With New Cloud-Based Software, ShiftZen Offering Restaurants a New Approach to Employee Scheduling and Shift Planning


Imagine shaving about four to five hours off the time you spend scheduling your employees.  There’s the schedule you post to the wall – irrelevant the minute you put it up — the phone calls when workers don’t show up, the shifts that need to be covered, or changed, to suit employees’ needs.  And you’ve just wasted about half the day simply setting up and managing schedules.

ShiftZen has a way around all that. According to CEO Peter Michaels, his new app allows workers to see, set up and change their schedules on their phones, with management approval, and free up general managers to do other, more important jobs in the restaurant.

Clients are liking it, too. “One of my favorite things about Shiftzen's software is their responsiveness to the needs of a small business. Shiftzen online scheduling saves us time and money and optimizes not only the schedule but also staff communication,” says Leon Barrera de Grodski, Owner/Operator of Cocoa Cinnamon in Durham, NC. But what’s even more important is that the software can track and forecast exactly how the restaurant is doing, and where changes might need to be made. 

“I worked in the restaurant business for years, while finishing up my degree in technology and I thought, boy, it would be nice if we could marry these two together,” he says. “That’s where the idea for ShiftZen came from.”

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But Michaels didn’t want to create just any old app. “My idea was to create a technical product that was user-friendly and made people’s lives better. And I wanted to do it on the Web.”

ShiftZen offers a product platform that helps people schedule and communicate while preparing a large number of reports that will help foodservice operators keep track of labor and costs. “We actually have reports that say front-of-house labor and back-of-house labor, kitchen staff, lunch, dinner. At the end of the night, a manager can go through and pull information from the point-of sale (POS) system and fill out what happened that day and send that information out to any manager anywhere. And the app will store that data forever,” Michaels says. “When they have a good Thursday at the end of January, they can compare how they did in the previous year on that day.”

Michaels points out that the app gives owners and operators and responsible general managers the numbers they need in a hurry to see if something’s going wrong. “An independent restaurant is a little, self-contained unit that’s trying to make $1 to 2 to 3 million a year and keep as much of that as it possibly can. Our software comes in an all-in-one package where they can do that. It keeps human resource records on employees. Sometimes they don’t show up for work, then quit and file an unemployment claim, and if you don’t have the records to back up that these people stopped coming to work, you can end up paying for that. For the low cost that we offer, you have legal recourse, digital records, a secure database to create records and keep track of anything,” he says.

“We switched from another system and never looked back at our four locations. We save over $30 per month, per restaurant. We got a system that was easier for our staff to use, and allowed us to start tracking some data about day over day sales and operations,” says Rob Stover, owner/operator, Tyler’s Taproom, Durham, NC.

Another selling point is that it can protect restaurants from legal trouble, too. “If you cut off someone who’s drinking too much at 10 p.m., and tell him, you need to get out of here, then put it in the database, and he gets in an accident, and kills someone, that could be used in a court record to exonerate your bartender,” Michaels says. 

He notes that POS systems in restaurants are dinosaurs. “The POS system today is where people are doing their orders, stuff that goes back to the kitchen, the ones doing it efficiently are tracking how many steaks they order and how many they sell. But our app is really for labor forecasting and daily reporting. Shitzen also allows a user to post a link that allows people to directly apply for an open position in a restaurant.”

Even something as rudimentary as setting up schedules can become a nightmare. “People are calling and calling, when do I work today, I don’t want to work today, and the manager is fielding calls like that, looking through a book of scribbly notes, ‘I need Saturday off,’ you’re scrambling to have that shift covered, making phone calls to track everything,” Michaels says. That takes a lot of time. But with our software, you can lock down the availability of the employee, and they can’t change it unless they ask you, they’re responsible for it, and it changes things. You can’t get away with it anymore, and it save a ton of time.”

All operators have to do to create a schedule is click two buttons. “You grab the previous week’s schedule, copy it, click one button and it’s posted. That usually takes four to five hours for the restaurant. People can give up their shifts; offer to pick up others’ shifts. It’s pretty cool. All a manager has to do is click approve, approve, approve from a link in their email and that’s done,” he notes.

Employees can even access and change schedules on their phones. But it’s the reporting and record-keeping that helps foodservice operators become more efficient and profitable. “It’s a virtual spreadsheet comparing last year’s revenues to this year’s. It can take hours to do things like this and now it takes 15 minutes,” he says.

With ShiftZen, managers can see the labor costs for that shift divided by the projected sales, and get a firm number right away. “When you drop your first cook onto the schedule, you’ll see that it’s 1% of your labor costs. You see that right away. And you can make sure you’re not putting anyone into overtime. The cost of our software is covered by one screw-up in overtime,” Michaels points out.

All it takes is a monthly membership fee ($25 for restaurants with under 24 employees, $45 for 25 to 75 employees and $65 for 76-100 and up employees. No contract is required. For more information, go to www.shiftzen.com.