The importance of restaurant staffing levels (and how effective scheduling can boost your profit margins)

Inadequate restaurant staffing can take a huge chunk out of your bottom line. 

Too many staff on a shift? You’re overpaying on wages and not making enough revenue to cover the costs. 

Not enough staff? You’re impacting the customer experience and giving your restaurant a bad rep. 

So what’s the solution? How do you juggle availability, skill sets, staffing regulations, and customer demand when scheduling shifts? 

You’ve come to the right place for answers! 

In this article, we’ll show you how to create an effective, optimised staff schedule for your restaurant. But first, let’s look a little deeper into the impact of understaffing and overstaffing in restaurants. 

The impact of understaffing on customer experience and business operations 

Picture this: You’re in a busy restaurant and it’s understaffed. Employees are running around taking orders and delivering food, barely having a second to stop and catch their breath. They’re trying their best, but you have to wait a long time before they take your order.

The food comes out after a long wait, and you can tell it’s been rushed. The presentation isn’t great, and it’s not cooked to the standard you were hoping for. 

As a customer, this isn’t a good dining experience. 

And why? 

Because the restaurant didn’t have enough staff to meet demand.

Although this is an imaginary scenario, it’s probably one you’ve experienced firsthand. Now, think about how it impacts your perception of that restaurant. Are you likely to go back? Probably not. Would you recommend it? Again, probably not.

A chef pouring friend chips into a silver bowl

This is why effective scheduling is so important for restaurant success. When you can provide diners with a good experience with food and service, they’re more likely to return, leave a good review, or recommend you to other people. 

The consequences of overstaffing on restaurant profitability and employee satisfaction

Let’s take a look at some of the consequences of overstaffing, including how it impacts profitability and employee satisfaction. 

High labour costs without a corresponding increase in revenue

With too many people on the rota and not enough revenue to counteract the cost of wages, your profit margins take a hit. In fact, you might not have any profits at all, finding yourself out of pocket. 

Let’s say that you’re paying eight members of staff (six waiting staff and two chefs) for an eight-hour shift. In the UK, that’s at least £732.16 you’re paying to comply with the latest wage increase (provided all your staff are over 21):

  • £11.44 x 8 hours = £91.52 per shift 
  • £91.52 x 8 members of staff = £732.16 total cost of wages

During the same shift, you have 40 customers come through the door. The total revenue? Not enough to counteract your labour costs. 

Considering that households spend an average of £12.60 on restaurants and cafes each week, you’re looking at around £504 in sales. 

£504 in revenue – £732.16 in wages = -£228.16. Not a good look for your bottom line. 

💡Find out how Roasting Coffee Plant cut labour costs by 5.5% in just two months with Nory! 

Idle employees with limited tasks and responsibilities

If staff don’t have enough work to fill their time, what are they doing? They’re standing around, waiting for things to do. Everything’s clean and prepared, ready for customers — but there are simply not enough customers to give them anything to do. 

Restaurant staff working in quiet restaurant

Even when customers do come through the door, it only requires one or two staff to serve them. The rest of the workforce? Still waiting for something to do.

This can be pretty harmful to employee morale. It causes a lack of motivation and impacts their engagement — both of which can increase employee turnover

Less tips for staff

An overstaffed shift impacts how much employees make from tips. With more staff working, tips are distributed among more people. So, if there are a lot of staff and not many customers, the amount of additional income up for grabs goes down. 

This is another hit to employee morale. It can be demotivating, especially during the cost of living crisis where hospitality workers appreciate the additional payments to supplement their income. 

Studies have also shown that one of the main reasons restaurant workers leave their jobs is low tips. So, if you want to keep your retention rates high and build an enthusiastic workforce, overstaffing is something to address. 

Hot tip 🔥 Use Nory Tips to fairly allocate tips to your workforce and comply with the new regulations of the Employment Act! 

How to identify the signs of understaffing in restaurants

If you’re wondering how to tell if your restaurant is understaffed, here are some signs to look out for: 

  • Increase in wait times and customer complaints — The longer customers have to wait for service, the more likelihood that you need more staff on your rota. And if customer complaints start coming in about wait times? That’s a clear-cut sign that you’re understaffed. 
  • Employees feeling overwhelmed and unable to meet demands — If your workforce is stressed and burned out, you need to schedule or hire more staff. It’s worth remembering that employee retention is one of the top priorities for the restaurant industry at the moment, and giving them a good employee experience is a great way to boost retention. 
  • Decreased productivity and efficiency in daily operations — When staff are rushed off their feet, labour productivity and efficiency can take a hit. If you notice this happening in your workforce, you may need to up the number of team members during busy shifts. 

