Eating out is a tradition as old as time–or at least as old as your grandparents. But technology in the modern restaurant is not.
Adoption of new tech in the food and beverage industry has lagged behind other industries. Using software hasn’t traditionally been a part of the typical service industry skill set. F&B business owners may be worried about the cost of the system and training employees, or may not even be aware of what options are out there.
There are many SaaS tools today that can help restaurateurs perfect their art, without being too expensive or complicated. Online, subscription-based software has a lower upfront cost (it’s usually billed monthly). Software vendors understand that easy to learn, user-friendly interfaces and mobile accessibility are a requirement for the restaurant environment.
Restaurant management tools are a great place to start when thinking about how to get those plates out of the kitchen fast. They are all-in-one systems that handle administrative tasks like scheduling, inventory, orders, payroll, and point-of-sale (POS)
Outside of restaurant management tools, there are a host of tools that can help F&B businesses. Managers need to consider strategy when it comes to online marketing, loyalty programs, menus accounting, staff training, e-commerce, and cloud data storage.
If you are just starting your business planning process or are looking for ideas to spruce up your model, there are plenty of tools available. Here are 8 commonly used software solutions that can help you run your F&B business.
1. HotSchedules: Employee Communication + Training
HotSchedules is a restaurant management software company that offers two platforms.
The classic HotSchedules solution focuses on scheduling and labor management. Features include online scheduling, messaging, shift swaps and approvals, time & attendance, labor management, POS, and additional add-ons.
HotSchedules Clarifi is the company’s other solution. It provides an extra layer of intelligence for managing your restaurant operations, from training to accounting. The HotSchedules Clarifi toolkit includes inventory, forecasting, cash management, and talent development.
Customer reviews highlight HotSchedules classic solution as a great tool for restaurants to make time tracking, shift switching, and communication more efficient. Managers no longer have to manage paper requests or send separate texts to employees. Others appreciate how it makes reporting and cost-tracking much easier.
“Amazing communication tool for managers and team members.”
~ Shannon Scally | Manager of Learning & Development | Oregano’s Pizza Bistro
Reviews of the Clarifi solution (formerly called HotSchedules Train powered by Schoox) talk about how easy it is for new employees to use, and how much more organized their business has become about reporting and updating employees about changes. Customers say it has helped them be more efficient and consistent, especially with multiple locations.
“At Hickory Tavern both systems are a huge part of what we do. Team members and managers use Hotschedules every day. They typically use Hotschedules as a communication tool; more than just a schedule tool. As for Hotschedules Train it has done wonders for holding team members and managers accountable for training. They no longer have an excuse for training not being up to date or accessible. All the training they could ever need is right at their fingertips..”
~ Shae DeZago | Corporate Training Manager Assistant | Hickory Tavern
The classic solution’s price point starts at $2 per employee per month up to 30 employees. This allows for online and mobile scheduling, email capabilities, shift swapping, approvals, and more.
If you want additional time tracking tools and payroll, the price point is set at $4 per employee per month up to 30 employees. For larger teams, POS, and Control Labor Costs, contact HotSchedules to receive your personalized quote.
2. Toast: POS + Online Ordering + Loyalty
Toast is an all-in-one restaurant POS and management solution. This platform features a range of customizable hardware setups for restaurants of all sizes and styles, with credit card processing services included. F&B businesses can choose from terminals, card readers, handheld tablets, self-ordering kiosks, kitchen screens, and other accessories.
This solution also offers a robust online ordering system to help your clients who want to grab their grub and go. Beyond POS and online ordering, Toast also covers inventory management, inventory reports, a recipe costing tool, a food cost calculator, inventory variance reports, a menu engineering chart, and customer loyalty programs.
Customers say that there is not much Toast doesn’t do. This software and hardware setup help restaurants build great relationships with their customers, understand their inventory, and offer reliable credit card processing. Many rave about the online ordering system and the customer loyalty programs.
