Understanding Restaurant Management Software
The restaurant industry has been evolving consistently over the years. From the introduction of point of sale (POS) systems to accounting systems, technology is changing the ways restaurants operate today. Some of the practices that used to be acceptable a few years ago are no longer the norm.
Inefficient practices are being phased out in favor of more efficient and faster methods of operating. 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. Among the technology offered today is restaurant management software.
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 questions, begin to think about the goals and requirements of your restaurant. While the most comprehensive restaurant management system might be tempting to purchase, you might not actually need a complete one. On the other hand, you might purchase a system that doesn’t have enough of what your restaurant needs. Let’s have a closer look at what you need to know about restaurant management software:
1. What is restaurant management software?
Restaurant management software is one of the constantly changing technologies in the restaurant industry. New systems pop-up every day with new features that can complete certain tasks in a fraction of time. Whether you are looking for effective inventory management software or just a POS system for your business, restaurant management software is something you cannot afford to miss. It helps restaurant owners and their managers to run a restaurant business end to end.
Restaurant management systems help you operate and manage your restaurant. At the center of this technology lies a POS system in which a 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 software with additional features.
You might be asking yourself how to choose the best restaurant POS system for your restaurant. Some of the elements to put into considerations include:
- 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 with 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 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.
The role of restaurant management software cannot be overlooked. They come with tools used to track inventory, restaurant orders, payroll, and analytics. For big businesses, owners and managers can use the tools to compare businesses across their multiple locations. They can use information from the software to track employee effectiveness and ease the onboarding process for new employees. The software also comes with a wide range of features that can be used by niche restaurant types as well as mainstream restaurants.
Qualifications of Restaurant Management Software
Choosing the most appropriate restaurant management platform can be overwhelming. With so many options available in the market, it can be a huge challenge to determine which one will fit the needs of your business. However, choosing a single software solution is more cost-effective than purchasing several. Since restaurants operate on slim margins, they need to streamline benefits to both the business and their customers.
There is usually a crossover between a restaurant point of sale system and restaurant management software. The rule of thumb is that the restaurant management tool includes the features of a POS system and several other features needed to run a restaurant more effectively. For a product to qualify as restaurant management software, it must:
- Help in the running of the back and front of the house while providing the necessary back-office support
- Provide features like POS, inventory management, order management, accounting, employee management, payroll, and reservations
- Be designed specifically for the restaurant or food service industry
Restaurant management software is designed to provide an end-to-end solution to run a restaurant business. The idea behind the development of the software is to allow restaurant owners to run their restaurant without the need of purchasing other software. Although business needs differ depending on the kind of services offered, the intention of restaurant management software is to provide support for both core and supporting business activities.
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-house (FOH) management
- Back-of-house (BOH) 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 co-worker agrees to take the shift, they can complete the swap without having to go through management. This saves everyone time and headaches. 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.
Restaurant management software saves time for both the server and the customer by making it easy for a customer to get a set, make their order, have the order sent to the kitchen, and the check delivered. Since some of these solutions come as a mobile app, they eliminate the need for having server stations in the restaurant.
By using a unified system, restaurant owners can streamline both aspects of food preparations and sales. You can also improve the daily experiences of the employees by streamlining the high-level behind-the-scene aspects of the restaurant.
Restaurant management software improves the efficiency between the back of the office and the front of house operations by freeing up servers, lowering costs, and saving time. If the software is cloud-based with touchscreen stations, it provides a lower learning curve for both restaurant managers and restaurants. It can also help in running the restaurant outside the daily service, including services like billing, employee scheduling, and menu creation.
Specific Benefits of Restaurant Management Software
Whether you choose an all-in-one solution or specialized software, it will benefit your restaurant in several ways. The benefits of such software exceed both the traditional pen-and-paper approach or the use of Excel Spreadsheets to manage a restaurant. The benefits include:
- Accurate forecasting: Restaurant management software uses historical data to provide accurate restaurant forecasts. This includes inventory needs, sales, employee turnover, and more. Based on these numbers, you can analyze the performance of the restaurant and identify any new trend.
- Enhanced flexibility: Restaurant management software is now cloud-based. This provides flexibility and accessibility at any time and anywhere using any internet-ready device. You can general sales reports or switch an employee’s schedule from outside your establishment at any given time.
- Reduced human errors: Restaurant management software reduces human-related errors significantly. The software automatically flags any entries or data that look suspicious before processing. It also creates an audit trail that can be used to identify all processes and ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information.
