We’ve uncovered the best restaurant scheduling apps to eliminate manual employee scheduling on paper and spreadsheets. The best restaurant scheduling software offers templates, drag and drop scheduling tools, shift swaps, mobile apps, employee communication, and more. Most can track employee time and attendance as well. Best of all, many are free.
Top 7 Restaurant Scheduling Software 2019
|Restaurant Scheduling Software||Best For|
|(Best Overall) Restaurants wanting free scheduling, shift swapping & employee messaging tools|
|Companies needing app integration with a specific restaurant POS or payroll system|
|Stores in states that mandate breaks, paid sick leave, or unique overtime compliance|
|Restaurants that build shift schedules based on skills: i.e., bartender, chef, waitstaff|
|Eateries that assign tasks to workers like baking, product ordering, or shift closing activities|
|Restaurants that want to monitor employee morale & feedback after each shift|
|Hospitality businesses like a restaurant located within a hotel — for all-in-one scheduling|
How We Evaluated Restaurant Scheduling Apps
To evaluate the best restaurant scheduling software and apps for small business we focused on low-cost tools that create schedules by shifts. We included only those with mobile access to your schedule as well as software with communication tools, such as to notify employees of shift changes.
Below are the features we found in the best scheduling apps for restaurants:
- Price: Scheduling apps that cost between $0 and $3 a month per employee.
- Shift scheduling: Software that makes it easy to manage shift-based schedules.
- Communication: Apps that offer employee, manager, and group messaging options.
- Leave management: Easy time-off notifications, leave tracking, and approvals.
- Mobile: Schedules that are accessible through a mobile app via iOS and Android.
- Time & attendance: Software that offers built-in attendance tracking or interfaces.
- Decision support tools: Programs that provide managers with reports or dashboards.
- POS integration: Scheduling applications that can share data with your POS software.
Based on the number of extra restaurant and shift scheduling features you get for free, we find When I Work to be the best restaurant scheduling software for those who have 75 or fewer employees. It was designed for shift-based businesses like restaurants and retail stores, and earns five-star reviews on third-party websites.
When I Work: Best Overall Restaurant Scheduling Software
When I Work offers features you’d find in a paid online scheduling app — including an online schedule builder, drag and drop shift scheduling, employee messaging, time and attendance tracking, and even job posting features. Top-rated by users, it’s free for small businesses with 75 or fewer employees. It’s our pick for best restaurant scheduling software.
When I Work Pricing
When I Work offers plans that range from $0 to $3 per month, per employee. For businesses under 75 employees, it’s free forever making it a great choice for small business restaurant operations. When you upgrade to a paid plan you get additional features like team and task management. However, for small business restaurant scheduling needs, the free plan should suffice.
When I Work’s Pricing Tiers
When I Work Features
When I Work has all the features restaurants need to build shift-based schedules — even in its free plan. It also adds a bevy of great tools to smooth your restaurant operations and reduce no shows with its ability to message your employees through work chat and have them confirm their shifts from a smartphone.
When I Work Scheduling
When I Work allows you to create your schedule, set recurring shifts for the same time each day or week, and save your schedule as a reusable template. You can color code your job roles, then publish your restaurant schedule so that your employees know when their next shift is planned. Employees can view their schedule from a mobile app, shift swap (with your approval) and claim open shifts.
When I Work Communication
When I Work provides employee messaging tools that allow you to share the schedule. Workers can also see open shifts they may want to work. The messaging tools let you share notes between managers, broadcast messages to all workers (such as an upcoming team meeting) or contact employees one-on-one.
When I Work Time & Attendance
When I Work offers time and attendance in its free plan also. That way you’ll be able to track when employees arrive, their work hours, and overtime. They can clock in on their smartphone, or you can set up a time clock kiosk on any mobile device in your restaurant.
When I Work Leave Management
When I Work lets your employees request time off and paid leave right from a mobile app. You can input leave balances (for example, PTO and sick leave requests), and use the software to keep track of available balances.
When I Work Software Integration and More
When I Work integrates with popular small business software commonly used by restaurants like Gusto, ADP, and QuickBooks. It also has calendar integrations (iCal, Google Calendar). If you want access to other small business software, it offers an application programming interface (API), but that’s only available with a paid tier of the scheduling software.
