The Guide to Restaurant Shift Scheduling and Software

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November 3, 2021

Struggling with shift scheduling at your restaurant? We created a guide to understand the shift scheduling concept, and what to look for in a restaurant scheduling software!

Employers’ goals are to try and create work schedules that will reduce labor costs, improve the efficiency of their restaurant, and  keep their staff happy.

This guide to restaurant shift scheduling will help you understand what is means, how you can use it to optimize your business, and what software to use to succeed. 

What is restaurant shift scheduling? 

In short, restaurant shift scheduling is when you schedule employees who do shift work for their weekly schedule. This could include employees who run the night shifts, long hours, or only work part-time. 

If your restaurant operates more than 10 hours per day, breaking the traditional 9 to 5 work schedule, you will have to schedule shift work for your employees. 

In shift work, a workday is divided into several shifts, like day shift (e.g., 9 a.m to 5 p.m) and night shift (e.g., 5 p.m to 1 a.m). You can customize these shifts according to your business needs. 

We know that preparing the perfect shift schedule can be a challenge, and many factors must be considered when shift scheduling, from labor costs, to employee preference and availability.

You must also consider the different shift schedule types, like fixed shift, rotating shift, split shift, and on-call, shift.  The end goal of course is to find a shift schedule that best suits your business and staff members unique needs.

shift scheduling software

What are the pros and cons of a restaurant shift work schedule?

Like everything in life, shift work will have some pro’s and cons.  However for many business owners who have business hours that are longer than 8 hours, or unpredictable revenue, shift work scheduling options are a real life saver.

Pros of shift work include:

  • Greater schedule flexibility
  • Lifestyle flexibility
  • Higher productivity during working hours
  • More time to learn new skills
  • Work life balance

Yet there are also some cons to consider.

Cons of shift work include: 

  • Staff scheduling fluctuations
  • Strains on employee personal relationships
  • More manager involvement in organizing the schedule every week
  • Less consistency in scheduling
  • Potentially unreliable staff
  • Challenges finding software solutions

So as an employer you must consider these risk factors when creating your work schedule to keep your staff happy and healthy.

How can I create a great restaurant shift schedule?

To create a great shift schedule, you have to measure several factors, such as:

  • Employee preference
  • Employee ability
  • Employee availability
  • Employee wages
  • The business's short-term and long-term goals.

Other key factors to consider are the sales forecasting vs labor for that time of day, or on previous days.  If you run a goods and service based business, this is also known as reporting,  This will help you save time and money on scheduling and staff in the long run.

Keeping these things in mind will help you to manage business resources, improve operational efficiency, upgrade customer service, and generate more profit. 

In the end, a great rule of thumb is to have open communication with your staff check in with them often.

A great rule of thumb is to have open communication with your staff check in with them often.

What types of jobs or industries entail shift scheduling?

Nowadays, numerous industries use work scheduling for workforce management, including manufacturing, restaurants and bars, medical, hospitality, retail, public services, media, constructions, and many more. 

Shift work is especially common when it comes to hourly employees who may have schedules that fluctuate throughout the week, or who don’t have set vacation or scheduled times every month. That is why we are focusing on the restaurant space for this article.

How can I create a restaurant shift  schedule that will lower labor costs?

When you create shift schedules, focus on reducing overtime, and use scheduling software that integrates with your POS sales system - and give you overtime alerts to optimize operational margins.

Instead of guessing that more employees will be required for the Halloween season by yourself, this shift scheduling software can use a labor forecast feature that measures data pulled in from your integrated system. Scheduling software that integrates has been known to save companies who operate with hourly staff up to 3% on labor costs.

Software with an automated scheduler will show you the number of employees you need in rush hours or busy seasons. Moreover, it will reduce overstaffing and understaffing, lowering labor costs and increasing productivity. 

How can I create a restaurant shift work schedule that improves employee morale?

Because happy employees work efficiently and productively, while unhappy employees do the opposite, a lousy shift work schedule can affect the morale of  employees and your bottom line. 

Be considerate.

Start off on the right foot by implementing a proper system that allows your employees to enter their availability data, including requests for time off.  That way you can provide them with their dream schedules before you even press publish.

Be flexible.

Next, consider sharing the schedule among your employees and offering a shift customizable opportunity for them. Some software allows a forum feature where employees can make changes, or request shifts without the intervention of your HR team.

Be reliable.

Keep in mind to create the shift schedule early without waiting for the last minute. This will give you more flexibility, allowing you to manage mistakes quickly. Plus, employees also can prepare themselves for scheduling conflicts. 

Be open to feedback.

Finally, consider conducting surveys from time to time to get feedback from your employees. This will help you to understand the most effective shift schedule for each employee and many more important facts. For example, some employees’ productivity is maximum at early shifts, while some may perform best on nights.

In the end, personalized shift schedules that improve employee morale as well as productivity, avoiding burnout and decreasing absences.

shift scheduling software

How can I optimize my restaurant shift work schedule to improve company operations?

