How Operators Can Manage PTO so Everyone Wins

Paid time off is an important right for every company. Employees who take it are less likely to burn out, and employers who encourage it maintain a positive workforce. But when it comes to foodservice, managing PTO is easier said than done.
Long nights and weekends are the norm, and the days when the rest of the workforce has off are when the service industry must work the hardest. However, there are ways to keep your operation running smoothly and your employees happy. Here are four tips to make your PTO plan a win for all.

  1. Create an easy-to-follow leave policy. It’s essential that everyone in your operation is on the same page when it comes to vacations. When they are, time off can be both encouraged and managed. A good policy lays out the request-and-approval process step by step and defines the structure of the policy (i.e., unlimited vacation, a set number of days every year, whether unused days can be used in the next year, etc.).
  2. Implement an automated system. The use of manual systems, like Excel sheets and Google Docs, to track and regulate vacation time leaves the potential for confusion or accusations of favoritism. An automated system not only processes requests in real time but can also highlight any discrepancies with approvals or denials. It can also rank and rotate employees’ requests objectively so that acceptance rates are always transparent.
  3. Set deadlines for vacation requests. This will help prevent too many employees taking off at the same time, especially for popular holidays. Make the deadline far enough in advance that you have ample time to process the requests and prepare for potential conflicts.
  4. Provide incentives. Most workers, no matter the field, like to take off for the holidays, which are often the busiest days of the year for restaurants. Consider incentives like higher pay, gift cards or additional vacation days to encourage turnout during these high-volume times. It’s a great way to ensure you’re fully staffed in addition to rewarding hard work and commitment.

While a well-rounded PTO policy with time-off request procedures is essential to running an efficient operation, nothing will cover everything. Whether it’s sick days or unexpected emergencies, the potential for understaffing is unavoidable. That’s why it’s important to have a contingency plan, too. A backup staff or seasonal employees are good options, but flexibility is key. Make sure your team is always aware of shortages so it can streamline tasks, and don’t be afraid to give reliable team members the opportunity to step up in the place of a senior employee’s absence.
Have you ever had to deal with a difficult vacation period? Tell us your story on Facebook or LinkedIn. Don’t forget to visit our Tips page for more useful operator resources.


Matsota, Eren. How To Regulate Your Teams Vacation Requests, Deputy, January 2018.

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