How to master scheduling for hospitality staff

Scheduling for hospitality staff

In hospitality businesses, guest satisfaction relies on impeccable service. Efficient staffing is no longer a luxury afforded to chain hotels and fine-dining restaurants—it’s a necessity. For managers, crafting effective schedules can feel like navigating a complex maze. You need to balance guest needs, employee preferences, and labour costs while ensuring compliance with regulations.

However, this challenge presents an opportunity to revolutionise staff scheduling and unlock a new level of operational excellence. To master hospitality staff scheduling, read on and learn what challenges to expect and how to deal with them through best practices and the right tools.

Common challenges in hospitality staff scheduling

By understanding the challenges below, you can look for signs of inefficiencies in your staffing and scheduling processes.

High employee turnover

In hospitality, the employee turnover rate is often compared to a revolving door of staff. This impacts everything from guests to operations. Several factors contribute to the high turnover, such as low wages, limited opportunities for advancement, and demanding work hours. Additionally, the fast-paced nature of the industry can be stressful and lead to burnout.

When employees leave frequently, it creates a constant need for recruitment and training. This disrupts workflow, reduces efficiency, and can lead to inconsistency in service quality. New hires require time to learn the ropes, and guests may experience longer wait times or less personalised service.

Labour budgeting limitations

Compared to businesses with predictable schedules and workloads, hospitality businesses face a unique set of limitations when it comes to budgeting for staff. Hiring managers typically have to compete with other industries for talent, especially in high-income areas. This makes it hard to attract and retain qualified staff, especially when budgets limit the ability to offer competitive wages and benefits.

Allocating a fixed labour budget across the entire year might not account for the seasonal nature of hospitality demand. Ski resorts, for example, require more staff during winter months, while beach resorts might see a surge in demand during summer.

Tendency to overbook employees

While understaffing can harm guest satisfaction and operational efficiency, hospitality businesses can also face challenges on the other end of the spectrum: overbooking employees. Overbooking staff can be tempting as a safety net to handle unexpected surges in guests or unforeseen call-outs. But when staff are overbooked, it can lead to burnout, exhaustion, and decreased productivity.

From the management’s perspective, overbooking employees during slow periods results in paying staff for hours that might not be fully utilised. This can negate any potential cost savings from optimised labour utilisation during peak times. In worst-case scenarios, employees will need to face schedule changes, which impact morale by disrupting their routine and the predictability of their schedules.

Unpredictable customer demand and staffing risks

Demand in hospitality can fluctuate wildly. Busy weekends, holidays, and special events can see a surge in guests, while weekdays or off-seasons might experience a lull. This unpredictability makes it difficult to predict staffing needs accurately. Employee absences due to illness, injuries, or personal emergencies are an additional layer of unpredictability in hospitality staffing. These unplanned events can disrupt schedules and exacerbate understaffing during peak times.

Understaffing due to unpredictable absences, on top of fluctuating demand, directly impacts guest satisfaction. Long wait times, service delays, and feeling rushed can lead to negative reviews and lost customers. The financial consequences of a damaged reputation can be significant.

Lack of clear communication with employees

When it comes to staff scheduling, clear communication between managers and employees is essential for creating a smooth operation, a happy workforce, and satisfied guests. Unclear communication about schedules, shift changes, and time-off requests can lead to employee confusion and frustration.

Misunderstanding over schedules can result in missed shifts, understaffing during peak periods, and a general sense of disorganisation. Feeling out of the loop regarding their schedules can make employees feel undervalued and disengaged. When employee morale decreases, so does productivity.

Compliance with labour laws

Balancing operational needs with legal requirements adds another layer of complexity to hospitality staffing, especially when it comes to payroll processing. Businesses must comply with a variety of labour laws, including minimum wage requirements, overtime regulations, maximum work hours, mandated breaks, and timekeeping rules. These regulations can vary by location, making it crucial for businesses to stay up-to-date on the specifics of their region.

Hospitality payroll challenges due to scheduling errors or violations of Fair Work laws can lead to penalties and fines. Managers and business owners also tend to deal with frequently changing schedules and calculating break and overtime hours, and manual input of this data can challenge the accuracy of payroll records.

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Efficiently manage hospitality staff scheduling with these best practices

1. Utilise demand forecasting data

Demand forecasting provides valuable insights into anticipated guest numbers throughout the day, week, season, or even for specific events. By analysing historical data, industry trends, and upcoming events, businesses can predict future guest activity and create staffing schedules that are both efficient and effective. This can help you avoid overstaffing during slow periods and understaffing during seasonal peaks.

Meeting guest expectations is paramount in hospitality. With the correct roster of employees, staff are able to deliver excellent service with shorter wait times for guests.

2. Cross-train staff for different tasks

By equipping employees with skills in multiple areas, businesses can unlock a multitude of benefits, leading to a more robust and responsive workforce. Cross-trained staff provides managers with greater flexibility when creating schedules. Employees with a broader skillset can be deployed across different departments based on real-time needs, helping avoid understaffing and overstaffing.

By having staff comfortable tackling tasks in multiple departments, businesses can reduce reliance on additional staff, especially during unpredictable fluctuations in guest demand. This translates to labour cost savings and allows for more efficient resource allocation.

