Restaurant management systems have evolved over the past few years, and because of this change in technology, it’s important for those in the hospitality industry to stay informed and updated. Keeping your procedures and systems up-to-date is a great method to streamline your operations, reduce overhead, and increase your day-to-day sales by getting more people through the door.
If you’re in the beginning stages of looking for a restaurant management system, you might have multiple questions or concerns. You may also be unsure where to start. Begin by taking a look at five important questions, and then dive deeper into evaluating your particular situation.
When shopping around for a restaurant management system, ask yourself:
- What is restaurant management software?
- Why do you need restaurant management software?
- What features should restaurant management software include?
- How much does restaurant management software cost?
- What types of restaurants need restaurant management software?
As you evaluate these five questions, begin to think about your particular restaurant and its goals and requirements. While the most comprehensive restaurant management system might be tempting to purchase, you might not actually need it. On the other hand, you might purchase a system that doesn’t have enough of what you require. So, how can you determine exactly what you need?
Take a closer look at these questions and let’s explore the basics of the restaurant software out there!
1. What is restaurant management software?
By definition, a restaurant management system is what helps you operate and manage your restaurant. At the center of this technology lies a POS system. POS, or point-of-sale, is where the transaction between a merchant and a customer takes place. Many restaurant owners making their first foray into purchasing software choose to start with a restaurant POS system, but depending on your restaurant’s needs, you can consider additional features to incorporate.
You might be asking yourself now: what is the best restaurant POS system to buy? There are many elements to take into consideration, such as:
- Deciding between a legacy system and a mobile system. A legacy POS system includes hardware that’s placed inside your restaurant, while a mobile POS system uses multiple stations that are run via cloud-based software.
- Choosing a POS system that offers a variety of features. If you need a more customizable system for your restaurant, you may consider choosing a more robust system that offers features such as inventory tracking, table and order management, employee timesheets, and CRM integration.
- Abilities for payment processing, online integration, and easy use. If you want your POS system to benefit management, employees, and customers, you should have a restaurant POS system that streamlines the process for all three groups. Management can easily schedule shifts, while servers can take orders, process payments, and easily communicate, and customers can enjoy the smooth process.
It’s important to consider purchasing a POS system that offers a wide range of restaurant management features. Doing so can consolidate your data into one place, making it easily manageable and more convenient to access. Still need some insight? This restaurant POS software guide can help you lay it all out.
2. Why do you need restaurant management software?
The day-to-day activities of running a restaurant can pile up quickly, and many of those responsibilities fall on the shoulders of the owner or manager. In addition to managing a POS system, restaurant managers face several challenges and responsibilities every day, such as:
- Ownership duties
- Front-of-the-house (FOTH) management
- Back-of-the-house (BOTH) management
- Employee scheduling
- Employee tips
Using a restaurant management system, you can easily simplify these tasks. For example, if an employee needs to call in sick and find a coworker to cover their shift, they can easily log into their account in the POS system, and send out a notification to the team that they need their shift covered. Once another coworker agrees to take the shift, they can complete the swap without having to go through management. This saves everyone time and headache.
Similarly, if employee tips are not being processed correctly, you can utilize a more robust POS system to distribute tips fairly to the correct FOTH staff.
Ensuring that you have a proper way to manage all of the above responsibilities (and even more) is crucial, and not having an effective system in place can impact your success as a business. That’s why it’s imperative that you have an efficient restaurant management system with features that are tailored to your needs.
3. What features should restaurant management software include?
In general, there are several features that a restaurant management system should have. While the features you select depend on the size of your restaurant and your specific needs, be on the lookout for these particular elements, as they can prove important to your day-to-day operations:
A restaurant POS system.
Your management software should have its own restaurant POS system. This is the foundation of your restaurant management system and the key to smooth operations.
