Holiday staffing can be a nightmare for any restaurant owner. It’s that time of the year when you have the highest need for employees, but also the time when employees are seeking days off too. Not only does it become more challenging to fill regular shifts, but you have the added complexity of holiday parties and catering orders that crop up during this time.
Managing staff schedules is difficult during the holidays, but it’s not impossible. Here are some tips to keep in mind when preparing your restaurant staffing plan this holiday season.
Identify Your Holiday Needs
Evaluating the needs of your restaurant is the best place to start. Think back to years when you felt unprepared for the influx of customer traffic.
Were the cooks able to handle the additional amount of orders or could they use extra hands in the kitchen? Was there only one server for a party of 25 when there should’ve been two? Try to plan for worst case scenarios, so you always have a backup strategy. You can’t afford to be understaffed and left without answers.
Next, review the reservations, party bookings, and holiday events that are confirmed up to this point in time. This information will give you an idea of the days when you’ll need additional employees beyond your regularly scheduled staff.
Use Historical Data
Use historical data from your POS system to look back at previous years and determine how much your sales increased during the holidays. Were weekends especially busy? Were Thursdays a popular day for company parties? You can use POS reports to find information like:
- Total number of guests
- Table turnaround time
- Average check size
- The frequency of menu items ordered
Knowing this type of historical information will allow you to confidently forecast this year’s inventory, overall sales along with labor costs and scheduling.
Determine Your Holiday Budget
The next step to evaluating your holiday needs is determining a budget. Extra employees are going to cost more green, so you want to make sure you can afford to bring on more staff.
You’ll probably need to add temporary servers, bussers, and line cooks. Federal law requires that both regular and seasonal employees receive the minimum wage, so that’s something to keep in mind when deciding on a budget. However, if you have employees receiving tips, they must also receive direct wages according to your state or local jurisdiction.
Using the labor management functionality in your POS system, you can project the total cost to hire seasonal employees. For example, if you need two bussers from the beginning of October until the end of January, it can calculate the total cost for them to work 28 hours weekly at a set wage.
Write a Thorough Job Description for Potential New Hires
Once you know the supporting cast members you need, and how much you can afford to pay them, it’s time to write a job description and post it.
It’s essential that the job description be descriptive and thoroughly details the requirements of the position. Let potential job seekers know what duties they’ll be expected to perform, the number of mandatory shifts or hours, time off flexibility, wages, and any other benefits or perks. Setting the expectations upfront will help attract the best possible candidates.
Strategically Place Job Postings
It’s not enough to just write a great job description and post it any ol’ place. You need to be strategic about placement and post your listings in areas where candidates are already searching.
How do you do that? Well, for starters, 73 percent of candidates are passive job seekers. Although these applicants may not be actively looking for a job, it doesn’t mean they’re not interested in a new opportunity.
Social media channels like Facebook’s job posting feature is an excellent passive medium to reach a wide pool of potential employees. The best part is unless you pay to boost your post, it’s an entirely free resource!
These sites may yield higher quality candidates than social channels or generalized job boards like Indeed.
Ask Back Former Employees
Are you having a hard time attracting new hires? Don’t be afraid to invite back qualified former employees.
Asking previous employees to come back and work for you on a seasonal basis is a terrific way to find temporary help. Not to mention the stress relief you’ll feel by not having to train completely new employees.
Look at past employees who left on favorable terms and would potentially be receptive to a seasonal position. These individuals already know the restaurant’s operations and culture, which takes the burden off of training a completely green employee.
Start Training Sooner Rather than Later
Even if you can find a seasoned vet to fill an open position, it’s essential that you allow plenty of time for training time new and former seasonal hires. You want to make sure that temporary staff has as much time as possible to learn service standards and adjust to your operations.
Train seasonal staff in the same manner as you would a full-time staff member. This process will allow them to fully grasp the restaurant’s procedures and potentially lead to them becoming a full-time employee — or a potential seasoned vet for next year.
Schedule Employees with Flexibility
Once you feel your new trainees have gained a good grasp of the restaurant’s inner workings, it’s time to focus on how you’ll schedule team members for the holiday rush. Before you make a schedule and post it, ask employees about their availability during the holiday season.
Chances are, you’ll find that the staff may not celebrate on the actual holiday or maybe they celebrate early in the day and are available for a dinner shift. While you won’t be able to accommodate everyone, the employees will appreciate that you’re making an effort to recognize their needs.
Another option is to ask staff to sign up to work a specific holiday of their preference. For example, if your restaurant is open on the fab-four of holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day), ask each employee to sign up for at least two of those holidays. This tactic lets them choose their preferences and equally distributes coverage on those days.
Post the holiday schedule in advance and give employees enough time to trade shifts or make minor adjustments to fit their holiday plans better.
You’re going to need to create a team-wide communication method to notify all employees when they are required to work extended hours or specific holiday dates. It’s also advised to keep two to four members on call just in case someone doesn’t show up or needs to leave during his or her shift.
Once again, your POS system is an excellent resource for employee management. Many POS software companies allow for integration with platforms like HotSchedules, that reduce the time and stress of employee management. With platforms like this, employees can access their schedule via a mobile device, communicate with each other and managers, swap shifts, and track shift availability.
Show Appreciation to Your Employees
Lastly, please don’t forget to show your gratitude to the team for their effort and dedication to your business during its busiest time of year.
You can plan a holiday celebration, an outing, or purchase a small gift for each member of the staff as a way to say thank you. Even if it’s after the New Year, plan to do something to express how much you value their efforts.
To Sum Up
Your holiday restaurant staffing plan shouldn’t give you heartburn. Give yourself enough time to prepare, take a strategic approach, and get started as soon as possible — the holidays are just around the corner. Good luck, friends!
Author: Nathan Falger
As Marketing Coordinator at Restaurant Manager, a leader in restaurant and hospitality point of sale solutions, Nathan Falger leverages his degree in technical communication from Old Dominion University to create valuable content that addresses real problems and solutions in the food-service industry. Prior to Restaurant Manager, Nathan worked in marketing and event planning, as well as several fast-casual and quick-service restaurants.