What When I Work is Missing
When I Work lacks account permission features that lets you give managers access to part of the schedule rather than all of it. It also sometimes appears wonky on the mobile app, and past shifts (older than a week) are not visible in the free plan.
What Users Think About When I Work
When I Work users rate the scheduling software 5 out of 5 stars, consistently. Users love its mobile scheduling tools and the customer service provided. Some wish the timekeeping options had more features, like the ability to prevent early clock-ins.
How to Sign Up For When I Work
The best way to get started with When I Work is to sign up for your free account by providing your name, email, phone number, and how many workers you need to schedule. You can then use its schedule builder to add employees, drag and drop shifts, and communicate with your team. When I Work estimates managers save up to 20% of their time scheduling in the first month and up to 50% after that. Sign up for When I Work scheduling and timekeeping absolutely free.
HotSchedules: Best for Restaurants Wanting Payroll Processing
HotSchedules offers a tool built to serve the restaurant industry, saving you time and providing add-on features to help manage your restaurant. Its online scheduling tool provides 24/7 support and you can add time tracking and payroll administration for just a few dollars extra per month. That makes it an all-in-one labor-law-compliant solution for your employee management tasks by including POS integration too.
HotSchedules scheduling software costs $2 per employee, per month. If you want to add on time tracking and payroll administration, it’s only $4 a month per worker — lower than many of the best payroll software tools charge for small business payroll alone.
Hot Schedules Pricing Tiers
While HotSchedules offers the same employee scheduling features as When I Work, it adds the feature of POS integration and can manage certifications and alerts such as when your staff needs to complete food safety training courses. Once your small business has 30 employees or more, HotSchedules offers a plan that includes POS integration as well.
Hot Schedules Scheduling
HotSchedules offers desktop and mobile scheduling with nearly the same features as When I Work such as scheduling templates and time-off requests. It lets employees view and manage their schedules using the mobile app. You can also auto-assign shifts to save time. And to help you out, you’ll get features like weather alerts and forecasting tools to better predict your scheduling needs.
Hot Schedules Communication
With HotSchedules you can send texts, messages, or emails, and customize them by department. Your employees also have access to contact information from the mobile app in case they need to reach you by phone. And the mobile messaging hub lets team members stay in the know.
Hot Schedules Time & Attendance
The time and attendance feature with HotSchedules is an add-on to the paid scheduling software. However, it can make your time tracking and payroll much easier. It also lets you enforce clock-in and clock-out times, exporting your time worked data to popular payroll service providers.
Hot Schedules Leave Management
HotSchedules lets employees input time off requests that you can approve on the fly. When you set the system up, all employees default to “available all day,” so you need to manually input any pre-planned time off as well as any days or timeframes that the employee is not available to work, such as during school hours.
Hot Schedules Software Integration and More
HotSchedules integrates with dozens of external vendors to support your restaurant operations. These include POS software providers, training providers, HRIS software, food safety, accounting software, and consulting firms. With software integrations like these, you won’t need to worry about logging in and out of separate platforms or maintaining data across systems.
What HotSchedules is Missing
From a small business standpoint, HotSchedules lacks integration with low-cost payroll providers like Gusto. It also lacks PTO balance tracking and leave accruals that some of the other best restaurant scheduling software offer. And, it costs more than When I Work, which offers both scheduling and timekeeping free if you have 75 or fewer employees.
What Users Think About HotSchedules
HotSchedules earns solid reviews in the 4 to 5 out of 5-star range. What users like is how much time it saves them over manual scheduling tools and the fact that it allows shift swapping without manager involvement. What they don’t like as much is the cost, including the fact that the mobile app costs extra.
How to Sign Up For HotSchedules
It’s best to start with a free trial of HotSchedules which you can access by requesting a demo from the website. You provide standard information like your name, email, phone number, and company name — as well as the number of locations you have, and it’ll customize a HotSchedules demo for you. Sign up for your free demo.
Deputy: Best for Restaurants Concerned about Compliance
Deputy supports your restaurant operation by providing employee schedules and labor-law compliant digital time sheets that you can export to any of the leading payroll providers. The communication tools let you send files and messages to employees, managers or the entire team from any internet-connected mobile device. And you can add tasks and notifications to streamline your scheduling workflow.
