Ensure Enough Coverage for Your Restaurant at Any Given Time

Enrique Estagle

1 August 2017    |    read

Traffic at a restaurant ebbs and flows with the times. One moment you’ll only have a handful of patrons, the next an avalanche of customers are queuing at the entrance, waiting to be served. From being overstaffed at a certain time period, suddenly your wait staff are juggling multiple tables while tickets are lining up like crazy at the kitchen. How do you effectively plan your coverage so that you get the most out of the staff that you have? Forecast Sales and Traffic First things first, of course, is that you have to effectively forecast your restaurant’s sales and traffic at any given day. It might not be an exact science, but Bplans has an in-depth article that can guide you in creating a clear sales forecast. In summary, the article advises that you calculate the number of meals your restaurant can serve based on the number of tables and seats. Multiply those meals based on the amount of service at any given time (in their example, it’s one service during lunch and two services for dinner). Then vary it based on assumptions per day or week (maybe less on Mondays and more on the weekends). And finally, line it up in a spreadsheet. Determine Your FTEs, Make Sure That You Have 2 FTEs more In Any Given Shift So, you have a good sales projection available. Now, it’s time to review your staffing and check if you have enough of everyone for any given shift. It all boils down to the FTEs. FTE stands for “full-time equivalent,” or the number of hours a full-time employee can render in a week. According to this article from TheRestaurantExpert.com, back-of-house employees have 40 hours in one FTE. Those on the front-of-house, on the other hand, have five shifts in one FTE. The same article deep dives on ensuring that your restaurant has enough people through FTEs. Long story short: they recommend to always have two FTEs more than your forecast dictates so that you have enough people covering the restaurant. With that as a rule-of-thumb, you can be creative with your staffing. Cross-train staff so that they can do more than one task. Have bartenders also learn how to cook simple dishes or have new wait staff also cover bussing or washing dishes. Craft Your Rota Once everything is set, it’s time for you to make the weekly rota. Make this task quicker for you by leveraging online rota software that replaces the old-school way of using whiteboards or Excel spreadsheets. Take into consideration your staff’s leave request vis-à-vis your traffic. Remember to send the weekly shift schedule to your staff at least two weeks in advance so that your team is well in the know when they have to time in. Whether you’re a start-up restaurateur or a veteran with a dozen restaurants under your belt, ensuring coverage can make you have sleepless nights. But with a proper plan that you consistently execute and fine-tune, your customers are guaranteed enjoy great service any time of the day.

Traffic at a restaurant ebbs and flows with the times. One moment you’ll only have a handful of patrons, the next an avalanche of customers are queuing at the entrance, waiting to be served. From being overstaffed at a certain time period, suddenly your wait staff are juggling multiple tables while tickets are lining up like crazy at the kitchen. How do you effectively plan your coverage so that you get the most out of the staff that you have?

Forecast Sales and Traffic

First things first, of course, is that you have to effectively forecast your restaurant’s sales and traffic at any given day. It might not be an exact science, but Bplans has an in-depth article that can guide you in creating a clear sales forecast.

In summary, the article advises that you calculate the number of meals your restaurant can serve based on the number of tables and seats. Multiply those meals based on the amount of service at any given time (in their example, it’s one service during lunch and two services for dinner). Then vary it based on assumptions per day or week (maybe less on Mondays and more on the weekends). And finally, line it up in a spreadsheet.

Determine Your FTEs, Make Sure That You Have 2 FTEs more In Any Given Shift

So, you have a good sales projection available. Now, it’s time to review your staffing and check if you have enough of everyone for any given shift. It all boils down to the FTEs.

FTE stands for “full-time equivalent,” or the number of hours a full-time employee can render in a week. According to this article from TheRestaurantExpert.com, back-of-house employees have 40 hours in one FTE. Those on the front-of-house, on the other hand, have five shifts in one FTE. The same article deep dives on ensuring that your restaurant has enough people through FTEs.

Long story short: they recommend to always have two FTEs more than your forecast dictates so that you have enough people covering the restaurant. With that as a rule-of-thumb, you can be creative with your staffing. Cross-train staff so that they can do more than one task. Have bartenders also learn how to cook simple dishes or have new wait staff also cover bussing or washing dishes.

Craft Your Rota

Once everything is set, it’s time for you to make the weekly rota. Make this task quicker for you by leveraging online rota software that replaces the old-school way of using whiteboards or Excel spreadsheets. Take into consideration your staff’s leave request vis-à-vis your traffic. Remember to send the weekly shift schedule to your staff at least two weeks in advance so that your team is well in the know when they have to time in.

Whether you’re a start-up restaurateur or a veteran with a dozen restaurants under your belt, ensuring coverage can make you have sleepless nights. But with a proper plan that you consistently execute and fine-tune, your customers are guaranteed enjoy great service any time of the day.

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Industry Insights    |    read

Not sure how to set your shift schedule? Just follow your customer.

