How To Handle Employee Scheduling Issues In Your Restaurant

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Restaurant SchedulingBusiness owners say that running a business is not for the faint of heart. It takes a measure of guts, determination and energy you never knew you had. But for business owners with shift employees, matching schedules to business needs, maintaining fairness and equal treatment and just trying to keep everyone happy can often feel like a full-time job in and of itself.

At the top of the list of businesses that present employee scheduling challenges: Restaurants. (Hospitals and all kinds of retail businesses are also up there). One Word Nation tackles some of the most common issues around scheduling:

    • Rotating the various available shifts among employees. Obviously, some shifts are more attractive than others. On one hand, you need your best employees in the most demanding situations. But you also shouldn’t over-rely on them and concentrate the best shifts among just a few. You’ll quickly find yourself with significantly fewer good employees.


    • Matching employees to business fluctuations, while spreading around the opportunity. Just figuring out how many people you need can be a huge puzzle. At the same time, your busiest times are the most lucrative for employees. Somehow, you need to find ways for everyone to have the same opportunities, while also having people in the bullpen, ready to step up as needed. No small feat.


    • Making sure employees have time to rest and rejuvenate. In your busiest seasons, this can be an exceptional challenge. Some employees will want to work back-to-back shifts for the money. But effectiveness suffers, and you’re better off to do everything you can to make sure there is ample time/days off.


    • Working around the unanticipated. Regular schedules are the ideal for everybody, the holy grail of scheduling. But things are going to happen—a lot—like illness, jury duty, family emergencies, etc. Be ready with backup plans so you can make things work in any contingency.

Scheduling your employees is so fraught with potential problems that many say it’s their biggest and most intractable business headache! Setting aside the mechanics of scheduling for the moment, there are ways to make scheduling your employees less painful for everyone. This involves operating according to a set of basic practices and principles in how you schedule; how you communicate scheduling issues and information; and how you treat your employees generally. Following are some insights from various resources at

    • Go out of your way to be fair. There are bound to be unpopular scheduling decisions along the way. But if you’ve arrived at the decision fairly, you should be able to avoid the resentment that comes with unfairness.


    • Good scheduling practices is a big factor in satisfaction and productivity. Involve your employees, and let them know the whys of scheduling. Do everything you can to keep regular schedules, but with everyone’s understanding that sometimes changes can’t be avoided.


    • Try some self-scheduling. It’s empowering. Having some control boosts morale and job satisfaction.


    • Have contingency scheduling plans for the inevitable. When someone calls in sick or employees want to trade shifts, have defined procedures in place that everyone has bought into. It makes sense for employees needing coverage to be responsible for putting it in place.


    • Move scheduling online. This saves time and money and increases scheduling accuracy. Studies show that employees favor this, too.


    • Try some software scheduling resources. This may take some trial and error. But software claims are compelling. Some say their products will reduce time spent scheduling by 90 percent, are automatic and foolproof.


    • Acknowledge and respect your employees’ lives. Sure they like and need their jobs. But never forget that the job probably isn’t the most important part of their lives.

What scheduling best practices would you suggest to other restaurant owners?