Restaurant management software streamlines the many microprocesses that drive a busy restaurant operation. If you’re wondering which restaurant management product might work for you or are just starting your search, you’ve come to the right place.
We’ve rounded up 30 top restaurant management software tips from seasoned pros who use a wide array of restaurant management products in their own day-to-day operations. Here’s what they have to say:
1. Use a Restaurant Management Software Point-of-Sale System
The top tip from restaurant industry pros is to use a restaurant management software point-of-sale system, called a POS system, for any size operation. Most restaurant POS systems are cloud-based software programs that tie all of your tableside ordering, kitchen, inventory, payment, staffing, payment management and business reporting tools into one seamless system.
Restaurant POS systems used to be expensive and required intensive installation and constant upkeep. However, modern, cloud-based POS systems are low-cost, quick to onboard and some, such as Lightspeed Restaurant POS, can run on computers, tablets and even iPhones that you already have. This reduces your startup costs tremendously and makes it easy to make the move to a POS and enjoy all of the efficiencies it offers. Click here for a free trial of Lightspeed—no credit card required.
2. Startups Need POS Restaurant Management Software Too
David Schneider, Owner, Oaxaca Taqueria
Startups should consider having restaurant management software like a POS system that can grow with the business and also integrate with online delivery platforms. Startups also need a good accounting program that is restaurant-focused and a good inventory and management program like Jolt from day one.
3. Know Your Needs When Picking a POS
Chef Michael Bargas, Instructional Kitchen Manager, Culinary School at The Art Institute of Houston
Restaurant management software technology is fully integrated these days. There are a number of POS systems out there. Each has its pros and cons. If you know what your business is and what your needs are, then choosing the best POS system for you is a matter of making sure they address each of those needs.
4. Use a POS-driven Kitchen Printer
Jacqueline Young-Sterling, Pastry Chef & Restaurant Professional
Managing kitchen workflow is generally a team effort, chits (industry term for little receipts of orders that are printed to the kitchen) are automatically created using a restaurant management software system like a POS and even coded to go to a certain station in the kitchen (salads to cold apps/garde manger, dessert to the pastry station, and so on). Generally, two chits are printed, one for the station cooks and one for the expediter. The expediter is in charge of communicating with all the cooks and timing everything so items come up hot together. He or she is also in charge of gathering ‘hands’ from the front of the house like servers and food runners to be there waiting to take the dishes out to the dining room.
5. POS Technology Tells the Story
Christine J. Lueders, Author, The Secrets to Restaurant Management and Staff Training
Having your restaurant management software POS system track all items sold will evaluate the most popular items. If you don’t have a POS system, then ask the servers. They know what is popular.
6. Use a POS to Drive Communication
Dax Dasilva, Founder & CEO, Lightspeed
To run a successful restaurant business, it’s best to ensure that staff is equipped with the knowledge of daily specials or menu changes. Each day, strong communication between team members in front- and back-of-house is essential. Restaurant management software tools like Lightspeed POS are intuitive when modifying orders or flagging guest requests and keeping everyone on the same page. At closing time, the ability to track daily successes through comprehensive reporting and analytics that showcase staff performance and sales help set businesses up for prosperity in the days and weeks to come.
7. Pair a Popular POS with Cloud-Based Accounting
Jonathan Kish, CEO, Queen Street Hospitality Group — 82 Queen, Lowcountry Bistro and Swig & Swine
We use Aloha for our POS restaurant management software. It is a widely used system and completely customizable with regard to menu. Being widespread, a lot of servers have worked on it before they start with us. This cuts the training time down significantly. We use RSI (Restaurant Solutions, Inc.) for both bookkeeping and Payroll. RSI is a cloud-based all-in-one accounting software. It integrates into our Aloha to pull the data it needs like sales and hours. We can access it from anywhere, which is nice in the restaurant world since office time is a luxury.