“It is an impressive total POS solution that has simplified many of our workflows. It handles time tracking, sales, credit card processing, reporting, customer loyalty programs, and other things.”
~ Nathan Kung | Applications Analyst | Rapid City Regional Hospital
3. Mailchimp: Email Promotions
Email campaigns are a great way for restaurants to attract customers.
If you have special offers, planned events, or online gift cards, your customer base will want to know about them. Email marketing software can help you organize and grow your lists while sending out beautiful updates.
Mailchimp is one of the most frequently-used, highly rated email marketing software products out there. This SaaS tool enables you to build custom designed campaigns, automate your repetitive tasks, integrate your email campaigns with other software tools, and gather data to understand what is bringing more foodies through your doors.
User reviews praise Mailchimp for being great for delivering marketing materials like newsletters and upcoming deals. Others appreciate its data and reporting features. The beautiful and unique templates are a plus, especially if you don’t have time to build your own designs.
“I own a small local bakery. The majority of my resell and also customer communications happens in MailChimp. I am a huge advocate for digital communications especially since most people are on their phones or computer daily. It’s so easy to confirm orders, reach out to customers, and even update them on new products being released. […] Something that is different and I really enjoy is that MailChimp sign up forms ask for birthdays, and you can set up email automation based on birthdays. for someone who is trying to do customer appreciation, having a built-in birthday date or automation option is so great.”
~ Megan Russell| Owner and Head Baker Small local bakery
For up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month, Mailchimp is free. For a larger business with more subscribers and emails, the price can range from $10-$199 per month.
4. Xero: Invoices + Payroll
Xero is an accounting solution targeted towards small businesses.
This platform allows you to manage customized invoices for regular suppliers, synchronize with your other restaurant management tools, track inventory, and pay staff efficiently with online payroll.
Connecting your accounting software with other online solutions, such as your POS, CRM, and inventory tools will help you streamline your business. This can allow you to spend less time on the details and more time perfecting your hospitality.
Customer reviews highlight how Xero is a powerful and simple accounting solution for small businesses. Many love that it is cloud-based and can be accessed from anywhere and on any mobile device. Mobile accessibility is a huge plus in the F&B industry, since you’re more often on your feet than in front of a computer. Reviewers say that Xero makes invoicing, record keeping, and payments simple.
“The API is the reason that I chose to use Xero. Xero has many checks in place that make sure that our Accounting Data is correct when we send it. If something is not right, the API let’s me know so that I can take corrective action with the data on our side.”
~ Lonny Byrd | Vice-President | Bake Crafters Food Company
A starter package covers all the basics for up to 5 invoices and quotes, 5 bills, and 20 bank transactions. This starting price point is $9 per month. The Standard pricing plan covers more of the basics plus payroll for up to 5 people and is priced at $30 per month.
5. Quickbooks Online: Inventory + Expenses
Quickbooks is known as being another excellent, easy to use accounting solution. It can also help restaurant and hospitality leaders track inventory.
With Quickbooks, you can track inventory by item, see real-time inventory, and receive low stock alerts. Also, your inventory purchases and tracking can be found in one place. You can stay on top of orders and deliveries. If you are wondering how popular recipes are affecting your bottom line, there are automated reporting features.
Reviewers consistently praise Quickbooks for being an easy-to-use and functional accounting system. This solution helps keep all expenses, payments, and taxes in order. For restaurants, this can be useful for helping keep track of inventory and stock.
“Quickbooks is currently being used in my business daily. We use it for consolidating our bank accounts and running profit/loss reports in the company as well as sending out invoices to vendors.”
~ Verified User | Vice-President in Customer Service | Real Estate Company
Pricing ranges from $10 per month to $30 per month depending on the size of your organization and what features you need. The most basic starting plan covers income and expense tracking, receipt capture and organization, maximizing tax deductions, invoices, sales and sales tax tracking and more.
