- When making a restaurant schedule, roles are scheduled differently: servers and other front of house staff are often part time while chefs and managers are usually full time.
- Operators need to anticipate that scheduling can be chaotic due to individual employee needs.
- A new overtime law gives restaurant operators more well-defined guidelines regarding overtime.
Making an employee schedule is one of the most important aspects of operating a restaurant. Simply put, without your staff, your restaurant doesn’t function.
However, organizing a restaurant schedule can be complicated, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to employee scheduling. Restaurants vary by capacity, style, customer volume, and dozens of other metrics, and all of these need to be taken into account when organizing your restaurant scheduling.
Knowing what to expect can help you get a grasp on the overall art of creating a restaurant work schedule. We’ll explain how to schedule each employee’s time and provide an easy-to-use restaurant schedule template.
Which Staff Members Do You Need?
Although no two restaurants are the same, restaurants all share similar needs when it comes to staffing. Staff members can be divided into two categories: front of house and back of house.
Front of house
Your front of house staff interacts with customers, serves food, maintains tables, and operates point of sale (POS) systems. Your front of house staff is made up of servers, bussers, bartenders, hosts, and your restaurant manager. The number of team members you’ll need on a shift depends on a number of variables in your business including size, hours worked, and customer volume.
Unsurprisingly, lunch and dinner are the busiest parts of the day for a restaurant. There’s usually a large drop-off in service in the middle, around 2-6 p.m. Many restaurants close at this time, leaving those making the schedule with a dilemma: Do you organize split shifts, expecting full-time employees to leave for a few hours and come back, or do you hire part-time servers to cover different shifts?
Add in a breakfast service and this conundrum becomes more complicated.
While it’s up to a restaurant operator to make a schedule, respecting your employees’ requests when it comes to scheduling can go a long way toward maximizing employee retention.
Let’s break down the scheduling needs of your front of house staff: servers, bussers, hosts, and restaurant managers. You can use this information in the restaurant schedule template at the bottom of the article.
Servers are your front-line staff in the trenches. They have the most interaction with the customers and act as the liaison between the customers and the kitchen. They need to be able to handle crunch time as well as down time. During busy times, a server can reasonably be expected to handle up to six tables at a time. However, this number will decrease in high-caliber restaurants where customers expect their servers to be very attentive.
For restaurants with a separate lunch and dinner service, a few options are available:
- Split shifts for full-time employees
- Individual lunch or dinner shifts for part-time employees
- A hybrid system where an employee may work a double shift a few days a week with extra days off
Plenty of restaurants work through the lull between lunch and dinner. If yours is one of those then scheduling becomes simpler. One server shift from morning to mid-afternoon and another from mid-afternoon to evening will suffice.
Bussers clear tables and bring dishes back to the kitchen to be washed. They can also be expected to clean tables.
These are usually part-time employees, many of whom are high school or college students. It’s reasonable to schedule them for part-time shifts to prevent complications and burnout.
Bartenders usually work in the evenings at restaurants. In a small restaurant, one bartender paired with one barback can be enough. In larger restaurants, it’s better to have at least a pair of bartenders and a barback. The increase in labor costs is often made up for by the amount of drinks sold, and the quicker drinks get out the more are generally sold.
Not every restaurant has a host — the job can be done by servers. However, restaurants who do have hosts will usually employ them on a part-time basis. Some restaurants may also opt to have a host for the dinner shift but not for the lunch shift. Generally, hosts will only work one shift per day.
The restaurant manager doesn’t only work the front of the house, but their obligations certainly extend into that arena. A manager is usually hired full-time and can work long shifts — sometimes 10-12 hours per day, depending on the restaurant and the day.
When scheduling, it’s important to not push your managers too hard to the point where they burn out and quit. Managers, like anyone else, need time off, including consecutive days if possible.
The number of managers at a restaurant depends on the size. Large restaurants may have many managers on one shift, whereas smaller ones may have only one or two.
When it comes to smaller restaurants, a few options are available to prevent manager burnout:
- Hire a full-time lunch manager and a full-time dinner manager
- Hire two part-time managers responsible for long hours for 3-4 days a week
- Hire one full-time manager and pay significantly more than average to keep their morale up
Scheduling your managers is one of the trickiest parts of running a restaurant, since they’re your second-in-command. You need them to be present and at their best, but you don’t want to run them into the ground.
Back of house
Your back of house staff include your chefs, sous chefs, line cooks, dishwashers, and expediters. For our purposes, we’ll put staff who cook into one category and assume the role of expediter is flexible and can be assigned to other staff, including the manager or servers. The restaurant schedule template at the bottom of the article includes head chef, sous chef, line cooks, prep cooks, and dishwashers.
Let’s break down the scheduling nuances for each one.
