How to Write a Restaurant Employee Schedule in California

Push Operations
December 10, 2020

How to Start Building Your Restaurant Schedule

An employee schedule is an important part of your restaurant labor management process. You will lose money when your schedule is not done correctly. When planning your schedule, keep in mind the best working hours, how many hours each employee gets (along with how many they were promised upon hire), time off requests and overtime.

Steps to Creating an Employee Schedule

  1. Create a master spreadsheet
  2. Input the required schedule times for each department
  3. List all employees availability for each department
  4. Add employee availability to the master schedule
  5. Fill in shifts based on managers, trainers then seniority level
  6. Check for enough shift coverage for employees’ breaks
  7. Compare scheduled labor to sales forecast, weather, and local events and add or change shifts as necessary
  8. Publish and post schedule
  9. Allow for employee feedback and changes if required

Keep Your Schedule in Compliance With California Labor Law

It can be difficult to keep your schedule labor complaint in California. Restaurant owners and managers must keep in mind important rulings like reporting time pay and predictive scheduling. *The California law favors employees and we advise employers always err on the side of caution.

Reporting Time Pay

Reporting time pay is pay an employee receives  when they are expected to report to work but are not put to work in those scheduled hours.

For example: Mary, a new server, is called in on a Friday for an 8 hour shift. The night is slow and she is sent home early. The restaurant has to pay her partial compensation or reporting time pay, depending on when she was sent home.

The calculation is:

Half of the scheduled shift up to a maximum of 4 hoursIf the worked shift is under two hours or the employee shows up and does not work, you are required to pay a minimum of 2 hours of compensation. This also includes when the employee has to call in to check that they are working. Keep this in mind when making your schedule and planning out your labor cost.  

Predictive Scheduling

While predictive scheduling is not a law in all of California, there are a few local labor mandates in several cities, including San Francisco and San Jose, that define the minimum amount of time a schedule can be shared with employees. In San Francisco, a schedule must be posted a minimum of 2 weeks before the scheduled start date. The requirement states that the employer must present the employee with a good faith estimate of shifts and hours to be worked. Any changes to the schedule with less than 7 days notice require a paid penalty to the employee of 1 - 4 hours of pay depending on the amount of notice.

Things to Avoid When Making Your Schedule

Cost and service expectations are often top of mind when building an employee schedule but with the unemployment rate at an all time low, keeping employees happy must also be high on the list. Here are a few tips to keep your employees happier about their scheduled work times. Remember your employees have families, 2nd jobs, school, and many other obligations outside of work. It is important to get the schedule posted as soon as possible with as much accuracy.

What not to do:

  • Don't just copy your schedule week to week - make sure to look at events, holidays, and weather for the week being scheduled
  • Don’t give employees “clopens” (defined as a closing then opening shifts). This will harm your service and decrease employee morale

Tip: When using on-call employee positions make sure to hire specifically for that role. Try not to use your full-time or part-time employees for on-call shifts unless you have discussed it with the employee first to keep both sides happy. You can use past employees or potential employees looking to get a foot in the door for on-call shifts.

Set up an Employee Availability Process

As mentioned, your employees will have other obligations and will need days off. It is best to have a formal process to make this as seamless as possible. Set up a deadline to request a day off and make sure you have a set date that the schedule is posted so employees can check if they received the day off or not. Try to accommodate these days as best you can.

Availability chart

Create an Excel sheet of all the days and times each employee is available. This sheet should be open every time you make the schedule to avoid the need to move or change shifts after the schedule is posted. Have each employee fill out a weekly availability form when onboarding and use this to fill in the chart.

Process for shift changes

Shift swapping is common in the retail and restaurant industry. Have an employee policy in place that outline the protocol for shift swapping including who they can swap with, the minimum required notice to complete a swap and how the swap is to be completed.

Tip: Allow your employees to swap on their own and have a formal approval process. This will give employees more autonomy and save manager time while still allowing the final approval to be owned by the manager. Many scheduling platforms like Push Operations Scheduler allow employees to drop shifts and have another employee of equal training pick it up with the click of a button. The swap is then sent to a manager’s phone or email for approval, making shift changes a simple task taking only a few minutes.

Good Advice on Setting Up Your Employee Schedule

To keep employee morale up, it is a good idea to avoid a few things:

  • Try to give each employee 2 full days off in a row to allow them to be well rested before they come back. This is good for your employees and your business
  • Give each new or lower seniority server the chance to work a good tip making shift if possible. Don’t give all the good shifts to senior servers because you may lose new hires before they have a chance to work towards the best shifts
  • Make sure employee shifts have an overlap at the beginning and end to cover breaks and required prep work
  • Make sure employees have enough coverage to take breaks and track breaks per shift to avoid paying break penalties
  • Start by scheduling  supervisors, then trainers, then seniority to ensure you have leaders and managers on each shift

Tip: The lunch rush is often looking for fast workers and efficiency while dinner patrons prefer a more personable experience. Know what your customers are looking for and what your employees strengths are on each shift you schedule.

Saving on labor costs

Using labor forecasting and overtime reminders will help ensure you stick within labor budgets. Most scheduling software like the Push Operations Scheduler have built in overtime alarms that go off when an employee is hitting daily or weekly limits, allowing the team enough time to change the schedule before further overtime is incurred.

The Right Scheduling Tools

With the right scheduling tool you can save time and money. Scheduling systems like the Push Operations Scheduler allow you to set up real-time labor forecasting based on real-time sales and weather. The system will help with overtime pay, break compliance penalties and overtime alerts. Scheduling systems like Push Operations Scheduler also have automated scheduling that is set based on individual business rules, making your schedule as easy as one click.