by Richard Saporito
Staff scheduling is crucial and closely tied to customer service. In every way, a balance must be achieved by matching the dining room service labor needs to forecasted business.
There should be a system whereby the staff shift availability days can be communicated in writing to the person who makes up the schedule. A simple staff shift availability sign-up sheet, posted conspicuously, will do. Each staff member should work a balanced amount of shifts throughout the week. If the schedule maker is burning out staff members with extra shifts or scheduling too many staff members to work only one or two shifts, it will subtract from customer service.
Usually, a restaurant will get more efficiency from staff members working three, four, or more shifts per week, rather than only one or two. However, at times one may have to bend this guideline to keep the work schedule filled, but it should be kept to a minimum. Constant communication with the staff while staying abreast of their available work shifts will facilitate the scheduling process immensely.
The person who makes up the schedule must be highly aware of the projected business in the restaurant. The schedule should contain the correct amount of labor needed to provide a proper level of service for each work shift. Seasonal aspects, (such as busy holidays/slow summers), special occasions, private parties, etc., must be figured into the schedule.
Any outside activity that may affect business in the restaurant (such as food festivals, parades, etc.) needs to be taken into account. If there are separate dining rooms, the busy times must be properly forecasted for each room — especially if one dining room is more popular than another, say, because of entertainment on certain nights or by showing off a special type of décor. If there is outdoor seating, the weather must be watched because it can change quickly.
Forecasting the incoming business helps to schedule the correct amount of staff, with the perfect balance always being sought. If there is light scheduling on a day that gets very busy, the dining room customer service will be slow and inefficient ? affecting sales and reputation. On the contrary, if there is heavy scheduling on light business days, it will become frustrating for waitstaff who will be working very few tables while draining the payroll.
Generally, the schedule should start on a Sunday; therefore, it needs to be posted by Thursday or Friday of the previous week. Excel spreadsheet formats are great for scheduling organization. The schedule should be posted in an easily viewable location with enough copies available for all staff. Staff phone lists should be printed, copied, and made readily available to all. This improves communication, especially for work shift substitutions.
This leads to the substitution process for staff work shifts. There needs to be a Substitution Book readily available with blank spaces for names, upcoming dates and work shifts for the next 1–2 months. If a substitution is made, the information must be recorded with the date and shift time (a.m./p.m., etc.). The substitution must be initialed by both parties involved, and subsequently initialed by a manager, ensuring there are no mistakes in communication. Any mishaps may result in a shift not being covered.
Scheduling may look great for payroll cost control, but it must be remembered that dining room service staff are real people with real lives whose cheerful and efficient service is what restaurants depend on. The schedule maker needs to be understanding toward the staff’s scheduling requests, but should not roll over and play dead (again, balance). It is impossible to please everyone 100% of the time, but a proper scheduling balance will truly have a positive effect on restaurant dining room customer service and staff.
It is better for a service consultant or manager to handle the schedule at the initial phases of a new operation. In some cases, mature restaurants may let a senior member of the service staff handle the schedule because it is a better way to communicate scheduling concerns.
Please use whichever system works best for the establishment, because the staff schedule is a strong part of customer service and should not be taken lightly.
About the Author:
Richard Saporito is the Founder of Topserve Restaurant Consulting, author of “How To Improve Dining Room Service.” If you’d like to improve your restaurants’ service reputation and increase sales, contact Richard today for a Free Initial Consultation by calling (888) 276-4808 or visiting his Contact Page.
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Richard Saporito is the Founder of Topserve Restaurant Consulting, author of "How To Improve Dining Room Service." If you'd like to improve your restaurants' service reputation and increase sales, contact Richard today for a Free Initial Restaurant Consultation by calling (888) 276-4808 or visiting his Contact Page.