December 18, 2019 DOs and DON’Ts of Bar and Restaurant Staff Scheduling (Bonus: Free Scheduling Template)

bar and restaurant scheduling

Bar and restaurant scheduling…it’s the ultimate balancing act. Schedule too few employees? Service, quality, and the overall guest experience will suffer. But line up more staff members than you need, and you’ll drain your budget.

The secret is to find your business’s sweet spot, where you’ve got the right number of employees in the house at the right time. Here’s how to do just that…

DO Use Bar and Restaurant Scheduling Tools

A solid bar and restaurant scheduling app or software program can automate many of the tasks on this list. For example, tired of getting call-ins (or should we say “text ins”) at 4am from team members?

Many bar and restaurant scheduling apps include communication platforms. That way, employees can send in requests for preferred shift times, vacations, and yes, alert you that they can’t come into work today – all in one place, on the app. No more employee messages about bar and restaurant scheduling clogging up your email, voicemail, and text messages.

Some tools, like 7Shifts, even use artificial intelligence to compare past staffing trends against total sales, resulting in the optimal number of employees you need per shift. In fact, 7Shifts claims you’ll save $400 or 3% of labor costs each month. Check out these reviews of 7Shifts and other bar and restaurant scheduling tools.

DO Let Employees Make Requests

Part of what appeals to people about working in the restaurant biz is the flexibility. Embrace it by accepting bar and restaurant scheduling requests from employees. This doesn’t mean you’re required to honor every request. In fact, you should make it clear that you’ll always try to accommodate requests, but the biz comes first.

It’s also an unwritten code that senior staff members get “first dibs” on requests for their preferred days and dayparts. Honor the code, but also consider using bar and restaurant scheduling requests as performance incentives. For example, run one of these 13 contests for waitstaff, then award the weekly winner with a chance to pick their ideal work times.

Ultimate Scheduling Template

The ultimate resource for owners & managers.

DON’T Stack the Deck

Another secret of bar and restaurant scheduling is this: you want at least a few of your best employees working when you’re busiest.

However, don’t give into temptation and put ALL of your top people on the schedule for peak days and dayparts. Why? First, you’re going to seriously irritate your newer, and less seasoned staff members. At least when it comes to tipped employees, everyone wants busy shifts so they can rack up tips! If you’re constantly showing favoritism in your bar and restaurant scheduling, it will be noticed and staff may end up quitting.

Second, if you can pair up 1-2 of your best employees with a few newer staff members during bustling shifts, it’s a key teambuilding opportunity. The newer employees will learn and grow, just from working alongside your top pros.

DON’T Wing It (Calculate It)

There’s no escaping it. Mastering the art of bar and restaurant scheduling requires you to crunch some numbers. Your mission? Figure out the optimal amount of employees you should have per position, and how many of those employees you need per shift. To do this, there are various methods.

First, you could start with an expert recommendation, and then customize it as needed. Case in point: Nestle Professional breaks down bar and restaurant scheduling needs based on the type of operation you run.

Keep in mind, these are ballpark figures and you’ll want to tweak your numbers based on previous and predicted sales for the day, daypart, and time of year. Still, it’s helpful to start somewhere. For example, if you run a casual restaurant like a pub or sports bar with seated dining, Nestle suggests you schedule 4 BOH staff (cooks, dishwashers) per 50 tables, and 1 server per 5-6 tables.

Another option for bar and restaurant scheduling is to apply the FTE formula (FTE stands for full-time equivalent). Gurus like David Peters, founder of www.therestaurantexpert.com, are big fans of the FTE formula. FTE stands for full-time equivalent.

Yes, this bar and restaurant scheduling strategy involves some work, but it can help give you a big picture idea of how many people you should employ.

To come up with your FTE per position, first figure out how many employees it would take to equal one full-time employee who works 40 hours a week.

Let’s say you have 6 dishwashers who can each work about 20 hours per week. Together, those 6 dishwashers equal 3 FTEs (2 dishwashers at 20 hours each would equal 40 hours, or 1 FTE).

Once you have calculated your FTEs, tally up the total number of hours you need for that position for the entire week – and divide it by 40 hours. In the case of our dishwasher example, the formula would look like this:

120 hours / 40 hours = 3 FTE

It’s like bar and restaurant scheduling magic, you must always have at least 3 FTE’s worth of dishwashers available to come in and work.

David Peters does an excellent job explaining how to use FTE numbers in your bar and restaurant scheduling, including how to calculate FOH FTE (which is different than dishwashers and other BOH positions). Peters also believes you should always have 1-2 extra FTEs per position for a smooth-running operation. In his opinion, the FTE method is key if you want to avoid over- or under-hiring, while reducing labor costs and overtime.

DO Stick to a Shift Posting Schedule

Had enough of bar and restaurant scheduling calculations? Good, we’re done with those for now. Another important strategy for smart scheduling is to get into a rhythm – and stick to it on a weekly basis. Set a date/time deadline for when employees can make requests. Let’s say it’s Monday by 8pm. That gives you Tuesday to coordinate the schedule, and you should always post the schedule at the same time Wednesday.

Of course, if you can do this every 2 weeks instead of weekly, you’d be even more efficient at bar and restaurant scheduling.

Not to be redundant, but this is another instance of when a bar and restaurant scheduling app could come in handy. Staff can put in scheduling requests via the app, and even receive the final schedule through the same app.

DON’T Overlook Labor Laws

Got a workaholic on your team? You know, a cook trying to save for college or her first home? She’d gladly work 50 hours if you let her. Sweet, you think, I’ve got a hard-working employee I can count on to make my bar and restaurant scheduling easier.

Hold up, you know you’re legally required to pay her time and a half if she goes over 40 hours, right? That will eat into your labor budget…fast.

When doing your bar and restaurant scheduling, you also need to factor in labor laws related to minors. These laws vary by state, and impact everything from minimum age requirements to limits on tasks they can perform. For example, most states prohibit minors from engaging in “hazardous” work, which includes meat slicing and grinding as well as using bakery equipment.

Now you’re empowered with 6 key DOs and DON’Ts for bar and restaurant scheduling. While we strongly suggest that you use software or an app, the most important tip for mastering the art of scheduling is to find that “sweet spot” where everyone wins: your guests, your staff members, and your bottom line. 

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