Running a restaurant is hard work. There are so many things to think about — from inventory management to restaurant payment and billing and more — it can be difficult to keep track of it all. That’s where restaurant management software comes in.
In this roundup, we will take a look at some of the best restaurant management software out there. We’ll explore software for inventory management, restaurant payment and billing, food delivery, dashboards, restaurant onboarding, reservation management, and ERP systems. So whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been in the business for years, here’s the software that will help you increase productivity in your restaurant.
Some of the most popular restaurant management software include tools and features across at least four or five of the following categories:
Restaurant Point of Sale
The point of sale system is the nervous system for the restaurant tech stack. It tracks all the transactions with a great level of detail (from the date and time to what items were purchased to returns or void checks, to how it was paid, who sold it, and what table were people seating in for casual dining restaurants). The POS simplifies record keeping and cash flow accountability as well as operations by sending the orders to the kitchen directly. The best restaurant POS systems also come with features like inventory management, customer relationship management (CRM), menu management, and omnichannel ordering capabilities.
There is a difference between popular POS systems like Toast, Square, TouchBistro and Upserve that are most suited for independents and small chains, and enterprise-level POS like Brink, NCR, Oracle MICROS (legacy systems), Qu Beyond POS, and Revel, among others.
Restaurant Inventory Management
Inventory management is one of the most important, but challenging, aspects of running a food service business. The cost of goods sold (COGS) has a significant impact on profitability, so it’s critical to get inventory levels right. Perishable items, seasonal changes, food inflation, and availability can affect the menu. The goal of any inventory management system is to make sure that the right items are ordered at the right time.
Automated systems will often integrate with your POS system to keep track of stocks and even order new supplies automatically. Some examples of restaurant inventory management software are: MarketMan, Orderly, Partender, Crunchtime, Restaurant365, Fourth, MarginEdge, and BevSpot.
Restaurant Labor Management
With labor costs claiming around 30% of sales in cost, labor management software has key importance for efficiencies. This software allows organizing the workforce schedule. It also enables real-time tracking of employee performance and managing payroll processes. The best restaurant labor management software systems will have features like:
- Time clock functionality to track employee hours
- Ability to manage tips
- Scheduling features
- Tracking employee performance
- Payroll management
Some of the software options in this category include 7Shifts, Fourth, Jolt, Push Operations, and Sling.
Some of the platforms that can help with recruiting and retention are CultureAmp (a platform to improve employee engagement and performance, used by McDonald’s), BambooHR (HR software to be used from hiring to onboarding to building culture), and Applauz (Software built for engaging, recognizing, and rewarding).
Restaurant Repairs & Maintenance Software
Facility Management can be a time consuming task when trying to keep lists of equipment and infrastructure to repair. One option is to have a CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management System) but currently, platforms can go one step further by linking smart equipment and using computer vision to check equipment.
One example of R&M software is Trustplace, which allows companies to have lists digitized on the maintenance side. It enables team members to take photos with an iPad and make notes on the problem. This helps keep everybody honest as there is clear documentation, which is then managed (and can allow managers to request budget authorization as well).
Restaurant Dashboards & Reporting
Restaurant executives are time-deprived. Historically, many decisions are made with past data when what’s needed are fast corrections in real time. The best dashboard, analytics, and reporting software enable a get-it-at-a-glance of the system, with the ability to drill down to the store, functional area, employee, and transaction level. It needs to be linked to the other systems to pull the information in a centralized way.
Rather than having multiple channels evaluated separately, leveraging a platform to integrate sales, labor costs, menu item margins, top-selling items, beverage mix, food cost, etc. can help to optimize performance. Some examples of software helping to do this are Olo, Chowly, Sauce, and Vromo.
Restaurant Accounting Software
These automate book-keeping (keeping track of sales, accounts payable, accounts receivable, short and long-term debt, etc.), payroll, taxes, payments, and other financial transactions.
There are a number of different types of restaurant accounting software. Some popular programs include QuickBooks, Sage 50cloud, and Xero. All three offer a wide range of features, from invoicing and tracking inventory to managing employees’ hours and paying taxes. They also have mobile apps that let you keep an eye on your business.
Kitchen Display Systems
Restaurant KDS are effectively screens replacing printers in the kitchen, displaying orders coming from the POS to the corresponding station. The best systems have the ability to display recipes one-click-away, monitor cooking times, and alert the FOH when the meal is ready.
KDS can help your restaurant in several ways. By digitizing the process, you can introduce new levels of transparency and accuracy to order-taking. You can see at a glance which orders are lagging and take steps to speed up the process.
Restaurant Reservation Software
These enable customers to book a table or venue, maintain real-time waitlists, alert of food allergies, remind guests of an upcoming reservation, etc.
Some examples of reservations software are OpenTable, Resy, SevenRooms, Tock, and Yelp Reservations.
Menu Management Software
With the large number of food delivery aggregators, restaurants have a hard time keeping track of orders in the different systems, not to mention how long it takes to change menu items across platforms.
Several POS platforms are trying to unify the process so that restaurants can manage menu changes across locations and ordering platforms, and so that orders are funneled through one system rather than several separate log-ins.
Restaurant ERP Systems
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) softwares are a comprehensive suite providing real-time insights into the business (mostly used by large chains) and have the ability to manage different streams of work from loyalty campaigns to menu analysis to strategic planning. Some notable ERP names are Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft Dynamics. They come with a high price tag but offer great scalability for businesses that can afford it.
Restaurant Marketing & CRM Software
Marketing software (including customer relationship management) are multi-channel platforms that help plan and run campaigns, track customer satisfaction and other metrics (average customer spend by demographics, engagement, customer acquisition, conversion, etc.). The tools leveraged range from e-mail marketing to social media, mobile, ads, local campaigns, pay-per-click, loyalty rewards, SEO, online ordering, and more.
Most restaurant management software suites will have a CRM tool as part of their package. However, if you’re looking for more comprehensive software or a la carte options, some notable CRMs in the space include: Sprout Social, ZohoCRM, HubSpot, and Insightly.
Frequently Asked Questions About Restaurant Management Software
A restaurant management software is software that helps you manage your restaurant business. It can help you with tasks such as managing your inventory, payments, billing, food delivery, reservations, labor, and more.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best restaurant management software for you will depend on your specific needs and preferences. However, some of the most popular options for independents and small chains include Square, TouchBistro, Toast, Revel Systems POS, and Clover. In the enterprise space some of the options are Lightspeed, ORACLE Micros Symphony, and NCR Aloha.
The cost of restaurant management software will vary depending on the features and functionality you need. Some software providers offer a free trial or a freemium version with basic features. Most vendors charge a monthly subscription fee based on the number of users or devices. These range between $80–$150 per month. It's common that there would be an upfront cost for installation and hardware.