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6 Tips for Handling Restaurant Employee Scheduling Conflicts

Restaurant Employee Scheduling Hero

Scheduling conflicts are an inevitable part of managing a team and can happen quite regularly in restaurants. Here's how to handle these conflicts and prevent them from happening in the first place.

Managing a restaurant comes with a plethora of challenges. From ensuring permits are up-to-date and implementing cleaning policies to providing customer service and tracking sales, a day in the life of a restaurant manager involves a lot of moving pieces.

But one of the most important parts of a manager’s job is to set the schedule and ensure each shift is appropriately staffed. And while an ongoing labor shortage can make employee scheduling even harder, there are many employee management tools out there that can help streamline the process.

Let’s review some common conflicts when it comes to restaurant scheduling and how you can handle them with ease. Plus, we’ll cover some tips to prevent them from happening again.

Common restaurant scheduling conflicts

Scheduling conflicts are events that create problems for the efficient and productive flow of your restaurant staff’s workday. In the foodservice industry, scheduling conflicts can mean the difference between having an appropriately staffed team and a shift with degraded customer experience from being understaffed.

Restaurant scheduling conflicts typically fall into two categories:

  • conflicts caused by mistakes or errors in the schedule itself; and
  • conflicts caused by unforeseen personal needs.

While conflicts caused by errors are due to variables somewhat under your control as a restaurant owner, conflicts caused by unforeseen personal needs can be harder to plan for. However, with the right restaurant employee scheduling technology, you can better prepare — even for the unexpected.

As a manager or owner, you can also create policies and practices that make these conflicts easier to overcome and even prevent them from occurring in the first place.

Now, let’s focus on the most common internal scheduling conflicts that most businesses in the restaurant industry will experience at one point or another.

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1) Booking an unavailable team member

Booking an unavailable time slot is probably unlikely for your restaurant, but booking an unavailable team member can happen to anyone.

This scheduling conflict occurs when you assign someone to work on a day they’ve already been given permission to take off via a time-off request.

For example, back in March, Tyler requested May 17th off for a scheduled doctor’s appointment — and you granted him permission. In April, as you’re creating the May schedule, you accidentally schedule Tyler to work on May 17th. This is a common mixup but can be avoided by using a scheduling tool to track requests.

2) Last-minute employee cancelation

As scheduling conflicts go, last-minute employee cancellations are the most common. These conflicts happen when an employee calls in to tell you that they can’t make it for whatever reason, including but not limited to sickness, lack of transportation, or a family emergency.

These scheduling conflicts can be challenging because your team is left short-staffed unless you can find a replacement to work in their place on short notice.

3) No-call, no-shows

A no-call, no-show is when an employee doesn’t show up to work their scheduled shift and doesn’t call or give advanced notice to management regarding their attendance.

Much like last-minute employee cancellations, no-shows are incredibly disruptive to the workday. Unlike last-minute cancellations, no-shows provide no warning that they will not be present for their shift, so the burden to find a replacement is even more challenging.

4) Inappropriate staffing for the shift

Appropriate staffing for a shift is vital for the success of a workday. For example, it’s not as easy as saying, “we need nine members for this shift.” Rather, the shift needs to be broken down by position: chefs, servers, cashiers, etc. all need to be in attendance. Having all servers but no one in the back of house won’t get you very far!

In addition to making sure you have the appropriate roles, inappropriate staffing can occur when there is a new employee going through onboarding. Before this staff member has been trained and brought up to speed, there are likely policies in place that prevent them from working independently. If a new employee is on the schedule without someone to train them, it can lead to trouble.

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Tips for handling scheduling conflicts

Now that we’ve covered some of the most common scheduling conflicts, let’s cover what you can do to handle — and even prevent — them.

1) Publish the schedule well in advance

To help avoid scheduling conflicts, publish the first draft of the schedule well in advance so that you and your employees have time to:

  • plan your personal lives around the work schedule; and
  • make the needed schedule changes when activities conflict.

If you release the schedule the day before it goes into effect, your team members won’t have time to make accommodations for work and personal appointments.

2) Make the schedule available anywhere, anytime

Scheduling conflicts often occur because employees don’t have access to the schedule when they’re making plans outside of work.

With modern workforce management software, however, you can store frequently-used team documents — like the work schedule — in the cloud where employees can access them anywhere, anytime.

3) Allow employees to self-schedule

A simple and effective way to prevent scheduling conflicts is to allow your employees to self-schedule.

Start by scheduling one or two of your best employees for each shift. Then, give everyone access to this incomplete schedule and allow them to fill in when they want to work. This will make for easier schedule creation on your part, and lead to a happier staff overall.

4) Take advantage of automation

Advanced workforce management software helps you handle and prevent scheduling conflicts by automating a large portion of the process.

With a single tap or click, you can instruct the app to find and auto-schedule an employee for a specific shift on a specific day based on variables, such as:

  • Employee availability
  • Overtime limits and labor laws
  • Business budget
  • Sales data
  • Part-time/full-time status
  • Skills
  • Ability

The system then sorts through the relevant information, finds a candidate, and inserts them into the schedule based on your restaurant’s needs.

5) Make employees responsible for finding substitutes

Giving your employees the responsibility for finding a substitute to cover a shift they can’t work is a great way to handle scheduling conflicts that arise because a team member has to attend to an emergency outside of work.

Instead of an employee calling you (or texting or emailing) to say they can’t come in, they can send out a notification informing everyone that their shift is up for grabs and then follow through with lining up someone to take their place. This process of shift swapping alleviates the stress on you, as the owner or operator, and allows staff to have more control over their shifts.

6) Build an availability chart

Building an availability chart for those times when an employee can’t find their own substitute is an easy and effective way to handle shift scheduling conflicts as well.

The simplest version is just a list of each employee and what days and times they’re willing and available to work (aside from their regular shifts) if you need them.

A more complicated version is another work schedule listing available employees who can come in on short notice, similar to an on-call schedule.

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You must have Javascript enabled in order to submit forms on our website. If you'd like to contact Toast please call us at:

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Help prevent employee scheduling conflicts with Sling by Toast

One way to help prevent scheduling conflicts from throwing a monkey wrench in your workflow is to use restaurant scheduling software, like Sling by Toast.

The Sling by Toast suite of tools makes it possible — and easy — for teams of all sizes to access the schedule anytime and anywhere, self-schedule when necessary, take advantage of automation, communicate freely, and find substitutes with a few clicks or taps.

For more free resources to help you manage your business, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, check out these resources:

DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.