Restaurant Scheduling Tips for Staffing Your Business Recovery

Approaching restaurant scheduling for your business recovery

 As you start to reopen your dining room, you undoubtedly have a lot of questions. How much dine-in sales should I expect? How much food should I order? How many employees should I schedule? Some of your inventory ordering questions are answered in a recent blog post.

You might even be considering optimizing and even promoting your takeout and delivery revenue centers after you open your dining room to continue the revenue flow from those off-premise channels. Stay-at-home measures have created more reliance on takeout and delivery. As your restaurant reopens with social distancing requirements and capacity restrictions, it’s wise to consider handling delivery in-house to avoid third-party delivery fees and create work for existing employees. If you make that operational move, you’ll have to reallocate your labor and add  drivers into your scheduling.

Determining the number of employees you schedule amid uncertainty requires a new approach to forecasting. With schedules informed by forecasting, you can ensure proper staffing levels and a mix of labor with the right skills, ensuring you have all roles covered at the lowest cost.

First accept that there is no playbook. There are no historical sales trends during a pandemic. It’s not possible to look at last year versus where your restaurant is now. It’s difficult to forecast when you can’t see the future. Consequently, to forecast for your reopening, track sales by revenue center and day part. This is especially important for your first week.

Forecasting by Revenue Center

If your restaurant has been open for takeout/delivery/curbside during restaurant restrictions, start your forecast with those revenue centers. Study the trend of your takeout and delivery business over the past few months.

Those revenue centers are going to drive the first part of your forecast. Monitor takeout and delivery sales during your takeout/delivery only period to identify trends, and then leverage that information to predict future sales. POS data integrated with your restaurant accounting software is especially important to forecast sales revenue, allowing you to adjust costs as needed and create strategies to meet your business goals throughout your recovery. By analyzing this data you can make smart decisions about labor hour allocation for the delivery and takeout segments of your business.

Dine-in forecasting will be limited to how many people are allowed in your dining room.  A 25% capacity is predicted for the industry as a whole. Making sure you’re considering how many seats will be available for dine in is going to drive a smarter forecast. An easy way to generate your first dine-in forecast is to look at what a 25% capacity in your dining room looks like. Look at the number of seats you can book against your check averages and then do some simple math based on how many turns you anticipate you’ll get out of the dining room. In creating your dine-in forecast, you must also consider whether your check average will be the same as it was pre-COVID, or if it will be reduced based on a limited menu.

With restaurant management software, forecasting is automated.

Forecasting by Day Part

You’re likely going to be operating reduced hours. Right now, breakfast is down industry wide and commuting is down because the majority of the workforce is working from home. So consider how minimized hours are going to affect your forecast. In addition to forecasting by revenue center, you should also be looking at day part for forecasting. Basing your forecast on a reduced number of hours is going to help you make those hard decisions about how many employees you should have in house during each day part.

Consequently, you should use both the day part and the revenue center segments when you start building out your forecast for the first few weeks after reopening your dining room. Consider using restaurant management software integrated with your POS data to automate the forecasting process.

Restaurant scheduling tips

Scheduling restaurant employees is a challenge for any type of restaurant. You have to balance business needs with employee availability, while anticipating employee emergencies and sick days. Here are 10 tips for mastering your restaurant employee scheduling:

1. Schedule Well in Advanced, But be Flexible

Ensure that you’re following predictive scheduling laws adopted by states and localities, some requiring that employers provide schedules up to two weeks in advance. 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-shows or last-minute cancellations. Even in the absence of laws requiring two-weeks advanced notice, remember that all employees have personal lives and different scheduling needs. It’s important that you give employees enough advanced notice so that they can work around school, family obligations including childcare, and perhaps even a second job. While it’s not always possible to ensure 100% scheduling satisfaction among all employees, keep their availability and specific time-off requests in mind when you’re creating your schedule. This will help to avoid last-minute changes that can disrupt your restaurant’s operation.

2. Post Your Schedule on a Consistent Basis

When you finalize your restaurant employee schedule, post your schedule at the same time and day of the week, preferably online so that employees can access the schedule on any device. If you have a mobile app  for employees, use it as the main source for your staff to access the schedule. When your staff knows when to expect a new schedule, it prevents miscommunication and makes it less likely that your employees will miss a shift due to confusion.

