The Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Scheduling Software 2024

The digital revolution has spawned a huge number of software options for restaurants, helping teams to work more efficiently. From online reservations to digital waitlists, there are a plethora of electronic tools out there to use — and now restaurant scheduling is part of the mix. Read more about everything you need to know.

What is Restaurant Scheduling?

Shift allocation involves consistency and steady communication. Like most businesses, restaurants establish a day in the week to release a staff schedule. This shows staff what hours they have to work in the coming weeks.

As such, restaurants use pen-and-paper spreadsheets and templates to:

  • establish an initial schedule for staff to accept or amend
  • place in a highly visible location in the back of the restaurant
  • post to-do lists to communicate changes and key information, such as a shift swap

Good restaurant scheduling usually gives staff a bit of time, a window, to respond to the rota. They may swap shifts with other team members, or make note of their preferred work days. This means submitting requests for vacations. 

What are the Problems Associated with Physical Scheduling?

Creating a schedule is an essential part of a restaurant’s day-to-day operations. Venues need them to adequately prepare for guest demand, knowing in advance the best team members to assign to certain shift slots in the working week. 

Despite the obvious benefits, however, there are a swath of problems typically associated with pen-and-paper manual scheduling that every restaurant today must acknowledge.

Manual scheduling methods have their disadvantages (“Macbook” by Ryan Adams via Flickr) Creative Commons

1. A Rigid Routine

Physical scheduling is more a burden than we imagine. The biggest problem with manual scheduling is inflexibility. Once a restaurant manager completes a schedule, any future amendments are difficult to shoehorn in. 

Consider a physical shift calendar, printed on paper and posted in a staff room. If anyone wants to make a change, they have to use a pen to mark out their new hours. This becomes messy very soon: after ten staff members have altered their hours, the calendar is hardly legible. 

2. Ill Communication

If using a physical schedule, the manager needs to establish all changes and inform all employees involved. Yet during closing hours, managers may find it difficult to get through and communicate with their employees. Maybe a staff member misses a call, maybe they forget to check their email. Whatever the reason, this opens up room for mistakes, and could result in staff members missing key information on their upcoming hours or doing overtime.

3. Slow as Snails

Managing a pen-and-paper schedule may be convenient for managers, for all they need is a notebook and a template; but physical scheduling is inconvenient for everyone else. With this method, managers cannot rapidly draw up and distribute restaurant schedules. Further, the onus is on the manager to ensure everyone understands their hours. The manager has to make sure staff understand:

  • days staff can work 
  • shift slots staff can work
  • holidays staff must organise

So physical scheduling piles on the pressure in the staffroom, preventing instant access to all-important information. 

What is Restaurant Scheduling Software?

Scheduling software allows both restaurants and their teams to access a digital shift management overview. A restaurant scheduling system helps venues to:

  • cut down on labour costs
  • improve staff relationships
  • adapt staff hours on the spot
  • promote team synchronicity 

Creating schedules and informing restaurant employees all in one place, software serves to speed the whole scheduling process up, making it more efficient for everyone. Hence restaurant scheduling becomes less a headache, more a simple task. 

Software allows restaurant managers to build digital schedules with creation tools that come with important features such as a notification and alert setup. This means that teams receive information on vital matters, such as schedule conflicts and overtime requests.

It is also a tool for workers. Scheduling software empowers employees to digitally display their work availability. This means a restaurant can scale a schedule to their needs. For instance, an employee can display they can only work Monday to Thursday. This avoids any undue complications, reducing change requests, encouraging operational efficiency.

Software automates most of the manual processes associated with scheduling — sending out communications on shift swaps, for instance. This enhances restaurant control over their shift allocation. Find out how other digital functions available now, such as online reservations, amplify the restaurateurs’ control over their businesses. 

5 Things to Look Out For 

Restaurants are losing time manually creating spreadsheets, documents, and timetables to schedule their teams. With the help of an automated scheduling program, venues can make the most out of their time. Here are 5 things to acknowledge.

1. Ease of Operation

It is vital to certify that a software program is easy to use. Managers should be able to:

  • share schedules when they’re ready
  • notify staff for when making changes to the schedule 
  • communicate instantly with employees via an internal messaging system
  • access the system both via desktop and smartphone 
  • keep notes in a digital logbook to track employee performance

Restaurant scheduling software works on the same principles as instant online services such as email. Consider a group messaging feature, for instance. This allows restaurants to communicate with everyone on the team, enabling real-time employee availability to efficiently create staff schedules. Other specialist functions include:

  • time-clock to track employee attendance, both in-time and out-time
  • payroll to accurately calculate employee hours and pay them accordingly
  • labour forecasting to precisely plan and match restaurant labour with demand

2. Mobile Access

Make sure software is easily accessible via smartphones. This can have serious implications on your restaurant’s workflow. For instance, if a software plan provides poor mobile functionality, staff may find it difficult to

  • access the system from anywhere in the restaurant
  • clock consistently in and out, leading directly to payroll issues
  • stay informed on any changes to the schedule

3. Calendar Integration

Can you integrate the software with apps like Google Calendar? The best software options can:

  • sync digital calendar appointments
  • integrate and work around restaurant reservations on the calendar
  • notify managers on staff holidays, time off, and breaks

Integration means restaurant managers can spend less time double-booking shift slots. This is known as two-way calendar sync. Ensure a software plan offers this feature to streamline scheduling all in place.

