opening shifts and scheduling split shifts. Use shift management software to help you keep all the demands of scheduling organized.

This free guide, 5 rules for restaurant scheduling that works, is part of the free resource library provided by Rezku. Find more tips and how-to guides for restaurant managers on our library homepage.

Rezku is a leading restaurant technology solutions provider. From point of sale, to labor management, CRM, online reservations, food delivery, tableside ordering and more, Rezku provides restaurant owners like you the tools to do more.

Find out more about Rezku on our homepage and get a free one-to-one restaurant management consultation. Find answers to your questions and learn about the latest technology helping restaurant owners across America.

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