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Taking advantage of downtime in your restaurant

Taking advantage of downtime in your restaurant

The ebb and flow in the life of a restaurant is natural. A mad rush has your staff scrambling to catch up, while slow periods have people standing around polishing the same glass over and over again.

The reality is that there shouldn’t be any real downtime in the restaurant/hospitality industry — you should always be preparing for the next customers or the next rush.

Proper scheduling

Start by scheduling staff properly. Generally, you shouldn’t have too many people working during quieter time periods (these periods should pretty much be the same day in and day out) — as employees are scheduled aspirationally, this can get overlooked.

The staff that you do have scheduled, should be performing the most useful function they can during this time period. Don’t forget that having more bussers can help increase table turnover, while extra servers may be standing around if there aren’t enough new tables to work with.

Bored staff

Staff that is standing around, talking or playing with their phones is extremely unappealing to customers. Energy levels need to be consistently high; having a dynamic atmosphere comes across to guests and makes for more happy and motivated staff. Work hard to encourage the right kind of proactive attitude among your employees and reward their good work ethic so they know it’s seen and appreciated.

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Lead by example

Any business manager should be ready to get their hands dirty in a restaurant. Show your staff that you’re willing to work just as hard as you expect for them to work —  bus dirty dishes and polish cutlery instead of finding someone else do it. Seeing that management is ready to do anything is always encouraging to staff and boosts morale.

Task lists

How you manage your staff during quieter periods should depend on task priority. There should be checklist posted listing all of the jobs that need to get done in a restaurant — from cleaning glasses, to sorting menus, checking ice machines, resetting the tables and other housekeeping tasks. Tasks depend on your specific business, but wait staff should never be at a loss for where to turn their attention to in the case of a lull in customers.


Don’t forget that you can empower your staff by offering additional training. Your staff can use slower periods to learn a new technology that your restaurant uses or cross train where possible, making them more valuable to the business as a whole. Cross training also has the benefit of making staff members more sympathetic towards each other; servers that know how hectic the job of a bartender is, may be less inclined to argue with them, and the same applies to a line cook who has spent time working as a dishwasher.

Save money — and energy

Foodtender.com recommends turning off certain equipment if you know that a quieter period is coming. If you are able to get them back to the required temperature in time, consider turning off stoves and ovens to save energy. The same applies to energy within the restaurant — cool down the restaurant by lowering the temperature before the next rush and turning off certain lights when they’re not needed.

If you’re scheduling appropriately, there are many ways that you can turn downtime in your restaurant, cafe or bar into a productive time for your staff and overall business. You and your staff should always be thinking of new ways to improve workflow finding ways that they can make the next customer experience as positive as possible.

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