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12 Tips to Modernize Your Scheduling System

By David Cantu, Chief Revenue Officer, HotSchedules When it comes to employee scheduling, between our HotSchedules experience and over 30 years in the restaurant industry, we’ve seen it all. Barely legible schedules on dry erase boards. Shift notes scribbled on paper napkins. Middle of the night text messages and emails with shift requests and another […]

By David Cantu, Chief Revenue Officer, HotSchedules

When it comes to employee scheduling, between our HotSchedules experience and over 30 years in the restaurant industry, we’ve seen it all.

Barely legible schedules on dry erase boards. Shift notes scribbled on paper napkins. Middle of the night text messages and emails with shift requests and another fifteen voicemails waiting for a shift change approval the next morning.

Sound familiar? If you’re shaking your head “yes,” then you’ve experienced the pain and complication that surfaces when you manage labor with sheer brawn and your bare hands. It’s tough. And it takes a toll on you and your entire workforce.

In fact, it was these very pain points that propelled my partner Ray Pawlikowski and I to co-found HotSchedules while working at PF Chang’s. Over the years, we’ve learned a lot from our customers including the many ways technology has helped restaurants become more productive, efficient and a happier place to work!

We sifted through all of the ways that technology helps restaurant employees, managers and owners run their employees’ schedules and narrowed it down to these 12 tips.

1. Move Your Information to the Cloud

And no, we’re not talking about the cloudy mess in your head. When you store information in a secure cloud-environment, you and your team members are able to access or input information from anywhere and at any time, whether it’s from the back office or your backyard.

2. Create a Community

You employ team members from all different places, which means there’s a lot of personality! Giving your team members one-central hub to connect with each other breaks down barriers, helps facilitate conversations and provides a space where people have the freedom to share ideas.

3. Empower Team Members to Find Their Own Replacements

Your team is smart and usually eager to find someone to cover his or her shift. The problem is that without technology, it’s usually not easy.

With today’s mobile scheduling technology, they can request a shift right from their smartphone. With one click, managers can approve the change and make decisions based on the replacements’ skill level or tenure.

4. Leverage the Mobile Movement

Your team wants access to information in the palm of their hands. Scheduling apps allow team members to access their schedule, pending requests and shift changes on their own time through email, text messages or Google calendar right from their mobile device.

Did you hear that managers? They have access to their schedule from their mobile device … not your brain!

5. Integrate with Your Point of Sale System

Labor management technology doesn’t stop at scheduling. You have to consider the food, guest count and special events for any given shift. With web-based scheduling, robust communications, and advanced sales forecasting through an integration with your POS system – you become the Jedi Master of labor management and cost control.

6. Use Scheduling Templates

Technology takes the years of institutional knowledge out of your head and places it in a shared space that multiple people can access. Restaurant managers gain the freedom and flexibility to create accurate schedules with time-off requests and team member availabilities built right in.

6. Forecast Sales Trends Based on Historical Data

Without easy access to an accurate sales and labor forecast, there’s a lot of guesswork that goes into creating employee schedules. The perfect shift doesn’t have to feel like a game of pin the tail on the donkey.

When labor management archives are in the cloud and forecast data is at your fingertips, managers are able to schedule the right number of employees to cover a shift as slow as a typical Monday or as big as Red Sox baseball game.

7. Enforce Punctuality

Another labor savings benefit that comes from the POS integration is the option to enforce punctuality with ease. Because the schedule is synced the POS system, managers don’t have to manually enter the data to enforce punctuality.

Instead, they can set clock-in and out times so that staff members can’t clock in early, ride the clock on their out times or clock-in using an incorrect, potentially higher paying job code.

8. Compare Labor Performance across Locations

Managers aren’t the only ones who might need to monitor labor performance on a regular basis. Corporate, executives and owners also want easy access. An employee scheduling tool should make it easy for them to view the key stats that impact the profitability of each restaurant.

9. Have Someone to Call On … That’s Not You

Even with technology, things can fall through the cracks. Like a phone! And when that happens, you and your team need real, live, actual people to support you.

Make sure the tool you choose has readily accessible customer service, so that you’re not trying to solve technology problems for you and your team.

10. Make Technology Your Friend, Not Foe

Like any good investment, it takes time to see a return. Once you’ve been using scheduling software for a few months, look back to see what difference it has made, and ask if there are more tweaks that could make the platform even more effective.

11. Secret Weapon for Retention

Make sure to provide your staff with freedom and flexibility in their schedule and they will want to stay.

Have you ever needed to get a shift covered because you forgot an important event, like your mom’s birthday? Sometimes mothers are more important than your job…I’m just saying. So make sure you allow them some flexibility for life events and you won’t have to backfill them tomorrow.

12. Coach and Develop with Greater Flexibility

Have you ever asked a manager to fix a labor issue for a particular shift, only to find out that they cut staff in all the wrong areas, like a hostess or bartender, which has a direct impact on your sales growth and guests’ experience?

By drilling down into the labor data, you can better a sense of where the labor costs are higher than normal and make sensible decisions instead of reactive ones.

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