- Minimizes duplicate Entries: Manual data entry in a spreadsheet is prone to errors of duplication. Restaurant management software overcomes this weakness by automating the process. You do not have to transfer inventory numbers or labor expenses manually into your account ledger. The process is automated, allowing you to generate real-time reports. By ensuring you do not enter the same data twice, it provides seamless integration between different areas of your business and saves you time.
- Enhances Employee Communication: Restaurant management software enhances communication among the employees. Individuals can log into the system and update information about tasks assigned to them. The system also comes with automated reminders that ensure employees complete their tasks on time and enter their shifts as required.
Users of Restaurant Management Software
The users of restaurant management software include anyone who works in the restaurant industry. Restaurant owners can manage their businesses more efficiently, while hosts can use such software to accept reservations, assign tables, queue orders, and create a waitlist.
Restaurant owners and managers can also use management software to gain more insight into the performance, manage accounting, analyze reports and analytics, handle purchasing and billing, and oversee all restaurant operations. On the other hand, servers utilize management systems to place guest orders, create or split checks, make sales, run credit cards and process payments faster. For the staff in the kitchen, they can use the system to create a menu, receive tickets, make when certain menu items are unavailable, and manage inventory.
3. What features should restaurant management software include?
In most cases, restaurant management software is designed as a single solution for all the needs of running a restaurant. However, some are designed for certain aspects of running a restaurant. For instance, it might focus more on the business side or on the servers’ side. Depending on the needs of the restaurant, you may choose software that helps to streamline operations in the back or front of the office. Depending on the size of your restaurant or what you need to streamline, the following are some of the features of types of software to choose from:
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:
Restaurant Reservations and Table Management
For many years, restaurants used the pen and paper method for taking reservations and booking. However, the approach was not sustainable, especially in an era where customers dictate the kind of service they want. A restaurant reservation system is used to make the process faster, more efficient, and customer friendly. Not only does such a system make the day-to-day operations of a restaurant easier, but it also creates a better customer experience and streamline processes.
A restaurant reservation functionality eliminates the need for answering phones and manually entering a guest’s information. A guest only needs to input their information through a mobile app, a website interface, or a web widget. This information is then automatically transferred to the restaurant management system and the reservation made. An important feature of this process is an intuitive table management system that allows restaurants to receive customer bookings from multiple channels. It also allows real-time tracking and visualization of restaurant booking status. Benefits of this functionality of restaurant management software include:
- Allow easy taking of reservations online
- Reduce no-show by providing custom reminders like time-sensitive push notification and SMS updates
- Supports efficient management of stock
- Allows allocation of a certain number of tables specifically for reservations to prevent overbooking
- Predicts the amount of stock needed for upcoming business days
- Records and stores returning customer information for smooth future services and marketing opportunities through alerts or emails on special occasions like anniversaries and birthdays.
With several options being available in the market, it is important to choose a restaurant reservation system that fits your daily business needs. A good system should be easy to use, integrate into your restaurant operations, and require minimal training hours to master. It should meet your current requirements, and be scalable enough for future business expansion. Make sure the system is cloud-based to create a faster user experience and make information always available on demand.
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.
The table management feature comes in handy after the reservations have been made. It ensures the tables are ready for the diners and they are served within the shortest time. Some of the ways in which restaurant management software simplifies table management include:
- Optimization of the dining areas efficiency by ensuring the seats are arranged based on party sizes and time
- Collection of data on canceled reservations, average quote times versus real wait times, waitlist parties, and other reservation information
- Collection of customer data, customer engagement, and marketing initiatives
- Customer-facing functionality that allows guests to check their waitlist position, make their orders, and inform staff about their dining preferences
Some restaurants struggle with the issue of long waitlists where guests show up and wait for hours before getting served. The guests may put their name in for a table, but it takes too long before one is made available to them. If the wait time is long enough, most of these guests tend to leave without getting served. The inclusion of a waitlist system in restaurant management software helps in overcoming this problem.
A waitlist system is vital to a popular restaurant with high traffic of customers. It allows restaurant owners, operators, and managers to quickly add guests onto a digital waiting list during peak hours.
