Time management is a critical skill for any professional to develop – especially in the restaurant industry, where timeliness is closely related to great service quality. Research shows that restaurants that focus on punctuality by addressing it in pre-shift meetings provide a better overall experience to diners. And when all departments maximize their time, the entire restaurant runs successfully.
In this blog post, we’re sharing effective time management skills for hospitality workers, front-of-house staff (FOH), back-of-house staff (BOH), and restaurant management to learn from.
The importance and need for efficiency are universal, which is why employees in any restaurant role could benefit from a refresher in time management.
Time management for Front-of-house staff
If you work front of house, you’re the face of your restaurant. Timing is everything when you interact with guests directly. Here’s how you can manage your time as a server, host, or bartender.
1. Show up to shifts on time
Punctuality goes a long way in the service industry. On an individual level, showing up on time lets you prepare for your shift. On a team level, one tardy employee can throw off service time for everyone else—guests included.
Prone to tardiness? Trick yourself into thinking your shift begins earlier by shifting your start time by 15-30 minutes in your smartphone calendar or planner. Even if you run behind your “newly scheduled” time, you’ll now be on time or early for work.
Tip for managers: Restaurant operators understand the importance of their front-of-house team showing up on time, but they have better things to do than watch the clock to see when they arrive. Employee time management systems help managers keep track of employees’ arrivals and departures. Review your employees’ clock-in and clock-out times regularly and confront anyone who needs a reminder of the importance of punctuality.
2. Pace yourself
As a server, you control not only your time, but also your guests’ time. Pay attention to what your guests tell you verbally and through body language to inform your speed of service. Are your customers in a rush or do they want to linger?
Adjust your pacing – when you bring out courses, how often you check on customers, when you bring out the check, etc. – to meet your customers’ needs.
Time management for Back-of-house staff
Back-of-house restaurant employees are at the core of delivering the food experience diners crave. Plus, FOH staff rely on BOH staff to create a memorable overall experience for customers. Here’s how to master time management as a chef, cook, or dishwasher.
1. Audit your workflow
Reevaluate your workflow and set priorities to take control of your time in the kitchen. Do you feel like your ticket times keep growing and growing? Do dishes keep piling up in the sink? Study your menu and process. Time how long things take to prepare or clean.
If salmon and roast chicken were ordered on the same ticket, which would be more efficient to start preparing first? Could you do extra prep before a shift to ensure faster ticket times during service? As a dishwasher, could you save time by sorting dishes by type before washing them instead of cleaning them in the order in which you received them?
Analyze your process to see how you could shave off guest wait time without sacrificing quality.
Tip for managers: When onboarding new members of your BOH team, train them on efficient work processes, as these may vary from restaurant to restaurant.
2. Communicate with the front-of-house team
Even with efficient processes in place, things can go awry in the kitchen. A dish might burn or simply need more time to cook. If something comes up that causes a delay in service, communicate this disruption with service staff so that they can appease customers while they wait for the dish.
How is communication a restaurant employee time management skill? When you communicate with your front-of-house team about things that you do that affect them and customers, you can buy yourself time if things don’t go according to plan.
Tip for managers: Review and implement these staff communication strategies at your restaurant.
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Time management for Restaurant managers
Managers are the glue between FOH and BOH and make sure that everything runs smoothly in a restaurant. Managers delegate tasks and manage the clock overall so that FOH and BOH can focus on their own performance.
Do you own, operate, or manage a restaurant? Here’s how to maximize your time to set your team up for success.
1. Know when it’s time to delegate
An important time management skill is recognizing the best use of your staff’s time at every skill level. Are there tasks that you and your senior level staff do that a less experienced member of your team could handle? That’s exactly what task delegation can take care of.
You should have your most experienced, highest paid staff – including you – focus on things that only they can do for the restaurant, like strategy, decision making, or training. Delegate tasks that require less specialized knowledge, like prep work or administrative tasks, to junior level employees.
As a restaurant owner or manager, it’s also important to recognize when you need to hire an assistant manager to support you, or a line cook to support your head chef. Simple delegation of tasks will do wonders for your team’s efficiency.
2. Automate repetitive tasks
At times, automating repetitive tasks can be more cost-effective than delegating them to an employee. Embrace automation technology to free up your time so that you can focus on new initiatives instead of recurring duties.
Employee scheduling is something that technology can easily take off of your plate. Leading employee time management systems also have automated scheduling capabilities. Instead of manually creating a schedule each week using a desktop spreadsheet and scattered post-it notes, you can pull up an employee scheduling tool on your phone, add some details about your team, and let the tool create a schedule – and share it with your team – for you.
When you automate scheduling you can reduce time spent on creating staff schedules by 80%, reduce labor costs by 1-2%, and reduce phone calls and texts to communicate about the schedule by 70%.
Not to mention, nearly ⅓ of restaurant employees find poor workplace technology one of the worst parts of their job, so ensuring you have smart systems in place will help with your employee retention. Let technology handle repetitive tasks at your restaurant so that you can focus on more meaningful, creative efforts that will impact customers and your bottom line.
When management, front-of-house staff, and back-of-house staff work efficiently independently of each other, they can work together seamlessly to give customers a fantastic experience. Here are our top tips for effective time management skills at restaurants:
Front-of-house staff can use their time most effectively by being punctual and pacing their work to their guests’ needs
Back-of-house staff can maximize their time by auditing their workflows and communicating with servers if something goes wrong
Restaurant managers are better able to manage their time when they learn to automate and delegate tasks
Evaluate processes in your restaurant that might be slowing you down and consider how you can you make them more efficient.
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Ana Cvetkovic is a freelancer and content producer for 7shifts. She is also the CEO of BLOOM Digital Marketing, a Philadelphia-based creative marketing agency that helps the hospitality and tourism industries reach new audiences online.
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