Most restaurateurs will have experienced this.

It’s a super-busy Saturday night and you have a fully-booked restaurant for the entire shift.

Everything seems to be completely fine – until Peter fails to show up for work.

You give him ten or fifteen minutes, but there’s still no-show, and no call from him to apologise or explain why he’s running late.

Sometimes referred to as a ‘no call, no show’ in the restaurant business, the unexplained absence of a particular employee is a big problem, no matter how busy you are. It creates tension among the team and means you probably can’t deliver the level of service you desire.

So, how do you deal with this kind of scenario?

Call them

Start by doing the obvious thing – call the employee who has failed to turn up.

Hopefully, this won’t be the case, but there’s always a chance something might be seriously wrong, and it’s better to treat that first call as one whose intention is to check they’re ok.

Consider if it’s habitual

This might be a one-off, in which case you can probably settle your mind a little that there won’t be any repeat occurrences, but when an employee fails to show up, it’s worth considering whether or not this is becoming a habit.

If it is, take a look at when they tend to be absent or late. Is it on particular days of the week? Maybe it’s when the restaurant is likely to be at its busiest. Or does it appear to be linked to the presence of another worker?

Knowing this stuff will help you approach the employee pragmatically and should help you get to the root cause of the issue.

Explain the consequences

You know the consequences of someone failing to show up for work, but do they? Probably not.

For every minute they’re not occupying their role, that employee is putting a strain on service. Tables will take longer to turn around and guests may become perturbed by the length of time it takes for each course to arrive.

Lay out the consequences clearly to the employee. If they’re a good worker, deep down, they’ll realise they’ve screwed up.

Give them a chance

If you’ve just come off a particularly hectic shift following the absence of the employee, it’s understandable that you might feel somewhat angry, but try not to let that show too much during your meeting with them.

Explain how disappointed you are, but make it clear that you want to give them another chance. Unless this is the latest in a series of no-shows, they deserve that, and the best restaurant staff often rise from periods where they make mistakes.

Ask if there’s more to it

This is a tough one, but as the business owner you have every right to ask.

There might be a deeper reason for the staff member’s absence – particularly if it is habitual (see above). What’s more, that reason might have nothing to do with the restaurant itself – it could be something that’s going on in their personal lives.

Some people will open up when quizzed on this, while others may stay silent. And, while you can’t pry into people’s private lives, if you make it clear that you want to help them, you might just discover what’s really going on.

Wrapping up

No one wants an unhappy restaurant team, so if you start to experience regular no-shows, make sure you act quickly before things get out of hand.