WebstaurantStore / Food Service Resources / Restaurant Management / How to Make A Restaurant Schedule
How to Make A Restaurant Schedule

How to Make A Restaurant Schedule

Last updated on 6/28/2018

A functional dining room service relies on a logical staff schedule. Before you spend any time making your employee schedule, it’s important to know some of the basics first. Factors like tipping, weekly hours, time off, overtime, and laws for employing minors all come into play when making a successful restaurant schedule. While it can seem overwhelming, there are a few helpful things to keep in mind that will make the process much easier.

What are Tipped Employees?

A tipped employee is someone who mainly earns their wages through tips. While there are many professions where tipping is customary, servers and bartenders are among the most common.

Tipped wages are calculated differently, depending on your state. Some states are required to pay their employees full minimum wage before tips, in which case patrons are expected to tip less or not at all. However, tipping at restaurants is customary throughout most of the United States, so servers are typically only paid a minimum cash wage that’s combined with tip wages to reach the federal minimum wage or more.

You should also keep in mind that certain members of your staff will not receive tips. Typically, the front-of-house staff will split their tips from the shift, and back-of-house don’t receive tips. With that in mind, make sure your prep cooks and dish washers are making an hourly wage that’s appropriate.

How to Offer a Fair Week’s Work for Your Employees

Aside from compensating for some employees receiving tips while others don’t, it’s also important to note that some shifts are more lucrative than others because more customers mean more tips. No matter what kind of foodservice establishment you have, this is just a fact of life. There are a few ways you can ensure that every person receives an appropriate amount of tips throughout the week.

Vary Each Person’s Shift Time

In most cases, your business will have busy times and slow times of day. If you own a coffee shop, the early morning hours will likely be the most popular, as patrons swing by to pick up coffee or breakfast on their way to work. If you’re the owner of a bar, evening will likely be your busiest time, as people wind down with a beer after a long day. So keep an open dialogue with your staff about these patterns and make sure everyone gets an opportunity to earn fair tips by switching up their schedule.

vary each person's shift time

One of the best ways to approach this difference between shifts is to spread your staff out evenly, allowing equal opportunities for your senior staff and new hires to experience a mix of different times of the day. This will also ensure that everyone gets ample experience and is properly trained on all the different responsibilities that come with each shift time, which will ultimately leave more room for flexibility when it comes to employees filling in for each other.

Schedule an Appropriate Amount of People

You need to make sure more people are scheduled during busy times and fewer people during slow times. Not only does this make the division of tips fairer, but it also ensures that there are enough employees to complete the necessary tasks in relation to the demand. If you’re not sure what times of day are busiest, most POS systems can track transaction activity throughout the day, so you can pull graphs and see exactly when your traffic is at its peaks and lows.

While it may seem like a good idea to compensate for slower times by offering a higher hourly rate during the times where tips are sparse, chances are that your slower shifts are less strenuous for your staff. So it makes sense that they should make more money for serving more customers. Conversely, any down time can be spent cleaning or taking care of other important tasks, so it’s still a valuable and productive time. But you probably don’t need three people to mop the floor, and if you have too many employees sitting around, they’ll need to split the small amount of tips they made and each go home with pennies.

Keep Some People On Call

While keeping some staff on call is not ideal, this approach can ensure that you have the help you need if things get unexpectedly busy. Similarly, don’t be afraid to send people home if things are slow. While it’s not good to ask your employees to shuffle their personal lives around to accommodate last-minute requests, being upfront with them about staying flexible for a few hours on a Saturday is alright every now and then. Also, you can encourage your managers to step in if things get crazy, since they have a higher hourly pay rate.

Hire More than One Manager

Take some of the pressure off your manager by hiring two co-managers. That way, you can have one manager on duty at all times to address any issues that may be too demanding of your regular staff’s time. While it may seem like paying two manager wages is not beneficial to your business, having a manager present at all times can go a long way towards improving a customer’s experience. And, as we all know, providing a positive experience for your customers is the only way your business will succeed.

Remember That Your Employees Have Personal Lives

Whether they’re working around school, a family, or second job, chances are your employees all have different scheduling needs. Ideally, you can get a sense of each person’s unique schedule when they’re first hired. That way, you can staff your establishment with people with varying availability. But even then, life happens and schedules are likely to change. So, when it comes to making a fair schedule, keep an open mind and check your employees' availability.

Make Sure Your Employees Have Time to Rest

Ensuring that each staff member has a fair amount of time off goes a long way towards preventing stress and fatigue. You should hire enough people so that everyone can have two days off per week, and if those days can be consecutive, that’s ideal. Also, make sure that you only ever ask the same person to close and open the next day if it’s an emergency. You want your staff to have enough time to feel well rested before returning to work.

You should also come up with a clear system your staff can use to request time off for family events or vacations.

