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Restaurant Management Software

Restaurant Management software integrates and automates accounting, scheduling and inventory control for restaurants. Restaurant Management systems typically offer a broad range of features that encompass traditional business necessities such as customer contact information, supplier data and payroll as well as restaurant-specific requirements such as table reservation management, guest management and menu costing. These applications also integrate with point of sale solutions and onsite or online credit card processing systems. Restaurant Management software is related to Food Service Distribution software and Food Service Management software. Find the best restaurant management software for your organisation in Australia.

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Restaurant Management Software Buyers Guide

Restaurant management software is the name given to software solutions designed to assist restaurants in managing the core aspects of their business and the automation of daily workflows. The tools provided through these solutions make restaurant management effortless, more efficient, and more accurate, all to help restaurants improve business performance and the customer experience.

Most restaurant management software packages will deliver a broad range of features. These cover all of the major aspects of restaurant management, including inventory management, payment processing, reservations and table management, billing, invoicing, and other aspects of accounting and finance. Additionally, it is common for solutions of this kind to provide built-in reporting and analytics features, so that restaurant managers can continually track performance and oversee most of the day-to-day business operations from a single place.

Many of the features provided through restaurant management applications utilise artificial intelligence, machine learning, and similar technology to provide the means for repetitive tasks and predictable events to be dealt with automatically or with a reduced need for human intervention. In this sense, restaurant management software can be invaluable for freeing up time to be spent on more complicated or time-consuming activities. However, there is also a major organisational component too, with restaurant management software helping to bring some of the core management tasks together while centralising as much of the relevant data as possible.

Due to the nature of restaurant management solutions and their all-in-one appeal, there can be a crossover in features with tools like POS systems and online ordering software. Software of this kind is also sometimes categorised alongside similar packages, such as food service management software. Generally, food service businesses and restaurants differ by restaurants allowing customers to order food and eat it on the premises. By contrast, food service is a broader category of businesses that provide services related to food.

While precise features included within restaurant management packages can vary, the vast majority of solutions will provide similar core functionality. As a result, it should be possible to achieve the following:

  • Track inventory information, set up alerts, and automate the ordering of new supplies
  • Manage customer reservations and assign staff members to each table
  • Process payments, pay bills and manage invoices and financial information
  • Plan and implement changes to the restaurant menu and aid communication between departments

What is restaurant management software?

Restaurant management software refers to software solutions that help restaurant managers and those working in similar positions automate workflows and carry out many of the most critical business tasks from one place. These solutions are intended to function as comprehensive or all-in-one solutions, meaning they will include features from several other applications, including POS systems and inventory management software.

As a result, most restaurant management software will allow users to manage or oversee tasks related to many aspects of the business. For instance, inventory management tools allow for restaurant managers to ensure they have the necessary supplies and equipment, while reservations management allow users to manage reservations made by customers. Aside from providing these features, however, restaurant management systems can also help managers centralise some of the most crucial data, making it easier to track progress and oversee day-to-day operations.

In general, restaurant management systems are designed to improve efficiency and accuracy, meaning more productivity with fewer mistakes made. However, automation is also a major component of most software solutions of this kind. Through intelligent use of these automation features, restaurant managers can avoid situations where essential tasks are overlooked. New supplies can also be ordered at the best possible time, which can help managers optimise financial performance, reduce waste, and prevent situations where menu items are unavailable.

What are the benefits of restaurant management software?

The benefits of restaurant management software centre around efficiency, accuracy, and the ability to automate many processes that would otherwise be unnecessarily time-consuming. However, it is vital to recognise that many of the benefits associated with the use of this software are aimed at customers too, and this can help to improve the long-term prospects of a restaurant or similar business. In general, some of the most significant benefits or plus points linked to restaurant management software include the following:

  • Improve restaurant efficiency: Some of the biggest benefits associated with the use of restaurant management software are the various improvements to efficiency that are made possible. Having information related to point-of-sale, table management, inventory management, invoicing and reporting all available in one place can save significant time that would otherwise be spent switching between different software solutions and importing relevant data from external applications. Meanwhile, the automation tools provided with many software solutions of this kind can help to ensure decisions are made and tasks carried out in the best possible moment, rather than being dealt with when an employee has the time available to manually perform those actions.
  • Enhance the customer experience: Features like reservations management can help to facilitate online bookings, while table management functionality can ensure that customers and employees have up-to-date information on how many tables are available at any given time and where those tables are located. In both cases, this has the potential to greatly enhance the overall customer experience. However, features in restaurant management software can go further still.
  • Facilitate communication and coordination: Through effective use of a restaurant management system, communication between service staff, kitchen staff, and restaurant managers becomes easier, and all of the relevant data can also be shared so that everybody is on the same page. Restaurant managers can also use the information contained within the software to coordinate the service they provide to customers, ensuring that the right resources are allocated and that the restaurant is not understaffed at any point. This helps to ensure the restaurant is always equipped to respond appropriately to changes of circumstance or based on whether the restaurant is busy, quiet, or experiencing unusual or unexpected levels of demand on a particular day.
  • Boost accuracy and reliability: Finally, another advantage of using restaurant management software is its ability to improve both accuracy and reliability. Inventory management functionality, for example, allows managers to accurately track precisely how much of a particular item is in stock at any given time, and re-orders can be made at the ideal time to avoid issues where certain menu items become unavailable. Table management and reservation management functions can help to improve the reliability of online booking engines, and reporting and analytics allow business leaders to monitor performance, identify trends, and respond appropriately.

