PR Machine: Be Efficient and Tech Savvy at the same time.

When it comes to dropped shifts, you’ve probably heard more tall tales than a high school English teacher. Twenty-four hour bugs. Car trouble. The dog ate my iPhone®. Whatever the excuse, employee no-shows can wreak havoc on a restaurant’s operations and budget. Fortunately, new smartphone apps now allow employees to notify managers of absences and line up replacements with the swipe of a screen.

Homebase

How it works: Provides web-based team restaurant staffing management solutions with employer and employee needs in mind. Platform offers scheduling and shift swapping, time tracking, hiring , tracking of restaurant labor costs and team communications at a no-cost “free-mium” package (costs kick in with add-ons). Features integrate with other widely used services. For example, time tracking ties into payroll giant ADP and templates for job descriptions can be shared by employees and populate on sites such as Glassdoor.

Why it works: The team management and staffing platform has a full-circle approach in each of its features. Staff availability integrates with scheduling which reduces the need for swapping shifts. Schedule change requests can be viewed by all employees, eliminating the need to reach out to co-workers individually.

Bonus features: Employers gain insight by seeing which employees beg off shifts more than others and can reward those who pick up less desirable ones. Workers can view projected income which can entice them to pick up additional shifts or decrease the desire to call in sick.

7shifts

How it works: After employees post and bid on shift openings, managers can approve swaps by tracking workers employees with similar skills. Swaps are automatically incorporated into schedules, and timeclock software is baked into the platform. 7shifts sends real-time overtime alerts to help managers monitor restaurant labor costs, while offering free integration with systems, such as Toast, Micros and Touch Bistro.

Why it works: 7shifts effectively manages large staffs, like the 100-plus employees at Harrison’s Harbor Watch, a seafood spot in Ocean City, Maryland. According to General Manager Jeb Vetock, the app’s intuitive interface has virtually eliminated scheduling issues and its labor functions have paid for its cost.

Bonus features: Two-way communication is central to the 7shifts’ appeal. Managers can send “how did we do?” push notifications requesting crew feedback. Workers can click on a rating emoji and leave comments — an invaluable way to keep staff from straying. A bonus feature allows staff to trade messages about upcoming events or assignments.

ZoomShift

How it works: Using a dashboard that color-codes and sorts data by location and job descriptions, ZoomShift allows managers to track hours and daily labor costs, block early clock-ins and overtime, share schedules or send automatic shift reminders. Workers set their own availability preferences, request time off and pick up open shifts through the app.

Why it works: Shannon Gallagher, training and engagement manager at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin-based Simple Food Group, adopted ZoomShift to empower team members to be more accountable. It allows staff at the company’s cafés and bakery to work out scheduling issues themselves. “Once the schedule is published, it’s their responsibility,” Gallagher explains. Managers can approve or deny proposed swaps, but their intervention isn’t required.

Bonus features: Managers and employees can send an SOS when they need help filling shifts, and employees can opt to be notified via text, email or push when new slots open and trades are approved.

Schedulefly

How it works: Schedulefly is a web-based scheduling system known for its straightforward interface, which includes schedule building, time-off request management, shift swaps, staff communication via a message wall, contact lists, schedule change tracking and more. POS-integration capability may come soon.

Why it works: “Many other apps offer a lot of bells and whistles that require as much front-end work as they provide in labor savings,” says Scott Schmidt, owner of Looking Glass Hospitality Group in Cincinnati. Not Schedulefly, which has what you need to run your business without a ton of things you won’t ever use.”

Bonus features: Managers can receive daily email alerts that list everything from who’s working on a given day to employees’ birthdays. Schedulefly also projects restaurant labor costs as a percentage of projected sales.