Analyzing your restaurant labor cost and sales data and planning your team members around it will help improve costs and operations.  This can easily be achieved by integrating software with your POS system that can pull sales information and measure labor against it. 

These analyses will help you to identify the high volume and low volume sales shifts and best performing and low performing employees of each shift separately, so when you create shift schedules next time, you can assign your best players to the best sales days while assigning trainees to the other days, directing your business as well as your employees for success.

This helps you not only for optimizing restaurant work schedules but also for enhancing accountability among the employees. For example, if a supervisor does not perform well during a specific shift, you can find out why by having a private conversation with him.

Also, it is important to keep a backup of employees to call during rush hours. For example, there is a higher chance of getting more customers to your restaurant on the weekend. So keeping additional employees to call in the weekend is really helpful to handle the workload.

Once you created your first shift schedule, you have to review it periodically and do necessary modifications to optimize it. Apart from that, reviewing the whole scheduling process regularly is also really important to identify the problems.

These are only a few tips, but there are many more to consider for effective staff scheduling that will help you to save money, time, and a lot of disappointments.

What is the best restaurant scheduling software to write a shift work schedule?

The best way to write a shift work schedule is by using restaurant scheduling software built for scheduling employees with flexible hours, or shifts.

These software solutions may offer the option for staff to select their schedules, or swap shifts easily, so when a manager writes it their availability is already within the system. 

It also offers employees shift swap requests, and manager approval features that predict revenue, and warn when employees go into overtime.

That way your staff get what they want, and you don’t have any headaches when shift swap requests come in.

Using software like this saves your money, speeds up your work scheduling process, and increases the efficiency of business then traditional scheduling methods like pen and paper or spreadsheets.

What other factors should you consider when building restaurant shift work schedules?

There are numerous factors to consider when scheduling shift work you may not have considered, here are a couple to ponder.

  • Some Countries and States have their own regulation systems for shift scheduling
  • Making sure you are compliant with labor laws within your country
  • Consider the weather if you have outdoor seating
  • What to do if someone call sick or doesn't show up
  • Employee skills, satisfaction, and productivity.

How should I pick a restaurant scheduling software for shift work?

Finding the right shift scheduling software is a very important decision, so before purchasing a shift schedule maker tool for your business, one should carefully analyze the specific requirements of their business. Here is what we recommend you seek in restaurant scheduling solution for shift work.

It should be simple and easy to use.

Trying something new can be intimidating, therefore it’s key to find something that's intuitive and easy to use. If you're still creating schedules through excel or pen and paper, it's likely that you're taking hours balancing labour budgets. Especially if you're a growing business - you need the appropriate tools that fit the demand of your business. This will save you time and money when scheduling.

It should have these key features.

A great restaurant scheduling software should have these features to ensure ultimate ease of use, and optimize savings:

  • Ability to copy and paste schedules
  • Real time labor-to-sales percentage updates
  • Multiple position support
  • Automated scheduling features
  • Templates and drag and drop functionality
  • Manager mobile apps to allow for fast and easy shift swaps.
  • Integration with time tracking
  • Integration with the rest of your workforce management suite
  • Integration with your POS system
  • Ability to schedule based on labor forcasts
  • Ability to schedule based on weather
  • Internal communication functionalities
  • A free trial, or ability to book a demo

It should help you stay compliant.

Restaurant scheduling software should also have compliance or time tracking features integrated with it, so you can save yourself from unwanted lawsuits, and save yourself from manual time calculations.

In the end, we recommend a solution that has all in one functionality.  Meaning you can streamline not just your scheduling, but also your time tracking, payroll, hr, compliance, as well as import sales data from a POS to run forecasts. 

You can do your research online by using software websites - we always recommend software that allows for a free trail.

It should facilitate seamless communication.

Having a formal platform to contact your staff is key in having clear communication. Often, text messaging, and Facebook messages are informal ways on contacting staff and vice versa. Message can get lost, and conflict can also arise with the casualness of the platforms.

It's crucial to keep formal communication channels available between staff and management. A platform solely used for employees to communicate between their peers and managers will hold employees accountable for any requests, and keep work related matters are professional.

As a manager, you should be able to broadcast messages to the entire team. You’ll have the advantage of knowing all messages filtering through the platform, are work related.

It should be integrated.

A great system should integrate wth your time tracking software solution to save you time and money.
Having an employee software solution that integrates allows you to integrate with your time tracking is key to save you time, money, and can even integrate with payroll to help stream hours directly, and also do:

  • Ability to compare actual start and end times with scheduled times
  • Ability to streamline employee hours to payroll
  • Ability to confirm employee clock in's with facial recognition technology


Effective restaurant shift scheduling is essential to run a business smoothly. If you have no idea about when or where each of your employees is working, you will not be able to handle your workload properly. So if you still do not have a proper shift schedule, then it’s time to create one. Don’t worry, we're here to help!

free scheduling template

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April 2021


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