Making Your Restaurant Schedule

Most restaurant schedules are set up something like this:

9 - 2
11 - 5
5 - Cl
11 - 5
9 - 2
11 - 5
5 - Cl
11 - 5
9 - 2
9 - 5
5 - Cl
11 - 5
9 - 2
5 - Cl
5 - Cl
9 – 2
9 - 2
1 - Cl
5 - Cl
9 - 2

This might be a typical setup for a coffee shop or bakery—something not too demanding. A full-service restaurant would obviously require more hands on deck, but this example should help represent the basic idea.

Creating a schedule

As you can see, each day overlaps two people for at least an hour to give one person time to take care of any prep work, restocking, or other back-of-house tasks while the other person stays available to help customers. Each employee is given varying shift times to provide equal opportunity for tips and training experience. You’ll also notice that, while ideally your shifts will always begin and end at the same time, there will likely be instances where you’ll need to tack on a few hours to a shift to make up for an employee’s time off or other variable. In these cases, it’s a good idea to schedule lengthened shifts for slower days so your staff doesn’t get too fatigued. Here's a list of things to keep in mind while making your employee schedule:

  1. Determine how many of your employees fall into restrictions due to labor regulations, such as hours allotted to minors.
  2. Indicate each person’s days off.
  3. Figure out what roles need to be filled at different points during the day (i.e. what time should the prep cooks be there vs. when should your second bartender arrive to help cover the rush).
  4. Make sure you stagger your managers’ schedules. And everyone else’s schedules, for that matter.
  5. Fill out each shift so that there’s ample coverage all day.
  6. Calculate your FTE (full-time equivalent) for accounting purposes.

While this is a basic example with just a few employees and shifts, larger establishments will, of course, have more people and more moving parts. Having a larger staff can certainly complicate things, but it also gives you more flexibility to shuffle things around in a way that will work best for everyone.

Restaurant Scheduling Software

While it’s possible to lay out your schedule manually, there are programs that can save you a lot of time and hassle as you create your schedule each week.

For new businesses or schedulers, software can be a massive timesaver. There are a variety of places you can find software, so take some time to shop around and pick what works best for your needs. Some programs are designed to work with any foodservice setup. Meanwhile, other programs are made for specific demographics, like independent restaurateurs. There's no universal "right" answer when it comes to making a schedule — you just have to pick one that works for you.

If you don't want to use software, consider using the old fashioned method of a calendar, employee roster, and a little more time.

Posting Your Schedule

whiteboard schedule
Shop Planning Boards

Your staff’s schedule will likely see frequent changes. It’s always a good idea to give your employees as much notice as possible, so plan on posting your schedule at least two weeks in advance. One popular method for posting schedules is to use a whiteboard with grid lines. You can transcribe your printed schedule onto a large whiteboard and let your staff trade shifts as much as they please. Just make sure to monitor overtime and schedules for minors.

Other Restaurant Schedule Considerations

Making a restaurant schedule can often seem like a juggling act. Just when you think you have everything laid out fairly and efficiently, another factor will come into play. Here are a few things to remember, especially if you ask some of your staff to work extra hours one week:


Overtime is earned whenever an employee works more than 40 hours in a work week. The time that they work over the 40 hours earns them their regular pay plus 50% of their hourly wage. So if one of your prep cooks earns $10 an hour, but they work 42 hours in one week, they would earn $15 an hour for the two hours they worked overtime. To avoid overtime, maintain a well-equipped staff and a restaurant schedule that caps employees at or below 40 hours per week. You can also encourage overtime to allow employees to earn more, though the extra time worked could have an adverse effect on their energy.

Work Scheduling Laws for Minors

Foodservice jobs are some of the most popular positions for teenagers. In fact, many people’s first job is at a restaurant, washing dishes or waiting tables. As a restaurant owner, you will likely receive applications or job inquiries from people under the age of 18, so it’s important to know the legal guidelines for employing minors.

Full-Time Equivalent (FTE)

Measuring your work hours in the context of Full-Time Equivalent is beneficial for accounting purposes. This approach is popular for all kinds of businesses that employ many part time employees. In addition to making things clearer when tax time comes around, calculating FTE can ensure that you have enough coverage for each shift, without employing too many people. You want to make sure you can provide each person with enough hours to make the job worth their while, without overworking them or needing to go into overtime. By calculating the Full-Time Equivalent, you can more easily predict what kinds of hours each person will work and how much training you’re investing into each position.

If all this information is making your head spin, just remember that restaurant scheduling doesn’t always have to be overly complicated. The best way to avoid headaches around your staff’s schedule is to create a culture of accountability in your restaurant. By earning the trust and respect of your employees, you can create a motivated work environment where your staff will want to show up on time. Building a trusted team of reliable employees is the best thing you can do to alleviate stress when schedule time comes around. Combine your staff’s accountability with scheduling software and other systems to keep you organized, and you’ll be an expert scheduler in no time.

Join Our Mailing List

Receive coupon codes and more right to your inbox.

Recipe converter
WebstaurantStore blog
Videos of demonstrations, how-tos and more