Restaurant management software: What do you need to know? Up your hospitality game with restaurant managing software. Read on for the benefits, features and costs, or get a bespoke quote today! Aimee Bradshaw June 4, 2021 15 min read About us Startups was founded over 20 years ago by a multi-time entrepreneur. Today, our expert team of writers, researchers, and editors work to provide our 4 million readers with useful tips and information, as well as running award-winning campaigns. Our site is governed by the Startups editorial manifesto. This article was co-authored by: Aimee Bradshaw Senior Writer Robyn Summers-Emler Deputy Editor The hospitality industry is notoriously hectic. From inventory management and processing orders, to bookkeeping and seating plans, staying on top of every aspect of running a restaurant (and making sure you still have time to eat and sleep) involves a whirlwind of tasks. If it sometimes feels like you’re weathering it all alone, it’s time you were introduced to restaurant management software – an invaluable resource to any business in the hospitality industry. Able to bring a pocket of calm to that ‘Happy Hour’ storm, restaurant management software has a whole host of business-boosting benefits. Capable of streamlining your stock management and sending automated orders from bar to kitchen, it’s the waiter’s friend every food business should be acquainted with.Different restaurant management software platforms come with their own unique ingredients. And since every business has its own tastes, this can make finding the perfect fit for your enterprise a time consuming task. To save you the trouble, we’ve been scouring the menu for the best restaurant management software on the market today. The following article chops up the industry into digestible chunks. Read on for a six-course account of restaurant management software – quelling your cravings for satisfactory support, while keeping your till nice and full. What is restaurant management software? Restaurant management software features Benefits of restaurant management software Restaurant management software: a case study Best restaurant management systems Order and pay software: an alternative to restaurant management software? How to choose the right restaurant management software for your business Next steps: Compare restaurant management software We've identifiedLightspeed,Square for Restaurants,and Zettle Food and Drinkas the top three best products for restaurant management. Read more about the features of these and other market-leading solutions below. What is restaurant management software?Restaurant management software collectively refers to software that is designed to aid the smooth running of any hospitality business. The term can be roughly divided into two categories: Front of House (FOH) and Back of House (BOH) software.The software can assist with tasks such as bookkeeping, stock management (i.e.: inventory checks and automated orders), and customer relationship management. The software is downloaded onto your till system or other hardware, and operates digitally. Some restaurant management software is cloud-based, and can be accessed off-premises – a useful feature if you’re looking to manage your day-to-day operations remotely. Other systems are slightly more basic, and will offer base level operational support. The complexity of the system you need will very much depend on the nature of your business. Read on for more information on restaurant management software. Or, if you think you’d like to talk things through with cherry-picked suppliers, simply pop to the free form at the top of the page to be put in touch with the right suppliers for your business today. Restaurant management software featuresThe following section dissects all the different features that come with restaurant management software. It looks at each feature individually, showcases its benefits, and highlights why it’s an important/useful part of the package.POS systemWhat is it?POS stands for Point of Sale, and refers to the cashier part of the customer journey. This part of the software will work with your till system to calculate the overall cost of the service, deduct offers, and apply discount codes, factoring in VAT and service charges in the process. It will then pass card/digital wallet payments on to the payment service provider.Why is it necessary?This is probably the most essential element of restaurant management software, as it keeps an accurate account of all financial incomings and helps you work out how much profit you’ve made that day. It also helps you to accurately calculate what to charge customers. How can it benefit me?Instead of asking your staff to mentally calculate the cost of each individual order – plus VAT, service charge, and any other cost factors – with 100% accuracy, technology can calculate this for you quickly and efficiently. This speeds up the process for your customers, whilst ensuring that the correct amount of money is exchanged. Not only is this feature useful, it’s essential.Table managementWhat is it?Table management is an organisational system that manages bookings, reservations, and table plans. It links to your restaurant management system, and allows