What are the features of restaurant management software?

The features of restaurant management software are all intended to assist restaurant managers and leaders in similar businesses with the handling of day-to-day tasks, activities, and operations. Nevertheless, while restaurant management solutions are aimed at restaurant managers, and while this is the core functionality, many of the features are also intended to make the experience better for customers too. In general, the following features are the most common and are likely to be present in most high-quality restaurant management applications:

  • Billing and invoicing: Create and maintain a database that will contain all relevant information related to monetary transactions. This can include bills and invoices from suppliers but may include bills and invoices that the restaurant sends to customers, clients, or business partners. Having all of this information in one place can make it easier to find data related to specific transactions. Furthermore, having access to invoices can help restaurant managers to manage company accounts or deal with any disputes related to payments. The best solutions will not only allow invoices, bills, and other relevant data to be stored but will also provide the tools required to quickly and easily create new invoices based on a standard company template.
  • Inventory management: Track all of the crucial data related to inventory to ensure the restaurant always has the necessary supplies to function properly. Inventory that can be tracked through a good restaurant management solution will include supplies of food and equipment, and much of this can be fully automated to save time and reduce the amount of human intervention required. In addition to keeping accurate information about current inventory levels, the inventory management component of software of this kind will also track total inventory costs and the current price of specific items. Combined, all of this data makes it easier to maintain the ideal levels of stock for each item and avoid situations where items are out of stock. In many cases, re-ordering tools are also provided, and these may also be automated so that new items are automatically purchased from suppliers at the best possible moment. However, manual approval of re-orders can also be set up, if preferred.
  • Order management: Add, manage, and access information about customer orders, including what food was ordered, when it was ordered, whether adjustments were made to the order, and how much the order costs. This can be essential for dealing with issues where customers complain about an order or where they gave the wrong food. The most advanced solutions may also allow this data to be tracked and managed on an individual level so that the restaurant knows what customers ordered and what product. Such information can not only be useful on an operational level, but it can also allow the restaurant to manage a loyalty programme more effectively and to provide tailored service to customers, including personalised recommendations for future visits.
  • Table management: Stay informed about the current and future status of all tables within a restaurant, including the number of people that are expected at a table and when they are due to arrive. Special requests made by tables can be added to the information contained within the table management functionality, and staff members can be allocated to each table. With all of this information available, it becomes much easier to coordinate table service and identify the number of employees that are going to be needed on any particular day. The tips provided by customers can also be tracked, making it easier for restaurant managers to identify the top performers within their restaurant and assisting with the distribution of all of the money earned through customer tips.
  • Reservations management: Provide the tools required for customers to make reservations online and track reservations in real-time so that restaurant staff know how many customers to expect and how many tables are available at any given time. Up-to-date information on table availability can help to prevent instances of double bookings and will ensure that customers are only able to reserve tables at times when they are available. The reservations management component can usually integrate with an online browser-based booking engine or a dedicated mobile app. Customers can check availability, reserve tables, make special requests, or cancel reservations, and this information will automatically update through the software, freeing up more staff time.
  • Point of sale (POS): Process payments from customers using a variety of payment methods, including credit cards, debit cards, cash payments, and mobile or digital wallets. In addition to allowing restaurants to process the payments, the POS component of a restaurant management system can synchronise with wider company data, ensuring that information on sales, revenue and inventory is always fully up-to-date. Cloud-based solutions also make it easy for the POS functionality to be accessed on a wide range of devices, including tablets and touchscreen devices. This makes it much easier to take payments from customers anywhere in the restaurant, including at a counter, at the table, or using self-service kiosks, depending on the nature of the restaurant itself.
  • Reporting/analytics: Oversee the performance of a restaurant business through real-time reporting. In most cases, the reporting functionality within the software of this kind can produce in-depth reports on several key areas, and these can then be shared with all relevant stakeholders. The most essential metrics can also be accessed through a dashboard, increasing visibility and ensuring that managers always stay up-to-date with the key performance indicators. On top of this, analytics functionality allows restaurant managers to perform a deep dive into the information they have gathered and the performance data available so that further details and some actionable insights can be obtained. From there, it then becomes significantly easier to identify trends quickly, and make intelligent, strategic decisions based on clear evidence.
  • Kitchen/menu management: Synchronise real-time inventory information with the everyday realities of how the kitchen functions and which ingredients are required to prepare items on the menu. Adjustments can be made to the menu based on the inventory information. Therefore, if a particular item is out of stock, the menu items that utilise that item can be removed, and this information can then be shared with customers. Meanwhile, the kitchen management aspect can be used to audit the kitchen, to ensure all equipment is available and functioning properly, and to maintain compliance with rules, regulations, hygiene standards, and safety precautions.

