Just like that, summer is over. The seemingly bottomless well of labor that July and August offer up every year begins to run dry. As you know, high school and college students make up a large percentage of the QSR workforce. How you manage them and how receptive you are to their scheduling needs can significantly impact your ability to hold on to the ones you have and meet your staffing goals once school is back in session. To give you a helping hand, here are some tried-and-true tips for navigating the challenges of managing student employees.

Have a plan

What are your staffing needs based on forecasted sales? Can one or more of your summer employees work short shifts covering busy times, during the lunch rush for instance? College students can be particularly useful in this scenario because typically they do not have classes scheduled all day. If you don’t already have an employee who can make this work with their schedule, do they have any friends who could? We all know that employee referral is one of the most successful recruiting methods. Ask for a detailed availability from all of your employees who are going back to school and whether they have friends or classmates who might be interested in taking on a few hours per week.

Keep the lines of communication open

It will benefit you to let your team know ahead of time that going back to school doesn’t mean you will not be able to provide them with work. Communication is key here. Be clear with them about your needs. Ensure they understand even one shift a week would be a great help to you, you know their obligations at school are the priority, and you will work around their commitments. Also, offering a small bump in pay to cover shifts of particularly high demand is another option.

  1. Get a school schedule so that you know about days off, special events, homecoming, and conferences in advance.
  2. If your employees are involved in sports or extracurriculars, get those schedules as well to avoid any potential issues.
  3. If you can, get to know the families of your employees and keep in touch with them.
  4. Periodically touch base with your high schoolers regarding their grades. There is always a chance that the first parent/teacher conference will lead to turnover.

Benefits of employing minors

Many managers love the clean slate aspect of hiring minors. If the individual is motivated and willing to learn but comes to you without any preconceived notions or bad habits picked up at a previous job, they can be easier to train. They will work for less money than experienced workers, and while they are available for part-time hours, you won’t have the pressure of a commitment to full-time hours during slower periods. Also, assembling a larger, more flexible crew is a great way to combat employee fatigue, burnout, and expensive overtime. Lastly, you never know where your next company superstar will rise. One of your part-time new hires could end up running the show someday.

It’s easy to get lackadaisical with scheduling when your student employees are all trying to make money and have wide open availability. However, being prepared for the scheduling chaos that can ensue when school starts will save you a significant amount of time and spare you undue stress. If you are open and honest with your existing staff (and they with you), the transition into fall doesn’t have to be a nightmare.

Get the free ebook "A restaurant leader's guide to maximizing labor efficiency"