One type of POS system, as mentioned before, is the mPOS (mobile point-of-sale), which communicates between several stations and updates all needed data in tandem. The mPOS is less difficult to install, and is more easily updated and intuitive. As additional research into mPOS systems, you may consider iPad POS systems, which simplify your process, in terms of order taking, convenience, organization, and more.
By utilizing an inventory tracking feature, you can track the amounts of ingredients you have available, as well as which ingredients are running out quicker than others, and what needs to be stocked in greater quantities. This streamlines your process and allows you to more efficiently place orders to your vendor.
Table and order management.
Using a table management feature, you can configure a representation of your restaurant’s layout to keep track of open tables, keep tabs on open orders, and efficiently seat your customers. With order management features, you can transfer tickets quickly, split bills, change prices, and more.
In addition to effectively tracking employees as they clock in and out, you can choose restaurant software that allows employees to manage their shifts, such as when they need another coworker to cover for them. Rather than going through management, allow them to swap shifts as necessary directly through the system.
Choose a restaurant management system that either integrates with your preferred CRM or has easily exportable data. With an integrated CRM, you can continue to analyze your customer data in a convenient and familiar manner, or if you choose a system that allows you to export data, you can still easily access what you need, when you need it.
Marketing and loyalty programs.
Look for marketing tools that are built-in or can integrate into your system, such as loyalty programs. You can allow customers to sign up and earn rewards through your restaurant’s loyalty program, and if you follow the trends of what they’re purchasing, this gives you an opportunity to offer deals on those items and encourage them to come back.
Easy menu setup.
Customize your menu the way you want it! Choose your menu items, prices, ingredients, and appearance, and have the menu rotate throughout the day for different meal periods. Keep everything up-to-date and incorporate enticing features like daily specials and happy hours. Allow front-of-house staff to access this custom menu when they take orders, or let customers access it if they’re using a self-service kiosk.
Detailed reporting and data.
Need to download a specific sales report, or ingredients usage report? No problem! Choose a restaurant management system that allows you to download detailed reports however you need them. Check real-time sales from wherever you are.
Be sure you’re given access to technical support, should you need to troubleshoot any issues that arise. Make a point to ask about this when shopping around for restaurant software.
Select restaurant software that allows for integrations with several types of software. For instance, choose a system that can integrate with the best accounting software, such as QuickBooks or Xero, as well as kitchen management software and CRMs. Integration abilities are also an excellent source of added convenience, as you can incorporate tools that you’re already using and familiar with.
4. How much does restaurant management software cost?
The cost of restaurant software varies depending on what you need. Some lightweight restaurant management systems will require a smaller upfront investment, while more robust tools can call for a greater investment as you get up-and-running. Additional hardware, such as a tablet or cash register, will also add to the cost.
There are a few factors to keep in mind as you take a look at pricing options: licensing types, restaurant POS system costs, and any additional costs you may incur.
Licensing types for restaurant software.
The cost of your restaurant management system will first depend on the licensing type:
Perpetual licensing means one large fee is paid upfront to use the software indefinitely. This results in lower recurring costs, though the initial cost is higher.
Subscription licensing allows you to pay a smaller monthly or annual fee as you use the service. The upfront cost is lower, but the recurring costs are higher.
As a note, both fees tend to equal out as time goes on.
Restaurant POS system costs.
In addition to understanding the type of licensing options, you should also know the difference between costs for locally installed and cloud-based restaurant POS systems. Locally installed restaurant POS software will typically have a one-time licensing fee, while cloud-based systems don’t usually charge a licensing fee.
Another fee to consider is a monthly support fee, which applies to both locally installed systems and cloud-based systems. Restaurant POS system pricing will vary, so it’s important to do your research and determine which option best meets your needs.
Additional restaurant management system costs.
There is another factor to take into consideration when determining which restaurant software you want to purchase: additional costs. Sometimes the software you’ve decided on won’t have all the features you ultimately want to utilize. In this case, you might consider adding on extra third party integrations, such as:
- Marketing tools. Some restaurant management systems have built-in marketing tools, such as loyalty programs, but you might decide you want to use a third party integration that offers more tools and ease. This will add to your cost.
