[Interview] Restaurant Staff Scheduling Best Practices

Posted by Brandon Tucker

Brandon was the Marketing Content Specialist for SpeedLine Solutions from 2019 to 2022. He ensured the content we provided was the top-notch quality we are known for by staying up to date on industry trends, tips, tricks, and best practices to help our customers' businesses grow.

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Dealing with scheduling and labor targets is a major pain point for many restaurant owners and managers. Between limited employee availability and juggling shift roles, something that should take a half-hour can easily turn into a multi-hour nightmare. That's why we sat down with Jordan Boesch, the CEO of the restaurant scheduling platform 7shifts, and learned the secrets behind efficient staff scheduling for any restaurant.

Read our full Q&A interview below.


Brandon: "Let's just start off with the basics here. What would you say are some of the best practices for when it comes to restaurants scheduling their staff?"

Jordan: "I would say, first and foremost, one of the best things that needs to be done that I don't think enough operators do is just really understanding your labor targets as it relates to sales. So, I think that whether you decide to build efficient schedules based on guest counts, or sales, or other types of metrics, I think first and foremost is what are you spending every day to staff your restaurant, and how does that relate to what is the industry norm benchmark against perhaps other folks that have a similar restaurant to you or are competing with you. Now, whether or not you use Excel or an online scheduling tool, that's the next stage, in my mind. You just need to understand what you're doing today."

Brandon: "Perfect. How important is it to understand one-off events in your area? How important is it to stay in touch with those things? Because those obviously affect your order numbers and therefore should impact your scheduling needs."

Jordan: "So there are several external factors that affect your sales data, which then affect how you staff your restaurant. Like weather trends and seasonality are important, right? In addition to that, events are absolutely important too. So if there's a hockey game or football game going on and you are a restaurant that's close to the stadium, you're going to want to make sure that you're in the loop because you're going to spike sales for a period of time. And what are those sales going to be? What are they going to look like?"

"Do you have the right people staff to accommodate to ensure that you are driving the max amount of revenue? More often than not, people are almost scared to staff more people because of the labor costs, but they almost don't realize that there is a turnaround time that occurs where there's kind of a tipping point where you have a certain amount of people to actually drive more revenue for you. Maybe you're turning tables faster because you have some folks that are actually tending to people quicker. So, events definitely affect how people schedule. And I think it's important to not just see adding people as a cost, but really understand how that also impacts revenue for you."

Brandon: "And besides the things you obviously just touched on there, can you kind of give me other examples of what restaurants owners should really be considering when they get around to actually building their staffing schedule, what are some of the big things that should be on the top of their mind?"

Jordan: "So, when it comes to building out their schedule, obviously the labor target stuff that I mentioned is important, but also looking at weather seasonality trends and understanding those factors and events as well. Whether you have concerts or any live events too will probably change things for you. But really factoring in and making sure you understand also the needs of some of the staff members. So I always say it's kind of a balancing act between what the business needs and what the employee wants. And really trying to say, 'Okay, at the very base level, our business needs and these types of requirements to hit our targets and to operate efficiently as a business. And from the employee level, I also want to make sure I'm giving maybe my most senior staff, their preferred shifts. I'm just trying to ensure that I have the right people on the floor from a skill level perspective.'"

"You obviously don't want a staff with potentially 10 juniors all starting at the same time on the floor. That's probably not a good idea. So making sure that there's a level of seniority and balance there. And yeah, trying to accommodate the staff as best as you can. I think if you look at some of the top reasons people quit their job, the first and foremost one is that they didn't like their manager. That's a big one. But if you go down the list, I think the second or the third one is a lack of flexibility. So really trying to make sure that you are trying your best to accommodate staff members while also meeting the needs of the business. And you should be able to do this through the hiring process too. Understand schedules change, but at least when you're vetting your staff and getting their availability and when they could work, it should give you a good sense of the types of flexibility that each staff member will require."

Brandon: "And can you speak to the importance of cross-training as it relates to scheduling in restaurants?"

Jordan: "Yeah. I think it varies between different types of restaurants, and whether it's full service or QSR. I work in QSR. I think a lot of people have. You can go from cutting the meats, throwing out the garbage, making the sandwiches, topping them, running the cash register, asking the customers how they're doing. And so, it's important. And I think it's totally dependent on the business itself, but having that kind of cross-training is definitely a value for a lot of these folks. But especially now when it's so hard to hire people. So if you can do a few different roles, you're going to probably be more sought after than someone that can just do one role. So it's definitely a good skill set to develop and hopefully, your place of work needs that and can accommodate that."

Brandon: "Definitely makes sense. So, once you get to the point where you've built out your schedule, can you give us some of the best practices for communicating that schedule to your team or especially communicating any last-minute changes to that schedule?"

Jordan: "I think the traditional way of communicating schedules has been called the old school way, which has been emailing, or texting, or calling people. When I worked, it was just you kind of call the restaurant and you ask someone to read it off the back of the restaurant for you because it's posted somewhere. But the best way that we've seen in our system for that to work is really once the schedule is published, people are notified instantly through the app, or, if they don't have the app installed, then through a text message. And if there are any changes that occur post schedule publish, then those need to be communicated right away. So you don't have to keep track of all the little shifts that you changed for each individual. It just kind of touches all of them for you automatically and gets it out."

