Managing employee scheduling is never easy in the restaurant business. Unless your restaurant is so well-known that it's completely booked for months on end, you'll never know exactly how many guests will arrive on a given day. This makes it very easy to end up over or understaffed. Here are some tips and tricks to help you make your schedule and keep your employees happy.

Keep Track of Years Past

Restaurant attendance can be predicted. You either run a restaurant where guests want to go for Christmas Eve dinner or you don't. To stay on top of this, keep a record of how many guests you have each night. When putting together your staff schedule, look at your numbers from previous years. For instance, how was your Labor Day weekend in 2015? Well, it's likely to be similar in 2016. What about summer holidays? Does business go up or down? Are Tuesdays generally busier than Wednesdays? What time does the rush start for lunches on weekdays?

Knowing what you've seen before is your best predictor of what you'll see next week. Of course, you'll need to make changes to adjust. For instance, if business has been steadily increasing, you can look at last year's information and add to it.

Keep Schedules Predictable

You can buy software that does "just-in-time" scheduling, which may sound like a great time-saver, but it often results in erratic schedules for your staff. This can create a negative experience for your employees—especially if they have second jobs or have to arrange child care. Instead, work with predictable scheduling patterns. For instance, if you hired someone to work the lunch shift, don't switch them to the dinner shift because you're shorthanded—unless, of course, you ask first.

Hiring employees who are flexible and happy to come in whenever you want them to is great, but even these people appreciate advance notice. Post your schedules as early as possible, and consider using a scheduling app to help make the process easier. Ideally, you should post your weekly schedule at least a week in advance, but if not, give as much time as you possibly can.

Ask Your Employees to Request Time Off Early

A good manager wants happy employees, and happy employees have lives outside of work. Ask your staff to submit any requests at least three days before you sit down and put together the following week's schedule. If you find that you have difficulty accommodating requests, that three-day window will give you time to work out any kinks. If it comes down to it, you may have to deny a request, but by posting schedules a week in advance, planning will go as smoothly as possible.

Cross-Train Your Staff

While this may not seem like a scheduling tip, it is. If you're having trouble predicting how busy you're going to be, having a cross-trained staff can be extremely helpful. Busy times often come in waves, so if employees can jump in where they're needed during a rush, that will be helpful to you and your bottom line.

Employee scheduling is a very important process. Not only does it map out your game plan for the upcoming week, but doing it the right way is crucial to keeping your employees happy. Start with these tips, and make sure to plan ahead as much as possible.