Whether you operate a quick-service, fast-casual, or fine dining establishment, restaurant management software is a key component of your business. The right solution facilitates inventory management, labor scheduling, POS reporting, and many back-office functions, opening doors for increased operational efficiencies, cost savings, and other catalysts for success. But how do you know that you’re approaching the restaurant management software selection process in the right way? For best results, follow these tips:
1. Insist on a demo. There’s no denying that reviewing sales literature and other collateral provided by restaurant management software vendors can give you a general idea about their offerings. However, this is not enough to develop a true understanding of any solution you are considering for deployment in your restaurants.
Instead, require that any vendor whose restaurant management software you are evaluating provides you with a demo of its product. Some vendors conduct online demos, which are a good jumping point. Better yet, try to schedule an on-site demo. This will allow you to get a more accurate feel for every solution under consideration, as well as to ask questions and to gauge your comfort level with the product.
2. Compare features and costs. Restaurant management software products are not created equal. Some restaurant management solutions are, by virtue of their features, more suited for quick-service or fast-casual environments, while others are more appropriate for use in the fine dining segment.
For this reason, it’s important to first ascertain what features you are looking for in a restaurant management system, and compare that checklist against each solution you have in mind. Then, conduct an “apples-to-apples” comparison of the features of the different solutions you’ve uncovered.
Just as importantly, stick with an “apples-to-apples” comparison when you’re looking at the price of each restaurant management software option you have in mind. Don’t benchmark a more basic system against one that is feature-rich and expect the latter to have the same price tag as the former.
One thing to keep in mind when making comparisons: Find a point-of-sale system specific to your market. The unique features they offer will automate the distinct needs of your market. The industry specific automation will provide you with a better ROI (return on investment) compared with choosing generic point of sale software.
3. Familiarize yourself warranty options, support options and related costs. In addition to ensuring that you understand what your restaurant management software warranty will and will not cover, ask what, if anything, might void that warranty. For example, if you’re replacing your old restaurant management software with a new product, that product’s performance may be impeded if it is installed on your old equipment—and the warranty will likely not cover it.
Support options, too, merit investigation. Restaurant management software applications are mission critical. If the system goes down, it will cost you money. Consequently, it’s imperative to align yourself with a vendor that offers real-time support, wherein a live person answers the telephone and assists you when you call. Don’t spend your money with any company that uses a model wherein you must, when experiencing difficulties, leave a message stating your problem and wait an indeterminate length of time for a technician to return your call. Vendors that offer on-site assistance with your restaurant management software should be at the top of your list of preferred technology sources.
Finally, get a picture of the ancillary costs entailed in implementing any restaurant management software package you are thinking about deploying. For example, how much should you expect to pay for upgrades? What about charges for technical troubleshooting? If you aren’t willing to shoulder the expense of upgrades, it’s better to know before signing on the dotted line.
The right restaurant management software can be a boon to your business. Knowing how to shop for it—and leaving no stones unturned—is critical if your operation is to leverage its full benefits.