customers to make bookings online, over the phone, or from walking in off the street. Why is it necessary?As well as increasing efficiency, table management can lead to decreases in admin, absentees, and general disappointment. Providing a live view of table occupancy, it helpfully organises your restaurant, allowing both staff and customers to know where and when spaces become available.How can it benefit me?By sending an email confirmation for every booking, the table management element of your system will provide clarity for both customers and staff. Automated text reminders and a clear cancellation structure also help to remove the guesswork when organising your guestbook. Waiting list softwareWhat is it?Picture the scene: it’s Valentine’s Day, and your restaurant is fully booked for the night. However, you anticipate the odd cancellation or no-show. But don’t worry: with waiting list software, you can make sure your restaurant is constantly filled with loved-up couples. Those customers that had previously been unable to book a table, and are now sitting on a waiting list, would now be in luck if another booking cancels.Why is it necessary?On average, 20% of diners in cities will fail to turn up for their reservations. This statistic could have a devastating impact on your profits – but what if we told you there’s a way to fill those empty tables when pesky customers fail to turn up? Waiting list software will keep a bank of willing of customers on your books, ready to fill a spot should one become available. It’s a restaurateur’s dream to be able to refill those otherwise empty tables, as it saves you money while keeping customers happy.How can it benefit me?Considering that the total cost of no-shows to UK pubs and restaurants is estimated at £16 billion annually, it’s clear to see that that your restaurant is in need of a backup plan.Waiting list software can really help here. You’ll be able to tap into a back catalogue of customers who wanted a table, with a view to filling the now empty space.Inventory managementWhat is it?Keeping track of stock – what’s in the fridges, what’s in the store room, what’s been sold, what’s been wasted – can be a time-consuming and laborious task. Luckily, it’s a task you can avoid altogether with the inventory management application that comes with many restaurant management systems. Why is it necessary?Surplus stock is almost as bad for business as not having enough. Unnecessary wastage and having to store excess fresh produce is an inconvenience, and an all-too-sharp reality for businesses without an adequate method of managing and ordering fresh food for the kitchen. So, an inventory management system is essential to keeping track of what’s in the cupboard efficiently and accurately – meaning no more post-shift stock takes or costly ordering mistakes for your business. How can it benefit me?Inventory management has great business benefits. It’ll save time and money on buying in goods, and work out what you’ll need (and when you’ll need it) before you even know you’ve run out!Accounting softwareWhat is it?An element of restaurant management software that allows you to live-track the account status of your business, to keep you up to date on all your incomings and outgoings. Accounting software will automatically create receipts, send invoices, and calculate tax and VAT, without you or your staff having to lift a calculator.Why is it necessary?Accurate bookkeeping is essential to any successful business, but after a long day running a bar or restaurant, the last thing you’ll want to be doing is going through the day’s takings and meticulously calculating profit.This is what makes accounting software a necessity – not only will it keep an accurate record of all cashflow, but it will take care of the ‘mathsy’ side of things, so you have more time to actually run your business. How can it benefit me?It goes without saying that accountancy software will save time. A really nifty benefit of such software is that it’s usually cloud-based, so wherever you are, you’ll be able to keep an eye on your accounts. This offers you peace of mind that it’s business as usual, even when you’re not around. Food cost calculatorWhat is it?A food cost calculator will automatically tell you how much a certain dish or recipe will cost, and present an appropriate price for you to list on the menu.Why is it necessary?A food cost calculator is essential for ensuring that you’re not over- or under-charging for the food or drink (especially cocktails and complex dishes) that you serve. A food cost calculator will provide a guarantee that you’re getting a fair price for your produce, which is essential to running a healthy hospitality business. How can it benefit me?More than a bog-standard sum machine, a food cost calculator will also provide essential information (like the nutritional value of foods), keep track of your suppliers, retain a recipe history, and offer a handy log-book of costs should you need to refer back at any point.It’s a huge benefit to have all of these metrics in one accessible place. And on top of that, having software that’ll do the calculations for you will of course save you precious time. Cash flow managementWhat is it?Cash