How to Prevent No-Call, No-Shows

What to do when your employees don’t show up.

It’s Friday night. You glance at your watch and observe the crowd expanding in your restaurant’s entryway.

Your server is late.

He’s now officially outside the usual grace period, and you’re wondering if you need to find someone to cover his shift. Ten minutes later, you’ve given up hope. Jeff has committed a no-call, no-show.

What Is a No-Call, No-Show?

A “no-call, no-show” describes a situation where an employee doesn’t show up to work their scheduled shift and doesn’t call or give advanced notice to management.

As the name suggests, they didn’t call, and they didn’t show up.

No-call, no-shows are unfortunately pretty frequent in restaurant work, especially in restaurants that don't provide benefits, incentives, or opportunities for career advancement. Given the tough, high-stress work environment and unpredictable hours that come along with restaurant work, burnout can set in quickly and lead to apathy — leading to no-call, no shows. But frankly, just because no-call, no-shows are frequent in this industry doesn’t make them okay.

When faced with a no-call, no-show, a bunch of things run through a restaurant manager’s head.

  • 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, how will we manage?

If you find yourself on the receiving end of a no-call, no-show, don’t. make. rash. decisions. No good management decisions are made while angry.

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How to Prevent a No-Call, No-Show

1. Become a schedule master.

Master the art of scheduling and you’ll bring out the best in your team. When your staff is high-functioning, happy, and working a schedule that works for them, the positive effects trickle down to customers, directly contributing to your restaurant’s bottom line.

If you’ve recently changed the schedule and you discover one of your employees whose shifts were changed didn’t show for a recent shift, the blame might fall on you.

Try offering open shifts or set shifts, flexible scheduling, cross-role training and shifts, and longer term shift planning. Make sure you’re following restaurant shift laws. Predictive scheduling — also known as fair scheduling, secure scheduling, predictable scheduling, or restrictive scheduling — is a type of legislation that sets mandatory requirements for scheduling and overtime practices. These rules are in place to protect employees, and by following them, you can usually make your team happier, too.

To avoid no-call, no-show as a result of staff scheduling issues, you could invest in an employee scheduling solution. This way, your employees can get updates right to their phones about their upcoming schedule, time off requests, approved shift swaps, and more. 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 arise.

2. Help them understand the consequences.

Because a no-call, no-show can have a noticeably negative impact on your restaurant’s performance, it’s a good idea to teach the employee what happens when they don’t show up for a shift. An understaffed front of house or kitchen means longer wait times for your guests, likely lower tips, fewer dishes out the door, and fewer dollars in the register. Be transparent here — pull up your P&L sheet and walk the employee through the potential loss of profit when you’re down a team member. Explain the why.

When an employee doesn’t show up for a shift, they’re also letting down their teammates. Help them understand that their no-call, no-show makes for a stressful and busy shift dealing with unhappy customers for their teammates who did show up.

Ryan Egozi on Teaching the "Why"

At SuViche Restaurant Group in Miami, FL, managers put an emphasis on explaining why things are done a certain way.

3. Lay out the consequences.

Let’s assume you and the rest of your management team have decided on the consequences for different infractions and clearly communicated them to your entire staff through your restaurant’s employee handbook. If not, do that first.

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

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

Some restaurants have implemented an employee attendance points system 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 six months, for example – they face a consequence. Be careful here — a system like this should not be visible to all staff and should be used sensitively. 

4. Give the employee an opportunity to earn extra credit.

Life throws us all kinds of curveballs, so it’s okay to give your employees the benefit of the doubt when they don’t show up to one or two shifts.

If the no-call, no-show was unavoidable, give them a chance to earn their way back into your schedule's good graces. Like consequences, you could pre-determine the extra credit for different infractions or approach it on a case-by-case basis. Better yet: Turn it back on the employee and see what they come up with, such as consistently clocking in 15 minutes early for every shift for the next two weeks.

5. Reward your other employees for good behavior.

Use the power of leading by example: If you reinforce good behavior by rewarding it, you’ll get more of it.

“An intelligently and equitably designed incentive program inexorably ties staff to (controllable) financials and operational performance while creating a fun reward system,” says Josh Sapienza of Hospitality Helpline.

An intelligently and equitably designed incentive program inexorably ties staff to (controllable) financials and operational performance while creating a fun reward system

Josh Sapienza

Hospitality Helpline

When incentives are appropriately used, you don’t have to force the information down your staff members’ throats; they’ll proactively seek it out and want to improve themselves. Rewarding and recognizing good behavior is ten times more product than punishing bad behavior.

How to Handle No-Call, No-Show When They Happen

Setting up preventative measures takes time. So while you implement the steps above and give your staff a chance to get used to the new or recently reinforced policies, here’s what you can do to avoid being hot-headed when a no-call, no-show happens.

1. Address the issue head-on.

The next time your no-call, no-show employee comes in, ask them why they missed their shift without warning or excuse. Their answer to this question could offer insight into the state of management and staff relations in your restaurant.

Maybe your staff member doesn’t respect the manager who was on duty that evening or another manager is notorious for letting no-call, no-shows slide.

If the employee in question has no history of lateness or missed shifts, you probably shouldn’t worry about this becoming a repeat occurrence. In fact, this uncharacteristic behavior may be a sign something’s amiss. Check in and see if something’s going on in their personal life. Showing your employees you care about them is how you breed loyalty and increase your employee retention rate.

One-on-One Meeting Template
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One-on-One Meeting Template

Make weekly, biweekly, or monthly check-ins with employees productive with this customizable Word doc for your one-on-one meeting agendas.

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2. Was a recent time-off request denied?

Saturdays and Sundays are the most frequent days for no-shows. Holidays also have their fair share of employees missing work.

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

While consequences like a smaller section or all lunch shifts for the next two weeks might curtail future missed shifts, this employee has proven that they put themselves before the team and don't respect leadership. This mindset could damage the supportive workplace culture you’ve worked so hard to establish.

3. Did they try to tell a manager?

In a perfect world, everyone would be on time for everything. Actually, they'd be 15 minutes early. No matter your best efforts, though, sometimes life gets 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.

If employees are scared to reach out and communicate, it might be highlighting a more significant culture issue.

If no-call, no-shows are more than typical in your establishment, take a moment to address it in a pre-shift meeting. Be transparent with your employees about your disappointment but also empathetic to what they're going through. It's no fun to walk into work knowing you're going to be screamed at or harassed by another employee or boss.

Take stock of your culture and who already works for you. Give your employees a chance to submit feedback about the workplace environment anonymously. Try to solve the root of the problem before going after individuals.

Prevent no-call, no-shows by preventing burnout

The foodservice 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.

As Sai J, general manager of Kosushi Miami, says, “Our job is giving care, not just feeding the guests. All I do is make sure the staff knows that we are appreciated. If everyone knows we are a team, then the team will contribute as a team.”

And if providing care results in more employees showing up on time for shifts, we're here for it.

Our job is giving care, not just feeding the guests. All I do is make sure the staff knows that we are appreciated. If everyone knows we are a team, then the team will contribute as a team.

Sai J

General Manager at Kosushi Miami

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