Scheduling Your Nightclub Security Staff

Make your Schedule weekly...as in every week.

How many times have you as a Manager or Head of Security gone into a weekend understaffed? Or conversely, staffed for a busy night and had to cut 1/4 of your Staffers? These are both recurring issues in Bars and Nightclubs, but easy ones to solve with a little forethought and planning.

First off, depending on the size of your establishment, you may want to think about purchasing some type of scheduling software. Some of you might balk at the idea, especially if you run a small bar or club. However, if you are needing to keep track of 15+ employees, it would behoove you to have in place a system that not only schedules your Staffers, but contains a way to contact them and disseminate important information. I won’t throw my hat into the ring of any particular program, but many people vouch for HotSchedules. Do your research and decide what your needs are prior to purchasing anything.

Once you have a system in place, the work really begins. As a general rule, your schedule should be created every week for the 2 weeks to follow. In other words, schedule 2 weeks in advance. But when do you Staff heavy? Who works events vs. happy hour? Does the Head of Security (HOS) work every night? Many of these decisions are location specific, but we can try to break the problem down.

Let us use a Thursday College Night At Any Bar as an example. To begin with, you should already have a good idea of when your first customers arrive. Let’s say your bar opens at 9pm, but the first customers don’t really begin to stream in until 9:30. Seeing as your bartenders already have great training in ID Checks (right?) they can cover any ID’ing needs until your first Security Staffers show up.

For our sample schedule we’ll use a Security Staff of 15 employees:

  • At 9:30 pm, your first Security Staffers should arrive. Usually this pair will consist of your Doorman and a Roamer, but they combination can be anything of your choosing. At the very least, you should have a Staffer that is familiar with IDs and ID checks on the clock first. For most establishments, these 2 Staffers can keep an eye on things for the first hour of business.
  • Your Head of Security should arrive soon after to begin his checklist, double check on the Staffers, take care of any logistical needs, meet with the Manager, etc.
  • Beginning at around 10:00-10:15 pm, you want to start bringing in more Staff. You bar will no doubt begin to get a crowd and as such you should have at least 5-7 Staffers on the clock.
  • Your remaining Staff can arrive at 11:00 pm to coincide with your later rush of patrons.

Obviously, the times and number of Staffers that you choose to bring your Staff into the establishment can vary depending on any special events or promotions. You can also stagger your Staff so that someone can take over for the Doorman when he needs a break. It is always a good idea to consult with your HOS when trying to determine staffing needs for special events. Together you can work out a schedule to make the most of your available manpower.

Who Shows Up When…

…is not the title of a 1940’s comedy sketch, but if not planned correctly, it can be just as confusing (or amusing). As a general rule, your least experienced Staffers should be scheduled early as long as they have a Supervisor to help them with any questions that might arise. An empty bar is a great place to run training scenarios, ask questions, and double check the skills of your newer employees. They can get a feel  for how the night ratchets up instead of being thrown to the wolves. It also gives them a sense of empowerment as they are “in charge” for an hour or so until the more senior members of your Staff show up.

"Who's on first?" should never be a question when it comes to scheduling.

Your more experienced Staffers need not be in place early, unless you have a large event or are expecting a big crowd. If the latter is the case, it is always best to have more Staff on the clock early. Experienced staffers tend to be more at ease walking into a packed establishment and getting right to work, so their late arrival will should not disrupt the flow of your operations.

Another benefit of bringing on your more experienced Staffers later in the evening is the payroll savings. Generally, your experienced Staff is making more money. The fewer hours they have to work, the less you have to pay out. And, if they are scheduled late, it is easy to call them off if the business is slow. On slow nights you have the option of giving the “new kids” more experience running the show or paring your staff down to a small group of experienced Staffers who can handle any situation. The choice is yours.

Cutting Staff

Every bar manager has been faced with the dilema of how many/which Staffers to take off the clock on a slow night. The first thing that one should keep in mind is that there is no correct time to cut your Staff. As many of you know, picking a “set” time to send people home only gets you an overly crowded, understaffed bar. A late night rush is not unheard of nor is a crowd that doesn’t thin out when you are expecting it to.

Tempting as it may seem, this is NOT what I mean by "cutting staff"

The best solution is to cut the Staffers that are “unneeded”. What do I mean by that? First off, every Security Staffer has an important role to fulfill. But on slow nights your entire Staff is not “needed”, meaning that some of them can be sent home without effecting the overall continuity of operations. It is possible to run an establishment with a small crew of experienced Staffers or a blend of veterans and newbies.

Here are some possible configurations for slow nights:

  • Send home the Head of Security. This will give him/her a break, cut back on your overhead, and allow a less experienced Staffer step into the role for a night. This is very beneficial for training and the morale of the Staffer you “promote” for the evening.
  • Retain the HOS, but send home all but a small crew of less experienced Staffers. This allows the HOS to spend time with the less experienced members of your crew, review their performances, and lets them ask questions they may not be able to under normal working conditions.
  • Send home all of your inexperienced Staffers and let the veterans run the show. For one, this option allows the veterans to brush up on their skills on a slow night, catch up with each other and the HOS, and discuss scenarios. It will also give you fairly solid coverage as your more experienced Staffers can generally do the work of 2 or more less experienced ones.

Remember, there is no correct Ratio for Staffing. A lot of the decisions that you make regarding staffing on slow nights will be based on gut feelings and sometimes you will be wrong. However, if you take into account your Staff’s abilities, you should be well covered in case of any incidents. And, as always, your HOS is an excellent resource.

Until next time…

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