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Making A Restaurant Employee Schedule

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Restaurant employees looking at their schedules on mobile apps
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Your bottom line and your customer service success depend heavily on a well-executed staff schedule but knowing how to make a restaurant employee schedule is not an easy task.

Scheduling restaurant staff requires considering everything from staff availability to accounting. Employers need to juggle each employee’s personal schedule, time off requests, and labor compliance laws. In addition, a restaurant manager needs to consider operations, accounting for different shift needs, the labor costs budget, and special events. Finally, to keep staff satisfied and reduce employee turnover, a manager needs to take into account overtime, tipped shifts, and total weekly hours.

It’s no wonder many restaurant managers find restaurant work schedules to be difficult. But with these tips on how to make a restaurant employee schedule, you can understand how to master all the moving parts to create a restaurant staff schedule that works for everyone.

Making Restaurant Employee Schedules

When making a restaurant staff schedule, start by considering the following factors:

  • Understand which employees may have limited hours due to labor laws, such as minors with restrictions about when and how long they can work.
  • Track employee time off requests, as well as shifts employees usually work in order to offer consistency in their schedules.
  • Consider what roles need to be filled at what times during the day, so that there is ample coverage for customer demand.
  • Stagger schedules, giving overlap that allows employees the time to take care of prep work, restocking, and other essential tasks.

When you finalize your restaurant employee schedule, make sure to post it as soon as possible. Not only does this help your employees plan their personal and work lives, but it also allows you to work out any scheduling issues long before a shift, preventing no-call no-shows or last-minute cancellations. Perhaps even more importantly, it keeps you in compliance with predictive scheduling laws adopted by states and localities, some requiring that employers provide schedules up to two weeks in advance.

Because creating an employee schedule requires tracking so many different moving parts, many restaurant managers choose to use restaurant scheduling tools to automate tedious tasks.

Restaurant scheduling software gives staff access to an up-to-date schedule from anywhere, using an employee scheduling app instead of a printed staff schedule in the back room. Employees can use the restaurant scheduling app to make shift requests and submit weekly availability. Restaurant managers can also approve or deny requests, and adjust schedules in real time. Scheduling software can help reduce manual entry errors, and it can also empower staff to take charge of their availability, streamlining the scheduling process.

Tips for Restaurant Employee Scheduling

Staff scheduling can be a time-consuming challenge for restaurant management, and when done poorly, it can add additional operational problems and staff issues. However, knowing tips for restaurant employee scheduling can help you create your restaurant scheduling system, saving management time and energy, keeping employees happy, and helping control labor costs.

Schedule for Your Busy and Slow Times

Your restaurant naturally goes through fluctuations in sales, so your scheduling should match these changes.

For busy periods, one of the best labor cost strategies is to leverage your most effective employees. By scheduling line cooks who are efficient at prep for your prep hours, or scheduling servers with the highest average sales during your peak hours, you can optimize operations. Identifying the top revenue and sales generators can help you recognize and reward employees who are doing well, as well as improve your margins on labor. Restaurant accounting software can provide reports on your top revenue generators by analyzing data from your POS system.

For slow times, cross-training is crucial for flexibility within your staff. If your staff can perform multiple responsibilities, you will be prepared for days when you’re understaffed and need employees to be more productive.

Schedule the Right Number of Restaurant Employees

Scheduling the optimal number of employees for shift is a challenging and ever-changing target to hit, so many restaurant managers are now making decisions by using data. By integrating restaurant operations software with a restaurant scheduling app, you can leverage scheduling software and sales data to create more informed future schedules.

With scheduling software, integrated with sales data provided by your point of sale (POS) system, you can calculate your optimum sales and number of customers served per labor hour. Your sales per labor hour (SPLH) is a key indicator of productivity. With restaurant technology forecasting busy and slow nights, you can then schedule staff while keeping your SPLH percentage goals in mind.

In addition, scheduling software can help you track and report labor metrics. Automated reports can provide your labor budget in real time, allowing you to see if you are over or under for labor costs as you adjust shifts for the week.

Have a Back-Up Plan and People on Call

It’s necessary to have flexibility in your staff scheduling, because even when you make a scheduled plan, weather, special events, or traffic can affect your real-time sales and labor costs.

Some industry experts recommend maintaining one-third part time employees to two-thirds full time employees, to reduce labor costs and overtime hours. With low margins and rising minimum wages, it is difficult to provide full-time employment for every employee. But this strategy also allows you to rely on the availability of part-time workers to maintain optimal staffing levels as demand increases or decreases, while maintaining the same level of service.To enable flexibility in your schedule, a restaurant employee app can allow employees to directly chat about shift trades, or create a shift pool to bid on shifts. Once employees have agreed, the proposed shift swap can be sent to the restaurant manager via the mobile app for approval and confirmation, streamlining how employees exchange shifts.

Schedule Your Employees Side Work

Sometimes business is slow, but you are at the minimum number of employees needed, or you need to keep employees on because of minimum shift requirements. However, down time can still be valuable or productive if employees do essential tasks like cleaning or administrative work.

Side work may be essential, but in order to keep especially tipped staff satisfied, make sure to provide a variety of shifts. New hires and senior staff should each get a mix of lucrative, busy shifts and slower shifts with side work that help keep the restaurant running smoothly.

Stagger Your Managers’ Schedules

A restaurant manager addresses issues that are too demanding of regular staff, and they are also beneficial for a positive customer experience. Consider taking pressure off one restaurant manager by splitting duties among Assistant or Shift Manager and staggering shifts. In addition, labor costs can also be reduced by enabling restaurant managers to help on the line and during peak hours or when the restaurant is unexpectedly busy.

Follow Shift Regulations and Labor Laws

Complying with labor laws is nonnegotiable in the restaurant industry. Staying on top of your city and state’s regulations not only helps you avoid fines, but it also ensures you are meeting the needs of your staff.

To best prepare yourself for complying with labor regulations, consider using advanced scheduling software that can alert managers when employees are near overtime, or prohibit employees from clocking in or out outside of a specified window around their scheduled shift.

Plan for Holidays

Finally, because the holidays can be a hectic time for your employees personally, not to mention busy for the restaurant industry, consider creating a standard holiday time off policy for your staff schedules. This may include asking your staff to submit holiday availability four to six weeks in advance, and to communicate to staff that last-minute requests can’t be accommodated. If possible, offer incentives for holiday shifts such as time off after the holiday to ensure that you are properly staffed for any busy holiday times.


Knowing how to create a restaurant employee schedule successfully is essential for healthy restaurant operations and a healthy relationship with your staff. Reliable, fair employee schedules create engagement, optimize employee efficiency, and protect your bottom line.

Restaurant365 incorporates smart scheduling software, payroll and HR software, restaurant accounting software and restaurant operations software into an all-in-one, cloud-based platform that’s fully integrated with your Point-of-Sale system, as well as to your food and beverage vendors, and bank. For more information about optimizing your labor spend, watch our on-demand webinar, Control Labor Costs Through Data-Driven Decisions.