3. Offer flexible shift options

Traditional, rigid schedules often clash with employee preferences, leading to dissatisfaction and high turnover. Flexible scheduling, on the other hand, empowers employees with greater control over their work hours. Increased autonomy fosters a sense of work-life balance, leading to higher employee satisfaction and potentially lower turnover rates.

Offer split shifts, where an employee’s workday is divided into non-consecutive segments. This can be beneficial for students, parents, or those pursuing other commitments. Consider compressed work weeks, allowing employees to work a full-time schedule within fewer days, potentially offering more extended workdays in exchange for additional days off.

While flexible scheduling offers numerous benefits, it’s crucial to maintain a balance with operational needs.

4. Consider hiring part-time or casual staff

While a core team of full-time employees provides stability, strategically utilising part-time and casual staff is an effective way to help businesses adapt to changing business demands. Part-time and casual employees offer a readily available pool of talent to supplement the core team during these peak periods. This ensures adequate staffing levels to handle increased guest volume and maintain service quality.

Part-time and casual staff typically receive lower wages and benefits compared to full-time employees. Utilising them during busy periods allows hotels to optimise labour costs and avoid unnecessary expenses during slower times. When integrating these specialised employees, develop clear and concise job descriptions and have them go through the same onboarding process as other employees. This includes familiarising them with hotel policies, procedures, guest service standards, and safety protocols.

5. Make schedules easily accessible to employees

When schedules are readily available and accessible, misunderstandings about shift times, days off, and coverage gaps are minimised. This reduces the likelihood of missed shifts, understaffing during peak periods, and employee frustration. Easy access to schedules empowers employees to take ownership of their work hours. They can check their shifts, confirm changes, and be held accountable for their scheduled availability.


Online rostering software gives employees these functionalities, including requesting time off, swapping shifts, and real-time notifications about schedule changes. Some tools have a mobile app counterpart specifically for employees, meaning they can manage their schedules and communicate with you on the go.

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Hospitality scheduling best practices

6. Manage schedules with an online rostering software

Online rostering apps automate many scheduling tasks, allowing managers to create and edit staff rosters and schedules quickly. As mentioned, these platforms can also facilitate two-way communication between managers and staff.

Ideal for small businesses, rostering software also integrates with hospitality payroll systems and accounts for labour laws, keeping their system up to date so you can stay compliant. They also provide visibility on staffing costs on a daily basis, making it easier to see when you are over your labour budget. This is invaluable data for growing businesses hoping to identify areas for improvement and optimise scheduling strategies effectively.

What is hospitality scheduling software?

In the hospitality industry, scheduling software refers to digital tools designed to streamline the process of creating and managing staff schedules. These web-based platforms offer a multitude of features that move businesses beyond paper schedules and spreadsheets, leading to increased efficiency and a more engaged workforce.

Scheduling tools are becoming increasingly important to workforce management and can help you execute the best practices discussed. As your business goes beyond traditional workforce management methods and into a more dynamic and cost-effective system, your employees can also benefit from streamlined processes with managers and the business.

Best rostering software features for scheduling hospitality staff

Before committing to a rostering software, ensure your provider of choice has the following features to help support your staff management needs.

Automatic scheduling

This feature saves managers a significant amount of time by automatically generating schedules based on pre-defined rules considering employee availability, labour costs, and more. Rostering platforms also give you a broader view of schedules daily, weekly, and monthly, helping to ensure compliance, control staffing levels, and minimise scheduling conflicts.

Easy timesheet creation

Hospitality employees often work varied shifts and may have split shifts or on-call positions. A timesheet app that allows them to create timesheets for your approval allows them to record their working hours quickly and accurately with minimal effort. This ensures payroll compliance and accuracy while reducing administrative burdens for both employees and managers.

Simple employee time tracking

Time-tracking features can automate the process of recording work hours. This can be done through employee mobile apps that allow employees to clock in and out of their shifts and turn on their GPS when they arrive at work. Simple time tracking improves payroll accuracy reduces time theft, and provides valuable data for labour cost analysis.

Labour cost monitoring

Hospitality businesses have tight margins, and labour costs are often one of the largest expenses. Labour cost monitoring features provide insights into staffing patterns, overtime costs, and labour costs as a percentage of revenue. This allows managers to identify areas for improvement and make informed decisions about staffing strategies.

Attendance and leave management

Managing employee attendance and leave requests can be complex, especially in a fast-paced environment like hospitality. Attendance and leave management features allow employees to submit time-off requests electronically, track their remaining leave balances, and view approved schedules. This streamlines the process, reduces paperwork, and improves communication between managers and staff.

Deliver 5-star service with hospitality scheduling and workforce management

For hospitality businesses, crafting effective staff schedules is a cornerstone of operational excellence. However, traditional methods often fall short, leading to inefficiencies, frustrated employees, and ultimately, a compromised guest experience. The key to success lies in a data-driven approach, leveraging the right tools and resources to orchestrate a well-tuned staffing strategy.

By embracing data-driven insights, robust scheduling tools, and a versatile workforce, hospitality businesses can move beyond and compete on a higher level. The stronger your foundation for delivering exceptional experiences, the more sustainable your success will be.

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