For the scheduling tools, Deputy costs $2 a month, per employee. And if you want to add time and attendance, that costs $4 per month, per worker. However, you can reduce that to $3 per month, per user if you opt for an annual plan. That puts Deputy’s pricing on par with the paid version of both When I Work and HotSchedules. However, Deputy doesn’t offer a free plan like When I Work does.
Deputy Pricing Plans
|Premium (Includes both)|
The features that make Deputy shine, are labor-law compliant meal and rest break planning as well as auto scheduling. The leave management features and PTO tracking help you stay in compliance with several new state laws that require both paid and unpaid sick leave be made available to employees.
The scheduling tools in Deputy include drag and drop schedules, highlighting of empty shifts, views by week, and employee pay rates so that you can do labor costing as you build your schedule. You can copy shifts, use templates, and reach out to employees to fill open time slots. Plus, with Deputy you can set limits on the number of hours an employee can work such as for part-timers or to avoid paying overtime.
Deputy provides a News Feed tab that’s not unlike a Facebook page in its look and feel. Users can create posts and add comments. You, as the manager, can request confirmation that a team member has read your message and viewed any attachments. You also can message individuals on your team — all of these messages and communications are accessible to employees through the mobile app.
Deputy Time & Attendance
Deputy built its timekeeping tools to make it easy for you to manage attendance. In fact, if you use the kiosk-based time clock app, you can take a photo to know exactly who punched in and where — eliminating buddy punching. It also makes compliance with state-mandated rest and lunch breaks easy.
Deputy Leave Management
Deputy, like HotSchedules, allows employees to request time off and tracks employee availability. However, it also lets you and employees monitor available leave balances.
Deputy Software Integration and More
Deputy interfaces with common accounting, payroll, and POS software most likely to be used by a small business. These include, for example, Square, QuickBooks, ADP, Gusto, and Lightspeed. In addition, Deputy offers a performance management system that can help you provide feedback and coaching to employees.
What Deputy is Missing
From a restaurant schedule standpoint, Deputy provides a great tool. What it lacks as compared to When I Work or some of the other best restaurant scheduling apps is a free version. Also, it also doesn’t have the job posting features that When I Work offers to help you find employees to fill out your restaurant shifts.
What Users Think About Deputy
Deputy earns top-notch ratings on third-party software review sites. What they like best is how intuitive it is for both managers and employees, practically eliminating the need for employee training. We found very few negative comments, other than users wanting enhanced schedule view options.
How to Sign Up For Deputy
You can get started with Deputy by booking a demo or starting a free trial. The free trial option may be best as you don’t need a credit card, and you can try it out without creating a new login — just use your existing Facebook or Google account. Get your free trial of Deputy.
Planday: Best for Restaurants Doing Skills-based Scheduling
Planday makes schedule-building easy by allowing employees to indicate their availability as well as letting you save your schedule as a template. But what makes it unique is that you can group employees by skill so that when you’re scheduling, you choose an individual suitable for the job such as bartender, busser or sous chef. The feature helps you automate shift swapping as employees can only swap shifts with those who have the same skill set.
Planday costs just a bit more than the other restaurant scheduling apps we’ve covered — it averages out to between $2 and $5 a month per employee — although the pricing is based on groups such as five, 10, or 15 workers. There are two basic plans, Starter and Plus. You can add timekeeping to either plan for an extra $1 a month per worker.
Planday Average Per Employee Pricing
Statistics and Reporting
Planday, like the other scheduling software, provides a drag and drop interface and lets you create your schedule and then publish it so that employees can view it on any internet-connected device. You’ll have access to employee availability and can set up parameters to prevent you from scheduling a person who is not available or doesn’t have the right skills.
To ensure your scheduling is accurate, you can set up working time rules in advance that let you determine the max number of work hours (important if you’re hiring school-age workers), as well as the available days, weeks, and skill groups the person belongs to. When you build your schedule, Planday will only offer up those workers qualified to fill the shift.
