As Close As You Can Get As A Server


Saturday night I spent some time on the patio with one of the newer servers at my restaurant.  He is low on seniority, but has spent more years serving than I have.  I estimate total the two of us have between three and four decades of serving experience.  I am pretty high on seniority at my restaurant, but nevertheless we were in neighboring sections on the patio on a reasonably busy Saturday night watching the rain.  After nearly four hours (five for him) we were sent home without receiving a table.

I work at a restaurant that has a set schedule.  They take it a step further by rotating sections by an established system.  This means that seniority and experience do not factor into what station I have on a given night.  I know in advance what station I will have, what sidework is mine, and how likely it is that my station will be cut.  This has both positive and negative impacts on how I view my job.  Today I will discuss the negatives and tomorrow I will address the benefits of having a set schedule.

Here are some of the drawbacks of set schedules:

Not Merit or Seniority Based: Not all servers are created equal.  Servers who are stronger and have suffered through slow stations starting out generally are rewarded with better stations.  This is not the case in a set schedule/ station rotation system.  This removes the incentive to stay at a restaurant and work your way up the ladder.

Extra Servers: This often times leads to weaker servers on the floor thus necessitating more staff to cover the shift.  For example, if nine servers are scheduled for a shift that the five strongest could handle, a manager can cut to those five.  If they are not allowed to pick which five they want, they often will be forced to keep weaker servers on and therefore need six or seven to provide the same coverage.

Covering Shifts: When working with a set schedule, there is no allocation for requesting time off.  In order to take a vacation, you need to cover all of your own shifts.  I have seen several instances where this lead to panic trying to get a single Sunday lunch shift covered to allow for a month long trip.  With smaller staffs this makes you more dependent on the charity of coworkers.

Bad Weeks: This rotation system guarantees that a certain number of shifts will be spent in weaker sections.  I know that one out of every four weeks I will be on the patio for a given shift.  They also all line up on the same week.  Given the alternating rain/ brutal heat we have seen lately this means that three out of my last four dinners have resulted in me being cut before the shift or not receiving a single table.  That is tough to budget for.

Like any system set scheduling has it’s own set of problems.  There are definitely positives of a set schedule. The key is to be aware of the issues you can face and compensate for them.  Tomorrow I will get into the positive aspects of it.  I will follow that up with a post detailing the pros and cons for managers.  In the meantime, I am sure there is something I missed.  If you can think of it, leave it in the comment sections for everyone.

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