Tommy Associates Pty Ltd
Tommy Logo

4 Tips for Easier Staff Scheduling for Cafes, Bars – Restaurants

4 Tips for Easier Staff Scheduling for Cafes, Bars
Blog Post Image

When it comes to staff scheduling for bars, cafes, or restaurants, it can be something managers either fear or revere. Feared when it comes to the complexity of the scheduling, and for potential error due to swap shifts.. Revered when done correctly for the opportunities it presents for customers and staff when the dream team handles the Friday dinner or Sunday brekkie rush smoothly.

So what are the secrets to effective scheduling. Here are our 4 tips to assist with staff scheduling for your cafe, bar, or restaurant that will help you get your life back by turning scheduling into a breeze!

#1 - Develop a Smart Scheduling Strategy

Having a strategy for scheduling starts with being consistent. The best way to ensure that, is to have a systematic approach to scheduling.

Consider these questions:
  • What is your strategy around scheduling?
  • Do you have a regular day each week where you sit to complete the roster and/or a day and time staff can expect to get their schedule every week?

Managers at top-end restaurants know the importance of having their top staff scheduled for their busy shifts. But scheduling staff is not just about getting shifts covered. It is best to ensure you have the right team with competent staff for the most crucial trading times? This helps reduce your workload, stress, and gets you the backup to look after your customers. Quality service helps grow reputations, booking requests, and ensures happy staff, which can be the direct results from smart scheduling.

Not sure where to start? Here are some of our scheduling strategies that will make scheduling easier:
  • Roster the busy shifts first with your best staff then work backwards.
    • Many managers start from the first workday, which ends up always requiring additional time to rework the roster when over scheduling key staff or coming up short for Fridays or Saturdays because you put your best staff on Tuesday or Wednesday.
  • Minimise back-to-back scheduling for staff to prevent burnout.
    • They may call for more hours… But chances are, staff closing and opening, will not do the close properly if they are first in the next day.
    • Suddenly jobs get missed, pile up into a big mess, and the new staff pick up on these bad habits. Customers see the decline in the business, leading to a decline in sales, why put out fires when you could be installing sprinkler systems.
  • Release the schedule at the same time every week.
    • This way, staff know exactly when they will get their schedule, know when to expect it, and can’t use the excuse for missing a shift because they didn’t have the schedule.
  • Move to bi-weekly scheduling if you currently do weekly.
    • NOTE: monthly can end up time-consuming with swaps and changes so not recommended for larger teams.
  • Set a deadline day and time for requests off – if you release the schedule Sundays at 12pm, make Thursday 5pm the deadline for all requests off.
    • If Fridays are your busiest night, you don’t want staff discussing the roster or time off while you’re trying to handle a busy dinner rush.

#2 - Swap 1 Money Shift for 1 Day Shift For all Staff Every Other Week To Create Unexpected Opportunities

The majority of managers immediately roster seasoned staff for the money shifts that have been with them the longest. This makes sense in regards to wanting to foster loyalty and keep your best staff, yet it also puts you in a weak place should your best staff decide to leave or can’t work. Not to mention, this robs you of two potential unexpected opportunities that can come from diversifying the scheduled staff – levelling up new staff and potentially transforming bad shifts into profitable trading periods.
By swapping some day shifts out and offering the ‘Money Shifts’ to staff with a rotating roster, this demonstrates for the incoming staff there is mobility and opportunity. It may upset some seasoned staff initially, but it might also give them a kick in the butt if they have gotten too comfortable in their role.
This method requires a bit of finesse. You want to ensure telling your seasoned staff this is not to punish them, but to strengthen customer service at other times and provide the opportunity for other staff and to be fair.
For example:
  • Having your best bartender on for certain lunch shifts might increase patronage and make what was once a quiet time into your busiest time, due to the upgrade in customer service.
  • In addition, you might discover a new staff member steps up because they are given the opportunity and becomes your most competent and best worker after scheduling them for a busy shift.
  • Alternatively, your new shining star staff will leave if you give them shit shifts, and your best staff might slack if they know they will always have the money shifts.

#3 - Consider Switching to Rostering/Scheduling App

Time is the most valuable asset for any manager. Many apps available today offer features that could save time and headaches, as well as provide additional support that a personal assistant would do. By harnessing the latest advances in technology provided by scheduling apps, such as analytics and automation, many hospitality managers free up time to analyse their business which helps to make crucial decisions and changes.

Rostering apps provide the means to delegate and automate where paper-based schedules can’t. Paper schedules are rarely consistent for staff when they have different copies due to swaps. Paper rarely helps managers manage the schedule efficiently or effectively. It takes them away from important tasks, avoid this by use of scheduling App, like Tommy.

Things to consider:
  • Scheduling apps or software were created to solve many of the scheduling issues plaguing businesses using traditional paper-based or out-dated software
  • This means that changing your scheduling software if its outdated could actually resolve countless other issues in your business, including staff retention and schedule management

Apps such as Tommy allow you to set triggers for when conditions are met to take certain actions. This can be a thing such as sending out reminders to gather all time-off requests before Thursdays at 5pm or checking staff doesn’t accidentally get over-time rates when swapping last minute with other staff.

Rostering apps are also invaluable for resource planning and cost control. Effective scheduling means staff are less stressed with having a life outside or work, so will be less pressured to quit. It also provides managers more time to focus on what is important. For a fraction of the cost compared to hiring a personal assistant, imagine if you could get 10x the consistency and reliability in managing your team schedule with a fraction of the time required. That would not just save time and money – but your sanity.

#4 - Managing Shift Swaps With Transparency & Authority

No matter how much work and effort you put into creating the ideal schedule, sometimes staff will have other priorities or unexpected incidents that require time off. Last-minute changes or call-outs could leave you scrambling before the dinner rush to add another stress to your packed plate. It could also be thinking you made budget and profit, only to discover later you have to pay overtime rates for staff that you didn’t realise already have worked additional hours that week.

As a general rule for scheduling:

  • Make it clear it’s staff responsibility to get shifts covered but you are accountable for the final approval.
  • This can easily be handled through a rostering or scheduling app many times.
  • If using paper or text send-out schedules, simplify things by making sure swapping shifts or getting them covered is always approved by you.

Additional you can use a system for grouping staff to ensure swaps are only for staff in each group:

  • Assign each staff into a group based on skill/experience so that staff in each group can fill in for staff in the same group.
  • You wouldn’t want a bartender trying to cover a cooking shift or vice versa, let alone your best staff taking a Friday off during dinner rush to have Phil, the new inexperienced and underage staff to cover his shift.

In Closing - Smarter Scheduling Allows Managers To Work On Growing the Business Vs Managing Schedules & Shift Coverage

Effective scheduling has the power to transform your business if done correctly, whether you are using an app, sending via email or text, or even the old paper sheets. As the saying goes, the obstacle is the way. When done correctly, weekly scheduling can be the spinach to your Popeye rather than the kryptonite to your Superman.

Scheduling smarter can:
  • Help reduce staff turnover.
  • Increase staff retention.
  • Bring operating costs under control.
  • Reduce workload to where you can have a life.
  • Ensure shift swaps and time off requests help the team (over hurt it).
  • Improve workplace happiness.
  • Who knows – it might even make staff love coming to work.
Once you can simplify the one major weekly task of scheduling into a system, you will reduce your stress and your staff and customers will feel it.