Tis the Season… for Dreading Doing the Schedule

Posted on December 22, 2011


The holidays are here, and for restaurant managers, that means two things: the restaurant is very busy and people want time off.  The two needs do not match up.

As someone who has logged hours working in restaurants, no one likes working weekends and holidays.  Not even for the tradeoffs of having weekdays off to run errands.  Not for being able to go out on weeknights or stay out late.  All of us would probably prefer to have the weekends and holidays to spend with friends and family.  That said, for many of us, “It’s not the business we’re in, but the business we’ve chosen” to quote The Godfather.  We need to suck it up and work when we are supposed to work.

However, here’s the tricky part: most people don’t work every holiday and every weekend day.  Not even in the restaurant business.  Managers usually accommodate the staff a little bit, because we are all people.  And how the accommodations are made is the trickiest part.

The task of scheduling comes with a lot of grief in the first place.  I’ve seen it at work.  I  also know from talking to my father and one of my good friends, who wrote the schedule many a times.  Throw in holidays, emotions and special circumstances and it becomes even more frustrating.  That said, there can be a good way to handle the schedule for the holidays.

A few years ago, I worked at a restaurant that made the holiday schedule at the beginning of November.  They handed us a sheet, with Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Years Eve and New Years day and asked us to rank them 1-5.  “We’re making no promises they told us.”  But they really were.

If you knew you wanted a holiday off, one in particular, you had the chance to speak up and ask for it.  By contrast, if you didn’t mind working one or more of the particular holidays, you had leverage to be off on the holiday of your choice.

It worked out for me.  I had Thanksgiving and New Years Day off.  I made a bundle working on New Years Eve.  I was happy.

I liked this approach a lot for a few reasons.  It gave the staff a say in the matter.  But it was also realistic.  Even for people who consistently work weekends and holidays, it is extremely tough to work all of them.