The words “restaurant management system” rarely cause excitement. Food is fascinating, and dining out often leads to cherished memories, but a restaurant’s transaction system does not make it into those memories. There’s a reason there are millions of food photos on Instagram and just a few thousand of point of sale systems (POS).
While service and food remain the most important parts of driving your business, your restaurant’s management system is what keeps it running smooth and healthy. The reason is simple: comprehensive restaurant management systems make restaurant operations more efficient, straightforward, and ultimately beneficial to everyone involved, from restaurant owners to customers. They can do anything from ensuring order accuracy to accepting payments and even performing payroll and accounting for you. Think of them as the real-life version of those house robots from ’80s movies. Unlike those robots, which never quite became commonplace in households (unless you count Roombas), restaurant management systems are the future of the industry.
A Historical Look at the Evolving Restaurant
Restaurants have been evolving since the 1850s. For example, the following dishes appeared on American restaurant menus 170 years ago: Mayonnaise of chicken, Red head ducks, Boiled beef tongue, and Anchovy toast (Source: The New York Public Library “What’s on the Menu?” database, an incredible treasure trove). In today’s restaurants, you’ll find items like beyond meat patties, vegan sausage, and avocado toast.
The point is that restaurants and dining habits have changed dramatically in the past two centuries. The past 20 years alone, the dining landscape has changed at a particularly astonishing rate. Yelp reviews and social media food photos have transformed how people share their dining experiences—and how they decide where to eat next. Chains are contending with how to reach people of all ages and particularly millennials, and millennials themselves are opting for healthier and environmentally friendlier choices, changing menu offerings. There are even fully automated quinoa eateries!
Restaurant Management Is Evolving Rapidly Too
Adaptability is important in most industries, and especially in the restaurant industry, where slight fluctuations in profit margins can have significant, even make-or-break, effects. Restaurant managers have rarely garnered the level of attention that chefs do—celebrity chefs have long been part of the restaurant scene, but managers typically have not been as prominent in the media.
A restaurant’s success has always depended on the efficiency and overall strength of its management. Mismanagement of any of the details of restaurant operations—from shift schedules to inventory tracking to food costs—can cause a restaurant’s downfall. Innovations in efficiency, on the other hand, can lead to long-lasting success, as in the case of the McDonald’s brothers’ systematization of fast food orders.
Fortunately for modern restaurant owners, technology has greatly advanced the restaurant management landscape. From the early days of electronic cash registers through the spread of World Wide Web use in the ’90s, and into today’s smartphone and touchscreen landscape, restaurant management systems have evolved to meet, or even anticipate, the needs of their users.
Rapid Modernization in the 2000s
In the twenty-first century, restaurant software and technology have become exceptionally sophisticated, largely with the emergence of restaurant-related apps. Mobile apps have made mobile point-of-sale systems possible, allowing orders to be placed and processed using tablets, phones, and smart-watches.
Besides the rise of apps, the second largest computing development to influence restaurant management system software is the cloud. Previously, restaurants had to rely on local servers to store data, which meant clunky machines requiring a technician to come and fix them whenever they broke down. Now, data is stored in the cloud, which is much more secure, easier to access, and extremely convenient with rare down times.
The advancement of technology all but necessitates entry into the restaurant tech world for food and drink establishments. As CEO John Weber noted in Fast Casual, “Technology adoption will continue [to be] a major factor in satisfying customer expectations and increasing productivities. Mobile and online ordering will put control in the customers’ hands. And new smart devices and operational systems will improve guest service and streamline operations.” Weber separately observed, “‘Big data’ analytics will uncover operational insights to further increase efficiency.”
Today, advanced restaurant management systems are much more than simple transaction systems for accepting money and giving change. They are entire complex systems with tools for restaurant operations—from the big data analytics to the small details that have a big effect on restaurant success. Ironically, the complexity of the modern restaurant management system simplifies everything.
Modern System Capabilities
The more robust POS are omnichannel systems, meaning that they cross multiple channels for seamless user experience, and they provide a holistic system with thorough management tools. They are also built for ease of use across devices. For instance, various interfaces such as a tablet and phone can be used with no loss of information, and all payment types can be accepted into the same system.
