Business Insights

A Dozen Ways to Tackle Holiday Scheduling

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Everyone's schedule is stretched thin during the holidays. The season is the reason consumers turn to foodservice – and it's also why employee schedules can be tricky.

Stay staffed up with these scheduling tactics:

1. Anticipate labor needs.

Establish how many employees you need for each shift. Review past sales and guest traffic, then schedule accordingly. Engage staff for in-house private parties and catering events as soon as they're booked.

2. Share the big picture.

Transparency and inclusiveness foster team spirit. Tell staff how holiday-season revenue affects your operation's overall profitability and raises/bonuses.


3. Reevaluate your scheduling practices.

Have you always scheduled holidays the same way? Consider what's working and what needs to change.

4. Set expectations well in advance.

Tell prospects what your holiday-scheduling policies are – e.g., no schedule changes or time off from November 1 through January 1. If you change existing policies, inform current employees immediately.


5. Cross-train.

Employees with multiple skills can fill in for one another and work together more efficiently. Shifts covered by cross-trained staff require fewer employees – which can reduce overtime costs.

6. Post holiday schedules prominently.

Post schedules to staff bulletin boards, on your intranet and to an available cloud-based online service.

7. Balance shifts.

When possible, schedule a mix of experienced and new employees to reduce frustrations and hold down turnover.

8. Use scheduling software.

Technology can streamline scheduling and avoid errors that lead to understaffing, overstaffing or higher labor costs due to unnecessary overtime.


9. Tweak menus.

Include lower-labor items prepared with speed-scratch and plus-one cooking techniques. Easing demands on cooks can reduce the number you need per shift.

10. Give the gift of appreciation.

Be supportive and generous with praise (especially important if you have a rigid holiday schedule). If possible, plan for a post-holiday employee-appreciation event.

11. Have a backup plan.

Employees get sick, face emergencies or quit. Set up a Twitter- or email- notification system for employees on call. Also work with a staffing service that can arrange for temps.

12. Be selective and realistic.

College students are an excellent resource for seasonal work. "Hire more employees on the front end and get them back next season," advises Tim Maness, Shamrock Foods Business Solutions Manager. "And know that you're going to have some attrition."

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For more business strategies, visit and follow us on Facebook and Instagram: @shamrockfoods.

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