The guest is provided with a buzzer they can carry with the system automatically alerting then when a table frees up. Some waitlist systems send an SMS to the customer instead of a buzzer. Such a system is ideal for casual dining and fine dining restaurants struggling with long lines of customers waiting for a table. Some of the features that make this system useful to a restaurant include:
- Provide insights into the restaurant’s client base
- Automates the customer waitlist process
- Sends alerts to guests through a buzzer or quick SMS functionality
On-Premise Ordering with Restaurant Technology
Following the latest technological developments, restaurant managers and owners now have an increasing number of restaurant management apps to choose from. It has become tremendously easy for restaurants to implement systems that allow customers to order on a tablet-based POS system that accepts mobile payments and gets their meals delivered in no time. As the needs of the customers continue to change, so are the on-premise ordering systems. Here are some of the most important systems in use today:
Restaurant Point of Sale (POS)
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 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.
The point of sale systems of restaurants have evolved significantly over the years. In the past, restaurant owners considered a good POS system as easy to use, inexpensive, and able to process sales and transactions. This has not changed to more factors than ever before, with factors like the integration of other systems being a priority.
Today, POS systems form the most important aspects of restaurant management software. They act as a cash or computer register hybrid that can process credit card payments, display information on a user-friendly screen, print receipts, and operate as a server station.
With recent technological advancements, the formerly bulky tabletop POS systems are now shifting to more portable mobile apps and iPads systems. Some of the important POS features that restaurant owners look for include:
- Make note of daily cash flow (cash in and cash out)
- Ability to calculate cash entered for every order in a day
- Calculate payroll data
- Record payment methods used by each guest
- Create sales reports across various periods of time
- Keep track and measure sales metrics
- Record daily check averages
- Record and store returning customers information
Since each POS system comes with its unique features and capabilities, it is important to conduct sufficient research before choosing the best one. You need to consider factors like hardware, software, and applications to ensure it meets the needs of your business.
Keep in mind that most POS software providers offer free trials to their customers before purchase. This allows you to determine if the system is the best fit for your restaurant. Some of the things that you may need to consider include:
- Ease of Use: A good POS should be easy to use for your staff. If it requires extensive training, it might not be the right system for your business. Such a system will only result in employees’ frustrations and unsatisfied customers who have to wait for certain transactions to process.
- Necessary Components: The POS that you choose should come with appropriate hardware components. In addition to the software itself, you will also need a screen monitor, data entry gadgets, and any portable terminals linked to the main unit.
- Price and Quality: Although a modern system is likely to be costly, the price should align with the quality being offered. Ensure that the system can handle your business volume and nature of your business for the purchase to be worthwhile.
- Data Tracking: A good POS system should have a program that allows data tracking, financial data calculations, and report generation capabilities.
Tableside ordering is increasingly becoming a common phenomenon in today’s restaurants. Food-and-beverage establishments are leveraging on tableside touch screen ordering to provide better services to their customers. The process involves a server taking the customer’s order or the guest inputting their menu directly on a tableside screen.
Tableside ordering allows the use of a smartphone or tablet to place orders through a restaurant’s mobile POS. The server or the guest select menu items from a list on the mobile device. Then the order is sent directly to the kitchen for preparations. The system expedites the order delivery process since the servers do not have to keep going to-and-from the kitchen. By sending orders directly to the kitchen through mobile devices, services have more time to attend to the needs of the restaurant guests.
Implementing table-top tablets in a restaurant is effective in speeding up orders and meeting the exact needs of the customers. Using table-top tablets, guests input their orders at the table and make their payment without having to talk to a server. The tablets can come with games and other types of welcome distractions for a family on a night out. The feature is ideal for bars and casual dining restaurants that want to increase their table turn time.
Self-Ordering at Restaurant Kiosks
Self-ordering at restaurant kiosks have revolutionized how customers place their order. Although restaurant kiosks operate in a similar manner as tableside touch screen ordering, they are different in the sense that they are free-standing. Some of the self-ordering systems come with additional features like facial recognition.
A guest walks directly to the kiosk, places an order, and makes payment. Many restaurants, including Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Chili’s, Panera Bread, Shake Shack and more implement the kiosk model for the benefits it brings to a business. Some of the obvious benefits include:
- Increased speed of services with reduced wait times, providing increased efficiency and faster table turnover.
- A wider variety of food options for the guests.
- Opportunities for upsells and add-ons.
- Appeal more to millennials.
- Streamlines operations by automating the ordering process.
Digital Menu Apps and Boards
Digital menu apps and boards improve the functionality and efficiency of mobile POS systems. Some of the apps may offer additional menu tools to upload images and customize product details. They may enhance the aesthetic appearance of the menu to provide a more engaging ordering experience to the customer.
With digital menu apps, you can 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. These tools also allow front-of-house staff to access this custom menu when they take orders, and customers to access menu items when using a self-service kiosk.