8. Keep Everything in Order with a Kitchen Display
Johan Engman, Founder & Owner, Rise & Shine Restaurant Group (Breakfast Republic and Fig Tree Eatery)
We use a kitchen display system (KDS) restaurant management product. It’s a touchscreen computer system that helps organize and keep the tickets in order. We program predetermined cook times for all food items.
9. Try Square & QuickBooks for a Solid Solution
Brandon Gillis, Vice President, Off the Grid
As a mobile food and events platform, we work with small businesses of all different sizes and operational resources. To keep up with the demands of running a mobile food business — and participating in large-scale, multifaceted events like ours — it’s really important to get set up with solid accounting software and a reliable POS restaurant management software system.
We also QuickBooks for its user-friendly dashboards and Square for its easy inventory management. We also recommend being fluent in GSuite. It’s free and an extremely powerful tool for the scrappy startup stages of the business journey. At the end of the day, the right software systems help bring more efficiency to your operations and allow you to focus on the areas that matter most, like nurturing relationships with customers and growing your brand.
10. Make Digital Branding & Marketing a Priority
If managing website, social, media, reviews, email and other digital marketing opportunities are too much to take on yourself, don’t worry. There are plenty of online resources to help you get the job done, and the costs are surprisingly low.
You can tap a full-scale digital marketing agency like Hibu to deliver and manage your complete online brand across web, social, local search, review sites and more. The fees can be surprisingly low, starting at just $99 for a full website design and launch. Click here to get in touch with a Hibu representative.
11. Manage It All with a POS, QuickBooks & Niche Accounting Firm
We use a restaurant-specific accounting firm, Culinary Accountants, to provide us with the financial guidance that we need to thrive. We combine the unparalleled financial expertise of a niche accounting partner with a modern POS restaurant management software system (in our case, Breadcrumb) and flexible accounting system (QuickBooks) to compile the financial data and insights we need.
12. POS Technology is Worthwhile
Kaushik Guha, Owner, Hakka Bakka Kati Rolls
This is one aspect of tech I think is worthwhile. Good POS restaurant management software provides historical data which is invaluable. After all, the most valuable resource in the world now is data so why should yours be any different? Planning is a function of data. The first step to accurate purchasing is having accurate historical data. Pay attention to your POS system and track employee meals, discounts and so on.
13. Opt for an All-in-One POS Platform
Meghan Kavanaugh, Content Marketing Manager, Upserve
If possible, it’s ideal to identify a platform that can help manage all of these disparate tasks, rather than trying to work with multiple tools. Working with one technology platform can provide vital insights that drive back-of-house (BOH) operations and enhance front-of-house (FOH) service. With one restaurant management software platform, restaurant owners can monitor menu performance, sales data, server performance, return customer metrics, marketing campaigns and loyalty programs efficiently — all without having to log in and out of multiple accounts and services. Upserve’s restaurant management product offers all of these functions and more, in addition to giving restaurateurs direct access to the best technology vendors in the business.
14. Square Does Virtually Everything
Kelsey Witherow, Founder & Cookie Dough Enthusiast, DOUGHP
It’s amazing as a small business owner to get one restaurant management product that can provide so many services. I talk to some companies, and they’re using a different tool for payroll than what they use for time cards, which is different from their POS and so on. Square works across the board for us — they’re our provider for POS, timecards, payroll and even email marketing. which integrates splendidly when a customer gives you their email address at checkout.
Bookkeeping, on the other hand, is done separately and not by me. We wear many hats, but this is one hat that I decided to take off, so I hired a professional accounting firm. The firm is called Why Blu, and I highly recommend them!
15. Use Review Sites to Your Advantage
Any restaurateur will tell you that keeping up with review sites matters to your success. Great reviews steer hungry diners to your door and bad reviews make them pass you by. That’s simply a fact of the modern age.
Keeping on top of the latest reviews, complaints and comments on Yelp, Google Reviews, Yahoo, CitySearch and the many other social media and review platforms is an onerous task. However, it must be done to keep customers coming in the door. That’s where round-up tools like Yext provide a great solution to this management dilemma.