- Inventory control. Not all restaurant software has inventory controls built in, and this also might require third party integrations, which can add to your overall cost. This is why it’s key to look for management systems that allow easy integration with other tools.
- Setup and training costs. When determining what you need in your management system, take a look at the restaurant itself. How big is it? Are you just starting out, or more established? How long are your wait times throughout the day?Purchasing comprehensive software can be quite an investment for smaller venues, as you need to pay for installation, setup, and training. If you’re just starting out, it’s recommended that you purchase a scalable system that is tailored to your growing needs, rather than an expansive system from the get-go. This way, if you don’t end up expanding exactly as you had planned, your business won’t be impacted as significantly from the cost.
When looking at and comparing costs of restaurant management systems, it’s important to be introspective while you expand your research. If you simply go for the most comprehensive system, you run the risk of having too many expenses that you don’t make up for in profit. Take a look at what you truly need for your size and venture, and tailor your selections accordingly.
5. What types of restaurants need restaurant management software?
There’s a variety of eateries out there, but several of these can (and should) benefit from a restaurant management system. The bundle you purchase just depends on your size and needs. Take, for example:
- Restaurants. These encompass both casual and upscale dining, as well as a variety of cuisines. Depending on several factors, such as the size of the venue and how busy it gets during different parts of the day, a restaurant management system is imperative to its success.
- Bars. Bars can also benefit from restaurant management systems. Keeping up with the amount of liquors and ingredients available, as well as bar tabs, is key to making customers happy and making your process seamless. Utilize a bar POS system that allows you to stay organized and keep your servers and bartenders prepared.
- Ice cream shops. Don’t let your ice cream melt because of slow service. Track what flavors are selling well and keep the lines moving quickly by using an efficient POS system that’s tailor-made to this unique type of establishment.
- Pizzarias. Decrease the amount of mistakes and get those toppings right with helpful software that tracks your orders and a pizza POS system that ensures accuracy.
- Food trucks. Food trucks can also benefit from management systems, as they allow you to manage your orders quickly, increasing sales and lowering the wait time in the process. Even more, an efficient POS system can allow you to track customer information and send emailed receipts to maintain relationships with your customers.
Other food and beverage venues, such as wineries, coffee shops, and breweries, also need restaurant management systems, and finding the right match for you involves taking a look at the type of restaurant you’re running, and deciding exactly what features you need, as well as what you don’t.
Taking a hard look at your restaurant first is imperative to maintaining a successful run
As technology has evolved, restaurant management systems have evolved right along with it. Asking these questions and doing the required reading is a great way to educate yourself about the options available out there. However, you also need to take stock of your restaurant’s size, busy hours, goals, and everyday needs. With that information, you can properly tailor your choice of restaurant software to your venue and ensure you’re getting what you need at the price that makes the most sense.
Now that you have these elements in mind, you’re ready to continue your search for the perfect software!
If you’re seeking more information about restaurant management systems, or the rise of technology in restaurants in general, take a look at these additional resources:
- Why Modern Restaurant Management Systems Are Revolutionizing Dining. Find out why a management system is among the most essential elements that contribute to a restaurant’s success.
- New Restaurant Technology that Propels Business. Learn what technologies have proven relevant this year and how they streamline your business processes.
- Using Inventory Management to Maximize Profits. Food costs are typically the biggest expense for restaurants. Discover how to use inventory management to efficiently increase your profit.
- Save Time and Money by Investing in Online Scheduling Software. Eliminate the chance for human error when scheduling employees and invest in an online labor scheduling platform.
- 5 Restaurant POS System Costs to Consider (Before You Buy). If you’re in the market for a new restaurant POS system, be sure to learn more about the features and pricing to make sure they align with your goals.