Five Signs You Need to Switch from Excel to Scheduling Software

Five Signs You Need to Switch from Excel to Scheduling Software
D. J. Costantino

By D. J. Costantino

We've all been there. Endless cells of names and shifts. On the surface, the natural organization of an Excel or Google Sheets spreadsheet makes sense for creating shift schedules.

Once you take the time to make it, it looks nice and clean. You may even have it color-coded to make it easier to read. But once you put that schedule out into the world, it tends to break down.

What's the best way to share it with your staff? Then come the change requests, availability mistakes, and confusion that leads to a missed shift or late arrival.

Your once perfectly organized Excel schedule is unrecognizable from when you first made it—and you have to do it all over again next week.

Here are the signs it may be time to make the jump to schedule software.

1. You're spending hours a week building them out

Excel schedule spreadsheets can look really nice, especially if well-organized, color-coded, and tagged. But even the fastest manager can take upwards of five to eight hours a week to build out the schedule. There are sections to remember and availability to reference. It's not as easy as it looks. All of that time spent in the back office makings staff schedules adds up to hours you're not spending with your team and your guests. By using employee scheduling software, such as 7shifts, managers can save up to five hours every week. This means more time mentoring your staff and providing a five-star experience for your guests—growing your business.

Printed and outdated paper schedule example

2. You're in over your head with change requests

Once you've spent hours creating the schedule, then comes the hours of managing the distribution to staff. As soon as you save the final version and email it out, in come the change requests from your team. They come from email responses and over text, making them hard to keep track of. And even one change can domino and disrupt the flow of an entire day or even week. If you forget to lock the document for editing, staff can go in and make changes on their own without asking you. Shift trades need to involve a separate thread with a manager and then change on the schedule, meaning more room for error and more time spent in the schedule and not in your restaurant.

“I basically just had a spreadsheet and I would just put in a start time, and then if somebody's shift changed or if somebody was running late or anything like that, it would just be crossing it out and rewriting it on the was a pain. A lot of the staff would text me asking, "Can you take a picture of the schedule? I'm not in today. Is the schedule up? Can I see it?" I'd be constantly taking pictures of the schedule and seeing if anyone else has a picture and doing all that extra, and it's like it'd be easier if it was just digital.” - Tayler Bock, Beechwood Doughnuts

Scheduling software makes it easy for your team to request any changes in one place. You can also enable your team to make their own schedule and shift changes, like offering up a shift, with your approval, so all you need to do is say yes or no—rather than be looped into unnecessary conversations.

3. Communication breakdowns

There are schedules on a spreadsheet, sales inside your POS, time and attendance in a time clocking app, or also in your POS. Then there are email threads, tons of group chats. There are just too many siloed systems that are overwhelming and hard to keep track of for both staff and management. If restaurants are using Excel on the desktop and saving new versions, you have to send out a new version. You can opt for live updates with cloud-based software like Google Sheets, SharePoint, or Excel online, new team members might not have access yet—failing to get the schedule and not showing up.

“I had one email [account] just for time off,” says Kim Jackson, District Manager and Franchise Trainer for The Human Bean. “We used to just not do shift changes,” Jackson added.

Scheduling software allows for easy publishing to your team that updates to ensure they always have the most up-to-date version. You can also send team-wide announcements or add events like holidays or specials to the calendar. To make sure everyone is on the same page, all in one place.

4. Your schedules just aren't smart

Spreadsheet schedules technically have a digital advantage over pen and paper. They're easier to edit, quick to share, and can be changed without erasing or crossing anything out. But they still lack the smart capabilities of scheduling software.

With the right integrations, scheduling software enables you to pull in sales data from your POS and track it against your labor hours. This helps you make smarter schedules so you don't end up with people on the clock waiting around, or worse—an overworked team that burns out fast.

You could track this manually by exporting sales data and payroll data into separate spreadsheets, But this can become extremely cumbersome, inaccurate, and involves a lot of calculations. Your excel formulas or macros can break it's a pain to fix and diagnose. Scheduling software builds it all in, giving you quick insights into your sales with reports and analytics that show how much staff you need. It can also identify your top team members so you can staff up with your best when you're busiest. Even the managers who are most on the ball can overlook things. Scheduling software makes sure that doesn't happen.

5. Payroll is a lot of plug and chug

When it comes time to do restaurant payroll, it feels like you're gathering endless documents. Endless exporting and printing out attendance sheets and matching them up with the schedule. What's worse is that there isn't an easy way to track late arrivals or no-shows, which can end up costing you money down the line with things like time theft. You may also make costly mistakes by accidentally inputting something into the wrong row/column—hello, compliance issues.

Scheduling software enables you to pull data straight from your time clock, check it aginast the schedule for accuracy, and push it directly to your payroll system for seamless payday. No more plugging and chugging numbers from spreadsheets, manual entry, or easy-to-make mistakes that end up costing you valuable time and money.

Closing thoughts: Five Signs It's Time to Switch from Excel to Scheduling Software

If you've experienced any of the above scheduling problems—or you accidentally delete the entire schedule one too many times—there is a better way.

Scheduling software can help you move on from messy spreadsheets and streamline your scheduling process—saving you money and countless hours that you can put back into helping your business grow.

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D. J. Costantino
D. J. Costantino

Hi! I'm D.J., 7shifts' resident Content Writer. I come from a family of chefs and have a background in food journalism. I'm always looking for ways to help make the restaurant industry better!