Through the use of Capterra's restaurant management software directory, buyers can sort through the available options based on the features they include and the features they do not include. This provides a much more useful starting point for users, as they can filter out any options that do not provide the features they need.

What should be considered when purchasing restaurant management software?

When purchasing restaurant management software, or exploring the available options, restaurant managers and other decision-makers need to consider some additional factors beyond the core features of the software itself. A good way to work through some of these considerations properly is to ask several key questions and try to come up with answers that are relevant to the software options on the market. This can help buyers to ensure they are acquiring the best software for their needs. Examples of some of these questions include:

  • How much does the restaurant management software cost? One of the most important considerations when making any purchase is the price, but for those buying software, this consideration needs to go further than simply evaluating the upfront cost of actually acquiring the software. Instead, restaurant managers or decision-makers need to think about the full cost of ownership and use over time. Some of the costs that need to be factored into this include the costs associated with training employees to full competency, the costs linked to access technical support, the cost of software updates or upgrades, and any long-term subscription fees that may be associated with cloud-based solutions, which are especially popular with restaurant management software. Considering the upfront costs alone can be misleading and may result in the long-term costs being far higher than anticipated.
  • Does the restaurant management solution offer mobile accessibility? Another consideration that restaurant leaders need to place a strong emphasis on is mobile accessibility. This could take the form of a dedicated mobile app, but it may also be possible to provide mobile accessibility via a web browser if the software is cloud-based. Regardless, mobile accessibility allows restaurant managers and restaurant employees to access the core features from remote locations, and this is especially important with chain restaurants. Moreover, mobile access can be valuable when it comes to point of sale functionality because it means software can be installed on portable devices, which are then easy to carry around the restaurant. For these reasons, buyers should try to focus on software solutions that provide some form of mobile access and avoid solutions that do not offer this kind of flexibility.
  • How scalable is the restaurant management software? Businesses always need to keep one eye on the future, and this means it is not enough to simply think about the needs of today. With restaurant management solutions, the ease of scaling the software up and down, as needed, is a major consideration. Buyers should consider whether the software options they are exploring will still be suitable if their business grows considerably or if they open a new branch or expand their business into a chain. Software that cannot be easily scaled up and down is unnecessarily restrictive and is unlikely to be the best of the available options.
  • What are the reporting and analytics capabilities? While most good restaurant management programs will include some kind of reporting functionality, and while analytics tools are often provided, it is worth considering how far these options go in each of the software packages being explored. What metrics can users track through the software? Can the software be integrated with other solutions so that data can be shared between software packages? What insights can be drawn from the analytics tools provided? High-end solutions are likely to combine analytics with the use of artificial intelligence technology. The main benefit here is that intelligent recommendations can be made about how to improve business practices or how to reduce costs.

The most relevant restaurant management software trends are also important to factor in when making a purchasing decision. After all, buyers need to know that their software is not only going to be of use not only in the present but into the future too. For this to be possible, software needs to have been designed with an awareness of trends in mind and with a willingness to not only adopt new technology but also help to push it forwards. In the months and years to come, some of the most relevant restaurant management trends to be aware of when exploring software options include:

  • Cloud technology at the centre of digital experiences: Cloud technology is well-established, but the adoption of cloud solutions is continually growing. Research from Gartner shows that global cloud revenue is approaching $500 billion, and the research company anticipates that cloud revenue will overtake non-cloud revenue in many markets in the near future. Within the restaurant industry, cloud adoption was only accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as companies needed to contend with restrictions on gatherings, the need for remote access, increased demand for cashless transactions, and more. Cloud-based software in this category is usually delivered by a third party on a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) basis, with monthly or annual subscription fees. Although this can increase long-term costs, it provides many advantages in areas like accessibility and data security, and the upfront costs are extremely low. As a result, restaurants can jump on board relatively easily.
  • Artificial intelligence for customer service: Improvements to the overall quality and accuracy of artificial intelligence have helped to make it one of the most important software trends in general. For restaurant management solutions, AI has the potential to greatly enhance the customer experience by providing the tools required to provide a more tailored experience. In addition, AI can also play a key role in delivering high-quality customer service. One of the main ways this can be achieved is through the use of an AI-powered chatbot, which can help customers who require assistance when trying to make a restaurant reservation. Chatbots can be set up to provide an experience that is very similar to dealing with a real customer service agent. Furthermore, chatbots can also be made available on a 24/7 basis while delivering rapid responses to questions.
  • Mobile wallets, digital payments and wearable technology: How customers pay for their food in restaurants is changing, with cash and even conventional card payments gradually being replaced by the use of digital wallets, including Apple Pay and Google Pay. Customers may opt to utilise these digital wallets to pay for their meals via their smartphone or using a smartwatch, such as an Apple Watch or FitBit. Therefore, it is worthwhile for restaurants to prioritise software solutions that include a POS system with support for these payment methods. As the popularity of these payments continues to grow, they will become a major customer expectation and failing to meet that expectation could adversely affect the reputation of a restaurant.