This article was written by Liam Cannon, Digital Marketing Manager at Bizimply, an all-in-one employee management platform designed specifically for the hospitality industry.

Let’s face it—scheduling staff is a pain in the backside for every bar and restaurant manager or owner. Some may take to it like a duck to water, but others take to it like a rhino to a jet ski (I think that idiom works).

Staff scheduling takes managers and operators multiple hours, if not days, each week to create a schedule that everyone is happy with. On average, it takes over 6.6 % of a manager’s working week to create a schedule. This is a huge cost for organizations as managers tend to be some of the higher paid employees.

Scheduling also takes large chunks of time away from the actual tasks these bar managers were hired for, such as improving processes and driving sales.

We’ve put together six simple tips to help you streamline the staff scheduling processes at your bar.

1 . Get your employees’ input

This can’t be overstated enough. Sure, there is no point in going around to each employee and asking them what days they can and can’t work, trying to suit every single one of them. But effective staff communication is the key to running a successful bar. Not only will having their input help you do this, it will improve employee morale when employees know that they have a say in the scheduling process.

Furthermore, managers will be more aware of when employees can and cannot work. In this industry, many of your staff will be college students, which means exams, project deadlines and theses. This is why open communication between staff and management is extremely necessary when creating weekly schedules. A lack of communication can lead to under or overstaffing, no shows, employee frustration and staff turnover. Let’s get talking, people!

2 . Implement scheduling guidelines for employees

Have a standardized process when it comes to scheduling. In doing this, you can lay out how often schedules will be created, what the required notice managers need for time off requests is, and also how employees should go about changing shifts with one another. This reduces confusion, and, in turn, your employees will know exactly where they stand when it comes to their schedules.

3 . Schedule in advance

For anyone who has worked in the hospitality industry, I’m sure you’ve experienced the age old problem of not knowing your week’s schedule until late Sunday night every week. This means making plans in advance is almost impossible, which will likely frustrate your employees, too.

On the flip side, creating schedules at least two weeks in advance means managers can forecast their labor costs well in advance, which will help to reduce unexpected spikes in your costs. Amendments to the schedule during the week will also not impact your employees as drastically.

4 .  Stop using Excel… now

It’s plain and simple: Excel was made for numbers, not people. Sending large Excel files to each employee is time consuming, and it means every employee can see one other’s shifts for the week. This may cause friction as some employees may feel like others are getting preferential treatment when it comes to certain shifts.

Also, Excel spreadsheets don’t provide you with live data around how your bar is running from day to day, making it extremely hard to work out different financial patterns that are occurring, such as the amount of overtime worked each week.

5 . Make it easy to access

As above, when you’re creating schedules with paper and pen or excel, they tend to be published, printed out and stuck on a notice board. Employees will normally take a photo on their phones and work from there.

Sometimes, though, these pictures aren’t very legible or there’s a change in the schedules midweek. This means employees might show up for the wrong shifts or be a no-show.

There are a number of online scheduling tools that allow you to send each employee their schedule directly to their phones. For example, we here at Bizimply have a MyZimply app for employees so that their schedule is right in their pocket at all times. They can check when and where they are working and receive any schedule updates or changes.

6 . Use your schedules to reduce labor costs

There are a number of methods to do this. First, if your labor patterns aren’t reflecting your sales, then your scheduling process is broken and needs to be fixed right away. When your bar’s sales increase, your labor cost will increase, too. But what about when your sales decrease? Do you see you labor costs mirror those numbers?

This is a problem a lot of bars have. By looking at weekly and monthly data, you can identify and anticipate periods of low and high sales. Armed with this information, managers can schedule according to sales patterns and therefore reduce their establishment’s labor costs.

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