The nature of this business is about flexibility – for both the servers and the managers who schedule them. Staffing needs tend to change from week to week, and even more so in a seasonal restaurant, where business can fall off a cliff one week and skyrocket the next. Set schedules can be very difficult to establish and tedious to maintain.
That said, happy servers tend to be more productive servers, and customers who come in at regular times like to see the same servers. In a business where customer rapport can mean everything to success – and can be easily forgotten by managers and staff – having set schedules can be the one thing standing in your way to building lasting relationships with your guests.
The fact is that customers appreciate great service and they want to like their server. And when they do, they often want to know when that server will wait on them again. One of the underrated questions we often hear in this business comes from customers who ask servers, “So do you usually work lunches or dinners?”
There should be no obstacles to building customer rapport, and one of the unnecessary ones is servers with fluctuating schedules. A simple, week-to-week schedule that takes advantage of server strengths and preferences is essential to building rapport. Customers who are not talkers will be encouraged to do so with a server they see repeatedly. And there is little more valuable in this business than a customer who knows the servers by name, or who is recognized immediately by employees.
Copy/Paste – Your Schedule’s Best Friend
A simple copy/paste of a schedule from week to week can lead to mistakes if in the wrong hands. It can overlook large parties and requests for days off. It can repeat errors from one week to the next and stick the same servers with unwanted shifts over and over again.
But copy/pasting certain shifts – especially by color-coding which ones to keep consistent from week to week – can be the backbone of a steady, set server schedule. There are programs that enable this, but a simple spreadsheet is usually most effective, when managed correctly.
Unfortunately, not all schedule makers are good proofreaders, and so the copy/paste option is not for everyone. Consistency and an eye for detail are the keys to a well-scheduled front-of-the-house.
Take Advantage of Servers Who Know What to Expect
Servers with set schedules fall into comfortable routines. They learn the ins and outs of their shift responsibilities. For example, servers who always open for dinner grow comfortable with a sequence of duties. They might know to brew the iced tea first because it takes awhile, or that the bread warmer needs to be switched on first so it has time to warm up.
Routines and checklists are essential in most kitchens, and servers who have them are better poised for opening up for lunch, transitioning for dinner, or closing the place down. Take advantage of routine and encourage servers to become leaders.
Reward Your Servers
Most servers appreciate a set schedule for the certainty it gives their life outside of work. Beyond that, a set schedule can clarify the nature of rewards and penalties that a schedule conveys to a staff. Most restaurants have days of the week or specific shifts that are more attractive, usually because they’re more profitable. The number of shifts a server gets can also be a strong form of rewards and punishments.
Rewarding effective servers or team players with an attractive schedule is a great tool for showing appreciation and motivating underperformers. In this way, the schedule can be a tacit tool for evaluating performance. A set schedule clarifies this.
In the end, a set server schedule that fluctuates based on the needs of the business is a great tool to implement. Get it in motion today and make it a foundation of staffing your front-of-the-house.