Planday gives you two ways to stay in touch with individuals or all employees. One is through SMS text messaging. That’s available for employees to message one another if they want to shift swap, for instance. The other way is somewhat unique to Planday in that if you purchase the time clock feature for an extra $1 a month per employee, your employees will see reminders when they clock in. That’s great for shift-specific information, like what’s on special during the lunchtime day part.
Planday Time & Attendance
Planday gives you a Punch Clock feature allowing employees to clock in through the mobile app (iOS and Android). That reduces the queue at the time clock at the start and end of each shift. It also ensures that your employee is on-site through geo-location — and not across the street at the mini-mart when they sign in. Another option is that workers can’t clock in unless they’re within reach of the company Wi-Fi.
Planday Leave Management
Planday lets employees request time off and allows you to approve requests such as vacation — which are then marked on the calendar. It doesn’t include the more robust leave management features that When I Work offers such as tracking available sick leave and PTO balances.
Planday Software Integration and More
Planday connects to popular accounting software like QuickBooks as well as to POS, payroll, and restaurant analytics software, Tenzo. In addition, it’s set up to support multiple languages across the Americas and Europe.
What Planday is Missing
Planday leaves the break and lunch planning up to you, which may make it tricky to manage once you have many employees, or if you’re in a state with complex labor laws. It also lacks the robust leave management balance tracking like When I Work and some of the other best restaurant scheduling software offer.
What Users Think About Planday
How to Sign Up For Planday
You can sign up for Planday directly on the website. However, it’s best to start with a demo. That does subject you to a sales call, but you’ll also be able to ask specific questions about your specific restaurant needs. If you need to monitor that employees have the right skills before scheduling them for a shift, Planday offers a great option. Get a free demo of Planday.
Sling: Best for Assigning Tasks To Restaurant Workers
Sling provides great tools for restaurant employee scheduling that allow you to closely control your overtime costs as well as reduce absenteeism with shift reminders. It offers great employee communication options as well as tools to schedule tasks with complete notes. That way everyone’s in the know not only about when they work but what they need to accomplish onsite. That improves employee buy-in and engagement.
If all you need are restaurant scheduling tools with a mobile communications app, Sling is free. In that sense, it’s like When I Work, except that the free plan doesn’t include the time clock with geofencing. Otherwise, Sling is relatively affordable, costing $2 a month per user for the mobile time clock, templates, and overtime tracking; it’s only $4 month per employee if you want additional features like PTO tracking and dedicated account management.
Sling Offers 3 Pricing Tiers
|Time tracking & labor costing|
|PTO, Reports and More|
*Sling charges only for the number of active employees you schedule each month
Sling’s free plan provides shift scheduling, reminders, and employee availability. It also includes long-term scheduling and access for unlimited employees which When I Work doesn’t offer in its free plan. Paid plans include features like time sheet approvals and early clock in prevention, and if you upgrade to the business plan, you’ll get reports and be able to manage your PTO policies.
Like When I Work, everything you need to schedule your restaurant employees is available in the free plan. You can build the schedule, offer up shifts for available workers to claim, and manage tasks. Task management is super helpful when certain workers are assigned specific duties such as updating the website with today’s specials or closing up at the end of the day.
Private and group messages are standard free features when you use Sling. It also has a news sharing feature, similar to Deputy. All of these features are available online or via Sling’s mobile app.
Sling Time & Attendance
The mobile time clock and time sheet features cost extra with Sling and are not included with the free plan as they are with free scheduling software like When I Work and Homebase. However, once you upgrade you’ll get early clock-in prevention, shift swaps, templates, labor costing, budgeting, and overtime tracking. You can also indicate when employees should be paid for holidays.
Sling Leave Management
Sling provides a complete PTO tracking system as part of its business level plan. It can also track late arrivals and no shows as well as notify you when workers call in sick. You also get additional features, like reporting.
Sling Software Integration and More
So far, Sling only integrates with Square POS. However, it has an API that works once you have an authorization token from a Sling client or partner.
Sling also offers salary support and tags that let you manage shift and worker details. For example, you can add a label to the vehicle a delivery driver is assigned or the section in which a server is working.
What Sling is Missing
Sling’s employee scheduling software doesn’t currently integrate with payroll software, nor does it have POS or other software integrations you might find helpful with your restaurant’s IT infrastructure. Most of the other best online scheduling software do have integrations. Further, Sling doesn’t have a free time tracking plan like When I Work has.
