Employee Scheduling Software Tips From Industry Vets

January 2, 2017 by Larry Struckman
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Restaurant scheduling can quickly become a nightmare trying to balance employee’s personal schedules and the restaurants needs. While the task of employee scheduling can become daunting quick, you can focus on the things you can control. With these employee scheduling software tips and online scheduling programs like ShiftNote your scheduling life can definitely be easier and you may even be able to go home earlier!

The Shiftnote team, Matt & Leigh Ann Thompson, Kevin & Matt Hench and Larry & Malayna Struckman, reveal top considerations a restaurant or hospitality manager should make to create the perfect schedule using an employee scheduling software. From challenges and opportunities, to issues related to under- or over-staffing and identifying the right solution for your needs, get greater insight into the restaurant scheduling process.

What are top challenges with employee scheduling?

  • Kevin: A few things: Balancing your time with the demand of employees, Time spent on schedules, Remembering employee’s time off requests and availability, Being understaffed, Forecasting labor spend and sales, Communicating the schedule effectively, Finding a place where your employees can RTO and release shifts
  • Matt T: Balancing the business’ needs with your employee’s ever-changing work availability is a major challenge. In fact, much of the labor pool are students with activities, thus finding a balance between making sure you have enough staff to not only service your customers, and also catering to their needs is a struggle.
  • Malayna: Also, “no shows” presents challenges for restaurant managers, so it’s important to have a backup plan.

What should a restaurant manager consider when scheduling?

  • Malayna:  Requests off in order of seniority, making sure you have enough key people for busy nights, new hires on with well trained staff
  • Kevin:  Events, Weather, LY information – it’s better to be overstaffed and make cuts early, than understaffed and your service goes down with the ship.Also, certain employees will make a restaurant busy or slow. Don’t staff your weaker employees all in one day you have to have a mix have strong employees and newer ones. Your veteran employees can nurture newer staff.
  • Matt T:  A manager should consider forecasted sales (by day or week), budget (labor dollars), and employee pool resources. Employees are the difference makers in your success. In the restaurant business, finding, retaining and training quality staff never ends. As you create a schedule and assign shifts, it’s helpful to know your employee’s strengths and weaknesses. You can do this by ranking employees by their:
    • Product knowledge (e.g. menu, ingredients, cooking process)
    • Company policies and steps of service (e.g. how you want a customer to experience your restaurant)
    • Hospitality skills (e.g. customer interaction skills and likability)
    • Sales ability (How well can they sell?)

What mistakes do managers make when scheduling?

  • Matt T:  Not allowing time-off requests during high-volume restaurant sales days, Allowing too many people to take off, and then being understaffed, Not using a budget or forecasted sales to make a schedule, Not scheduling your best employees to capture better sales.
  • Kevin:  Not setting clear guidelines with new employees during the hiring process or taking into account upward or downward trends.
  • Leigh Anne:  Also, local events – like school schedules, teacher workdays, festivals, and sporting events – can greatly impact your business and staffing needs. Be prepared by knowing upcoming local events, but maximize on any sales opportunities. For example, your high school football team plays every Friday night. While this could deplete your high school staff, rent a big screen and offer 10% off to anyone who wears the school colors.

What should you do if you are consistently understaffed or overstaffed?

  • Leigh Anne:  It is better to be overstaffed than the other way around. Empower your management team to be in control of shifts and sales dollars earned. If sales are not what they should be, cut your employees at the appropriate times. Keep you aces in their places in case there is a late-night rush, but stop spending labor dollars when it’s not necessary!
  • Malayna:  Give shifts to senior employees or see if they want a vacation day when you are overstaffed. When understaffed, look to your current staff and friends, and keep restaurant recruitment strategies in your back pocket.
  • Matt H:  This is where ShiftNote comes into play. ShiftNote is a solution to schedule week in and week out. Our ShiftNote employee scheduling software recognizes employee availability, RTO requests, job codes and more, so you are not scheduling employees in the wrong places. It’s an easy-to-use system, perfect for businesses that do not want to spend an arm and a leg…. It’s also easy and intuitive. A question you can ask yourself is “Can my grandma write a schedule for my restaurant not knowing anyone? With ShiftNote Scheduler it is certainly possible.
  • Kevin:  There are two things here to understand:
    • Being consistently understaffed will hurt your business. Guests will not return and you will burn out your team.
    • Being consistently overstaffed will impact your bottom line negatively with high labor costs, servers and bartenders will not make the money they need and will look elsewhere for work.

What should you look for when choosing employee scheduling software?

  • Larry:  Easy to use – employee scheduling software that doesn’t necessarily need a manual, Can be used to communicate between employees and managers, Is quick - doesn’t take long to make a schedule, Is mobile and user friendly, Has a request time off option, Can automatically schedule employees quickly so you don’t have to work as hard, Takes into account employee capability, Works with a POS system and can pull POS information for historical data, Shows cost by day, week, and or month, Can run reports from any time period, Can show schedule by day, week, month, bi-month or any other view – along with the cost for that time period, Dependability, Set-up fees, Ability to test-drive for free, NO Contracts involved, Ability to forecast and configurable settings.
  • Matt T:  Also, you should start with your needs. Think about your budget and balance that with the software’s functionality. Some scheduling tools will have everything you need but if you are stuck on looking for one thing could minimize your choices quick!

How does a well-thought-out schedule affect overall restaurant operations?

  • Larry:  It’s the key to the entire scheduling process. Not only does it control labor dollars, but it helps with staffing during your busiest times, so you can have a keen customer focus.
  • Malayna:  Everyone gels together and helps each other out more so the guest experience can be the best it can be.

What's the solution for managing the difficult task of employee scheduling?

  • Larry:  Of course, we are partial to ShiftNote, but additional strategies are:
    • Having great notes from last year (# of servers, # of Shifts, Sales Dollars by day part)
    • Creating a template for different levels of sales.
    • Starting early
    • Having request for time off in a minimum of 2 weeks before the schedule is made.
    • Using an on-call system and let employees know as soon as they call if you need them.
    • Having one place for all the RTO’s to go.
    • Scheduling the busiest day first and then work to the next busiest day and on down the line, Using a schedule that worked in the past and duplicate (Check for RTO or availability challenges before you complete and post it.)
    • Scheduling at the same time on the same day each week so that you are consistent and so your employees know when to check it.

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Larry Struckman

Passionate about setting up systems and procedures that assure success, training, consulting, growing sales, strategic planning, creating "raving fan" customer service and just about anything related to food service. 25+ years in food and sales as well as growing hundreds of concepts with different operators (I have seen them all). I enjoy cooking, computer software, Taekwondo and spending time with my family. We started ShiftNote in 2007 to help organizations like yours create a better platform for shift-to-shift communication across their organization. Our purpose is to serve you with the best online digital logbook and employee scheduling software on the market so you can spend more time focusing on growing your business.