Modern POS system functionalities can include:
- Mobile ordering and delivery
- Cost trackings, such as labor costs and food costs
- Labor management, including shift scheduling and clocking in and out
- Transaction system that accepts payments with integrated credit card processors, and provides receipts
- Inventory management, including purchase orders, vendor relations management, ingredient tracking, and low-ingredient notifications
- Sales reporting, payment, product, and activity reports including multilocation reporting
- Menu customization
- Access levels, so restaurant owners can make changes in the system that other employees cannot
- Reporting on details like transactions and kitchen change logs
- Cross-establishment communication, including front of the house to the back of house and vice versa
- Commerce platform for the selling and tracking of items such as merchandise
- Customer loyalty resources and gift card management
These comprehensive, integrated systems also provide data transparency. Sales reports are particularly valuable for finding out everything from which menu items are most and least popular, to sales by the server, to register sales. Inventory tracking is also invaluable to success. Now restaurant proprietors can know right away not only if costs are too high, but which costs are too high, with the ability to make appropriate adjustments right away.
Restaurant Management Systems Should Be Flexible
Importantly, some point-of-sale systems have been designed for adaptability to third-party integrations, allowing users to build off the system in a manner that is customized and as elaborate as they prefer.
Integration types should be varied and include:
- Accounting integrations, so you don’t need to toggle between your point of sale and a separate accounting system
- Payment integrations, so you can manage all payments directly through your POS
- Credit card processor integrations, optimally with any payment type
- Barcode scanners, permitting the use of the POS as a commerce platform for the selling of goods
- Gift cards (if your restaurant doesn’t offer them, it should)
- Seamless setup with hardware, networking, and services
We mentioned above that robust restaurant management systems also serve as commerce platforms. This functionality is particularly important at food and drinks establishments that sell items such as merchandise—for instance, wineries selling bottles of wine, brewpubs selling growlers, sports bars selling T-shirts, or coffee shops selling beans.
What Restaurant Customers Think of Technology
Do restaurant customers like techy transaction systems and commerce platforms? Do they consider technology to be an interference during the dining experience, or an asset? After all, as all restaurateurs know, the customers’ sentiments are ultimately what matters most when it comes to, well, anything at a dining establishment.
Since modern restaurant management systems increase efficiency, reduce wait times, and expand on payment options, customers benefit from them substantially. Omnichannel solutions also sometimes include loyalty programs, which provide plenty of reasons to make customers happy. The key is to implement specific restaurant technology in a way that does not disrupt the restaurant ambiance.
Will These Systems Mean the End of Restaurant Workers?
Amid the long-standing conversation about what technology and artificial intelligence will mean for human workers, restaurant software has raised the same questions about the future of restaurant employees. In short, no. These systems will make restaurants more efficient, with staff who can focus on the quality of customer service.
While restaurant management systems do improve efficiency and streamline operations, they do not mean the end of front-of-house or back-of-house staff. Restaurants present the opportunity to engage with others in a welcoming, friendly environment; restaurant staff are crucial to making the environment friendly and visit worthy. Webstaurant Store found that 61% of customers ages 18 to 34 prefer interacting with waitstaff, rather than restaurant technologies such as Ziosk. As for back-of-house, food quality is inarguably one of the most essential components of a successful restaurant, and that quality depends on the skills and talents of adept kitchen staff. Point-of-sale systems can do a lot of things, but they can’t make handmade foodstuffs!
Make Life Easier—and Success Likelier
Major technology companies are entering the online food ordering and reservations sector. We will see voice-activated technology advance further, non-food-related tech companies partnering with online dining platforms, and the acquisition of small companies.
Major companies see a profitable future with online food delivery or online reservations systems, and the beginning of a fierce contest for the strongest site is taking shape. The competition is good for consumers, as every company is working to develop the fastest and most efficient dining service possible.
Order Take Out with Just a Holler
Google, Amazon, and Apple created butlers for their customers—ones that can place food orders with a simple voice command. With Siri, Google, or Alexa, you can request Chinese food or pizza from any room. While stories continue to occur with children ordering unwanted items, technology will continue to grow in this area until a usable system emerges.
Despite their ease of use, these gadgets are restricted to placing repeat orders only. If customers want something different, they must do it manually online. Judging by the hyper speeds which technology moves, we are sure to see that deterrent change soon. Other major companies tapping into voice-activated technology are Starbucks, Dominos and Panera.
Big tech players are stimulating growth and spurring on technological advancements with their mergers. The involvement of major tech companies like Amazon, Google, and Apple indicates a future with more mergers and acquisitions—of both large and small companies. Online food ordering and online reservations systems are only going to get better. A modern restaurant management system is your gateway to tomorrow.