How to Ace Hospitality Staff Scheduling Without Breaking a Sweat

Improve employee attendance

Proper staff scheduling is an essential part of having a productive and profitable business in the hospitality industry – it helps to keep costs low, morale high and customers satisfied.

Yet with so many moving pieces involved (varying shifts, employee absences, seasonal changes in demand, and more) creating the perfect schedule is easier said than done. That’s why it pays to get educated on the basics of effective hospitality staff scheduling and clearly understand why it’s so important for the success of your business.

In this blog post, we’ll give you all the insights on creating an optimal employee scheduling strategy that works for your team and organization – no matter what kind of environment or establishment you run.

Let’s get down to business!

Main Challenges of Hospitality Staff Scheduling

Effective hospitality staff scheduling is all about ensuring that your team is appropriately organized, optimized, and engaged to deliver exceptional customer service. However, it comes with a set of challenges to overcome.

Here are just a few of them:

  • Balancing the needs of your guests and employees: At the end of the day, your guests’ satisfaction is what matters most. But you can’t forget about the needs of your staff – they have lives outside of work too! Finding a way to strike a balance between the two can be a real headache.
  • Employee turnover and understaffing: Unfortunately, even the most satisfied and culturally fit employees can eventually quit your company. This can wreak havoc on scheduling, as you’ll need to constantly find new staff and train them up, all while keeping the company steady and staffed.
  • Budget constraints: Every business has limitations on its budget, and any overstaffing or understaffing can lead to financial loss. Thus, you must work within these constraints to keep on providing excellent service while staying within budget.
  • Last-minute requests: Unforeseen events, unplanned employee absences, and late-in-the-day requests from customers make it even more challenging to respond and make changes to crucial shifts without stressing your team out and risking the quality of performance.

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8 Rules of Effective Hospitality Staff Scheduling

1.    Schedule with business needs in mind

Effective hospitality staff scheduling is all about striking the perfect balance between your business needs and the availability of your staff.

Don’t be the manager who over-schedules their employees during the slowest periods of the week just to ensure everyone is present – just because there are ten of you hanging around on a Wednesday afternoon, doesn’t mean you all need to be there for the shift.

Similarly, don’t be the boss who leaves their team short-handed on a Friday night when the business is booming.

It’s all about scheduling with business needs in mind – that’s the only way to stay profitable while keeping your team members and customers equally happy.

How to do it correctly:

  • Schedule for high-quality service: Quality standards are paramount in the hospitality industry. Thus, you need a team that can deliver the highest level of service possible by arranging the right mix of skills and personalities on the floor to make sure your guests have an unforgettable experience.
  • Consider your accommodation capacity: The number of guests your business strives to (and can) accommodate is also a key factor to take into account when it comes to staff scheduling. You don’t want to be overstaffed, which can result in unnecessary costs. And you don’t want to be understaffed, which can lead to staff burnout, poor service, and ultimately, a decline in business performance. Finding the sweet spot between expected workloads and employee presence is your main objective here.
  • Predict seasonal shifts in demand: During peak periods, you may need to hire more staff to handle the influx of guests. During slow periods, you may need to scale back to avoid unnecessary costs. This way, you’ll be able to adjust your workforce to any changes in demand, ensuring you’re always running at peak efficiency.

2.    Make a budget

Making a staffing budget before employee scheduling is like putting on sunscreen before you hit the beach – you wouldn’t want to risk burning your skin, just like you wouldn’t want to risk burning holes in your company’s finances.

Without a clear understanding of how much money your business can afford to allocate toward staffing, you risk over-hiring, under-hiring, or worse – not being able to pay your employees at all.

By taking the time to develop a staffing budget, you can ensure that you’re making smart, financially sound decisions when it comes to building your team and putting it to work.