flow management is a tool that allows you to manage daily incomings and outgoings, plus bank and credit card accounts. It’s an intuitive system that provides a simple way of managing cash flow through daily, weekly, and monthly reports. Why is it necessary?Cash flow management will help you to plan, budget and forecast with confidence, keeping your balance on track and your books in check. How can it benefit me?When it comes to feeling comfortable about your cashflow, the benefits are endless. Not only will it give you maximum visibility (and therefore peace of mind), but it also uses historical data to produce financial forecasts – helping you know where you stand, both now and in the months ahead.Restaurant analyticsWhat is it?Restaurant analytics pulls data that directly relates to your business (ie: profit margins, cashflow, stock etc.) and compiles it into useful, easily digestible insights in graph/chart form. The visual aspect of the data means that it’s easy to see where things are going right, and where things could be improved. You can also benefit from having statistical backing in the next business move you decide to make. Why is it necessary?Cash flow management is a vital time saving tool for any discerning business owner. Instead of having to create your own spreadsheets and data visuals, the software will do it for you, saving you hours of painstaking work and providing you with useful business insights. How can it benefit me?A big benefit of restaurant analytics software is that the data is both shareable and understandable. With visualised data, it’s easy to display to your team what’s going well and what needs improving, which is particularly great for meetings and presentations.Employee managementWhat is it?An employee management system is a way of organising staff records. This includes standard personal information (e.g. age, bank details, length of employment), but also allows you to track progress and mark any concerns in one accessible place so they can be easily addressed.Employee management can also show who’s on shift and when, while keeping a note of holiday taken and general information regarding the rota.Why is it necessary?It’s important to know what’s going on with your staff, so that they feel valued and you feel confident in your team. Employee management means you can easily keep track of ‘the face’ of your business, i.e. those who will be dealing directly with customers and representing your business.How can it benefit me?Employee management is a great tool of accountability, as it clearly shows who’s on shift and when. This means that, should something go disastrously wrong (or fabulously right), you’ll know who’s responsible. Benefits of restaurant management softwareThere are many benefits to restaurant management software. The following top five are the cremé de la cremé of the things you can look forward to when you invest in restaurant management software.1. Reliable tax and sales reportingMake sure your bookkeeping is all above board with accurate reports on your incomings and outgoings. A restaurant management system will also make sure those fiddly tax calculations are done automatically, so you can put the calculator aside and let your software do the rest. 2.User-friendly and intuitive techHospitality has a high staff turnover rate, and you probably have several staff on your books who are working the odd shift here and there. Training each individual in how to use complex, outdated systems would be both time consuming and impractical. That’s where restaurant management software comes in. It provides an interface that’s self explanatory and easy to use, so no matter the size of your team, you’ll know that when it comes to putting through orders and charging customers, your staff will be able to navigate the till with confidence.3.Provide a bespoke service with easeA restaurant management system will have inbuilt customer relationship management tools, so you can see who’s coming back for seconds time and time again. This means that it’s easy to generate loyalty cards and discount codes, as well as create gift cards and special offers.Customers with a gift card will typically visit an establishment more than once to spend the full balance, and will usually spend 35% more than what’s on the card in the first place. To make the most of this potential profit margin, it’s important that you have a system robust enough to support such benefits, i.e., restaurant management software. 4.Inventory managementAnother great benefit to restaurant management software is that it’ll tell you what you’ve got in, alert you when you need to place an order, and in some cases, even place an automatic order for you. This saves bags of time and means you’ll always have a fridge full of fresh produce, so you can provide the highest level of service possible.5.Staff managementKnowing who worked when, which orders were put through by whom, and which members of staff will be working which shift – all through a piece of software that’s accessible anytime, anywhere via the cloud – is utterly invaluable to any discerning business owner. Staff management makes it easy to spot your star employees and see which areas of your team need work, so you can create the most efficient, cohesive and dynamic team that’s perfectly adapted to each shift that comes their way. Restaurant management software: a case studyTo really understand the benefits restaurant management software can bring to a small business, Startups.co.uk have been in touch with Ziaur Choudhrey, owner of Montaz, a successful restaurant specialising in Indian cuisine.Tuck into the Q&A for a real-life account of what it’s like to use restaurant management software to run a business:What are the biggest benefits of using restaurant management software?