What Users Think About Sling
Sling is earning rave reviews on third-party software review websites. Users like cool features like the ring tone that reminds workers to sign in for their shift. We don’t yet have our own review of Sling and therefore relied on the online reviews. In fact, we’re so impressed with Sling, we’ve recently added it to our best free scheduling software buyer’s guide.
7shifts: Larger Restaurants Wanting to Give Their Workers a Voice
7shifts is restaurant scheduling software that does what the other scheduling tools do — it provides team communication, shift scheduling, a time clock, and leave management. What makes it stand out is that it has an employee engagement feature that lets you monitor employee morale and improve your restaurant operations with real-time shift feedback directly from your employees. That feedback is stored in a manager log book with data trends shown on a dashboard.
In addition to paid plans, 7shifts offers a free plan if you have fewer than 10 employees. It’s free for one location (both scheduling and time clock). Paid plans are priced per location and range from $17.99 to $69.99 per month — making them a great deal for restaurants with a larger team of workers in each location. If you want Sling’s team to assist you with account set up, that’s a $150 one-time fee.
7Shifts Pricing Plans
|Scheduling & Time Clock|
|POS Integration and Text Messages|
|Templates, Budgeting & Events Management|
|Overtime alerts, payroll export, reports and more|
7shifts offers all the features you’d expect in an employee scheduling software for restaurants, and includes, even in the free version, time tracking and an app as well. It does so with a visually-rich scheduling tool that can be used on any cloud-based devise.
7Shifts, like the others, uses a drag and drop interface to build your schedule and also includes an auto-scheduling feature and custom shift templates. Once your staff availability and weekly shift requirements are input you can build schedules in one click. In fact, as you build your schedule, 7shifts will notify you if the employee is about to be scheduled into overtime.
7shifts provides instant notification of any schedule changes and employees can request changes through the mobile app. You can also message individual workers, or create a group chat for an entire team such as when you need to notify the kitchen crew about a late delivery. You can also send announcements via email or send push notifications to the whole team like when the store will close for a team event or you update your menu prices.
7shifts Time & Attendance
7shifts offers a time clock function that’s completely integrated with your schedule. It manages workers’ time and attendance and reduces compliance issues like break and lunch time durations required in many states. You can use 7shifts to prevent unauthorized clock ins and automate punch out times. To remain compliant, it can even prevent an employee from clocking in too soon after a break.
7shifts Leave Management
The leave management features include an option for employees to track their own time-off requests and input their available hours. What’s cool is that employees can provide information as to why they aren’t available or need the day off such as a school project or a call to jury duty. In addition, you can customize your leave rules to allow staff to input availability on partial days. Perhaps they’re not available Sunday mornings due to church but can work any time after noon.
7shifts Software Integration and More
7shifts integrates with plenty of other restaurant software — from POS systems like Square, TouchBistro, and Toast to payroll software like Wagepoint. In addition, their API lets you integrate with almost any software you’re using. However, to access the Partner API, you need to subscribe to “The Works” pricing tier. They also have additional modules, like labor compliance and an enterprise dashboard if you operate more than one restaurant.
What 7shifts is Missing
7shifts doesn’t have built-in software integrations to low-cost payroll software like Gusto. It also doesn’t currently interface with any HR software like many of the best online scheduling apps do.
What Users Think About 7shifts
7shifts is just one of many in our list that’s earning top-notch ratings on third-party review sites. What users like is the intuitive app, the ease of scheduling, and the extra features like a manager log book that stores feedback from staff.
Schedule101: Best for Hospitality Like Hotel/Restaurant Combos
Schedule101 is software tailored more broadly to the hospitality industry. It can support your business for example if you offer a motel with a cafe or a hotel with a bar — with extra features like a maintenance log. It’s focused on scheduling and employee communication to streamline your operations and put your managers in control of time off requests and shift trades. Best of all, it’s free if you have 30 or fewer employees on staff.
Schedule 101 prices based on the number of employees you have and the number of physical locations you manage — in general it appears to run between $1-$2/month per employee with promotional offers for multi-unit or franchisees. That’s lower than most of the other restaurant scheduling software we’ve covered. And best of all, if you have 30 or fewer workers, you can use the free plan, forever. Be aware that they do have one-time setup fees that runs about $25 per site.
