Set Schedules As A Manager

"Did you get my note on the back of a bubble gum wrapper asking for this thursday off?"

One of the most time consuming tasks a manager faces during the week is writing the server schedule.  Hours can be spent digging up scraps of paper and consulting server availability just to get coverage for a particular shift.  This is followed by the inevitable complaints from people who work too little or too much.  It is a task most managers dread.  It is also one that can be avoided.

This week I have discussed the advantages and disadvantages to having a set schedule from a server’s perspective.  Today I wanted to wrap this topic up by discussing the impact it has on managers.  All things considered, I think this can be tremendously beneficial for managers.  There are some downsides though.  Knowing both the advantages and the disadvantages will help you make a better decision when debating set scheduling.

There are a few disadvantages to implementing set schedules as a manager.

Loss Of Negotiation Power: Many managers rely on the ability to manipulate a server’s schedule positively to buy favors.  This can be used for covering a shift at the last minute or a shift no one wants.  Set schedules take away this option.  Negotiation power is more important under this system though and must be maintained in other ways.

House Shifts: Inevitably some shifts will require far more servers than are normally scheduled for that day.  I will refer to these as “house shifts” because you as a manager are asking servers to pick up for the restaurant rather than another server.  This is where the loss of negotiation power mentioned above can hurt you.  The key is to use these sparingly to assure servers they are both necessary and lucrative.

Less Control Over The Floor: If you implement rotating stations with your set schedules, you have less ability to control what server is in a particular section.  This means that a weaker server will often end up in a stronger section.  This makes good hiring decisions and training more important than ever.

In my opinion the advantages of set schedules greatly outweigh the disadvantages.

Saves Time: You do not have to worry about writing a schedule each week because it remains the same.  Servers are responsible for covering their shifts to get time off.  This means not having to worry about requests for a shift off.  Your schedule is basically a copy of what you did the week before.

Fewer Complaints: Once servers understand the system, the schedule ceases to be a source of complaints.  What shifts they work remains unchained for the week.  It is their responsibility to get the shifts covered if they want to make a change.  This means less involvement, and thus fewer complaints, for the manager.

More Equitable: Initially servers who benefited from the previous scheduling system due to seniority will feel short changed.  Over time though the fairness of the system becomes apparent.  Servers who started under this system will appreciate its fairness even when they acquire seniority.  This also eliminates complaints from servers who feel that they are being treated unfairly in scheduling.

Overall there is a tremendous upside to implementing set schedules as a manager.  Understanding the drawbacks gives you greater opportunity to compensate for them.  If you compensate for them effectively, you will reap tremendous rewards as a manager.  This system is beneficial for servers, managers, and places no additional financial burden on the restaurant.  I highly recommend it for restaurant managers looking to hire and retain professional servers.

I will be honest here.  I recognize this is probably not the most exciting series I have written on this blog.  I think it is an issue worth addressing though and I appreciate all my regular readers who have stayed with it.  Because of this I have decided that tomorrow I will finally release the most anticipated post to date.  I wrote it a couple weeks ago and have yet to tell a server about it who did not get as excited as a kid on Christmas morning.  Tomorrow is the story of a customer’s complaint and how the Chef’s response will make him your new restaurant hero.  Trust me, you do not want to miss this post.  Do you want to know as soon as it is posted?  At the top of the page there are logos for Facebook and Twitter.  Click those and sign up to be the first to know about new posts to this blog.

Tips²: Tips For Improving Your Tips, the new book from the author of The Manager’s Office, teaches the skills of exceptional servers that will increase customer satisfaction and dramatically improve restaurant sales.  This book is more than a server training manual.  It is the secret to teaching your staff to enjoy selling and give your guests the experience that will create raving fans.  To learn more about the book, visit www.tips2book.com.  Use the coupon code “MANAGER” to save 20% at the checkout.

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About David Hayden

David Hayden is a restaurant marketing and training consultant based in Kansas City, MO. He writes a series of 9 blogs collectively known as The Hospitality Formula Network and is the author of "Tips2: Tips For Improving Your Tips" and "Building Your Brand With Facebook"

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  • theinsidewaiter

    Scheduling is time consuming and awful.

    My current restaurant is fantastic about scheduling. In fact, one gets to submit a weekly request-work/request-off form. It’s a dream.

    I think it all depends on the type of restaurant you’re managing. For example, set schedules would never work in my current restaurant because the waiters are all artists, and have no set schedules.

    My old restaurant had about ten waiters who were all career waiters. Scheduling was based on seniority, and also, how regular your schedule was. In other words, you were rewarded for being a career waiter. If you had a set schedule, you always got that schedule.

    • http://tipsfortips.wordpress.com tipsfortips

      The degree to which it is time consuming and awful is directly proportionate to the amount of flexibility given to the staff. There is really no flexibility in my schedule. Makes it easier for the manager to write it, but tougher on us to get shifts off. The key is having a staff that will give favors and reciprocate them.

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  • http://www.restaurant-marketing-plan.com Ann Henderson

    Great work on the article about restaurant operations. Fantastic writing and a great subject too!
    Awesome stuff.