“The speed and efficiency. It has really transformed the way we handle our orders in the Montaz restaurant. At the touch of a button, front of house are in communication with the kitchen, and ultimately it makes our billing accurate – a really important feature for when we’re busy.How did you choose your system?“We looked for a system that really understood the Indian restaurant market, as well as how restaurants generally operate, and what their technological needs are. We also knew we needed quick, easy to use EPOS setup, as well as touch type laptops and machine readers.”What advice can you give to other restaurants looking to invest in a piece of restaurant management software?“My advice would be to make a list of what your requirements are, and present them to the companies you go to see. How does each company answer the brief and understand your restaurant's operation? Price is important too, as is the maintenance support. “Also, keep an eye out for customer support packages. Knowing we have engineers only a call away if anything goes wrong gives us great reassurance that the IT won't let us down on a busy Saturday night!”A good POS (Point of Sale) system can transform the way your business takes payments and processes orders. Take a look at our Best hospitality POS systems for restaurants and bars if you're keen to know more. Best restaurant management systemsBy now, you should be well versed in the virtues of restaurant management systems, and the benefits they can bring to your business. Now it’s time to take a look at some suppliers, diving into what each system can bring to the table:At a glance comparison:POS SystemBest forPriceLightspeedMobile hospitalityUpwards of £79, per subscription, per monthSquare for RestaurantsGrowing restaurant businesses Free, £69/month, or custom planZettle Food and DrinkSmall restaurant businesses£29/month per iPadNobly POSOffline capability£39 per monthEPOS NowBars and other fast-paced businesses£1,199, or £1,798.80 for the ED-630 packageLightspeedLightspeed is a system that’s designed for mobility. If you run a fleet of food trucks, or plan to be catering at events offsite, then this is the system for you. Highly mobile and operating via a cloud-based system, Lightspeed also allows for tableside orders to be sent right to the kitchen. This will help you speed up the entire process, minimising customer waiting times while maximising order capacity.Cost: Monthly subscriptions start from £79 per month ProsHigh-spec technologyEasily adaptable to your business' needsHardware components also availableConsHigh-spec tech comes with lots of required trainingNot particularly simple to set upSquare for RestaurantsSquare for Restaurants is an easy to use, quick to set up restaurant management system that integrates with Square Online to offer restaurant owners sophisticated booking and takeaway capabilities. The software integrates with lots of other third party apps, giving you full autonomy on how you run your restaurant.Cost: The Square for Restaurants basic package is free. The paid plan starts at £69/monthProsLots of integrationsGet your restaurant online easilyFully expandable – grows with your businessConsCan only use Square's payment systemZettle Food and DrinkZettle Food and Drink is the latest restaurant management software offering from payment processor, Zettle. It's an upgrade on the old iZettle Pro software, with integrated delivery software and sophisticated bill and table management. Costing just £29/month, this restaurant management software is contract-free, and the Zettle card reader integrates with several advanced restaurant management systems if you need to upgrade in the future.Cost: Zettle Food and Drink costs £29/month (receive three months free if you sign up before the end of September)ProsDelivery app integrationSophisticated table managementContract-freeConsNo customer loyalty featuresNobly POSNobly provides restaurant owners with intelligent insights into their business via an up-to-the-moment transaction tracker. Nobly also works offline, making it ideal for a food business that wants to get out on the road but still process transactions.ProsWorks offlineCommon sense functionalityIntuitive dashboard designConsSoftware-only package isn't particularly good valueDoesn't integrate with booking softwareEPOS NowProbably the most widely-used system throughout the sector and a provider that offers both training and setup as part of its upfront costs, EPOS Now is something of an all-rounder. It comes with both the hardware and the software you’ll need to keep your hospitality business ship-shape.Cost: £1,199ProsEasy hardware/software integrationTraining