Chefs and Cooks
The number of cooks a restaurant kitchen has depends largely on its volume: more customers means more cooks. Variables like the difficulty of dishes, amount of preparation involved, and kitchen capacity also add to the complexity of staffing.
You’ll need at least a few important kitchen staff:
- An executive or head chef who’s in charge of all things in the kitchen
- A sous chef who’s the second in charge and often runs the kitchen in the head chef’s absence
- A prep cook who streamlines service by making sure food is ready to be cooked, including chopping vegetables and preparing other ingredients, organizing the kitchen, and doing any necessary pre-cleaning
- A line cook (or cooks) who is responsible for stations in the kitchen, including grilling, sautéing, and more
Chefs are known to work grueling hours: 12 hour shifts are common, and longer shifts are not unheard of. Whether an operator chooses to organize typical 8-hour shifts and then add overtime as necessary or just plan ahead for long shifts is a personal choice. Chefs can work anywhere from 50 up to a mind-boggling 120 hours per week.
However, as with a manager, a restaurant operator needs to be careful to avoid burnout in their kitchen staff. Releasing staff early when possible — i.e., letting them go during slow hours or when their job is done — can boost morale and keep labor costs down.
Alternatively, some restaurant operators opt to delegate and let the head or executive chef manage the scheduling in the kitchen. If you trust your head chef implicitly, this may save you time and headaches since there’s a good chance they know the kitchen better than anyone else in the restaurant.
Dishwashers are without a doubt the most important people in the restaurant. No clean dishes means nothing to serve food on. A backup in the dishwashing process can lead to a breakdown in the system of service.
Consequently, making sure your dishwashing area is fully staffed is of the utmost importance. At bare minimum you should have one staff member dedicated entirely to washing dishes. While line cooks and prep chefs can help wash dishes during down times, they’ll be busy during peak hours, so having two dishwashers is better.
Dishwashers are often hired on a part-time basis, though many inexperienced employees will use this as a foot in the door to get more kitchen experience. During down times, they can be trained to do kitchen prep and work parts of the line.
New Overtime Law
As of January 1, 2020, the amended Fair Labor Standards Act is in effect, which may change the way a restaurant operator chooses to schedule overtime.
The main takeaway is this: Restaurant operators must pay full-time employees a minimum of $684 per week to have them be exempt from time-and-a-half overtime laws.
Keep this in mind when scheduling. It may cost less to pay full-time employees this amount and ask for overtime than to schedule them for 40 hours a week and add overtime as needed.
This law can be nebulous when it applies to managers, considering that managerial positions are sometimes exempt from the law. A brief consultation with a labor lawyer can help you clear up any possible confusion on the issue if you wish to pay less than $684 per week.
Making a Schedule
Weekly schedules are constantly subject to change. Employee availability can change at a moment’s notice. Employees can have last-minute emergencies, can suggest shift swapping with other employees, or can experience a number of other scheduling needs that can have a restaurant operator pulling their hair out.
Restaurant scheduling software exists to help an operator streamline the process, but constant flux is to be expected. An operator may find themselves with open shifts they need employees to cover on days off. In short, expect schedule changes despite your best efforts.
Many managers simply use Microsoft Excel as their scheduling tool, though Google Sheets works just as well. You can make printable daily and weekly calendars using the restaurant schedule template below so staff scheduling is public information to all your employees.
No matter how well you plan — with monthly calendars, well-organized to-do lists, and complete employee shift schedules for every day of the week — plans can always go awry. Restaurant employees get sick, have emergencies, or may not turn up. Such is the reality of running a food and beverage business. Keeping a restaurant fully staffed with competent employees is a challenge restaurant operators know too well.
Pared is looking to mitigate that challenge and bring relief to operators. When you use the Pared app, you can find vetted Pros for any part of your business. Chefs, servers, bartenders, bussers, and more — Pared can fill your staffing needs in as little as two hours. How would you feel if you never had to be short-staffed again?
Excel Weekly Schedule Template
Below is a free Google sheets weekly planner template you can export as an Excel template. This work schedule template will cover the daily schedule of employee shifts over the course of a week.
This shift schedule can be exported to a PDF and be made into a printable weekly planner. It can also be exported via email to all your employees so they can see it at home as well.
Making an Excel calendar is a serious step up from using Microsoft Word, and like moving into the future when compared to handwritten schedules.
How to use this restaurant schedule template:
1. Click here to open the restaurant schedule template.
2. Click “File,” then “Make a copy.” You must be signed in to a Google account.
3. Change the names to your employees’ names.
4. Go to the “shifts” tab at the bottom and customize shift times to fit your restaurant.
5. Assign employees shifts in the blank fields related to the given day.
6. Print the schedule or email it to your employees so everyone is on the same page.