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 has 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