What would any restaurant manager say if you asked them if they’d like better control over labour and stock, quicker table turn and a closer engagement with customers?
The answer is obvious – and that’s why restaurant management technology is such a growing trend in the industry.
Restaurant POS software represents a step change in the constant hospitality industry battle against rising costs, inefficiency and waste.
It puts the power in the hands of the restaurateur, quite literally – serving staff use handheld devices to take orders and payments at tableside, while managers gain an end-to-end view of operations online from their mobile or laptop.
It also captures important information about guests, including their preferences, enabling establishments to provide the kind of personalised service today’s diners demand.
So it’s no wonder that restaurant companies of all sizes – and especially multi-location groups – now rely on restaurant POS software to streamline their operations and ensure survival in today’s difficult trading conditions.
But what if you don’t yet have this valuable technology? There are a lot of restaurant management systems on offer, and it’s by no means a one-size-fits-all situation – after all, every restaurant is unique.
Different systems have different facilities, and some can make a huge impact on your operational efficiency. So here are the key questions you should ask your technology vendor before making the investment.
1) Is this a dedicated restaurant POS system?
Be specific about you want. POS systems are available for retail, too, but to get all the facilities you need, you should invest in a dedicated system that has been developed to meet the special requirements of restaurants.
2) Course management – can you split courses to help the kitchen, and make changes such as a starter as a main course?
This should be straightforward to change, and you should also be able to set the kitchen up so the printer or screen displays the correct information to each station, such as a grill chef.
3) Service management – Can you send from tableside handheld devices to different printers?
Serving staff should be able to send orders direct to the kitchen, where it integrates with kitchen automation screens or printers so the meal is delivered swiftly. And after the meal, they can take payment at tableside and print out the receipt at a printer in the restaurant – all time-saving activities that please busy diners and help servers create a great guest experience.
4) Menu management – Can you manage the menu for different times of day so staff don’t have a huge menu to deal with?
This is important in restaurants that serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, which could mean an unwieldy menu on the hand-held device.
With advanced restaurant management technology you can use the job code of the staff member to choose which screen layout is displayed. You can also easily set events to enable or disable menus based on the terminal or area, the employee, the job code, the time of day, the day of the week or even specific dates.
5) Order management – If diners move tables, can you reallocate everything easily?
You should look for a system that provides flexible table maps where you allocate specific orders to specific tables.
A good restaurant management system will also allow you to transfer the whole or part thereof the ticket, and merge or split tables up. If using Aloha Guest Manager, for instance, it will suggest a table based on wait time and profitability – it won’t suggest a party of three is seated on a four top if it’s next to another four top that can create an eight.
6) Bill management – Is it possible to split bills easily for large parties?
This is particularly useful for casual dining restaurants where parties are often large. It saves time for both the diners and the staff, making table turn quicker and the dining experience seamless.
7) Inventory management – Can you control stock down to ingredient level?
The best restaurant POS software certainly can do this, tracking the most popular menu items, spotting trends and delivering accurate forecast reports. It helps drive informed procurement and reduces waste.
8) Loyalty management – does the system capture important customer data?
This is crucial in improving engagement with your customer, because if you know their preferences you can provide tailor-made service and also create email marketing campaigns that will hit the mark.
9) Cash management – Can the restaurant POS software track all transactions in full detail?
There’s a lot of cashflow in a restaurant business, and it can be hard to keep tabs on. A good system will give full details in real time so your cash position is always immediately visible.
10) Training – how long will it take?
The best systems are intuitive to use, and staff can be taking orders within a couple of hours so there’s little disruption.
11) How much will it cost?
A restaurant management system can be a major investment, but cloud-based systems represent an excellent ROI because there’s no need to buy expensive hardware – also check out rental schemes with an easy monthly payment.
What else should you think about?
You’ll no doubt have plenty more questions on top of these that you want to ask any potential software supplier – your business will have its own distinct requirements.
So think hard about what you want to achieve with your restaurant management system, and how you want your staff to use it; what sort of reports will help you run your business efficiently? Then ask your potential supplier to talk about restaurants they already supply, and be sure to seek references.
Investing in restaurant management software may be one of the more important decisions you’ll ever make for your business. So take your time, and make sure you make a wise choice.