Digital menu boards on the other hand are more popular in coffee shops and quick-service establishments. They provide clearly highlighted and detailed menu items. They also provide customer engagement tools and ways of sharing promotion, such as social media mentions, reviews, branding, and customer and establishment photos.
Online Ordering and Delivery
The good thing with most restaurant management systems is that they come as a whole package. They usually have the essential functions of a restaurant and can easily integrate with other systems. Among the easy-to-integrate systems is the online ordering functionality.
Online ordering is slowly becoming an essential element for restaurant management. According to a study by Pew Research Center, 26% of American adults are almost constantly online while 43% are online several times a day. This makes online ordering a major traffic driver for restaurants.
At the heart of online ordering and delivery are the restaurant apps. Given the current projections, a restaurant without online ordering and delivery apps will soon be unable to compete. With shopping online becoming a norm, a restaurant needs to ensure that their management software supports this feature.
Online ordering can also take place through restaurants’ websites, messaging apps and SMS, third-party sites, voice activation, and search engines. Currently, the most popular platforms for online ordering are restaurant websites and apps, and ordering marketplaces like Delivery.com and GrubHub.
Critical to the process of online ordering and delivery is POS integration. The online platforms should be integrated into the restaurant POS system to ensure the order is delivered as received. Without proper integration, the restaurant may run into inaccurate orders, sales reports, stock levels, and analytics. Communication between the customers and the kitchen may also be affected leading to order mistakes and lag times.
Mobile Restaurant Payments
Mobile restaurant payments are among the major factors that customers look for before interacting with a restaurant. With 56% of customers being influenced by the ability to pay by phone when choosing a restaurant, owners and managers of restaurants need to ensure they have this essential feature in their restaurant management system.
Mobile payments in a restaurant can take several forms. For instance, a restaurant can use a mobile POS system to take and process payments. The system includes an iPad connected to a credit card reader and with the ability to accept payment through near-field communication (NFC) and accept EMV-compliance chip cards. The system can also be integrated with mobile payment apps like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Pay, PayPal, and more.
Inventory is the main concern when running a restaurant business. Without enough and the right ingredients for your restaurant, it will be impossible to serve your customers. However, food is not cheap and it does not last forever. You need to keep on replenishing your inventory to meet the needs of your customers.
With the right inventory management system, you will ensure that your cooks and chefs keep track of the available ingredients, what needs to be ordered in the near future, and what is expiring. The system automatically updates the status of each ingredient, ensuring the smooth running of the restaurant.
Restaurants no longer use the traditional pen-and-paper methods of counting and recording stock. Digital inventory tracking is now the new way of conducting business and keeping an accurate record of inventory. Since inventory affects every aspect of a restaurant business, and inventory management system ensures the business is operating optimally while cutting down the intrusion of human error.
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. The benefits of the inventory management features include:
- Provides real-time inventory updated and financial reports
- Links inventory with the restaurant’s menu
- Creates purchase orders for vendors
- Allow transfer of items between locations in multi-location establishments
- Sends alerts if the stock level falls below a certain level
Restaurant Food Costing System
The number one priority for restaurant owners is profit maximization. With the primary source being the food itself, being the food cost of each menu item is critical. The easiest way to determine and automate the process of calculating food costs is by using recipe costing software. The software helps in tracking inventory, calculating food cost, and providing detailed analytics of the products sold by the restaurant. When choosing a food costing software, consider the following features:
- Allows you to assess your restaurant based on profit margins of each dish
- Takes into consideration the impact of fixed costs and labor costs on the profitability
- Highlights the amount of money needed to make dishes with high demand
- Allows experimentation of different price points to determine maximum profitability
Inventory Management System
Inventory management software is useful in determining the state of restaurant inventory at any given time. This helps in eliminating the need for regular stock-taking or inventory checks, reducing human errors significantly.
Once implemented, the software automated the inventory management process so that restaurant owners can have more time to focus on the core activities of the business. When choosing inventory management software, the following features are essential:
- High levels of inventory orders’ accuracy (no under- or over-stocking)
- Automated inventory process to save time
- Integration with restaurant POS system and accounting software
- Provides insights into the products that sell the most and can save money
Restaurants are using technology to increase their employee retention and meet their needs better. When used in the right way, technology can reduce work-related frustrations, motivate staff, automate scheduling and payments, and increase overall organization performance. It can also help in eliminating repetitive and mundane tasks that can bore employees, leading to their burnout or quitting.
Other benefits of technology to labor management include streamlining training, enhancing employee communication between the front of the house and back of the house, and catching instances of employee theft.