Schedule101 offers all the basic restaurant scheduling features including online employee scheduling, employee and manager messaging, email and text alerts, and integrated time-off requests. But it contains a few more interesting tools like weather info, a repair and maintenance log, banquet scheduling and online new hire training that can support more complex operations.
The scheduling interface is very basic providing shift-based schedules, recurring schedules, and a simple thumbs-up/thumbs-down indicator for employees to accept or reject their shift. For employees, the interface is clean. They see their schedule and they have a messaging option. That’s it.
The manager dashboard is much more complex and includes the ability to message employees via text or email. They can also make daily notes and keep track of messages from managers and employees separately. When sending messages, managers can specify employee groupings such as prep cooks or bussers to send messages to, so that workers don’t get spammed on topics that don’t involve them. Also, communications can be sent in several languages!
Schedule101 Time & Attendance
Schedule101 allows you to manage schedules across multiple locations, set up events such as banquets, track employee availability and even store online employee files such as hiring documents or tip logs. Employees self-register and can request time off (which you can approve) right through the app.
Software Integration and More
Schedule101 is an ADP Marketplace Integrated partner which is great if you’re already using ADP. In addition, it has pre-built interfaces with POS systems (meaning you don’t have to create them from scratch), an online job portal, and performance management systems.
What Schedule101 is Missing
Schedule 101 lacks payroll software integration with many of ADP’s lower-cost competitors. It also doesn’t interface with some of the more popular small business POS software, like Square. In addition, the user interface, while built by experts in the hospitality industry, feels a bit more like a database software than a best online scheduling app. It’s not as Google-ish as some of the others.
What Users Think About Schedule101
Schedule101 is garnering top-notch reviews in the 5 out of 5-star range by its new users. They like the features, although some wish the employee interface was a bit more intuitive. We don’t yet have a review of Schedule101, but now that it’s on our radar, expect one soon.
How to Sign Up For Schedule101
Schedule101 signup is done online. That’s the best place to start. However, it requires quite a bit more data up front than some of the others in order for you to get the free forever software. Sign up with one location and input data from a few employees to try it out. Get your free account of Schedule101.
12 Great Alternatives to Best Restaurant Scheduling Apps
Narrowing the list of best restaurant scheduling software was a huge challenge due to the fact that there are so many great options for restaurants to choose from. Consider these alternatives that may be a better fit based on the existing POS or payroll software you use in your restaurant as well as your specific scheduling needs.
|Homebase||Any establishment using Gusto for payroll — due to integrated onboarding & free timekeeping|
|Webclock||Banquet & catering businesses — thanks to group scheduling and expense reporting|
|Ximble||Businesses using Paycor for their HRIS software for easy app integration|
|Schedule Anywhere||Nonprofit food service operations that want volunteers to schedule their own shifts|
|Bizimply||Larger dining establishments preferring photo clock-ins to prevent buddy punching|
|Zoho People||Restaurants needing HR data stored with custom forms, like tip reports|
|ZipSchedules||National Restaurant Association members that want discounts on top-rated scheduling software|
|ZoomShift||Small & medium-sized food service operations that want free timekeeping & scheduling software|
|Schedulefly||Franchise operations & general managers needing remote access to multiple work schedules|
|Humanity||Larger restaurant operations needing to interface with HR software like Namely or BambooHR|
|MySchedule.com||Businesses that want visual reporting tools — i.e., labor expenditures over time|
|ConnectTeam||Restaurants that provide workers with checklists for each shift|
The best restaurant scheduling apps offer very similar features — shift-based schedules, templates, mobile communications, and time off requests. Choosing the right scheduling software for your restaurant operation depends largely on any integrations you need (such as to a specific POS, accounting, or payroll software), as well as your need to keep track of time worked and PTO — or need additional features like labor costing and employee feedback.
When I Work is a top-rated employee scheduling software that’s perfect for restaurants and completely free to small businesses with 75 or fewer employees. It provides drag and drop scheduling, a mobile app for your workers, shift swaps, communication tools, and even free time and attendance tracking. Claim your free account of When I Work.