Strategies for managing understaffing and overstaffing in restaurants

Take a look at some of our top strategies for creating optimised staff schedules. 

Forecast demand accurately 

Accurately forecasting demand is essential to creating a demand-based schedule. After all, if you don’t know when you’ll be busy or quiet, how can you plan your shifts accordingly? 

But forecasting demand is hard. It involves analysing historical sales data, reviewing events that can increase footfall, comparing seasonal fluctuations — the list goes on.

We know — this sounds like a lot of work. The good news is that you can use AI to do the manual work for you, and increase accuracy in the process!Take a look at Nory as an example. Our restaurant management software analyses your previous sales and performance to predict future demand.

Nory sales insights

You can create and adjust employee schedules based on peak and off-peak hours. As a result, you can implement schedules that meet customer demand, prevent overworking, and minimise your labour costs. 

The results? A happy workforce, a good dining experience, and better profit margins. 

Don’t just take our word for it — look how Masa uses Nory to forecast sales within a 3% margin! 

“Constantly being able to see what your sales are, what your cost of labour is — and trusting that is really valuable” – Shane Gleeson, owner and founder, Masa

Cross-train employees

Despite what it sounds like, cross-training employees doesn’t involve lifting weights. It involves training employees in different disciplines, which creates a more agile and adaptable workforce. 

For example, training waiting staff in other areas, like food preparation or preparing drinks. 

Imagine that a bartender calls in sick for their shift. There are no other bartenders available to cover the shift, but it’s all good. Why? Because you have cross-trained waiting staff available to fill the void. 

In other words, cross-training allows you to be more flexible with your scheduling, ensuring you always have the right number of staff available with the necessary skills to meet demand. 

Training also improves the employee experience. Studies show that high staff turnover and low morale are the result of low or inadequate training. By ensuring your workforce is confident and capable in their abilities, they feel more motivated and are more likely to stay! 

Best practices for effective staffing levels in restaurants 

To ensure success with your restaurant scheduling, here are some tactics to implement: 

  • Establish open communication — Create open communication channels between yourself and employees. This provides transparency and gives staff members a chance to provide feedback and make suggestions for improvement. 

Hot tip 🔥 Nory’s workforce management feature has a chat function so staff can communicate easily within the same platform, submit vacation requests, and handle shift swaps! 

  • Monitor and adjust staffing levels —  Keep tabs on employee schedules in real-time to ensure they align with demand. You can also tweak schedules based on customer feedback and business performance to ensure the best possible dining experience. 
Someone sat at a laptop planning a work schedule with Nory
  • Implement time-saving processes — Scheduling can take a lot of time out of your day, especially if you need to change rotas at the last minute or are trying to juggle employee skills and availability. Put processes in place that streamline schedule creation to make it more efficient! With technology, for example, you can automatically create schedules based on demand, taking employee skills and availability into account. 

Take a look at how Urban Greens improved its operations by consolidating processes with Nory. 

“Nory consolidated our ordering flow to provide more visibility and free up countless hours of our managers time to focus on what really matters to us – delivering the highest quality product.” Anna, Operations Manager, Urban Greens

Optimise schedules and increase your profit margins with Nory! 

An effective restaurant staffing schedule isn’t easy to create, but it’s essential to increase profit margins. 

It takes time and effort to analyse previous sales to create schedules that balance employee skills and availability with customer demand. But the good news is that Nory can deliver these goods and create effective, optimised schedules for your restaurant! 

Get in touch with the team to find out more about using Nory to improve scheduling and cut your labour costs. 

Get in touch with the team

Find out more about using Nory to improve scheduling and cut your labour costs. 

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Employee smiling while working

FAQs about restaurant staffing 

How many members of staff do I need in my restaurant?

It depends on different factors. The size of your restaurant, your peak hours, and your staff skills all influence the number of workers you need in your restaurant. Use Nory to prevent over and understaffing in your restaurant! 

How many people can a waiter handle?

It varies depending on the type of restaurant you run, the pace of service, and the service customers require. If you’re a quick-service restaurant, waiters may be able to serve more tables than a fine-dining establishment. 

How many hosts should a restaurant have?

Again, it depends. The size of the dining area, the volume of reservations and walk-ins, and the efficiency of table turnover can all influence how many hosts you need. Typically speaking, a smaller restaurant has one host per shift, while larger restaurants may have more.