Restaurant Profit Made Easy

Rules for Restaurant Staffing


  • State the Goal – Before writing your first schedule, know your targeted labor costs and do not exceed it. Be sure to consider all labor related fees and taxes when determining your labor cost goal.
  • Historical Data/Sales Projections – Use historical sales data, sales trends and dining/catering reservations to determine staffing levels. If you are projecting to do $2,000 in sales on Tuesday and your stated labor cost goal is 21%, then you have $420 to spend on
  • Always Cost Your Schedules – Labor cost is the silent killer in the restaurant industry and the only way to keep labor cost in check is to stay within your guidelines. Know your goal and stick to it.  The relationship between sales and labor cost doesn’t end here.  Every manager should be aware of the sales goal for every shift and the corresponding labor target.  During the shift, managers should be monitoring sales to ensure that labor is not too heavy.  If sales do not materialize, then managers should cut early.
  • Shift Leaders and “Key” Employees – Inevitably your management team is going to need time off and request vacations. Develop a group of employees that can handle additional responsibility and train them “Junior Managers” to handle low pressure opening and closing duties.
  • The Busiest Shifts Require the Best People – Schedule your strongest people for the busiest times. Since nothing inflates restaurant labor costs like overtime, ovoid it all costs.  When writing a schedule, begin with the busiest shift and work backwards to the slowest shift.  This will ensure the best possible coverage.
  • Don’t Let Servers Become Prima Donas – Every server should work one lunch shift and one Expo shift each week. This keeps talented serves on the floor during lunch and will help develop server talent across the board and provide a better overall customer experience.  Working Expo will ensure that servers stay current with every menu item and will help bridge the gap between the FOH (Front of House) and BOH (Back of House) teams.
  • Fresh is Best – Resist the urge to simply copy and paste your schedule from one week to the next. Complaceny at this level will have negative concequences to the bottom line.
  • Expect the Unexpected – Restaurant people are not always reliable and restaurant customers are fickle. Be prepared for both contingencies by cross training your employees:  train hostesses to be able to pick up a table or two if needed, train servers to be able to jump behind the bar or on salad station and cross train kitchen help to work every station.
  • Shifts Matter – FOH and BOH personnel are people too. Serving is a Darwinian enterprise – the best servers get the best shifts –  but everyone needs an opportunity to make money.   If possible, ensure that employees can get 2 days off in a row or at least 3 shifts.  Scheduling back to back doubles or close/open shifts can lead to employee rigor and remember that nothing is more important than the guest experience.
  • Schedule Requests – Allow employees to request days off, but remember, requests are requests. The business needs have to come first.  Grant requests where possible but never play favorites.  If you maintain a fair and consistent strategy dealing with schedule requests, you shouldn’t have any issues.  When requests aren’t met, staffers will often attempt to “trade” shifts, often with a less competent employee.  Be sure to require management approval for all schedule changes.
  • Post Early and Regularly – Finalize schedules at least one week in advance to give staffers the opportunity to plan their week. Holidays can be stressful for the operation and the staff.  Complete schedules as early as possible even if they are “tentative”.  Try and staff up prior to the holidays.  The extra staff will give you more flexibility and help satisfy the need for additional catering and dining levels that occur naturally during the holiday season.
  • Use Technology – There are some really great online tools and apps that will save time, improve communication and make it easy to scheulde.