3. Create a Process and Deadline for Accepting Scheduling Requests

Establish a process for accepting requests for preferred shifts, shift swaps and requested days off. If you have a mobile app for employees, require that all requests be submitted through the app to streamline the process. Also set a deadline for submitting requests to allow you time to accommodate those requests in the schedule. However, make it clear to your staff that requests can’t always be worked into the schedule and that business needs come first.

4. Incentivize Your Top Performers with Priority Shifts

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.

5. Give Everyone an Opportunity to Work the Best Shifts

While strategically it makes sense to leverage your most productive employees for the highest volume shifts, you also have to consider fairness and employee happiness. Make sure that everyone gets a chance to occasionally work the high-dollar shifts. Schedule a new employee with an effective senior staff member during busy times so that the new employee will learn from the best.

Schedule your busiest shifts first, rather than starting at beginning of the week through end of week, then fill the skilled employees in those spots before adding new and less skilled employees in those shifts.

6. Be Vigilant with Your Labor Costs

Once you’ve carefully created your schedule to avoid overtime and comply with labor laws regarding when and how long minors can work, you’ll undoubtedly get shift-swap requests that may place an employee into overtime or schedule a minor at a restricted time. Carefully review all shift-change requests to ensure you’re keeping tabs on your restaurant labor costs to avoid both overtime costs and fines for non-compliance with labor laws.

To best prepare yourself for complying with labor regulations, consider using advanced scheduling software to easily avoid overtime, or prohibit employees from clocking in or out outside of a specified window around their scheduled shift.

7. Give Your Staff Two Consecutive Days Off Per Week

Whenever possible, schedule your employees for two days off in a row. This will result in your employees being happier and more motivated, and will improve operational efficiency. It will also help to prevent burnout. If you don’t have enough employees to allow your regulars to have two consecutive days off, consider hiring additional part time staff to help cover the shifts.

8. Use Restaurant Scheduling Software to Save Time

While it’s possible to lay out your schedule with pen and paper or spreadsheets, there are programs that can save you a lot of time and hassle as you create your schedule each week. Restaurant scheduling software  allows you to control one of your operation’s largest costs and improve your profit margins by keeping tabs on your labor. With restaurant scheduling software, you can reuse a schedule or create templates for future schedules, saving time and scheduling hassles.

Combined with a mobile app for employees, staff can access an up-to-date schedule from anywhere. Employees can use the restaurant mobile app to make shift requests and time-off requests. Scheduling software can help reduce manual entry errors, and it can also empower staff to take charge of their availability, streamlining the staff scheduling process.

9. Schedule the Optimal Number of Front and Back of House Employees

Scheduling the optimal number of employees for each shift is a challenging and ever-changing target to hit, so it’s imperative that you use data to avoid under scheduling or over scheduling during your recovery period. 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 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, you can then schedule staff while keeping your SPLH percentage goals in mind.

10. Put the Right People in Each Shift

Beyond scheduling the right number of employees into each shift, it’s important to schedule the right number of staff members into certain roles. You might need a person devoted to takeout/curbside because of the increased demand. If you’ll be handling delivery in house, you’ll need to cover all of your delivery hours with drivers.

Consider cross training your team.  If your staff can perform multiple responsibilities, you will be prepared for days when you’re understaffed and need employees to cover more than one role, for example, a server might also help with curbside service. This will give you more flexibility when it comes to scheduling those roles during these uncertain times. It also helps your restaurant run more efficiently as you want the right people in the right roles so that each shift runs smoothly.


At this crucial time for your restaurant business, using your existing data to forecast the coming weeks and months is crucial to your continued success. R365 Scheduling enables you to create schedules based on sales forecasts to reduce your labor spend, save time, streamline the scheduling process and engage with employees. R365 Scheduling is integrated with R365 Accounting Software and R365 Operations Software. Schedule a demo today.

Ready to learn how Restaurant365 can help you streamline your back office and discover profits?

Schedule a demo today.