Labor management technology includes tools and apps that enhance the management of staff in a restaurant. They enhance labor management through:
- Overtime data
- Labor costs and hours
- Servers’ sales data
- Shift management and employee scheduling, with shift swapping capabilities
- Employee classes with different access levels depending on their job titles and pay rates
When choosing restaurant management software, it is important to ensure it has advanced labor management features. It should be easy to use, accessible from anywhere, provides top security and storage, and complies with all relevant regulations.
Employee Management System
Running a restaurant often involves managing a large workforce working on separate shifts. It can be overwhelming managing such a workforce, and ensuring that everyone shows up for their shifts as needed. With an employee management system in place, restaurant owners and managers schedule their employees’ shifts with ease. Such a system enables creation of onboarding timelines for new employees to train them on the restaurant’s culture. This ensures that the restaurant is adequately staffed and that the employees are not stretched thin.
An employee management system is used to manage employees more efficiently in a restaurant. It is a simple solution that can be used to manage employees, while taking into consideration all issues related to employee performance like pay slips and scheduling.
A good employee management system ensures that restaurant owners no longer need to rely on paper-based or old-fashioned excel to control their employees. It also makes it possible to report busier or slower days and nights so that managers can schedule the employees appropriately.
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.
Restaurant Analytics and Reporting
The fact that restaurants operate on extremely small margins makes it crucial to know exactly what is happening at any given time. This is where restaurant analytics and reporting come in. Restaurant management software touches almost every aspect of a restaurant business. They collect data and information from every corner of the business, and create analytics of how the business is doing.
Restaurant owners and managers use this information or data analytics to understand their business and make informed decisions. They can determine areas of the business that are performing well, and areas that require improvements.
The analysis and reporting of restaurant data are crucial to the running of a profitable business. Restaurant analytics software allows you to identify the opportunity for your business to improve efficiency. With a more efficient business, you can drive profitability higher for your business.
Restaurant analytics bridge this gap by providing more robust information about the business. Using the basic tools provided by the restaurant management system, restaurateurs can get a glimpse of how their business is doing regardless of how busy or occupied they are in other things.
Restaurant analytics software provided insights into all aspects of restaurant operations. The data can be used to sell more, cut costs, improve employee production, deter theft, and reduce fraud. Some important benefits of restaurant analytics software include:
- A better understanding of your menu and improved decision making based on the data
- Creation of a custom profile for every guest and achieve a better understanding of the clientele
- Know what every server is doing at any given time and how well they are doing it
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.
Your restaurant management software should have a restaurant analytics app to keep you up to date with your restaurant performance. As far as restaurant analytics are concerned, they start with a good restaurant POS system. Such a system should be able to provide comprehensive reports of specific aspects of your restaurant business. You can generate reports on hourly sales, sales by a cashier or by item, ingredient use, best-selling category, or your daily activities.
With proper restaurant analytics, you should be able to answer questions like how many orders were voided or how much discount was given. Determine how many orders were sent to the kitchen, how much dollar amount was collected in cash, cards, tips, and more.
Restaurant Accounting Software
Although running a restaurant can be an exciting experience, it involves more than just meeting guests and selling food. Among the most important elements of restaurant administration is accounting. This involves keeping accurate financial information of your business.
Lack of proper accounting practices can result in your business failing. However, hiring a restaurant accountant can be an expensive venture for your business. Implementing restaurant accounting software may be the cheaper and more appropriate option.
Restaurant accounting software brings several beneficial features to your restaurant:
- Provides real-time insights into your business finances
- Connects with other restaurant systems including the payroll and POS system
- Shows both the accounts receivables and payable
- Can be accessed at any time and any place
Cash Flow Management Software
In a restaurant business, cash is king. You can run a successful restaurant if you have sufficient a stream of cash. For you to keep a steady flow of money coming into your business and the money going out, a cash flow management system is necessary. This is particularly important for those running a small restaurant.
For small businesses, being profitable is not enough. You need to ensure that your cash flow is right to keep the business running. As much as this is one of the most important elements of financial business stability, many restaurant owners tend to overlook how it affects their business. Implementing a cash flow management software will benefit your business in several ways:
- Monitoring your cash flow on multiple periods of time including daily, weekly, and monthly
- Accurate estimations of future cash flow
- Ability to connect and share information with the accounting software for seamless data analysis
- Ability to export data to process externally for the smooth running of the business
Restaurant Technology for Marketing and Customer Engagement
Restaurant data helps in determining how customers are responding to the services offered, menu items, pricing, and more. Utilizing customer analytics helps in gaining insights into customer behavioral patterns and interactions with the restaurant. Based on such findings, the management can then make appropriate adjustments and personalize customers’ experiences.
