What Employee Scheduling Software is Right for Your Restaurant?

As much as it is your food or your ambiance, your restaurant is your staff. And they’re hard to juggle. Keeping the right people on the line and working the front of house can make or break a night. They also present a real challenge when you’re scheduling full-time and part-time employees who require certain hours to keep them on the job, or just to keep them happy.

Since the dawn of time, the best restaurant managers have been a combination diplomat and math wiz. These days employee scheduling software has taken off much of that pressure. Using time tracking tools, real-time data, and attendance updates, managers can easily adjust schedules in minutes on the fly. Other softwares also crunch costs for you, and project staffing needs, so you can also, in theory, be sure you’re making money on a given shift.

Labor management software now accounts for pay rate, multiple shifts, and even different locations. You just need a computer or mobile device to get started using a calendar, messaging system, and reporting capabilities.

No shade on Excel, but: Dedicated software beats the pants off a spreadsheet.

>>>RELATED: There's A "Mass Rehiring" Coming for the Restaurant Business. Here's How Hiring Software Can Help

What to look for in the best restaurant scheduling software

The best employee scheduling systems account for time-off requests, hours, your team’s availability, and your budgets. From one central system, managers can align schedules for workers who are on staff or seasonal. Staffers and managers can notify one another of conflicts or standby shifts, open shifts or early outs, vacation days, parental leave, or emergencies.

Every shift scheduling software has its own unique features. Whether or not you need them all depends on your shift planning needs. For instance: Does it have mobile access, so your employees can check their schedules on the fly? Does it alert a staffer when you have last-minute shift openings or when you approve their time-off request? Does it have shift-swap parameters that make sure everyone hasn’t taken off the same Friday night? Does it let you easily compile and report your payroll so you don’t have any surprises come payday?

Or maybe your ideal scheduling software is bare-bones. If you’ve got a smaller operation, hey, don’t overcomplicate what you can do on the cheap.

Once you have an idea of what you need, hit up a salesperson at the company that looks like the best fit for your restaurant. See if you need to buy any hardware (you probably won’t) and make sure the software is designed for restaurants (it probably is). Nail down the fee structure, how often you’ll have to upgrade, and how to get customer support. Then ask for a free trial, to make sure you and your employees jive with the user interface. The nicest system in the world isn’t worth its price if you simply don’t like using it.

Scheduling software built to manage delivery drivers

Look at Dripos. Say you’re a quick-service operation that has signed up for a ton of restaurant delivery apps and you would rather look at one integrated source than futz with the whole list. That’s what Dripos is built to handle, to streamline delivery orders for you and your drivers. "We give you the tools to route your own drivers, so instead of paying that 30% commission to DoorDash, you get to keep the entire ticket, except for credit card processing," says Jack Pawlik, the company’s founder. "That's the only fee you pay, but you keep the whole delivery fee, and you get to keep the whole tip." Employees also get an app with the service that lets them see their shifts and message one another to trade them.

Scheduling software when you like your tech simple and strong

Look at 7Shifts. Trusted by the likes of Five Guys, 7Shifts promises quick schedule creation and a free mobile app for schedule updates. Its artificial intelligence can build your schedules automatically. It can build reports, let staff message and trade shifts. It forecasts your staffing needs based on sales trends, with the goal of keeping you from over- or understaffing. It also integrates with POS systems and payroll operations to fuse your finances into a single platform. The interface is also appealingly simple and easy to use.

Scheduling software priced for small restaurants

Look at Better Chains. The “workforce optimization software” includes a suite of modules designed with restaurants in mind, e.g., a clear calendar interface for scheduling, HR compliance, training, automatic scheduling, and a tool for staffers to arrange their own shift swaps (pending your approval). Prices for Better Chains modules are based on the size of your operation, and could be as low as $39 a month for a coffee shop with fewer than 20 staffers.

Scheduling software built to handle multiple teams

Look at CrunchTime Labor Management & Scheduling. If you manage a large team (or several teams), CrunchTime might be the right choice to juggle them across multiple locations. The platform checks each shift schedule against local, state, and federal labor laws. It’s built to integrate with POS, HR, and payroll systems, as well as other apps, and managers’ notes. It also predicts your shift needs down to 15-minute increments, drawing from data sources up to and including the local weather forecast.

Scheduling software for a staff who roll up late and leave early

Look at Push Operations. Designed specifically for restaurants, Push Operations advertises itself not just as a schedule management tool, but a one-stop-shop for everything labor-related, and counts such heavies as Denny’s and Boston Pizza among its clients. That includes features to track time and request shifts as well as higher-level tasks such as onboarding and compliance management. It also offers facial recognition software and geofencing to ensure that punching in and out are accurate.

Scheduling software with a long track record

Look at Restaurant365. Since all the way back in 2001, Restaurant365 has been offering a variety restaurant-operations softwares, a deep and long-running specialization. Over the years they migrated into the cloud, but the core remains helping restaurants “scale labor best practices” by translating scheduling trends into smart data. Restaurant 365’s other tools include accounting, HR, inventory, and payroll suites which all can be bundled.

Scheduling software for restaurants who don’t think they can afford it

Look at Schedule 101. An employee scheduling software designed by hospitality professionals, Schedule 101 is lean and straightforward, a good option for a smaller mom-and-pop shop looking to enter the digital age of labor management. You can get set up for as little as $25 and pay less than $20 a month after that. For restaurants affected by Covid, they’re running further discounts through 2021.

Hiring software built for when your schedule falls apart

Look at SnapShyft. Trying to bring in a dishwasher and a line cook at the last minute could eat through a general manager’s entire afternoon. Managers using SnapShyft can pull in a temporary worker who has been vetted and who has a verified work history for a flat fee rather than a cut (or the lion’s share) of your budget for that worker.

“It's designed to be a set it and forget it type of situation,” says Thor Wood, the founder of SnapShyft. “For example, ‘I need three servers, a cook and a dishwasher at 4 pm,’ what are the days, etc., and that's it. Spend two minutes entering that work order, and you can do that through your mobile app or desktop.

Scheduling software for restaurants who only need a scheduling software

Look at Sling. It lets you arrange schedules, trade messages and photos, clock in, set reminder alarms, and doesn’t reach beyond those core features of lining out a schedule. Not to be confused with the streaming platform, Sling takes a democratic approach by allowing employees to sign up for shifts they'd like to work, an attempt to head off double bookings, tardiness, and absenteeism. It’s sleek and user-friendly, and yours to test-drive during a 14-day free trial. 

[Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels]