How to pick your next restaurant software platform
Do successful restaurateurs only need to deliver an excellent menu, manage the business to maximize profit, and above all satisfy customers?
The answer is no. With increasing competition and diversified services, you have another thing to consider — the restaurant software platform.
Think about it — the entire staff and management team rely on the restaurant software to run the daily operations, forecast sales and inventory, and track key metrics. In today’s extremely competitive market, restaurant software can be the make-it or break-it factor of your business.
Investing in a software system for your restaurant isn’t an easy task. Don’t take it lightly. Spend as much time needed to research and find the system that is going to be the best fit for YOUR specific needs, operations, and budget. The last thing you want is to over-spend your dollars on something only to find out that it’s a bad fit for your business.
Sometimes, even if you go a great length to do your research, things can still go wrong. You might end up in an unfavorable partnership with a software vendor. The good news is we’ve gathered here some of the most important factors to help you evaluate before making the decision to purchase your next restaurant software platform.
The right restaurant software platform focuses on the management of multiple locations and mixed categories.
A well-integrated system lays the foundation for greater success. It’s designed to grow as your business grows, making it easy to manage multiple locations from one central hub. At the same time, it helps streamline your business processes, integration of data and applications at local, regional, and corporate level.
A good software platform allows you to maximize the potential of each location by giving every level of management visibility and control. It also ensures all of your business’ different outlets work together as a whole rather than as separate entities, and support the overall success of your restaurant.
Here’re some key features supported by a multi-site restaurant software system:
- Inventory Control: Keeping track of on-site inventory and food usage patterns is easier with a multi-site system. You can redirect surplus stock to locations where it’s need, and cut down on any losses due to waste or spoilage.
- Multi-user Management: This gives you the ability to control over what information can be accessed by members of staff across various locations, sites and departments.
- Menu Customization: Customizing each location’s menu is a great way to maximize your profits. It allows you to find out the most popular/ unpopular items, adjust local menus according to specific demographic information, and increase or decrease prices for specific promotions.
- Online Ordering: This means linking the software system to your website to make it easy for customers to find the most convenient location to place their orders and thus, increase customer satisfaction.
- Employee Scheduling: This enables you to review staffing requirements and schedules at all of your restaurant locations through a single interface. Hence, you can quickly address any labor shortages by transferring staff or temporarily reassigning people to fill any immediate vacancies.
- Off-site Reporting: Comprehensive sales and performance reports (including sales figures, inventory costs, and payroll expenditures) with detailed metrics and analytics for each location can be easily retrieved and reviewed. As a result, under-performing locations can be closely monitored, expenditure can be redistributed, and sales promotions and incentives can be reallocated to improve returns on investment.
The software should be easy to enhance and extend.
Upcoming changes in the industry happen every day. You need a software that is capable of accepting these swift updates. Otherwise, you could find yourselves paying for a new system all over again just to accommodate for a change, which possibly will be outdated after a period of time.
A good software should support any major changes in the future, without causing a disruption in service. If you decide to open an additional location, it’s important to know how you can gain insight into data for both individual locations and your business as a whole.
Research your new software well to avoid finding yourself in any unfortunate circumstances. Ask vendors how they will transition to the new regulations and updates. Alternatively, look for platforms that invite customers and developers to create and contribute to the development of an ever-expanding library of new features, apps, and resources.
A consistent, intuitive user experience is a driving factor.
Yes, we’ve mentioned several elements that are critical when choosing the perfect software platform for your restaurant. These components are requisite. However, the platform also needs to apply intuitive, easy and simple user experience.
You certainly don’t want yourself and your employees to waste time trying to figure out how to access the software, and unintentionally mess up the whole system. Making all the features so similar in look and feels enables greater ease of use, and eliminates the fatigue of employees and managers having to jump from one system to another with multiple logins and different interfaces.
Is it mobile?
The world is heading to be a truly mobile place. A good software needs to address this issue.
The ability to accept mobile wallet is having a significant impact on POS software purchasing decisions. In fact, this is one of the most influential factors that drives restauranteurs to look at software upgrades.
Expanding the mobile ordering and payment solutions are the core focus of most software platforms. Some restaurant software systems have rolled out innovative mobile features such as “order anywhere” technology that automatically optimizes the ordering experiencing for a customer based on proximity to the restaurant.
Know your problems and needs.
At the end of the days, it all comes down to your needs. The software might have millions of glamorous features but if it doesn’t solve your real problems, it’s not for you.
Remember, be realistic. The platform must be valuable in terms of bringing additional revenue, cutting costs, saving you time and of course, money.
If you run a small restaurant, you don’t need a software that is designed for large restaurant groups. The opposite also holds true.
Invest in a new system that is going to improve your current situation.
- Do you need to holder staff more accountable for quality of service?
- Are you trying to get a better handle of the finances?
- Do you have problems with inventory and scheduling that need immediate attention and solution?
- Are you planning to expand to a new location?
Compare what your current system with the potential ones you have in mind. Find out the differences and ask yourself what benefits you will see as a result of investing in this new restaurant software.
What will be the ACTUAL cost?
Buying a restaurant software platform is never a one-time cost. You’ll have to consider the cost of implementation, installation, credit card processing charges, and even training. The most important and potentially very costly one is support cost.
It’s crucial to predict the future costs what will be associated with maintaining and supporting the system. For example, you’ll need to know what kind of credit processing fee you’ll be paying. Or during installation, you might need another wire run, which involves the work of an electrician.
The cost for on-going support is huge. It’s the nature of technology. You want to address all the potential surprise charges to avoid confusion down the road.
Will you have to purchase an expensive package or pay an hourly rate to get the support you need when you have an issue? What’s the cost you are going to have to pay for system updates each year to keep your software running smoothly? Spend some time to estimate future costs to help you make the best decision for your business.
Quality data is your friend.
Most software platforms can give you some data. However, what’s more important is how much you can make use of that data. Your decisions regarding staff scheduling, menu changes, promotions, and expansion rely heavily on numbers. The right software system gives you quality data.
Find out what you want to see in your reports, and find out how you can access that data. Can you access the list of customers that typically frequent your restaurant? Can you point out the times your staff has sold to make sure they’re upsetting? Do you know what items on the menu are selling the most, or not selling enough?
Search for a software platform that can give you the data you need as well as the data you will need as your business expands.
Choose the right vendor.
A good vendor will make your experience much easier. You need a vendor that will help you install the system, train your staff, build your digital menu, and ALWAYS be there for you when you have an issue.
You want to avoid the situation where the vendor disappears once you’ve purchased the system. Similarly, you don’t want a vendor that takes too long to provide support. If the wait is too long, you might have to take the system down for an unknown length of time, which can cause tremendous loss to your business.
Finding your perfect vendor is like dating. Don’t pick a vendor out of haste. Take your time to learn everything about that vendor. Where are they located (timezone differences can create significant delay)? How does their support system work? How much do they care about your experience? Do they provide a timely response? What do their customers say about them?
It’s also a good idea to talk to a few people who’ve worked with the vendor or are currently their customers. This will help you gain a better understanding of the partnership you’re considering to form.
What items will be included in the next update of the software?
Knowing what features the software vendor might be including for the next update helps you plan ahead for your business.
Chances are that if these features are requested by people who’re also in the same industry, you’ll be able to make use of them. In addition, software vendors who stay current with the changes and trends in the market are serious about their businesses and products.
Having a list of forthcoming features helps you determine the direction that software company is going. Are they on path dictated by their client requests? Are they genuinely looking for ways to improve their software? Or are they adding items in an effort to get you to purchase add-on items that you might never use?
If you’re unsatisfied with the software, what will happen?
Purchasing restaurant software is a daunting process. Even with careful planning, you might still end up with unsatisfying experience. Therefore, it’s important to find out if the software company or vendor provide any form of guarantee of satisfaction.
Read their return policy carefully. Figure out the number of days that you can have the software in your hands and still be able to send it back to get a full or partial refund. This process can be tricky especially if you have a customized platform. Hence, it’s important to determine this up front, and build this into the contract before the actual installation begins.
The quest for the right software platform for your restaurant business can be frustrating. Software is expensive not just to buy but also to maintain. Even the most thorough research can leave you with questions you haven’t thought about. At Sourcery, we have a dedicated launch team that will get you up and running with your vendor relations, invoice and payment processing. We take care of the boring work so you can focus on growing your business.