4. Automatic Scheduling

This is probably the most important time-saving feature a scheduling system offers. An auto scheduling feature:

  • uses data such as staff availability to create schedules
  • removes uncertainty associated with manual schedule building
  • adjusts to employee’s needs and preferences
  • lessens the chance of schedule conflicts

Different systems provide different auto scheduling features. Some provide a one-click function, enabling managers to auto schedule frequently and quickly. However all systems require the same prerequisite: manual data input. To enable auto schedules, restaurants must know in advance:

  • staff shift preferences
  • employee time-off requests
  • seasonal adjustments
  • forecasts on customer footfall

Once completed, the payoff is worth it. Read about the benefits of an auto scheduling feature.

Extra special features such as a geolocation tracker help restaurant managers keep track of employee movements during their shifts. However, there’s a lot to consider when implementing such a feature, which is best suited for larger restaurant chains. 

5. Reports

How many employees deserve promotion? Who is doing more overtime than others? Restaurant scheduling software provides regular digital reports to help a restaurant manager or human resources department make decisions on such questions. These metrics help restaurants keep their budgets under control.

Old school scheduling methods in practice (“Schedule” by Maxime Guilbot via Flickr) Creative Commons 2.0

3 Overall Benefits of Restaurant Scheduling Software

  1. Better Control

A digital system improves the total oversight a restaurant manager has over staff allocation. At a glance, users can see a shift timetable with real-time updates. Managers don’t have to worry about mistaking and mixing up certain staff members for certain shifts. Since systems account for everyone, restaurants no longer have to worry about simple yet powerful mistakes: missing a shift-swap request, for instance, or forgetting to assign someone to the Saturday afternoon slot. Restaurants have more control.

  1. Less Confusion

Software helps to solve problems related to manual restaurant scheduling. Problems related with understaffing during peak periods or overstaffing during the rest of the hours are a software plan’s area of expertise. One study found that software-driven staffing had helped to reduce the under- and overstaffing in the retail sector across forty-one stores. It provided a real-time solution to staffing, ultimately saving businesses money.

  1. More Money

Think about a manager’s tasks. If it takes around three or four hours to draw up a schedule and they get paid around £20 an hour, that comes to about £3,840 a year. Cutting out this part of the work day can help restaurants make gains. Anything restaurants do to reduce time spent on scheduling inevitably leads to higher returns.

A Price Breakdown

Though many restaurant scheduling software options offer a free plan, all companies have ways to make money from restaurants, offering features based on how much they pay. Here’s a run through.

Everything Counts

The overall price depends on the size of a business. Whether large or small, a restaurant will need to account for two things — first how many staff they employ; second how many venues they have. This is because most companies charge on a per-user basis. A typical plan may cost £4.50 per user. If a restaurant is a chain with various branches, the per-location fee can go as high as £80. Assuredly, this makes sense. Bigger businesses will have more money to spend. Software companies acknowledge this and build it into their pricing models.

Monthly Bills

It’s a standard across all service businesses today, from entertainment to magazine subscriptions. Restaurants can choose to pay a charge every month to use scheduling software in various ways.

  • Paid plans. Across the board, systems typically come in a three-tiered payment structure. A starter plan is the cheapest, billing restaurants between £1.80 to £14 a user per month. A middle tier plan usually comes in between £30 to £35. Higher plans range massively: companies do not typically disclose prices online, but some like 7Shifts are happy to share that they charge $69.99 (£55.75 GBP) a month.
  • Features. Paid plans provide access to more features. Going with a basic plan will restrict what restaurants can use. For instance, Homebase’s basic plan grants access to payroll and time tracking features — but denies access to reporting and forecasting functions. In sum, paying more means access to more features.

Free. Of course, many restaurants can opt for a free plan, which provides a skeleton system with its most basic features. Some big names provide a free scheduling system for a single location, supporting a high number of users.

Auto Scheduling

Most importantly, some companies withhold this key feature — a handier way to allocate shifts — to entice customers to pay more. On the part of the companies, this is a smart move. Search the websites of the main players in the industry — i.e., Sling, 7Shifts, Planday — and you’ll find that they stipulate a higher cost for their best feature: auto scheduling. This only comes with their highest plans, the biggest cost being Planday (their “Pro” option tallies in at around £281 per month).

Integrations with Other Software

Software companies have developed their systems with other methods in mind. Integration with other tools is an important matter when it comes to installing restaurant scheduling software. Learn more about how restaurant scheduling software can integrate with email and other top software options, including online reservation software and digital waitlists. 

Network with Carbonara App

Today’s restaurant workers enjoy certainty, both in their schedules and incoming guests. Owners and managers will improve their businesses with digital methods, to integrate restaurant scheduling software into their daily lives. They can increase efficiency further with free restaurant reservation software, with digital waitlist features.

As technology continues to advance, free technological solutions bridge together restaurants and modern day demands. More people are using smartphones than ever. Why not improve restaurant service with a free app to help them enjoy things like waits and instant guest reservations?

Want to hear from insiders in the hospitality industry? No one knows more about today’s restaurant technology better than our team. Talk to us for on-the-ground advice about the best software available to help restaurants handle guests. 

If you liked this guide, read more about Carbonara App’s extra features and digest our article called “The Ultimate to Queue Management System 2024” for more on how restaurants can handle steady streams of guests — including advice on how to ditch the queue.