Yext pulls reviews from all types of review, social media, search and business directory sites into one convenient dashboard. From there, you can see what customers are saying and respond as needed quickly. Having all reviews in one spot also makes it easy to track customer service issues and your overall performance. By responding to comments and complaints, you tell customers and other readers that you care about their opinion. This is a great way to turn any negatives into positives on review sites.
16. Respond to Each & Every Online Review
Kelsey Witherow, Founder & Cookie Dough Enthusiast, DOUGHP
Ah … reviews. The innate drive people have to leave a review is inclined to skew to anything subpar. It’s either subpar or if it was through the roof” ‘The BEST. EXPERIENCE. EVER!.
Rarely will we get a middle-of-the-road review. I try to get a response out to each and every review, good or bad. On the good, thanking them for taking the time to review and often offering money off or a discount on their next order. On the bad, I try to first acknowledge everything they said (people want to be heard!) and anything that went wrong on our end, I apologize for.
I typically write them a private message after the public response and extend an offer for a full refund. I don’t want anyone to have a bad taste in their mouth after an experience with us! Responding within 24 hours is ideal so they know you’re actively gathering and responding to customer feedback.
17. Let Yelp Help Drive Management Decisions
At our restaurants, we incorporate online reviews — particularly Yelp, which seems to have the most consistent uptake by guests and the largest sample size — into our internal management feedback loop. Each financial period, we review our financial performance in the context of guest reviews. Our goals are simple: treat our people well, grow sales steadily and ensure that our guests are happy.
18. Take Review Sites Seriously
Jonathan Kish, CEO, Queen Street Hospitality Group (82 Queen, Lowcountry Bistro and Swig & Swine)
We track all of the review sites, with TripAdvisor being one that we focus highly on currently. TripAdvisor reviews are tied to the general managers’ bonus structure. With negative reviews, we try to engage the guest in order first to get more information to then find a resolution that is amicable for both us and the guest.
19. Pay Attention to Review Sites
Edward Delena, General Manager, and Jeremy Swan, Owner, Mi Corazon
It’s important to reply to all reviews, both good and bad, to show customers that their opinion counts and that you are taking steps to improve. Also, thank guests for their positive feedback and loyalty. Show that you really care and that their feedback is important and helpful to improve the food and service in your restaurant.
20. Use Loyalty Programs to Bring Diners Back
Loyalty programs are a simple way to encourage repeat business and have matured well beyond old-fashioned “Buy 10, Get One Free” punch cards. Modern loyalty programs are true omnichannel assets that work via physical cards and, increasingly, mobile apps.
Because most loyalty programs tie closely with POS systems, they’re easy to adopt and manage. Some, like the free Square Cafe POS system, offer a built-in loyalty program that interconnects your customer purchase history and other marketing efforts. This makes it easy to communicate your loyalty perks like discounts, point-based rewards or special offers to all of your customers and encourage loyalty sign-ups. Sign up for free today.
21. Loyalty Programs Deliver Great Returns
Jon Crost, Vice President of Operations, Weber Grill Restaurants
We see great return from the Grill Club, which is our loyalty program with more than 30,000 members. This database allows us to communicate with our members easily for honest restaurant feedback and offer rewards and incentives to members, helping keep Weber Grill Restaurants front of mind when a guest is deciding where to dine.
22. Loyalty Programs are Win-Win
Tyler Tassinari, Digital Marketing Strategist, Three29
From a marketing perspective, loyalty programs can be a fantastic way to learn about your customer base. Keeping an eye on their engagement with promotions is a great way to predict or gauge the success of brand-wide initiatives. At times, they can serve as a testing group. However, members feel as though they are getting unique access to the brand. It’s a win-win situation.