How to do it correctly:

  • Determine your staffing needs: Before you can even think about budgeting for staffing costs, you need to figure out how many employees you need to keep your business operations running smoothly. Take into account factors such as workload, individual workload capacity, and team dynamics.
  • Calculate total compensation costs: To effectively budget for staffing costs, you need to have a clear understanding of the total compensation costs associated with each employee, including but not limited to wages, benefits, bonuses, and taxes.
  • Don’t forget about overtime expenses: Overtime work is the dreaded budget-killer. It’s vital to take into account the costs of overtime, which are usually much higher than the cost of regular work hours and can easily explode your staffing budget if left out of control. But first, make sure to talk to your employees and schedule their workloads in a way that helps to avoid overtime altogether.
  • Regularly review and adjust as needed: The staffing budget is not a “set it and forget it” type of situation. You will have to regularly review and adjust it whenever necessary, like when your business is exposed to unexpected changes in the external environment (hello, pandemic!).

Pro tip:

Tired of playing a guessing game with your staffing budget and blindly estimating expenses? Why not make use of actiTIME?

With this powerful time tracking solution in your toolkit, you’ll always have access to team performance analytics and get a crystal-clear insight into your organization’s headcount distribution and resource usage.

Overtime report, actiTIME

Employee productivity reports, cost-of-work reports, and time tracking statistics provide a solid foundation for creating a budget that’s both accurate and effective. So, sign up for a 30-day actiTIME trial today and see for yourself how much easier your budgeting process can become.

3.    Analyze staff availability

Creating an employee schedule is not as easy as throwing darts at a calendar and hoping for the best. We need to carefully analyze our staff availability to ensure that we have the right people in the right place at the right time.

Imagine a hotel without housekeeping staff or a restaurant without any chefs. It’s a recipe for disaster!

By taking the time to analyze our staff availability, we can make strategic scheduling decisions, avoid staffing shortages, and ultimately provide top-notch service to your guests.

How to do it correctly:

  • Examine your team’s current schedules and time off requests: Are there any upcoming vacations or holidays that could impact workloads? Are there staff members who consistently take more sick days or personal days than others? Or perhaps there are some who have already reached their weekly maximum hours? These factors can all impact availability and should be taken into account before making a schedule.
  • Consider any special events, projects, or high-volume periods on the horizon: These could be anything from a holiday weekend to a major conference in town. Take a moment to reflect on past events or busy times and assess how much staff would have been ideal to have on hand. Does your team have the bandwidth to take on these events or projects without sacrificing their daily responsibilities? If not, bringing on temporary employees may be necessary – albeit more expensive – to ensure that everything is done in a timely and efficient manner. Keep in mind that it’s always preferable to have too much staffing than too little. This will ensure a smoother operation and happier customers.

Pro tip:

Analyzing employee availability and absence trends is as easy as pie with actiPLANS, a user-friendly and flexible resource scheduling solution.

With its help, employees can conveniently request days off in advance, giving you plenty of notice to consider their absences before and while scheduling shifts. Plus, actiPLANS contains comprehensive reports that clearly show who intends to be off work and when. Plus, they give insight into historical absence and attendance statistics, letting you create much more accurate shift schedules for your team.

Leave report in actiPLANS

4.    Choose an appropriate shift type

The key to choosing an appropriate shift type for your business is to strike a balance between customer needs, employee well-being, and budget constraints. The ultimate choice depends on a plethora of factors, including the day-to-day demand patterns and the overall workplace culture established in your organization.

How to do it correctly:

  • Assess the demand patterns for your business: Are there certain days or seasons that see a surge in footfall? If so, you may want to consider a more loose and variable scheduling model, where you can adjust staffing levels according to the ebb and flow of customers. This will help you avoid overstaffing during slow periods and understaffing during peak times.
  • Think of the type of staff you have at your disposal: Do you have a team of full-time employees, part-time employees, or a mix of both? Each type of employee requires a different scheduling approach. Full-time employees may have set schedules, whereas part-time employees may have more flexible schedules.
  • Factor in overtime and temporary employees: Overtime work and temporary employees are usually more expensive, and therefore, should be scheduled with care. Consider the cost-benefit analysis of having overtime work versus hiring temporary employees.

5.    Take employee preferences into account

As the famous saying goes, “Happy employees make happy customers.” And what better way to ensure employee happiness than by taking their preferences into account when creating a staff schedule?

