How To Handle A No Call, No Show In Your Restaurant

By: Nan Wilkinson

9 Minute Read

Nov 08, 2018

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It's a Friday night. You’re glancing at your watch as you nervously watch the crowd grow in your restaurant's entryway.

Jenny is late — like really, really late.

Another 10 minutes passes. She's now officially outside the usual "I'm running a little late" grace period – and the worry begins to set in. "Do I need to find someone to cover her shift?" you wonder.

Twenty minutes later, you've given up hope. Jenny is teetering on the edge of a no call, no show and you've moved on from worry to visible frustration.

Looks like you've got a no call, no show on your hands. What do you do next?

What Is A No Call, No Show?

A no call, no show is a slang term used to indicate an employee did not come in to work their scheduled shift and did not give advance notice to management. As the name suggests, they didn't call and they didn't show up.

No call, no shows are pretty common in restaurants. Given the labor-intensive, high-stress work environment and the unpredictable hours, it's no surprise restaurant staff members in both front and back of house would rather do something else with their day, especially if the forecast calls for warm breezes and a cloud-free sky.

Just because it's common doesn't mean it's OK, or professional.

When faced with a no call, no show a lot of things run through a restaurant manager's head, including:

  • What are the consequences?
  • How should I discipline this employee?
  • How do I send a message to the rest of my staff that no call, no shows are unacceptable?
  • How will I find someone to cover their shift?
  • If we're short-staffed this shift, what do I do? How will we manage?

If you've found yourself on the receiving end of a no call, no show from a staff member, it's important that you don't make any rash decisions. Much like no good decisions are made after 2 a.m., no good management decisions are made when angry.

In the world of mindfulness training, there's a popular quote that says, "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response."

Hit the pause button and ask yourself the following questions about your restaurant staff member in the event they pull a no call, no show.

1. Is the Employee’s Absence Habitual?

If the employee in question has no history of lateness or no call, no shows, then you probably shouldn't worry about this becoming a repeat occurrence. In fact, this uncharacteristic behavior may be a sign something's amiss.

If your stress primarily stems from the crowd and delays, rather than an employee missing yet another shift, consider that you might feel differently after closing.

It’s easy to get angry when a night of hard work is in front of you, but if this is the first – or even a rare – occurrence for the offending employee, it's a smart idea to check in and see if something is going on at home or in their personal life. Showing your employees that you care about them on a personal level – not just a professional level – is how you breed loyalty and increase your employee retention rate.

2. Was The Schedule Clearly Communicated?

If you’ve recently changed the schedule or swapped shifts and you've found one of the employees affected didn't show for a scheduled shift, the blame may fall on your shoulders.

You also may be breaking the law: predictive scheduling laws mandate that restaurant management give staff members advance notice (typically two weeks) of their upcoming schedule. In San Francisco, for example, making changes to an employee's schedule with less than 7 days notice will result in the employer paying the employee up to four hours of pay as a penalty.

The best way to avoid no call no shows as a result of staff scheduling issues is to invest in an employee scheduling solution with an app. This way, your employees can get updates straight to their phone about their upcoming schedule, time off requests, approved shift swaps, and the like.

3. Was a Recent Time-Off Request Denied?

Saturday and Sunday are, unsurprisingly, the most frequent days for no-shows, though holidays have their fair share as well.

If an employee requested a specific certain day off, was denied, and then proceeded to take the day off anyway, that’s unacceptable and disrespectful to your restaurant's leadership team. Disciplinary action is certainly necessary; termination should also be on the table.

While consequences like a smaller section or all lunch shifts for the next two weeks may curtail any future no call, no shows from happening, this employee has proven they're not only willing to push the boundaries of your employer/employee relationship, but that they put themselves before the team.

This toxic mindset will definitely hurt the supportive workplace culture you've worked so hard to establish.

4. Did They Try To Tell A Manager?

In a perfect world, everyone would always be on time for everything. No matter your best efforts though, sometimes life will get in the way of your plans.

Car trouble, the flu, a family emergency – we've all been there. What's important is that your team knows they should communicate their situation to a member of your restaurant's management the minute they know they won't be able to make their scheduled shift.

Your restaurant's management should be held to a similar standard: any and all scheduling updates must be communicated to the entire management team as soon as they pop up. Some labor management tools – like 7Shifts, HotSchedules, and Harri – have a built-in messaging feature that allows restaurant managers and staff members to quickly and easily communicate.

If your restaurant doesn't use a tool for labor management or employee scheduling, another effective way to communicate important updates to every member of your restaurant's management is by using the manager's log feature in your restaurant's point of sale system.


What To Do If A Staff Member No Call, No Shows

If, after asking the above four questions, you realize the employee did in fact pull a no call, no show, you need to address it immediately.

This is a delicate situation: you need to send a clear message that this behavior won’t be tolerated – by the offending staff member or any others – but you also don’t want to come off as unapproachable either.

Your restaurant staff should feel safe and confident voicing scheduling issues to your restaurant's management, trusting that you’ll do your best to work with them and find a resolution that makes both parties happy. When there is a lack of trust between management and staff, there is also bound to be a high annual employee turnover rate.

Try these effective approaches when dealing with a no call, no show in your restaurant.

1. Address the Issue Head On

Ask your employee why they felt the need to miss their shift without warning or excuse. Their answer to this question could offer valuable insight into the state of employer/employee relations in your restaurant.

For example, you may not have previously known it, but perhaps your staff doesn't respect the manager who was on duty that evening or another manager is notorious for letting no call, no shows slide.

2. Lay Out The Consequences

Ideally, you and the rest of your restaurant's management have decided on the consequences for different infractions and clearly communicated them to your entire staff via your restaurant's employee handbook.

Don't have an employee handbook? Click here to download Toast's free customizable restaurant employee handbook template.

Here are a few examples of common restaurant infractions and potential consequences:

  • 20 minutes late for a shift = extra side work that shift.
  • Missing a shift for a non-emergency excuse = smaller section for a week.
  • First no call, no show = smaller section and only lunch shifts.
  • Second no call, no show = termination.

You could also institute an employee attendance points system in your restaurant where staff members are given points for different infractions. If they surpass earning a certain number of points within a given timeframe – one month, three months, or 6 months, for example – they face a consequence.

3. Give The Employee An Opportunity To Earn Extra Credit

If the employee shows remorse, give them an opportunity to earn their way back into your good graces and prove they're worth a second chance.

Like consequences, you could pre-determine the extra credit for different infractions or you could approach it on a case-by-case basis. Better yet: turn it back on the employee and see what they come up with.

Some ideas include:

  • Making the employee schedule for the next month.
  • Taking a course or class that furthers their restaurant skills (on their own time).
  • Consistently clocking in 15 minutes early for every shift for the next two weeks.

Since a no call, no show can have a sizable, negative impact on your restaurant's performance, it's a smart idea to make the extra credit especially extra.

4. Reward Your Other Employees For Good Behavior

Leverage the power of leading by example: If you reinforce good behavior by rewarding it, you'll get more of it. Click here to read our tips on how to create an effective employee incentive program in your restaurant.

No Call, No Show, No Paycheck

It's important to remember that the food service industry is hectic, demanding, and prone to employee burnout.

Long, labor-intensive shifts, hours spent on your feet, and “we don’t tip” tables, are just a few of the regular parts of restaurant life that make the occasional mental health day a necessity rather than a luxury.

If an employee has no history of lateness or no call, no shows don't worry yourself sick. Save your displeasure for habitual offenders and those who lie to shrug off a shift for a concert, or vacation.

no call no show

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