Cost Reduction

Scheduling Challenges for Restaurants Includes New Regulations

It’s been said that scheduling employees for a restaurant is a manager’s full-time job. From trying to implement a fair, yet functional, schedule to finding fill-ins for no-shows and last-minute call ins, this statement is probably not so far from the truth. But it’s not just operations that are affected by this sometimes nightmare, your staff is also reporting that scheduling conflicts and last-minute changes are making their ability to plan the financial and social aspects of their lives challenging, to say the least.

Scheduling from the Staff’s Point of View

A recent article in Los Angeles Times reported on how erratic scheduling was making life difficult for workers in the retail industry. From unreliable hours and therefore paychecks to last minute and unannounced changes, scheduling unpredictability has led to uncertainty and lack of stability in employee’s lives.

This increasing problem has been blamed, in part, to the latest software that predicts consumer demand and, from this information, generates shifts—shifts that can change in a moment’s notice. Good for the bottom line—bad for employees that lack a set schedule.

Growing Regulations

Because of this growing concern among pro-active labor groups, regulations have been passed, and these regulations are predominantly affecting the retail and food service industries.  In 2014, San Francisco passed the first “predictive scheduling” law. Under this law, employees must provide schedules to their employees at least two weeks in advance, pay a penalty to their employee should they have to change their schedule with less than seven days’ notice, and pay on-call employees two to four hours even if they are not called in to work.

Seattle’s “predictive scheduling” law asks for similar restitution. In addition, it addresses “clopening” shifts—schedules that expect an employee to work the closing shift followed by an opening shift. Shifts scheduled less than 10 hours apart require employee’s consent and time-and-a-half for any hours that don’t comply to this regulation.

New York and Oregon have similar regulations. Fourteen states and four municipalities are expected to follow.

Scheduling from a Manager’s Perspective

According to a 2017 survey by TSheets, shift workers lose an average of $1,100 each year due to last-minute shift cancelations. Employers, on the other hand, lose an average of $7,500 each year due to no-shows. One in 10 employers report having to cover no-shows every day while 40 percent report having to deal with this challenge once a month or more.

As far as the new scheduling regulations are concerned? 47 percent of employers say they will not be able to comply with this new legislation—and keep the doors open.

A quote from Tom Robbin’s book, Still Life with Woodpecker, has always stuck with me: “How do you make love stay?” In the current challenges facing both staff and employees, we should probably rephrase that to, “How do you make employees stay?”

With U.S. businesses dishing out $550 billion every year replacing employees, it’s a question that every restaurateur should address sooner rather than later.

So, just how are restaurants scheduling employees in a way keeps employee’s happy and in it for the long haul, while still keeping labor costs in line?

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Start your scheduling with demand instead of budget in mind. How many employees are needed at specific times of day and who is the best choice to carry the required workload while giving your customers the best possible experience? This gives your staff a chance to cover the details, apply upselling techniques, and make sure meals come out timely and of the highest quality. In this way, guests will more likely become long-term patrons and your staff will benefit with better tips from satisfied customers.
  • Communicate with your employees. While you can’t please everyone all the time, you can take into account your staff’s lives outside of the work place. You may be scheduling your star server for Friday and Saturday nights, a shift that others desire due to the increase in tips, while this particular employee would rather be singing karaoke on the weekends. As long as you’ve hired a staff that is in alignment with your organization and has a customer-service inspired attitude, almost anyone can be trained to excel.
  • Provide your employees with their schedule at least two weeks in advance. This gives them the opportunity to plan ahead, both financially and socially. And if they would like a specific day off, it gives them time to find a replacement, leading to less same day “my car broke down” calls. The employees of today are looking for a balanced work and home life—help them achieve this by giving them their schedule in a timely manner that gives them the opportunity to create a life well lived.


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