How to Make a Restaurant Schedule


A restaurant schedule is essential to your operation. Not only will the schedule delineate which employees will work the daily shifts, the schedule is a crucial way to anticipate the daily sales, control labor costs and ensure that all parts of the operation have the help they need to run smoothly. The most important goals of the restaurant schedule include guest satisfaction and controlled labor costs.

Finding the Staffing Balance

Staffing your restaurant requires a certain finesse. A manager has to keep in mind that a restaurant schedule needs to reflect the business needs first. This includes the quality of service your restaurant provides its guests, as well as keeping labor costs under control. A big part of this balance is achieved by appropriately scheduling staff members.

Some restaurants find it difficult to avoid the temptation to overstaff. Overstaffing the restaurant can help provide improved attention and service to guests, but can cause your labor costs to diminish any profits you receive. On the other hand, understaffing can appear to be a viable way to save money. However, this quickly leads to employee burnout and diminished service standards, which ultimately harms your business more than the few saved dollars. Finding the balance and the perfect staffing levels for your establishment takes practice and depends on the people you have hired, your restaurant’s patronage, your budget allowances and other variables.

Creating the Schedule

When making the schedule for your restaurant, keep in mind that there are numerous ways to go about it. Make sure to keep in mind that the simpler the better, since this can be a time-consuming process. Project sales and labor data as best as possible to keep within your budget, and plan for the unexpected when it comes to the employees.

  • Use Technology.
  • There are several ways of actually making the schedule. Modern technology simplifies the process, allowing for daily and weekly labor cost calculation as you plan. Some Point Of Sale (POS) systems are so advanced that they will prevent staff members from clocking in too early and record when they clock out later than scheduled. This is an easy and effective way to maintain your labor budget as well as your schedule.

  • Make Predictions
  • As you work to create the schedule for each week, try to predict customer counts and sales. Predicting the amount of business you will do in a given week is one of the keys to preparing an accurate schedule. After all, your goal is to schedule for a well-functioning restaurant. Be sure to match these predictions with the percentage of your annual budget and sales to ensure that you are hitting your labor cost target.

  • Mindfully Schedule Your Employees.
  • Creating a schedule can be time-consuming and even tedious. You must keep in mind the availability of each employee, as well as their skills and talents to make sure your restaurant has the people it needs to run successfully. Scheduling a mix of strong team members and those who need extra help can be a good strategy. It is also a good idea to stagger employees’ hours, overlapping them during busy shifts such as lunch and dinner times.

Finally, be sure to collect information from employees beforehand, as far as their availability, vacation plans and other needs. Of course, your main priority is to run the business, but try to be prepared with this information so that you are not left with the task of covering shifts at the last minute.

Often, a restaurant will create a schedule to show how all the different areas of the restaurant will be staffed. This is often called the “Master schedule,” and will reflect how the dining room, kitchen, bar and any other areas of the restaurant should be staffed in order to handle the service the restaurant expects. The example below shows the positions, days, times and even the labor costs of employing the staff.

Master Schedule

Using the Schedule

Regarding scheduling, it is a good plan to have a set of regulations regarding how it will be used, where it will be posted, how it can be altered, and how often a new one will be made. Consider these factors and communicate any pertinent information to your employees. This type of planning can save a good deal of headache for any manager.

  • Schedule Frequency
  • Some businesses will create a new schedule for each week, which can be a good way to stay abreast of sales projections as well as staff needs or other variables. However, this is up to the restaurant.

  • Employee Access
  • Once you have created the schedule, hang it where your employees can see it and make copies of their upcoming shifts for the week. Some businesses have the ability to post their schedules online so employees can access it at home, school or work.

  • Altering the Schedule
  • No matter how much time and effort you put into creating the perfect schedule, no schedule is going to remain pristine once tacked onto the staff bulletin board. A typical manager is often approached with requests to change the schedule with a multitude of reasons. An employee may become sick after you have created the schedule for the week, and you need to cover his or her shifts. An employee may want to take more shifts to make more money. Another employee may have weekend plans and cannot work the time you scheduled.

    In cases like these, have a plan of action. Communicate to employees that managers are the only ones allowed to make changes to the schedule, and must notify a manager at any time they need to change anything. Some employees are more responsible than others, and it can be risky to let employees change things without notifying a manager first.


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