23. Loyalty Programs are a Wonderful Perk
Danica Copus, Retail District Manager, Caffè Umbria
Loyalty programs are not only a great way to keep regular customers, they’re a great way to get new ones. It’s a good conversation tool and people feel more invested in your cafe. We have an online rewards program as well as the old standby punch card, and customers love both. Living in a time where coffee drinks can cost upward of $5, it’s a wonderful perk.
24. Use a POS Bring to Bring Several Locations Together
Gianmarco Di Michele, CEO, Numero 28 Pizzeria
A POS is an essential part of operating a restaurant. We use the TouchBistro POS restaurant management product for our family-owned Neapolitan pizzeria chain with nine locations (New York, Austin and Miami), serving 1,200 patrons per week per location.
We needed a POS to speed up service but it also delivers a wealth of information. It gives me control over my employees and my business, makes me feel secure and gives me great insights about my customers. I know what is going on anywhere at any time.
Our servers love it because they can take the POS tablet anywhere — it helps deliver faster and better service. They can take orders tableside and fire off orders to the kitchen quicker, and we can flip tables faster. Plus, it gives them the ability to modify and edit for dietary restrictions or toppings on the pizza. For happy hour, the manager can upload the happy hour prices right before opening. Menus are easy to enter and change. It just gives our staff a lot of flexibility.
25. Try High-tech Promos to Bring Customers In
Lyron Bentovim, CEO & President, The Glimpse Group and Kabaq
Bareburger uses Kabaq for augmented reality giveaways. In one, 5,000 winners find a Golden Snapcode in their takeout bags. When they scan the code via Snapchat, they see in augmented reality whether they have won a free burger, macho fries or onion rings. Prizes can be redeemed at any national or Dubai Bareburger locations.
Kabaq’s augmented reality app enables restaurants to present menus in 3D and provide dish and meal visualization using advanced scanning technologies. Customers can see exactly what each menu item will look like, choose the correct portion size and visualize ingredients used in the dish before they order, which helps ensure that customer expectations are met or even exceeded.
26. Email Marketing Works & Is Even Better with Social Media
Danica Copus, Retail District Manager, Caffè Umbria
We’ve built our list slowly and mindfully, so we have a high open rate (comparatively in the industry). We use email marketing to let our customers know about new releases and cafe events. Email marketing has to be part of a robust social media plan if you want to boost traffic to your store.
27. Cameras Are Your Eyes When You’re Not On-site
Chef Tommy Child, BCM & Vennessa Garner, Culinary Instructor, Culinary School at the Art Institute of Houston
Complete end-of-day inventory and lock up coolers and storerooms when not in use. The use of technology here is key — cameras are one of the most helpful restaurant management products to help you keep an eye on things when you are not on-site.
28. Forecasting & Reservation Software Helps in Planning
Jon Crost, Vice President of Operations, Weber Grill Restaurants
I would say the most effective tools are production forecasting restaurant management software for back-of-house, which are great for planning ahead, and for front-of-house (FOH), I would recommend having user-friendly, inexpensive reservation software.
29. Get Connected with a Good Payroll Company
Sonya Muenchen, CEO, The Payroll Gal
Getting a firm foundation on what payroll taxes you must pay and when they are due along with the returns is crucial. Doing it yourself sounds great, I mean how hard could it be? From experience, this is one of the biggest mistakes new employers make. They calculate it incorrectly, miss a deadline or forget a tax payment. Then come the letters from all state and federal agencies along with interest and penalties.
30. Use a Restaurant-friendly Payroll Service
Payroll providers that support restaurant-specific needs, such as tip reporting, ensure that you meet both state and federal payroll reporting requirements. Some, like Gusto, even integrate payroll functions directly with restaurant POS systems like Lightspeed. This lets you connect POS-tracked employee hours and tip reporting seamlessly to make payroll processing fast and error-free.
Over to You
Do you use any of these restaurant management software programs, POS systems or restaurant management products in your own operation? Do you have a favorite tip or restaurant management product that differs from those listed here? We’d love to hear your input, too! Please share your thoughts in the comments below.