Running a restaurant is a complex endeavor, and one of the most significant challenges many restaurateurs face today is the rising cost of labor. With minimum wage increases, employee turnover, and the need for skilled staff, managing labor costs can be daunting. However, with the right strategies, you can effectively control these expenses and ensure your restaurant remains profitable. Here are ten strategies to combat rising labor costs in your restaurant.

Train Managers to Avoid Overtime

One of the most effective ways to manage labor costs is to train your managers to avoid unnecessary overtime. Overtime can quickly inflate your labor expenses, so it's crucial to ensure that your managers are well-versed in scheduling and labor management. By understanding how to allocate staff resources efficiently, managers can ensure that shifts are covered without overburdening employees or incurring extra costs.

Proper training involves teaching managers to anticipate busy periods and schedule staff accordingly. This might include using historical sales data to predict peak times and ensuring that enough staff are scheduled to handle the rush. Additionally, managers should be trained to monitor employee hours closely and make adjustments as needed to prevent overtime.

Utilize Scheduling Software

Implementing a scheduling app can help manage employee shifts more efficiently, reducing the likelihood of overstaffing or understaffing and ensuring optimal labor allocation. These tools can also provide valuable insights into labor costs and help you make data-driven decisions to improve efficiency.

Scheduling software allows you to create and adjust schedules quickly, taking into account factors such as employee availability, labor laws, and predicted demand. Many scheduling apps also offer features like shift swapping, time-off requests, and real-time updates, making it easier for both managers and employees to stay on top of their schedules. By using technology to streamline the scheduling process, you can reduce administrative labor costs and ensure that your restaurant is always adequately staffed.

Cross-Train Employees

Cross-training staff to handle multiple roles can provide greater flexibility in scheduling and reduce the need for additional hires. This approach not only lowers labor costs but also ensures that your team is versatile and capable of handling various tasks, improving overall operational efficiency.

For example, a server who is also trained to work as a host or a line cook can fill in when needed, reducing the need to hire additional staff for those roles. Cross-training also helps to keep employees engaged and motivated, as they have the opportunity to learn new skills and take on different responsibilities. By investing in cross-training, you can create a more adaptable and efficient workforce.

Offer Flexible Scheduling

Providing flexible scheduling options can improve employee satisfaction and retention, reducing turnover and the associated costs of hiring and training new staff. Happy employees are more likely to stay with your restaurant, contributing to a stable and efficient workforce.

Flexible scheduling might include offering part-time positions, allowing employees to choose their shifts, or providing options for remote work where applicable. By accommodating your employees' needs and preferences, you can create a more positive work environment and reduce the likelihood of turnover. Additionally, flexible scheduling can help you attract a broader pool of candidates, including those who may not be able to commit to traditional full-time hours.

Monitor Labor Costs Daily

Keeping a close eye on labor costs on a daily basis allows you to make timely adjustments to schedules and staffing levels, ensuring you stay within budget. Regular monitoring helps you identify trends and address any issues before they escalate, maintaining control over your labor expenses.

Daily monitoring involves tracking key metrics such as labor cost percentage, hours worked, and sales per labor hour. By analyzing this data, you can identify patterns and make informed decisions about staffing levels. For example, if you notice that labor costs are consistently high on certain days, you might need to adjust your staffing levels or find ways to increase sales during those times. Regular monitoring also allows you to respond quickly to unexpected changes, such as a sudden increase in customer traffic or an employee calling in sick.

Optimize Staff Levels Based on Sales Forecasts

Using sales forecasts to guide your staffing decisions can help ensure you have the right number of employees scheduled for each shift. This approach reduces labor costs while maintaining service quality, ensuring that you are neither overstaffed nor understaffed during peak and off-peak hours.

Sales forecasting involves analyzing historical sales data, customer trends, and external factors such as weather, holidays, and local events to predict future demand. By understanding when your restaurant is likely to be busiest, you can schedule staff accordingly, ensuring that you have enough employees to handle the rush without incurring unnecessary labor costs. Additionally, sales forecasting can help you identify opportunities to increase efficiency, such as adjusting your menu or offering promotions during slower periods.

Implement Incentive Programs

Offering incentives for employees who help reduce costs, such as bonuses for minimizing waste or improving efficiency, can motivate your team to contribute to cost-saving efforts. Recognizing and rewarding their contributions fosters a culture of accountability and encourages continuous improvement.

Incentive programs might include performance-based bonuses, employee of the month awards, or other forms of recognition. By tying incentives to specific goals, such as reducing food waste or increasing sales, you can encourage employees to take ownership of their roles and work towards common objectives. Additionally, incentive programs can help to boost morale and create a more positive work environment, leading to higher employee satisfaction and retention.

Automate Routine Tasks

Leveraging technology to automate routine tasks, such as scheduling and payroll, can reduce administrative labor costs and free up staff to focus on more value-added activities. Automation streamlines operations, improves accuracy, and enhances overall efficiency.

For example, using payroll software can simplify the process of calculating wages, taxes, and benefits, reducing the time and effort required to manage payroll manually. Similarly, automated scheduling tools can help you create and adjust schedules quickly, taking into account factors such as employee availability, labor laws, and predicted demand. By automating these routine tasks, you can reduce the administrative burden on your staff and ensure that your restaurant runs smoothly.

Conduct Regular Performance Reviews

Regularly reviewing employee performance can help identify areas for improvement and provide opportunities for additional training. This leads to more efficient operations and reduced labor costs, as well-trained employees are more productive and capable of handling their responsibilities effectively.

Performance reviews should be conducted on a regular basis, such as quarterly or annually, and should include both formal evaluations and informal feedback. During these reviews, managers should assess employees' strengths and weaknesses, set goals for improvement, and provide guidance and support. By investing in your employees' development, you can create a more skilled and motivated workforce, leading to higher productivity and lower labor costs.

Focus on Employee Retention

Investing in your current staff through training, recognition, and competitive benefits can reduce turnover and the associated costs of hiring and training new employees. A stable and experienced workforce contributes to a more efficient and cost-effective operation.

Employee retention strategies might include offering competitive wages and benefits, providing opportunities for career advancement, and creating a positive work environment. By showing your employees that you value their contributions and are committed to their success, you can build loyalty and reduce the likelihood of turnover. Additionally, retaining experienced employees can help to improve efficiency and reduce the costs associated with hiring and training new staff.


Managing rising labor costs in your restaurant requires a multifaceted approach that combines strategic planning, effective staff engagement, and the use of technology. By training your managers to avoid overtime, utilizing scheduling software, cross-training employees, offering flexible scheduling, monitoring labor costs daily, optimizing staff levels based on sales forecasts, implementing incentive programs, automating routine tasks, conducting regular performance reviews, and focusing on employee retention, you can keep your labor expenses in check and ensure your restaurant remains profitable.

Engaging your staff in cost-saving efforts is also crucial for the success of your labor cost management initiatives. By educating your team, offering incentives, empowering them to take ownership, and fostering a culture of accountability, you can create a more efficient and cost-effective operation.

With these strategies in place, you can navigate the challenges of rising labor costs and keep your restaurant thriving. Remember, the key to success lies in continuous improvement and adaptation. By staying proactive and embracing innovative solutions, you can ensure the long-term success of your restaurant.