Computer Systems for Restaurants: What Do You Need to Keep Your Business Running?
At this point, you probably have one or two restaurant computer systems in place to help you run your business. You might have accounting software and a restaurant POS system. Maybe you have some marketing tools you’re using to promote your restaurant.
In fact, according to Toast, which provides POS software, the most popular software tools in 2019 were restaurant POS, accounting, and payroll.
In 2022, more restaurants than ever are adding online ordering systems, as well, in an effort to remain profitable as customers move from table service to delivery.
But there’s so much more out there for restaurateurs. Owners can use computer systems for just about any part of their business, and in many cases, they can integrate them to work together.
Why Restaurants Need Computer Systems
Restaurant software solutions are tailored to meet the needs of all types of restaurants. They save restaurant owners time and money by automating processes, providing templates, reporting metrics that help in business decisions, and keeping track of everything from staff vacation schedules to inventory par levels.
Features of restaurant computer systems include
- Cloud Computing: Information is stored via the cloud, so it's accessible from anywhere, and information is updated in real time. Data stored in the cloud is hard to lose, too. Even if you leave your laptop at home or spill on your printed spreadsheets, you can still access everything you need from another device.
- Integrated Systems: Systems that are integrated can talk to each other and share information. Your restaurant POS system and online ordering systems can deliver sales data to your inventory management system. Your payroll software can report to your accounting software. And everything is available via one dashboard.
- Automation: Imagine the time you could save if you didn’t have to keep tabs on food prices or set up purchase orders every time you needed to replenish inventory. And what if you didn’t have to dedicate staff to taking reservations, booking events, or assigning deliveries? Restaurant management software can automate all of these processes, and more.
- Customer Experience: Online ordering, tableside ordering and pay options, customer loyalty programs; all of these features provide a better customer experience.
Types of Restaurant Computer Systems
If there’s a task you need to complete for your restaurant, there’s a software solution for it. All of these systems put together create a comprehensive restaurant management system.
Restaurant POS System
A mobile restaurant POS system such as Square POS allows your restaurant to take credit card and mobile payments from a number of devices. You could set up payment via a tabletop device, or a handheld device carried by your servers.
If you have a cafe or lunch counter model, a POS terminal at the counter makes payments easy and contact-free.
The best restaurant POS system will allow you to use Google Pay, Apple Pay or other mobile payment methods, as well.
This software does more than just keep stocktake numbers. It will integrate with your restaurant POS system to help you calculate theoretical vs actual food cost, food waste, and COGS. It will alert you when inventory dips below par levels, and it will keep real-time prices for ingredients.
A good inventory management system will include a recipe book, as well, which will indicate measurements for each ingredient in a menu item, and exactly how to prepare it.
According to Statista, revenue from online food delivery is expected to reach just over $312 million in 2022. Post-pandemic, online ordering and delivery options will still be an essential part of your business.
Online ordering should be mobile-friendly, with a menu that’s easy to navigate. It should integrate with your restaurant POS system, so you can keep track of all sales in one place.
Many restaurants have opted to join popular third-party online ordering apps such as DoorDash or UberEats. But restaurants who choose to run their own online ordering have the opportunity to increase profitability by 30 percent, according to a study by VROMO.
Reservation and Table Management
A reservation system can help you manage tables and book events without dedicating staff to endless phone calls and booking management. Reservation management software with good reporting will help you analyze and improve table turnover, manage staff levels for slower and busier shifts, and target marketing toward slower nights.
Cloud-based employee management tools allow you to schedule staff on the fly and then push schedules out digitally. Staff can request time off or shift changes via the software, as well.
Payroll software makes sure everyone gets paid via direct deposit or check. Integrated with your accounting software, salaries are automatically recorded for bookkeeping.
Marketing/Customer Relationship Management
There are so many facets to marketing and customer service, from social posts to email marketing campaigns, to community outreach.
And it doesn’t stop when customers walk through the door. Managing customer relationships through loyalty programs and customer profiles keeps diners coming back.
Marketing and CRM software can help you manage all of your campaigns and programs. Teamed up with your restaurant POS system as well as your online ordering sale system, reporting capabilities will let you know which initiatives are selling dishes and which are not.
A good digital accounting tool will do more than just keep the books and take care of payment processing for you. It will help you determine your prime cost of inventory. Coupled with your inventory management software, you can increase or decrease orders, or even change vendors to get a better price.
Accounting software helps you forecast for future quarters or the upcoming year, as well, by integrating with your restaurant POS system as well as your online ordering sale system to report sales information.
Finally, accounting software will keep you compliant with IRS business regulations, and keep your taxes accurate and paid on time.
Top Features to Look for in Restaurant Computer Systems
You know the kinds of restaurant computer systems you need. Now, you just have to figure out which provider has the best solution for you. The real key is integration. Your software solutions should integrate with accounting, inventory management, and your restaurant POS system, at the very least.
But there are some other features you should look for when shopping for restaurant management software.
Any software solution you use should be mobile-friendly. Your servers should be able to use your restaurant POS system at the table via a handheld device. Your inventory manager should be able to count stocktake on a tablet or phone in real time. And your cook staff should be able to look up recipes and record waste as they work.
And, of course, your customers should find your online ordering sale system intuitive.
If you’re on the go, or if you have multiple locations for your restaurant. You should have your invoices, payroll, bills, and other financial statements at your fingertips via an easy-to-use app.
Ease of Use
Speaking of easy to use, every app you choose should be intuitive. Restaurant staff move quickly. They don’t have time to stop and figure out a piece of software. So, whatever you choose should be easy to pick up and run with.
A software solution is only as good as its reporting. If your inventory management solution can’t tell you how much food is being wasted, or if your employee management software won’t let you dive deep into staff productivity, then what good is it?
For each software demo, have a list of questions you need it to answer. Make sure the reporting tools can answer each of those questions completely.
Good Customer Support
If you have any problems, customer support should be right there to help you out. Many software solutions give you the option to chat, email, or talk to a live person to troubleshoot issues on the spot.
The restaurant industry is faster and leaner than ever. Computer systems for restaurants allow both restaurant manager and restaurant owner to keep up with the pace and keep their restaurants profitable.