Labor Scheduling (Part One): The Labor in Labor Scheduling

May 16 2016

Restaurant Management Labor Scheduling

Creating a schedule is about more than just covering shifts. Good scheduling processes can positively affect your customers, employees, and revenue. While having adequate staff on hand to accommodate your guests is your first priority, keeping your staff happy is a close second.

It takes some skill to piece together your business needs with each employee’s individual requests. Even if you manage to create a solid schedule, you also have to always keep a careful eye on your margins. With labor being the second highest cost in the food service industry after food and beverage costs, it can quickly eat into your profitability.


Most restaurants run labor costs between 30-35% of the restaurant's total sales. But since no two restaurants are exactly alike, you have to really understand your business in order to not over or under schedule. Even the best scheduling software in the world can’t take every aspect of your operation into consideration. The good news is that there are some tried and true best practices when it comes to scheduling and controlling labor costs, begin with these four steps:

  1. Forecast. Being able to forecast sales accurately takes the guess work out of scheduling. You can anticipate peak times by reviewing past sales numbers, upcoming special events or holidays, weather forecast, etc.
  2. Plan. Be careful not to under or over staff. Understaffing leads to unhappy customers and a stressed out staff. Overstaffing quickly eats away at your margins. Finding the balance takes a lot of practice. Make a point to compare the actual sales and labor dollars to the forecast daily to ensure you have the right mix.
  3. Balance. Try creating a balance of star employees with employees who could use some help. It will help ensure that shifts run more smoothly while giving the weaker employees a good role model to emulate.
  4. Strategize. Be sure to plan ahead for side work so that if a waiter is not taking care of customers he/she can be performing tasks such as cleaning stations, rolling silverware, etc. This can help get you ahead should you be understaffed the next shift. You can never be too prepared. (Having said that, be careful not to take advantage of your star employees. You don’t want to lose them!)

And finally, be patient. Customer satisfaction and profitability are hard to balance in such a low margin industry. It takes time and practice to get it right. Just keep slowly chipping away at your labor costs and soon you will find the right mix.

Want more labor scheduling tips? Check out the blog post 7 Restaurant Labor Scheduling Best Practices.

Jennifer Day

Jennifer Day

Jennifer Day has over 16 years of experience in the marketing and communications field. Before joining the Ctuit marketing team, Jennifer previously worked at a major telecom company and was in marketing communications for a major point of sales (POS) manufacturer and software provider. She brings with her a wealth of knowledge on POS technologies, software and back office systems and the understanding of how they all work together to create a seamless customer experience while increasing profitability.