After all, nobody likes to work the graveyard shift on their birthday or miss a family event because they were scheduled to work.

By involving your staff in the scheduling process, you not only boost their morale but also increase the chances of having a fully staffed and engaged team on the floor.

How to do it correctly:

  • Use a shift bidding system: By allowing employees to bid on preferred shifts, you’re ensuring that they have a say in their schedules while also promoting healthy competition among them. However, make sure to have a clear set of guidelines in place to avoid any misconceptions and misunderstandings.
  • Offer fair and equal opportunities to all employees: This means that the same individuals shouldn’t get the best shifts repeatedly, and there should be a system in place for rotation. When your staff feels appreciated and valued equally, they’re more likely to show up motivated and ready to work well.

Pro tip:

Team managers already have enough on their plate without also worrying about scheduling shifts that keep everyone happy. That’s where actiPLANS steps in to save the day.

Our trusty resource scheduling solution includes a convenient self-service functionality that allows employees to schedule shifts for preferable dates on their own.

While employees are picking their preferred shift dates without waiting around for you to approve them, you can take a chill pill and watch the schedules fill up magically and then simply adjust and edit them in just a few clicks.

Employee shift schedule, actiPLANS

In other words, actiPLANS is a perfect solution for saving some time on work scheduling while keeping your team happy – give it a try!

6.    Schedule in advance but stay flexible

Making a staff schedule in advance ensures that your team is prepared and ready for whatever may come their way. However, staying flexible allows you to adapt to those surprise events because you never know when that last-minute emergency or unexpected influx of customers might strike.

So, plan ahead, but keep a few tricks up your sleeve and stay adaptable – that’s the key to more efficient performance.

How to do it correctly:

  • Embrace the power of technology: Consider using employee scheduling software that allows employees to request shifts or trade them with each other, increasing schedule flexibility without compromising operational efficiency. Plus, no more scheduling mishaps due to the dreaded paper schedule falling apart.
  • Cross-train your staff: Having employees who are trained to handle multiple roles ensures that you can fill any gaps in scheduling without having to resort to overtime or temporary staff.
  • Be open to part-time employees: Part-time staff are usually more flexible with their schedules and can help you fill any unexpected staffing gaps. Plus, overtime costs can add up quickly, so having a part-time employee on staff can help mitigate the financial impact of last-minute scheduling changes.
  • Schedule strategically: When creating a schedule for your hospitality staff, think about the big picture. Schedule your “A team” for the busiest nights and the most critical events, ensuring that you have your best people on the front lines, ready to conquer any challenge.
  • Anticipate the unpredictable: You already know that anything can happen in the hospitality industry. People call in sick, events get rescheduled, and last-minute reservations come up. To stay flexible, anticipate these scenarios. Ensure that you have a backup plan in place, and communicate it with your staff, so they know what to expect.

7.    Promptly share the created schedule with your team

If you want to avoid a chaotic mess of confused employees, it’s vital that you promptly share the created staff schedule with your team. Not only will it prevent any mix-ups or double bookings, but it also ensures that your team knows exactly when they’re on the clock and ready to impress your guests.

Plus, who doesn’t love feeling prepared and organized? By sharing the schedule promptly, you’re setting your team up for success, and success is always in good taste in the hospitality industry.

How to do it correctly:

  • Agree on communication methods and timeframes: You can share the created schedules via WhatsApp, emails, Google Drive, or any other online platform your team deems fit. Agreeing on the time and tools of communication ensures that every employee stays informed and can access the schedule easily.
  • Set expectations: Make it clear to your team members that the schedule is a binding agreement that requires their full attention and adherence. Ensure that they acknowledge the receipt of the schedule and that they understand any consequences of non-compliance.
  • Use a clear schedule layout: It is true what they say, less is more. Keep your schedule layout simple and clear to understand, avoiding any unnecessary frills or designs. Be sure to organize the information in a logical order as well.

Pro tip:

If your employee scheduling tool has automated notifications, take advantage of this feature! It will help eliminate any last-minute confusion or changes that could lead to a lack of coverage or double bookings.

One great example of such a tool is actiPLANS.