"To be more effective, what we've seen in the past is a lot of folks, they just re-blast it out to everyone and people are confused because they're like, 'No, no, I already got my schedule. But it didn't change and why am I getting duplicates?' So, I think it's really important to have a system that's going to take the thinking out of it and allow you to just ensure that your staff gets it."

"If they get it, they're going to show up for the most part, hopefully. But the problem with the old school way is you introduce a lot of excuses around, 'Oh, I didn't receive it.' Or, 'I didn't see it until two days from now.' And, 'Oh, I didn't get the call from the manager.' Whether it's true or not, you don't want to have to think and kind of guess whether or not someone's telling the truth or not. So, having kind of like a consistent way of having a log, here's when it was sent out and here's who was notified, just removes any reason for excuses."

Brandon: "Yeah, definitely. And let's try to zero in on each kind of individual role in the restaurant here. So, can you kind of run us through one or two or three of the best practices for scheduling each kind of key area within a restaurant? So for example, delivery drivers, servers line cooks, et cetera."

Jordan: "Again, everyone is a little bit different, but in terms of servers and line cooks, some people schedule and base their efficiencies off food sales for line cooks, some people do it off of gross sales on the restaurant. It depends on how granular you want to look at it. But generally, whether it's off of food sales or overall sales of the restaurant or servers and front-of-house sales. However, you want to slice that, it's still important that you're comparing against your overall labor costs. So, you have to find out what makes the most sense for you in terms of how you want to measure the efficiencies of your own business. And certainly, I would encourage any operators to talk to other folks in the industry to understand what makes the most sense for businesses that are most similar to theirs."

"But when you start to get into other folks like delivery drivers, it gets a little bit more complicated. And we just went through the thick of the pandemic and it was terrible. But a lot of people, instead of furloughing their servers, turned them into delivery drivers. And it was just pure survival instincts, right? You didn't want to get rid of them. They were great servers, but we're going to just have him drive a car instead of signing up for Uber Eats or DoorDash, or any third-party delivery service. But what came with that was every single person I talked to did not understand how to measure efficiency. And maybe it wasn't as important to them at that moment because everyone's just thinking about survival. But if you look at the folks that are even considering doing delivery or are doing delivery, even themselves, there's very little thought into how efficient is it because there are kind of two ways to do it."

"Either you have commercial insurance, and it gets pretty expensive when you have that, or you don't, and you could potentially make costly mistakes. When you look at delivery, you should understand what your delivery sales are. You should understand what your volume of delivery is. You should understand what your average check size is for delivery. You should understand where you are delivering to and what it costs the food to get there. It may make sense for some people, but it may not. It may make only sense for you to deliver within a two-mile radius, whereas others can do a 10-mile radius. Just based on where the bulk of your deliveries are coming from and your average check size for those deliveries."

"So, the short answer of it is scheduling delivery is really complicated, and you really just need to understand how you want to approach it. In some cases, it can work if you do it in-house. And in other cases, it won't. And you really need to understand your business at a granular level to determine what makes the most sense for you. But I would say that's the more challenging one to schedule."

Brandon: "As you mentioned, scheduling deliveries and delivery drivers is, like you said, very complicated. So with that being said, are there any one-off stories that come to the top of your mind about scheduling drivers?"

Jordan: "I wrote an entire LinkedIn post on it. I don't know if you guys have seen that one. I have a ton of data from what we learned from our own system. Generally, my stories are that nobody I talked to was doing it efficiently, and nobody understood how to even measure if they were doing it efficiently. But again, it comes back to survival within the pandemic."

Brandon: "Is there anything else that we didn't really touch on here that you really just want to emphasize when it comes to restaurant schedules?"

Jordan: "Yeah. I think it's becoming table stakes that operators, especially restaurant operators, leverage technology now to survive and run their business more efficiently. I think we saw a lot of them go out of business during the pandemic. And unfortunately, a lot of them were kind of riding the red and the black for potentially too long. So, I think as it relates to scheduling, maybe even more broadly around restaurant technology itself, is that operators definitely need to look at what types of tools can help give them better insights on their business so that they can run it more efficiently. And there is a big emphasis on leveraging scheduling tools to not just hire great people. Because part of what we do is we have a hiring product as well, but you also want to use it as a retention mechanism in terms of giving people the flexibility they need openly allowing for communication and engaging with your staff."

"A great scheduling and labor management tool, which we actually refer to now as a team management tool, it goes far beyond scheduling and into the actual retention aspects of what it can provide. So in our case, we improve retention by 13%. In addition to that, we save you on labor costs between 1% and 3%. So in a restaurant that's doing a million bucks a year, $10,000 to $30,000 in savings is pretty substantial. But I think from a time savings perspective, smart operators are understanding that their time is important. And if a tool like 7shifts can save you 80% on time spent scheduling, building, managing, and communicating, it adds up, especially when you're paying a manager a little bit more than you would pay a regular employee working on managing."

Posted on Fri, Sep 03, 2021 @ 08:09 AM.
Updated on September 8, 2021 @ 5:12 PM PST.

Tags: Employee Management, Restaurant Delivery, Restaurant Operations

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