I have never met a restaurateur that enjoys doing their weekly staff schedule. It is quite a juggling act, taking into consideration that each employee does specific tasks during different times of the day. So what is the best way to schedule staff shifts? How can you set it up that everybody gets the most out of everyone’s time? I was just at National Restaurant Show in Chicago, where Tanda was one of the exhibitors. It was quite an insightful four days, roaming around the show floor discovering the latest trends in the restaurant industry. At the same time, I got to chat with industry veterans that have been in the industry literally for 50 years. One of them shared with me this easy-to-implement method of shift scheduling. He simply put: your rota should follow your customer. According to him, the best way to properly schedule your shifts is by charting your customer touchpoints from the moment they enter the restaurant down to when they leave the establishment. This customer-focused approach resonated with me as it aligned with my beliefs on how a company’s staffing levels should be in sync with their customer service structure.   Who’s First? Who’s Next? Who’s Last? The people who should clock in first are the first people your customers see. They are the hosts, greeters, or maître ds. They are the ones responsible for greeting people at the door, taking and holding reservations, and guiding them to their table. So they should start ahead of the pack. Once customers are seated, that’s the time wait staff come in to take their order. This means that they should be the ones who clock in next. People generally take 15 minutes to get seated and order. By this time, you will definitely want your kitchen staff already at their stations, ready to cook and deliver each dish for service. Tables generally turn over within an hour these days. That means your dish washers have to start working an hour and 15 minutes after your first guest enters the restaurant. Now, service is over and guests are departing the establishment. So you may start sending your waiters home an hour after your last guest sits down.   Using data from your point of sale (POS), Tanda helps you visualize your customers’ flow through your restaurant. This enables you to match your rota accordingly.

Rota & Compliance    |    read

4 Tips to Maximize Table Turnover and Staff Productivity

The pressure is on to maximize table turnover and your entire staff’s productivity at your restaurant: on one end, you have no empty tables with more customers hanging out outside or by the bar, waiting to be served. On the other, your team is pushed to serve every dish and bus out every plate as soon as possible so that other people can enjoy what you have to offer. Peak times are a double-edged sword for restaurateurs. The quicker your service during peak hours, the higher the revenue you will generate. Here are 3 tips on how restaurateurs can maximize table turnover and increase in staff productivity during peak hours: Train Hosts and Servers to Communicate When hosts and servers communicate effectively, an organized seating and reservation system for your restaurant will be possible. With it, you’ll avoid having tables sitting idly for 5-10 minutes after it’s cleaned. To avoid lost productivity during peak hours, train your hosts to pre-assign tables to those who are in line. Apart from that, you should also train your servers to signal the busser to clear off the tables as soon as the check is collected, and let the hosts know that their table will be ready for the next guest shortly. When communication between hosts and servers is constant and clear, guests who are next in line would be seated almost immediately. Serve Them Immediately National Restaurant Consultants president David Kincheloe says that you’d want to have a table turn three times during a 5-10 P.M. dinner period. The best way to do so is not by rushing your customers to leave, but by ensuring that service is swift during peak hours for a quicker table turnover. Maximize table turnover by making sure that servers arrive at their assigned tables within a minute after customers are seated. Have them serve water and take drink orders immediately. Ask customers if they have dined at the restaurant before. If so, just give them a quick refresher on the menu instead of the full rundown. If there’s a large party seated (usually six people or more), have two or more servers assigned to the table so that you can get orders quicker. Bus Out Like Clockwork Instruct busboys to clear off plates as soon as customers finish their meals, but of course, in a way that won’t seem like you’re rushing them. Don’t wait for your customers to ask for the check. Have servers ask if they want the check already as soon as they are finishing up their dessert. Make sure pre-rolled silverware are on standby. This allows you to reset tables as quickly as possible, and therefore, maximize table turnover. Leverage More Technology for the Restaurant Consider using more tech solutions for your restaurant to not just simply stand out, but also become more efficient. Install seat charting software to track seating plans and reservations. Use a tablet-based menu system (such as Ziosk) and contactless payment solutions so that customers can order and pay even without the servers. And beyond the front-of-house, leveraging on agile, cloud-based workforce management solutions to track attendance and manage shift schedules, among other things. Peak hours should always be a welcome sight for your restaurant business. Following these tips will ensure that you’ll get the most out of your staff and business during these special times of the day.

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About the author

Enrique Estagle

Enrique was the former editor-in-chief of Tanda's Blog.

Related Articles

Industry Insights

Not sure how to set your shift schedule? Just follow your customer.

Chart your customer journey across your restaurant, then build your weekly shift schedule accordingly.

Rota & Compliance

4 Tips to Maximize Table Turnover and Staff Productivity

The pressure is on to maximize table turnover and your entire staff’s productivity at your restaurant: on one end, you have no empty tables with more customers hanging out outside or by the bar, waiting to be served. On the other, your team is pushed to serve every dish and bus out every plate as […]

More Resources

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