Break Schedule for Cooks & Restaurant Employees

Break Schedule for Cooks and Restaurant EmployeesThe purpose of a break schedule for cooks and restaurant employees is to provide and document breaks for your staff while at the same time maintaining good business practices with your customers. Break schedules also help teach self discipline to your crew, and holds them accountable if they do not follow your break schedule rules. And they provide an employer with a safety net should documentation be needed to show that you provide your team members with the opportunity for a break.

Managing the break schedule can be easy, or difficult, depending upon the culture at the restaurant you work at, the leadership, the morale, the staffing levels, and the degree of personal responsibility of your team members. If leadership standards are clearly communicated, are fair & consistently applied, team morale is high, and neither the company nor the staff are abusing breaks, then you may not need to implement a break schedule. However, if your state requires breaks, then it may still be a good idea to have a break schedule which documents your procedures in case a legal action is brought against the restaurant in regards to staff breaks.

The Importance of Breaks for Restaurant Success

It is well known that if people work for 8 hours straight with nothing more than a restroom break, they become less productive, less dependable, less consistent in their work, and tend to have a lower morale. But research shows that regular breaks can increase employee productivity, help maintain consistency and increases team morale. Cooks & servers have to make a multitude of decisions during a busy shift regarding quality of product, quality of service, and firing times. By end of a busy shift everyone’s brain can be overloaded and the ability to concentrate and/or make the right decision becomes compromised due to mental & emotional fatigue. Breaks helps minimize this “decision fatigue”, restores motivation, and increases productivity.

Implementing a Break Schedule

When implementing a break schedule, be sure that the rules are clear, that your supervisors know what they are, and that they are clearly communicated to team members. Break rules may include: how many breaks each team member can have, how long each on is, how you manage cigarette breaks, consequences for not following the break rules, who decides when team members get a break and in what order breaks are given (be practical and fair, but don’t hurt business. For instance, you can’t send all your Grill Station guys on break at the same time.)Post the break schedule rules on the wall, but don’t make them too rigid.

For instance, make it the policy that perhaps between 6pm – 8pm everyone gets their 1st break, rather than giving an actual timeline that Johnny’s break is at 6:15. Give your leaders the task of delegating breaks according to service levels. Can only 1 person go on break or can multiple people go on break without hurting the business? DO NOT ALLOW THE STAFF TO DICTATE WHEN THEY GET THEIR BREAKS! Management and supervisors control breaks, not the staff.

Be sure that everyone signs in and out for their breaks, and initials it at the end of each day. Have a supervisor spot check team members to verify that they are being honest with the recorded times. If not, then have a supervisor record actual break times and then have the team member initial that it is correct. The purpose of signing in and out for breaks is to hold the staff accountable to the standards, and to make sure that one team member isn’t abusing it by taking extra long breaks which results in the rest of the team having to work harder. It’s about self-discipline, personal integrity, and a good work ethic.

What the Federal Law Says About Breaks

Federal law recognizes that it is common practice for employers to give short breaks of 5 to 20 minutes, but federal law does not require employers to give breaks. The law only states that if short breaks are given, then they are to be paid short breaks. These are breaks of up to 20 minutes (as determined by the employer) and do not include longer breaks which can be considered a lunch break. Longer breaks do not need to be paid by the employer, and are also not required by federal law.

The only exception to federal law requiring breaks is a requirement for employers to provide nursing mothers multiple short breaks to pump milk, and these break times are considered unpaid time unless the employer chooses to pay.

State Laws Regarding Employee Breaks

Although federal law does not mandate breaks for employees, many states do have laws requiring breaks. Laws for employee breaks can be different in each state so follow the link to see specific break period laws for your state.

Download the Break Schedule for Cooks and Restaurant Employees

The green download button below will take  you to the Excel index page where you can get this break schedule. It has space for up to 50 team members, but easily can be made smaller or larger by deleting or adding more rows. You must be a paid Premium Subscriber to access the download.

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