6. Shopify: Gift Cards, Tickets, & Merch Sales
You may be wondering how an e-commerce solution can help grow your restaurant. E-commerce can be a great way to sell gift cards, merchandise, event tickets, and that line of salsas you were experimenting with.
Shopify is one of the most popular e-commerce platforms. You don’t need to be a web designer to showcase your products on your website. Shopify handles that with templates. Plus, you can manage your inventory, fulfill orders in a single step, track sales and popular trends. If you are worried about marketing, shipping, and payments, Shopify offers services to help with that too. The cool thing about Shopify is that you can sell your products online or from your restaurant location (with POS integration).
Customers report that Shopify is a great tool for selling their products online and in their storefronts. They also like that Shopify provides beautiful online templates and makes payments easy and secure. Reviewers consistently highlight how easy Shopify is to use.
“Whenever a problem has occurred, we have been able to contact Shopify and they have called us back within minutes of receiving our call. The site itself is just so darn easy to use! We had looked at other platforms and they did not offer as much support or bells and whistles as Shopify. We have been able to get our search out in front with Google and that is a big help as well.”
~ Verified User | Executive in Sales| Retail Company
Shopify pricing ranges from $29-$299 depending on how many features you desire. The basic plan covers your online store, unlimited products, 2 staff accounts. 24/7 support, and much more.
7. Google G Suite: Overall Organization
Restaurants can benefit from storing all their documents, spreadsheets, menus, marketing material, employee contracts, schedules, and other content in the cloud.
Google’s G Suite for business includes professional Gmail, Drive, Docs, and Calendar.
You can store your employee contact lists on Sheets, or create basic financial and inventory reports with charts to share. You can additionally create unique marketing material, HR forms, policies, training, and more using Docs, Forms, or Slides. Store these materials on your Drive. Also, when using G-suite for your business, you can use shared calendars, have video meetings, create business websites, apps and more.
Reviewers love that G-suite can be used across the whole organization to store policies, onboarding and training materials, and other company documentation. It is easy for everybody to learn and use. Files are secure and can be accessed from anywhere.
“It’s great when you need to collaborate on different documents or spreadsheets with several colleagues. I also use Drive for sharing different files with my colleagues and partners who find this way of collaboration very useful and productive. I love how G Suite helps us be more productive and achieve our daily goals.”
~ Verified User | Professional in Marketing | Retail Company
Pricing varies depending on what type of commitment you have. If you want a flexible plan, your monthly payment can range from $5 per user to $25 per user. The flexible plan is targeted towards small and medium-sized businesses, with changing staff sizes. Read about Google’s billing for more information.
8. Slack: Internal Communication
Restaurants are known for their high employee turnover and quick burnout. Part of the reason is poor communication. To help build a supportive, engaging, and modern work culture, restaurants are looking for digital tools to help boost clear communication.
Slack is a team collaboration tool that makes group communication simple. This solution features one central spot for all your groups’ conversations. If messaging isn’t the most effective form, groups can do group voice or video calls and file sharing. All group discussions, private messages, and uploaded files are stored and can be searched for later.
Users love Slack for being a professional messaging platform with a casual feel. With its mobile accessibility, it makes communication across whole organizations more simple and organized. Others love that there is a calling function as well.
“Slack is used by every member of our company: warehouse, logistics, sales, marketing, everybody uses it. We removed emails internally (unless you need to communicate with somebody outside of our company) and encouraged everybody to use Slack, so things can have visibility and communication be faster.”
~ Verified User | General Manager | Retail Company
Pricing is free for small teams for unlimited channels, 10,000 searchable messages, and 10 integrations. Only 1:1 calling is available with the free version. For larger groups wanting unlimited features, the standard price point is $6.67 per user per month billed annually.
As a leader in the F&B industry, you need to focus all your efforts on creating the best products and giving your customers an incredible dining experience. Sometimes inventory hiccups, last minute calls from sick employees, or changing tax laws can get in the way of your passion.
Take some of the stress off by using today’s most comprehensive software. Check out customer reviews for tools that fit your team and service.