Easing the Pain of Food Service Scheduling

Food service managers know the pain of coordinating restaurant staff’s work schedules. Employees call in sick or quit unceremoniously, staffing needs change unexpectedly, people want to trade shifts. Without an effective shift management system in place, constantly changing schedules can cause daily headaches.

Scheduling complexities

Let’s imagine Joe, manager of a branch of a small restaurant chain, who sets up his employees’ schedules using a basic calendar tool that he centrally controls. He provides workers their weekly schedules via spreadsheets at the start of each week and then crosses his fingers that there won’t be too many changes he’ll have to deal with.

One week, he’s not so lucky. On Monday night, a customer reserves half the restaurant for a party on Tuesday evening. Joe texts three of the seven servers who were scheduled to work the dinner shift on Tuesday, telling them they won’t be needed that day after all.

The employees he texts respond professionally but he can feel the agitation in their messages. One of them, a single mom, asks that he reconsider — she already has childcare scheduled to account for the shift and can’t cancel it without a penalty. Another responds with a question about whether she can pick up an extra shift later in the week.

He can tell the employees have been rearranging their schedules when he starts receiving messages requesting shift trades. The single change he made has cascading effects, and he’s inundated with back-and-forth text messages and phone calls from a number of employees.

He regrets having to make changes at such short notice — and he is annoyed at how difficult doing so is on a logistical level — but what can he do? He doesn’t have access to the schedules at the restaurant’s other locations, which each manager handles separately, so he doesn’t know whether there are shifts elsewhere his employees might be able to pick up instead. He doesn’t have the capacity to allow workers to trade their shifts or manage their schedules without consulting him, so he’s in the middle of a complex web of scheduling demands.

A streamlined solution

Now let’s imagine that Joe uses digital workplace software to manage his employees’ schedules and to collaborate with them on making changes.

On Monday night when he learns of his staffing changes for the next day, he sends a group message through the workplace app to all his employees on the Tuesday dinner shift seeking volunteers to drop the shift. He knows that his workers have options inside the software to see whether this will work for them, so he doesn’t anticipate a slew of messages with questions and requests for alternate shifts.

The employees who receive the request look to see whether there are other open shifts in the week they can pick up to replace the income. One employee finds one, slots himself in, and messages the group that he can drop out on Tuesday night. Since the software allows employees from all the chain’s locations to take shifts at any location, two other employees find that there are openings for the Tuesday dinner shift at other locations. They request those shifts through the workplace and message the group that they can also drop out.

Joe’s work of dropping down to four employees for Tuesday dinner has been done quickly and with little involvement on his part. Not only that, but the employees who dropped out have found ways of making up the work that week, and several other open shifts at his and other locations are now filled. All of this is done with only a few messages within the system — not a single frantic text or annoyed phone call from shortchanged employees is involved.

Joe messages his team through the app, thanking them for their flexibility. He then records a short training video for the servers who will be attending to the party the next night, reminding them of the company’s policies and procedures for serving large groups and special events. The employees receive a request to watch the two-minute video before their shift starts the next night, and Joe receives a confirmation when each does so.

Now, not only are his employees’ schedules set up to everyone’s satisfaction, but he’s confident the employees who show up the next night know what they need to do.

WorkJam helps restaurant managers do all this and more. Read our white paper — A Day in the Life of an Engaged Food Service Employee — to understand how a digital workplace can transform both managers’ and employees’ experience of working in food service.

2019-07-08T13:20:08-04:00