This little lifesaver will not only make your staff scheduling job easier but also ensure that every employee is aware of the latest schedule updates and knows exactly when they’re supposed to work thanks to fully automated email notifications.

It’s bound to save you a boatload of time and effort.

Email notifications, actiPLANS

8.    Track employee attendance and absences

In the world of hospitality, a no-show can throw a whole shift into chaos and leave guests with a not-so-warm-and-fuzzy feeling. But with a system in place to keep track of who’s working and who’s not, you can avoid these hiccups and keep your scheduling game strong.

Tracking employee attendance and absences isn’t just a way to keep tabs on your workers – it also helps you plan for the future. By seeing which team members are consistently reliable (and which ones might need a little extra prodding), you can optimize your work scheduling to ensure that your business is staffed appropriately – no more, no less.

How to do it correctly:

  • Establish clear attendance policies and communicate them to your frontline workers: Make sure your team understands what the expectations are regarding the timeliness, punctuality, and the procedures they should follow if they need to call out sick. It’s also beneficial to encourage a culture of accountability – if everyone knows that attendance is a top priority, then they’re more likely to take it seriously.
  • Invest in a reliable attendance tracker system: There are myriad software options available that can help streamline the process – from biometric scanners to mobile apps. These systems can not only log employee arrival and departure times but also provide insights into trends and patterns over time. You can analyze data to determine which days are most popular for absenteeism and which employees need a gentle nudge to prioritize punctuality.

Pro tip:

Whether your staff is busy making beds, stirring up cocktails, or delivering impeccable customer service, actiPLANS ensures you never lose track of a single absence or tardy.

And the best part?

No more stacks of paper, or mind-numbing manual tracking. actiPLANS does it all with ease and efficiency, leaving you with more time to focus on delivering unforgettable experiences to even the most discerning of guests.

From customizable shift types and PTO management rules to intuitive visual attendance timelines and an easy-to-use mobile app, actiPLANS has a multitude of valuable features to help you handle your staff scheduling needs in the most effective way possible.

Hundreds of hospitality businesses like yours already apply actiPLANS every day. Learn why they love our software and how it simplifies their workforce management chores here.

Key Benefits of Effective Hospitality Staff Scheduling

  • Cost savings: A well-planned schedule plays a role in reducing labor costs by helping you avoid unnecessary overtime or overstaffing during slow periods. A proper schedule is your guarantee that the right number of employees is working at the right time, which ultimately saves a considerable amount of money in wages.
  • Improved employee satisfaction: Effective scheduling empowers employees to achieve a better work-life balance, which often contributes to higher job satisfaction and lower staff turnover. In the end, happy employees lead to happy customers, and that translates to a more successful business.
  • Enhanced customer service: When a business has enough staff on hand during peak hours, customers are more likely to receive faster and more attentive service. This, in turn, improves customer satisfaction, results in repeated visits, and encourages positive reviews.
  • Higher productivity: Staff scheduling involves a lot of planning. It ensures that your team works in the most productive way possible and all tasks are completed efficiently and on time. This lets you avoid any delays or process bottlenecks and enhance the overall operation of the business.
  • Flexibility: A well-designed schedule allows for adjustments throughout the week to accommodate changes in customer volume or staff availability. It makes it easier to prevent staffing shortages and prepare your business to provide exceptional service at all times.
  • Compliance with labor laws: Effective scheduling makes it easier to adhere to labor laws regarding overtime, employee breaks, and scheduling for part-time staff. This way, you can maintain an excellent workplace reputation and minimize legal risks, as well as any potential costs associated with them.


You don’t need a degree in hospitality management or years of experience to keep an airtight staff schedule. By taking the time to plan ahead and organize processes accordingly, you can easily navigate any unexpected surprises that arise.

And with actiPLANS, the process can become even simpler.

This easy-to-use digital platform offers restaurant and hotel managers the ability to streamline their scheduling procedures while cutting down on tedious paperwork and unnecessary administrative expenses at the same time.

So, go ahead and sign up for a free actiPLANS trial today – this is your foolproof recipe for super-efficient hospitality staff scheduling!

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