You’re a mom-and-pop restaurant. Every day you open shop at eight in the morning and close at ten at night. Every day you check the stocks, ensure the kitchen has all the stuff and the personnel in full gear and ready for the day’s action. At the end of the day you tally the figures and crunch numbers. You do this from sunrise to sundown and you think things are like this always. After all, you’re a small business.
However, if you think about it, you’re putting in the same effort and aspiring to the same thing as the big restaurant chains. You ensure things run smoothly and hope for more profits. It’s just that you’re doing things on a much smaller scale.
If given the chance to expand, you’d probably take it. If only you can free yourself from the daily grind of tasks, you thought. Well, tech is on your side.
You’ll be surprised to know that there are more than twenty aspects of your business that can be digitized. In fact, CBInsights put together an infographic map showing the restaurant tech market map, where $2.5 billion in aggregated fund has already been raised as of April 2017. Tabletop devices, staffing, digital displays, delivery, wait list management, smart kitchens, guest wifi, smartphone payments, reservation platforms and more are being launched, developed or conceptualized even as you read this article.
So what, you thought. Well, if you care less about all this startup hype, your competitors don’t. All these digital initiatives are meant to give the restaurant across the street the edge over you. Now reverse the picture: the little steps you manage to gain ahead of your competitor, when aggregated over the years, will allow you to pull away from the crowd. And restaurant management systems can do this to your little corner shop considering that the market is getting bigger.
In a U.S. Census Bureau survey, American restaurant earnings reached $1.8 billion in the first four months of 2017, compared to $206 million revenues of grocery stores of the same period. Americans are cooking less and eating out more, the data suggests.
Elements of running a restaurant
Restaurant owners know that running the business is more than just cooking the tastiest dishes. It involves a set of processes that, when done manually, can tie up the owner or manager to a to-do checklists forever. These include the following:
- Menu planning
- Stock and inventory
- Supply chain
- Manpower and training
- Legal and regulatory compliance
- Sales and marketing
To manage all these you can get a CRM for marketing, HRMS for manpower, an accounting software, inventory management, payroll… or just one of the best restaurant management software solutions. It’s designed exactly to your needs, the restaurateur.
How a restaurant management software can help you?
Restaurant management solutions vary in features as much as they differ in purpose. One software may attempt to cover all key processes, while another focuses on one or two aspects only. With a wide array of options open to you, the choices can be daunting.
To put a sense to your decision, you can start with the main restaurant processes. After all, these are the key drivers of your business. On this note, look for restaurant management software with these main features:
- Stock and inventory
- Reporting and analytics
Billing. At its core, billing should address table orders and payments. If you provide takeaways, billing process should extend to deliveries. This feature can also include online and mobile order processing if your web traffic is significant.
CRM. CRM helps you build a solid and growing loyal clientele. This module features a centralized customer database that you can utilize for loyalty program or email marketing. An important tool here is a central hotline for orders that guarantees all calls are answered. Some solutions include SMS integration and notifications to engage customers during occasions.
Stock and inventory. As any restaurateur will swear, stock and inventory is the life and blood of the restaurant. With a good system in place, you can monitor stock-in and stock-out of items and alert you when supplies are running out. If you have multiple branches, a central commissary and multi-store management feature is a must.
Reporting and analytics. You should go for a restaurant management system with good reporting and analytics tools. For one, it should let you run consumption and supply forecasts to anticipate seasonal demands. Likewise, clear graphical presentations are usually better than confusing tabular formats. A mobile reporting tool is also nice if you’re always on the go.
Add-ons. A restaurant management software may also include some more features for specific tasks. These include menu management, accounting, online wallets and taxation.
What to look for in a restaurant management software?
Aside from features, you should also look for important characteristics in restaurant management software. Think about how you’ll implement the system and who will be its users.
- Ease of use. Most restaurant management software users won’t have an IT background. They’ll be managers, marketers and the service staff, hence, ease of use is important. Tools should be easily accessed and intuitively placed. Navigation must be simple and clear. Moreover, installation should be fast, preferably aided by a wizard. For these reasons, restaurant management systems are often cloud-hosted where vendors take care of the technical requirements.
- Integration. No single software has all the tools needed to run an efficient restaurant. Vendors usually develop a solution around one or two processes and the rest can be add-ons. In this respect, integration is necessary. The software should be at least compatible with popular apps that you’re using now, such as Office applications, cloud storages and possibly POS system.
- Mobile. If you’re always on the go, or you manage a number of branches, a restaurant management software with mobile app is convenient. Some vendors offer scaled down mobile version so check if the features you need are, indeed, accessible via smartphone.
- Scalability. As your restaurant gains more customers, your operations expand. And so do your system needs. Your software of choice should allow you to extend the functionalities or add more features. In the same regard, pricing should be scalable to match your budget capacity.
- Flexibility. On top of integration, mobility and scalability, flexibility means you can deploy and access the system from different devices and operating systems, you can stop or restart subscription anytime or you can pay through different ways. Likewise, the system should be accessible in other countries, as well, should your situation demands.
Now that you understand the clear benefits of restaurant management software, the answer to our title is obvious. The real challenge is picking the right software and with the tips we provided above, the effort should be less daunting. Bon appetit to your software hunting!