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Choosing a Restaurant Management System

6 factors to consider when picking the perfect system for you

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Hena Shah

Managing a restaurant is no easy task. It can seem like all your day is being spent on numerous small administrative tasks that are distracting you from the bigger objectives, like providing great customer service. No matter what your skill level or experiences are, if your precious hours are being occupied by repetitive tasks and yet your restaurant is not performing at its fullest then it may be time to stop and say three little words: restaurant management system.

Now don’t be scared by the idea of taking this next big step. Unfortunately pen and paper just don’t cut it anymore in this tech-driven world. A lot of restaurant owners would agree with that: according to the National Restaurant Association, four out of five restaurants have found that technology has helped boost their sales. A report in 2017 found that 95% of restaurant owners recognized that using technology had improved their business efficiency. Restaurant management systems can streamline your time and let you visualize what needs to be improved in your business. They’re essentially there to make your life easier and your day that much more productive. Implementing a powerful restaurant management system can help keep track of your customers, schedule employees, organize inventory, provide POS integration, and keep track of all your valuable data.

However, there are so many choices on the market that it’s almost overwhelming. Making a decision requires a lot of planning and understanding. With more and more systems popping up on the market it’s tough to know what will work best for your restaurant and what you should be looking out for. Simply browsing through all the different options can make you feel a little like a kid in a gigantic candy store where all the sweets have long confusing names like ‘credit card processing system’ and ‘chain store management’. Choosing the wrong combinations can end up leaving a sour taste in your mouth.

But have no fear. Once you know what questions to ask and factors to look for, the search is smoother than you think. Here are our top tips to help you find the best system for your restaurant!

1. Is it easy to use?

Restaurant life is stressful enough, you don't need to feel like you're trying to navigate a NASA rocket ship every time you try and log a reservation. A poorly designed system can slow your restaurant down and leave room for mistakes to slip in through the cracks. Make sure you ask for a trial of the software for all your staff to play around with the technology, and give their detailed feedback on the system. That's because things may seem smooth in the system demo, but run very differently when your team actually gets to use it. If they find it confusing then you're already setting yourself up to have a very inconvenient time.

2. What features do you need?

Unfortunately, this isn't 'Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants': one size does not fit all. Not all restaurants are created equal and thus what one restaurant needs is often wildly different from another. Some restaurants want to manage reservations much more seamlessly and aim to bring down no-shows. Others may want to focus on optimizing their food costs by using inventory data.

Compile a list of precisely what problems you need to address, or what's most important to you, and work backwards from that. Think about what features might address those issues and see if the system you're interested in promotes that as a key factor of their business. Also, check to see what possibility there is to customize your chosen system. As you get to grips with your new technology you're definitely going to find things you want to change and personalize, so make sure the system you've chosen allows you to do that

3. Does it provide a customer database?

A good restaurant management system should allow you to take bookings easier and let you know who precisely is making that booking. A detailed guest book will not only retain a customer's booking history but also provide you with a range of specific information, from allergies to the amount of visits, favorite foods, etc. The detailed customer information will help you elevate your customer service to the next level.

A guest database also holds great potential for marketing too. Let's say you'd like to hold a wine night at your restaurant. You could use the system to export customer details to find out which of your previous guests have an affinity for the liquor, and then create a targeted promotional campaign for those customers in particular. That way you know you're reaching your best possible audience for your event.

4. Integrate with 3rd Party Reservation Sites

There's a good chance that your restaurant is currently on a couple different third-party booking sites, which is creating a whole lot of reservations and possibly a whole lot of confusion too at the same time. As reservations roll in from various different sources, it's more likely for human error to happen and for things to go awry.

The best way to tackle this is to look for a restaurant management system that can automatically import all that data for you. Having that feature can also help you determine which of those third party sites are worth your resources and which ones are eating up your money with no pay off. A system that saves you time and money would definitely be a keeper.

5. Supported Devices

It's important that the restaurant management system can be used on and sync across multiple platforms (whether it be tablets, phones or desktop), so you can collect all information together into one handy portal that can be accessed anywhere. Keep a close eye out for mobile-friendly systems. Trust us, they make a world of difference. Being able to access it on mobile allows you to keep tabs on what's happening on the restaurant floor no matter how far away you are.

6. Value for Money

Obviously you'd want to look out for the best deal possible (that's just smart business). Note that not all systems package their deals in the same way. Prices can vary depending on the number of features offered, the number of online reservations being processed, the size of your restaurant etc. When choosing between different restaurant management systems, consider the different pricing and features. Think about choosing one that would work for your restaurant size and the amount of bookings you receive. Sometimes it's worth investing in a more expensive package to receive certain additional components or to be able to enjoy the free online reservation deal that comes with the package.

About the Author

“You need to keep tasting things if you haven't found your thing” - Gary Vaynerchuk

Seeking Ikigai.

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