The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year for your guests. For you and your staff, it’s time to get organized. You’ll be fielding time-off requests, staff cancellations, and stressed-out managers and hosts. Meanwhile, your customers, who will still be expecting top-notch service, will hopefully be coming to your restaurant in search of refuge from traveling, running errands, and holiday shopping.
It’s no secret that staff turnover is a persistent problem within the restaurant industry. In fact, over the last decade, annual restaurant employee turnover peaked in 2018 at 74.9 percent compared with 74.2 percent in 2008 and 57.1 percent in 2010, according to the National Restaurant Association.
So, how can you get customers in the door at a time when many will be shopping to prepare their own home-cooked meals? We have seven steps to follow while scheduling your team for the holidays to help minimize your employees’ stress levels and increase the chance that your customers will be coming back for more long after New Year’s Day.
1. Reflect On Last Year
If your restaurant was in business at this time last year, take a look at your scheduling records and think about the successes and pitfalls you experienced. Were you busy? Do you anticipate similar foot traffic this year? What lessons did you learn last year that you can apply this year? Consult your managers and senior servers for feedback on simplifying this year’s scheduling process.
2. Balance Time Off and Extra Shift Requests
Encourage your employees to think about each other and the responsibility they have to the team as a whole when requesting time off. If they can see how their request might affect the workload of their teammates, your staff will likely be more understanding about needing to work an occasional holiday, and you will function more strongly as a unit.
On the other hand, not everyone is going to want vacation time during the holidays. Some of your staff may not be traveling and could be eager to pick up shifts to earn extra cash. Discuss the opportunities for both time off and extra shifts with your team, so that everyone can tell you what they want.
3. Set Expectations
Let your staff know well in advance which days are non-negotiable for time off. Some employees, particularly if they haven’t worked for you for very long, may assume taking time off is not going to be any problem. The sooner you have a plan in place that everyone understands, the smoother your holiday rush will go.
4. Be Flexible
The holidays can be incredibly stressful, so if you have an opportunity to send members of your team home early (provided they want to leave) or adjust timing in a way that doesn’t leave you in a pinch, it’s a nice thing to do. Be clear that you’re acknowledging the desire of some for shorter shifts during the busy holiday season, so there’s no expectation of continuing these adjustments into the new year.
In addition, don’t schedule employees on back-to-back shifts; give them plenty of time to recuperate before coming back in. Leaving at midnight and having to return at ten the next morning will not make for the best service possible, even for a top employee. Ultimately, your thoughtfulness should result in appreciation and a deeper sense of loyalty from your team.
5. Keep Your Staff Balanced
Don’t overload any one shift or day with all seasoned employees or all newbies. Mix knowledgeable and novice employees so new workers can learn from experienced ones and customers can receive the level of service to which they’re accustomed. This may make scheduling around vacations and time off a little more difficult, but remind your more experienced employees why their presence is critical.
6. Consider Adding Support Staff
You may want to consider hiring part-time or temporary employees to help pick up some of the slack on your busiest days. While hiring too many staffers could eat into your profits, not having enough help can spur employee turnover.
Worried about training new staff? You’re not alone. A 2019 Toast Restaurant Success Report found that 59 percent of restaurateurs named training, hiring, and retaining workers as their top concern in 2018. If you’ve hired seasonal staffers during summer breaks or holidays, keep them in mind for extra holiday help.
7. Incentivize Employees to Take Holiday Shifts
If you can’t get enough volunteers for the toughest shifts (think Christmas or New Year’s Eve), offer a reward or incentive for the employees taking the shift no one else wants. Beyond time-and-half pay, offering a gift card, a swap for an extra day off in January, or an extra bonus could sweeten the deal for your staffers and secure the staffing levels you need.
Want some more tips on getting the best results from your staff? Download our free e-book on “Hire, Train, Retain, Discipline: Restaurant Management for Success!