You’ve been dreading it all year. The holiday schedule for your restaurant. It’s a potential minefield of time-off requests, staff cancellations, and stressed out managers and hosts — not to mention customers with higher expectations and more built-in agitation than at any other time of year. Your staff needs to be at the top of its game.
So how can you get them there — literally there — when you need them most? We have seven steps to scheduling your team for the holidays to make sure everything goes as smooth as egg nog and as cheery as old Saint Nick until the New Year’s bells chime.
1. Reflect on last year
If your restaurant was in business at this time last year, take a look back at your scheduling records and think about the successes and pitfalls you experienced. How busy were you and do you have reason to believe this year will be any different? Can there lessons you picked up along the way help you head off the same trouble this year? Consult your managers and senior servers to see what their recollections are, and if they have any advice going into the scheduling process.
2. Balance time off with extra shifts.
Not everyone is going to want vacation time or be traveling during the holidays. Some of your staff may be eager to pick up extra shifts and earn extra cash at yearend. Sit down with your entire team well in advance and discuss the opportunities for both time off and extra shifts, so that each person can report back with an idea of what they’re looking for.
Encourage your employees to think about each other and the responsibility they have to the team as a whole. If they can see their decisions affect the workload of their teammates, your staff will work more strongly as a unit.
3. Set expectations.
If certain days or shifts leading up to the holidays are completely non-negotiable for time off, be sure to set that expectation with your staff well in advance. Some employees, particularly if they haven’t worked for you very long, may well assume taking time off is not going to be any problem. And 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. Just be clear that you’re acknowledging the special circumstance of the time of year, so there’s no expectation of continuing these adjustments into the new year.
In any case, make sure you’re not scheduling employees on back-to-back shifts; give them 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 the best employee. Ultimately, your kindness and thoughtfulness will engender a little harder work and a lot 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. You want to spread the wealth and learning opportunities over this busy time very carefully to ensure your customers continue to receive the top notch customer service they are accustomed to.
This may make scheduling around vacations and time off a little more difficult, but impress upon your more experienced employees just why their presence is so important. Most of them will likely respond with the can-do attitude of someone who feels appreciated and recognized for their hard work.
6. Think about back-up.
It’s important not to overstaff around the holidays, as those labor costs will eat into your profits significantly, but there could be opportunities for part-time or college-age temporary employees to pick up some slack on your busiest days. This will be particularly helpful if any of those coming in have worked for you before, either during previous holiday times or on summer breaks.
Just be aware that getting new staff up to speed (especially when they’re on a part-time basis during your busiest time of year) may not be ideal. Weigh that against the need for more staff when making a decision.
7. If all else fails, offer an incentive.
If you find that you absolutely cannot get enough volunteers for the toughest shifts (think Christmas or New Year’s Eve), consider offering a reward or incentive for the employees taking the shift no one else wants. A gift card, a swap for an extra day off in January, or an extra bonus could be the thing that tilts the schedule in your favor and helps that employee see their holiday shift in a more positive light.
Want some more tips on getting the best results from your staff? Download our free eBook on “Staffing Restaurants for Success” now!
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