As the holidays approach, many restaurant staff are planning their days off to celebrate. While restaurant owners want their staff to have a good work-life balance, managing time-off requests, unpredictable weather, and the seasonal rush can leave you feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Thankfully, with a little preparation, scheduling staff for the holidays doesn’t have to be a mess of stress. 

Before a restaurant begins accepting time-off requests the holiday season, staff should be informed which days are and aren’t negotiable for time off. Creating a clear expectation ensures that everyone is on the same page, and helps to avoid awkward conversations about why a request was denied. If there aren’t enough staff willing to cover holidays, employers can sweeten the deal by offering employees incentives for taking the busiest shifts. Many restaurants have found success by offering time-and-a-half pay, bonuses, gift cards, or comp time for each shift worked. 

Another issue you may run into is finding out that you do not have enough employees on hand to maintain the staffing levels that they need to handle the influx of holiday dinners. In this case, the best method is to hire part-time or seasonal employees to help carry some of the load. Though this may be an expense upfront, having additional staff on hand ensures that a restaurant is able to maximize efficiency and maintain service despite the holiday rush. However, it is important that shifts are balanced so that no time of day is overloaded with less experienced staff.

Perhaps the most important advice for managing your holiday scheduling, however, is to be reasonable. The holidays are busy and stressful times for restaurant workers, and it’s important that employee burnout is prevented at all costs. Staff should not be scheduled for back-to-back shifts unless absolutely necessary and should have enough time to recover between shifts. If the staff does end up working long hours, they should still receive adequate breaks regardless of how busy a restaurant gets. 

While it can be hard for restaurant owners to find the time to create a holiday schedule that all employees agree with, taking the time to plan a thoughtful schedule avoids the last-minute stress of an uncovered shift. By setting clear expectations, creating incentives for those who work the busiest shifts, hiring help when needed, and remaining reasonable, restaurant owners can ensure that both customers and themselves are able to enjoy the holiday season.