Using customer analytics, restaurants are now transitioning from customer customizations to service personalization. Data is being used to determine what the customers want and how that can be achieved in the most seamless way. This is achieved through menu suggestions and ultra-efficient kitchen designs that allow the gathering of data. Customers can also specify the kind of food they want and how they would like it prepared.
Customer satisfaction software provides valuable information about how much customers are satisfied with the restaurant services. Restaurant owners can then use this information to make better strategic decisions geared toward increasing customer experience and satisfaction. As far as customer engagement is concerned, technology is being used to collect data on top-selling items, best selling periods, and customer names and addresses. Such data can help in:
- Knowing which items are top-selling or underperforming, and using this information to customize the menu based on consumer preferences
- Determine when sales are slow or peak, and using this information to provide special offers, happy hours, or time-sensitive discounts
- Gathering customer contact information for market outreach and establishing a repeat customer base
Restaurant management software has two major roles in customer engagement. First, it should collect customer data. Second, it should use this data to attract more customers to the establishment and increase the retention of existing customers. The data collected may also be used with other apps for proactive outreach and marketing initiatives.
Digital Marketing Channels
Part of the uses of customer data in a restaurant is to market the business. With the advent of technology and the internet, digital marketing is one of the most effective ways to reach customers and marketing a business. Some of the important digital marketing channels available include social media, search engines, and blogs.
Social media pages and posts are arguably the easiest way of marketing a restaurant. With 49% of consumers using social media to get information about food, the platform provides a huge potential for marketing a restaurant.
In order to drive social media engagement, restaurant owners can utilize compelling visuals (both photos and videos), regular posting of updates, and a consistent brand voice across social media platforms. Using social media, a restaurant can improve its brand-awareness and gain valuable demographic insights to reach a geo-targeted audience.
Search engines are another important aspect of restaurant digital marketing. Using search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, a restaurant website can improve in its search engine ranking to get more traffic. Another approach is using search engine marketing (SEM) like keyword-based Google Ads to increase online visibility.
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.
Gift Cards, Loyalty, and Customer Reviews
Obtaining and retaining customers is one of the biggest challenges that restaurants face. Most restaurant management software come with some form of loyalty management features to help in attracting and keeping customers. They may include gift cards, email newsletters, frequent diner cards, and more.
The inclusion of such features makes it easy for customers to redeem their cards while the restaurant maintains an accurate record of accumulated points. It saves servers the struggle of ensuring the customer gets their discounts and customers do not need to always carry their paper card.
Customer loyalty software is used to give guests incentives to return to a restaurant. This could be in the form of free meals or discounts based upon some specified terms. When properly implemented, the software can help in boosting the reputation of the restaurant through word of mouth. The importance of winning customers cannot be emphasized given that 43% of customers spend more money at the brands they are loyal too.
When building customer loyalty, 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.
Gift cards are effective in bringing new customers into a restaurant and retaining them. When issued, they can increase revenue by increasing margins. A reliable way of increasing revenue through gift cards is by selling them on the restaurant’s website. A restaurant can offer e-gift cards through their apps, sites, and social media platforms.
When it comes to loyalty programs, they are effective in retaining customers by providing customers with a chance to earn rewards and get discounts. Customers will choose to purchase and remain loyal to a restaurant that allows them to earn discounts for every dollar spent, each item purchased, or every visit made to the establishment.
Integrating a loyalty program to a restaurant POS system ensures that customer data and reports are accurate for transparency on how the program is operating. Some of the features that may be added to the loyalty program include voucher codes, digital stamps and loyalty points, membership levels, and refer-a-friend features.
The other factor is customer reviews, which can be used to boost the reputation of a restaurant. Essentially, reviews have a significant impact on customer choices and their association with a restaurant establishment.
Allowing customers to leave a review can help in determining their impression and perception of the restaurant. This is not only important in informing other customers about the kind of services to expect, but it can also be used to improve the quality of food and services offered by the restaurant.
Apart from the features mentioned above, 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.
Choose 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.
You may also need a system that allows you to integrate your social media platforms for restaurant management. 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 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.
You also need to consider any additional costs associated with the implementation and maintenance of restaurant management software. Sometimes the software you choose may lack some 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 built-in inventory control. This 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 the 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.