Last Updated On August 30, 2019 / Written By Michelle Jaco

Choosing the Best Schedule App for Your Restaurant

Using a scheduling app is an easy way to simplify how your business organizes shifts. However, the functionality of apps can vary. In this article, we’ll look at the features the best schedule apps should have.

Introduction

Managers and business owners are always looking for ways to work more efficiently.

One of the major headaches leaders have to deal with is organizing shifts. Scheduling takes up a significant part of their working week -- up to 12 hours in some cases.

One way to make scheduling easier is to simplify the process with an app. However, there are plenty of apps out there, which means it can be difficult to choose a good one.

In this article, we’ll explore what you should look out for in a scheduling app, as well as the features the best schedule apps have.

How to Find the Best Schedule App for Your Business

There are many scheduling apps to choose from. This makes sense as there are also plenty of businesses -- each with different needs, challenges, and requirements.

The first thing you should do when choosing a scheduling app is to identify what your company’s specific scheduling challenges are.

If you notice frequent overscheduling is eating into your fine profit margins, a feature that highlights the cost of your schedule compared to forecast revenue could be a priority. Alternatively, managers who feel they are spending too long dealing with time-off requests could choose an app that can automate this process.

You should also speak to your employees to discover the challenges they are facing.

If you hire a lot of part time staff with other commitments such as college or school, then a shift swapping feature that lets employees change their schedule without going through the manager could be one of your top priorities.

If schedules change by the week, then an app that allows employees to see exactly when they should be at work is likely to be of benefit.

Ensuring the scheduling app you choose will help solve the specific problems your business is facing will drive adoption of the app and potentially lead to a happier workforce. This could have a real effect on your business; plenty of studies have linked happiness to workplace performance.

What Features Do the Best Scheduling Apps Have?

The best scheduling app for your businesses is the one that suits your individual needs. We believe that the features in the list below are the things you should lookout for.

A. Easy to Use

Scheduling software is designed to make life simple for managers and employees. Because of this, using the app needs to be intuitive.

The app you choose should make it easy for managers to create new schedules and make adjustments when needed. Drag and drop functionality can help here, as can the ability to save templates for common shift patterns.

The app also needs to be simple for employees to use. Making it easy for staff to access and read their schedules will encourage them to use the software and reduce confusion.

Choosing software that is cloud-based can also help. With cloud-based software, all updates made to the schedules are reflected to all users instantly. This enables many of the other features we will discuss below, such as shift swapping and holiday requests.

It also makes software updates easier as they automatically happen in the cloud. This means you’re more likely to be using the most up-to-date, secure version of the product.

B. Work on Multiple Devices

One of the key challenges of implementing new software is encouraging people to use it.

By choosing a software platform that is available on the devices you and your employees use, you will be reducing one of the barriers to adoption.

Because of this, think about choosing scheduling software that has both Android and Apple apps, as well as desktop—preferably browser-based—functionality. This will make it available almost anywhere.

Once you have decided which scheduling app to use, be sure to encourage all employees to download it to their devices so they are kept in the loop.

C. Budget Tracking

Service businesses often work under tight budgets and employee scheduling can be a significant cost.

The Harvard Business Review recently reported on a study that found labor accounts for 84% of controllable costs in retail stores. Even if you aren’t in retail, labor costs are still likely to be significant.

The best schedule app will, therefore, allow business owners and managers to set a budget within the app and then track the budget when setting schedules. Some apps will let managers set budgets daily or make ones based on a percentage of predicted gross sales for the day or week.

For this to be truly effective, the app must allow managers to set pay rates for individual employees, as well as set the day’s expected forecast. This will help them make more effective budgeting decisions.

If you notice that you are over or under budget, you can consider shortening shifts or scheduling more employees.

D. Employee Messaging

From email to phone calls or messaging apps, there are no shortages of ways to contact your staff. The best schedule app should simplify this by featuring built-in messaging capabilities that make it easy for managers to contact employees about details related to their schedule.

There are plenty of ways this could be useful. Imagine your restaurant is implementing a buy one get one free deal on desserts. To ensure everyone is up to date about the change, managers can use the app to broadcast a note containing more details on the day the new offer starts.

Or, if the head office is attending your store on a certain day, you can alert all staff on the shift to ensure they are prepared for the visit.

E. Real-Time Availability

Keeping track of when employees are available can be a nightmare of a task for managers, especially those that employ a lot of shift or part-time workers.

As well as considering each employee’s regular availability, managers must be aware of which workers have scheduled time-off. The times employees are available can also change throughout the year, such as during college vacations.

The best scheduling app will take care of this by showing who is available to come into work and at which times. Employees can even use the app to notify managers when they are available or if they have changes to their schedule.

Having this information in advance will help eliminate change requests once you have released your schedule.

Real-time information can also help when it comes to covering unexpected staffing problems such as no shows or people calling in sick. Managers can use the app to clearly see who is available and put them in for work.

If the app has notification functionality, it will then notify the employee in question who can accept or reject the shift.

F. Shift Swapping

Shift swapping is a fact of life for many part-time employees with other commitments. However, managing shift swapping can be a pain. Dealing with each individual request has the potential to add significant workload to those in charge.

That’s why the best scheduling apps will allow employees to swap shifts without going through the manager. Employees can use the app to connect with each other to find and negotiate their own cover.

Of course, the manager will still be kept in the loop. Any changes employees make are reflected in the schedule, so everyone involved knows exactly when and who is scheduled to come in to work.

G. Manage Time-off Requests

One of the major scheduling headaches for both managers and employees is requesting time off.

Scheduling apps can remove stress from the process by allowing employees to ask for vacations through the app and then allowing managers to accept or reject the requests.

Good scheduling apps will then notify the employee of the result of their request. The update to employee availability will be automatically reflected in the app, highlighting to managers which employees are available at which times to ensure people on vacation do not get scheduled to work.

H. Forecasting Tools

Over and under-staffing are two huge problems for service businesses.

Anyone who has worked in the industry knows the extra stress brought by not having enough employees at work on a busy day. On the other hand, when shifts are overstaffed, owners will rue the extra money spent due to having more staff than necessary on the floor.

Scheduling apps often come with features that automatically show managers how many employees are likely to be needed based on historical sales and the number of transactions. This can help managers make better, more accurate, scheduling decisions.

I. Free Trial

A free trial won’t turn a bad scheduling software app into a good one.

However, if you’re on the fence about which scheduling app to choose, or whether you need one at all, a free trial it is the perfect way to see how useful an app can be.

When looking for an app with a free trial, be sure that it offers access to the full suite of features so you can receive a full overview of how useful the app will be. You should also choose an app that offers a trial long enough for it to be useful.

Beware of trialing too many apps, however. Making frequent changes to the way you schedule shifts could add an unnecessary layer of confusion.

J. Suitable Pricing

Efficient scheduling can result in large savings. This can come through both reducing spend on staffing and freeing up time for managers, allowing them to focus on other areas of the business.

These potential savings mean it isn’t hard to see how scheduling software can offer an excellent return on investment.

Nonetheless, it is important that the scheduling software you choose fits in to your company’s budget. If it is too expensive, it will be much harder to get a good ROI.

Wrapping Up

The above is a selection of features that Zip Schedules thinks are the most important for a scheduling app to have. If your app has all those features, as Zip Schedules does, it could make scheduling much easier for your business.

We also offer solutions for companies of varying sizes, from businesses with under 20 employees, to custom solutions for larger organizations.

If you think your business could benefit from some of the features listed, then click here to sign up to Zip Schedules and start your free 30-day trial of our software.

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