Scheduling employees: What all restaurants need to know in 2023

A restaurant worker is compiling some paperwork while working on their laptop

More than 50% of employers spend two hours per week scheduling employees. Another 10% say scheduling employees takes three hours out of their week—that’s nearly a half-day. It’s a task that can be shockingly time-consuming. And in the restaurant industry, owners and managers are more strapped for time than ever. The staffing crisis continues, leaving them adding more and more roles to their own job description and fewer people on the team.

A fine-tuned system for shift scheduling means you avoid common mishaps like scheduling the same employee for two different jobs during the same shift. It can ensure you are rarely over or understaffed. When you implement a scheduling process that works for the whole team, it can even improve morale, productivity and retention.

Here’s how to build employee work schedules that work.

In this picture, a restaurant owner is working on their laptop

Choose your method

As with most tasks in the restaurant industry, there’s more than one method to accomplish a goal. It’s good to remember that different approaches work for different businesses and that one isn’t better than the other. It’s about landing on the right one for you and your team.

Pen and paper

This is the original scheduling method and it’s still practised in a surprisingly large number of restaurants. For many places, a whiteboard works better than pen and paper because it can be placed in a hard-to-miss spot and updated on the fly.

Whether pen and paper or whiteboard, this method’s main advantage is the cost. It’s practically free. The challenges include the fact that it can be error-prone. If you don’t also use a weekly meeting to communicate about the schedule, some team members may miss it.


Many restaurants create a simple schedule in Excel or Google Docs. This also has the benefit of being practically free, though it may require more tech know-how than the pen-and-paper method.

Another benefit of this method is that the final schedule can be sent to the whole team via email or text method. It can be stored on the cloud for employees to reference at any time. It is still vulnerable to typos and other human slips, so it’s best to refrain from offering editing permissions to the whole crew.


As with everything in 2023, technology offers tools and apps to make scheduling more efficient, less time-consuming and less prone to errors. Look for employee scheduling software that integrates with your POS system and uses online scheduling. Many allow team members to self-manage time requests and shift swaps on their own.

Another perk is that, with many of these systems, the team can communicate in real-time and in one place. When the schedule is ready, push it live on the platform and everyone will be notified. These systems help prevent mistakes and save time, but most charge fees, which vary from the single digits to hundreds per month.

Look to the data

Use sales data and shift occupancy reports to spot trends and identify your busy and quiet shifts. This will help you accurately predict the number of team members you should schedule.

These trends will help you avoid cutting team members early or paying for employees to be present when you don’t really need them. This will not only make your scheduling smoother, but it can also help cut labour costs.

Consider the current circumstances

Week by week, it’s smart to take a bird’s eye view of what’s coming beyond what the data and reports can tell you. If there’s a major conference or music festival in town, you’ll need more people than usual. If half your seats are outdoors and there’s torrential rain in the weekend forecast, you’ll need fewer employees on the schedule.

Understand the teams’ needs

87% of hourly workers think it’s extremely important to have control over their schedules. Get input from the team about the days, hours and shifts they prefer and which ones they cannot work. Scheduling software that lets you enter this information so you don’t have to remember it can be a big help.

Effective scheduling means understanding the maximum staffing level possible on a weekly schedule, and you need to know what’s going on with the team to have a clear picture. A scheduling app can assign shifts to employees who want them almost automatically.

Know the laws

Labour rules and regulations will likely cover aspects of employee schedules. Issues, including overtime pay, break times and tips, should all be laid out in accordance with the labour employment laws in the UK.

Reevaluate periodically

Ask for feedback from the team about how the system works for them. Assess what’s going well and what could be improved. Whatever method of scheduling you choose, personalizing it for your team will be the secret to lasting scheduling success.