and installation included in the costHighly receptive customer services teamConsRequires regular updates if you want the system to run as efficiently as possible Order and pay software: an alternative to restaurant management software?Order and pay software shouldn't be an alternative to restaurant management software – it should be used alongside your restaurant management software. Order and pay apps give your customers the means to order at their table, or place a delivery or takeaway order from their home.While order and pay software is pretty sophisticated in its own right, it isn't sophisticated enough for you to run your business from it. For example, order and pay apps only offer basic sales analytics and don't integrate with point of sale hardware.How does it work? Order and pay software can integrate with your point of sale software, or be used as a standalone system. If you want all of your sales processed through the same system, make sure the order and pay app that you choose integrates with your point of sale system – or check the integrations store of your point of sale software to see if your provider's already partnered up with an order and pay supplier.Customers can either download the app onto their phone or scan a QR code to access your online ordering system. If you're investing in an order and pay app to enable remote ordering, you'll need to use a white label native app provider so customers can access it anywhere at any time. If you're investing in an order and pay app to provide an order at table service, a web-based order and pay app should do.[vc_icon icon_fontawesome=”fas fa-hamburger” color=”juicy_pink” background_style=”rounded” size=”xl”]If you think your business will benefit from order and pay software but you need help finding the right one, our quiz is here to get you started. We'll put you in touch with the best providers for your needs based on yours answers to our simple questions. We take the hassle out of talking to experts and finding costs. How to choose the right restaurant management software for your businessWhen it comes to choosing the right restaurant management system for your business, you don’t want to make a dog’s dinner of a decision. Keep the following five tips in mind when selecting your software, and your chosen system should be the icing on the cake, rather than a big mistake…Look for a common sense-based systemHaving an all singing, all dancing restaurant management system is all well and good, but if it’s a hassle to use, the high-spec tech is rendered almost useless. Make sure you choose a system that puts the user first, so you and your staff can work with confidence and efficiency.Look into the future…It’s essential that your software choice is rooted in a long-term goal, i.e. to grow and develop your business. To ensure maximum longevity (and therefore the highest ROI), look for a system that supports both on-site and cloud-based activities, so your system can evolve with your business as it grows into a flourishing enterprise.Think about self-serveBeing able to make your own order, and having the control that comes with sending your request direct to the kitchen, is a massive draw to customers. Think about the self service kiosks in McDonald’s, or the Wetherspoons ordering app – they’re so popular because they increase efficiency, and allow customers to enjoy much-desired autonomy over their order.Think about the scope for providing a similar service in your own bar/restaurant when selecting your restaurant management system.Look out for order flexibilityBeing able to replace that side of rice with a side of chips is a big win for your business. It might seem like a small thing, but giving the customer what they want is seen as a must in the modern market. Make sure your restaurant management system is flexible enough to facilitate such customisation.Look for an all-in-one systemMake sure the system you choose has all of the functions you’ll be needing as standard, so there’s no need to buy further add-ons. Next steps: Compare restaurant management softwareThroughout this article, we’ve followed a breadcrumb trail through the world of restaurant management software. We’ve touched upon the features and benefits of such software, and even looked at a real-life example that illustrates the value such a system will bring to a hospitality business.By now, you should be armed with the information you need to understand the value that restaurant management software can bring to your business. But it's advisable that you talk things through with suppliers and compare a few different quotes to make sure you're getting the best deal and the best fit for your business.To be put in touch with suppliers who can give you tailored restaurant management software quotes, you can use our quick questionnaire to outline the needs of your business, and we'll do the legwork! Share this post facebook twitter linkedin Aimee Bradshaw Senior Writer Aimee is Startups' resident expert in business tech, products, and services. She loves a great story and enjoys chatting to the startups and small business community. Starting her own egg delivery business from the age of 12, she has a healthy respect for self-starters and local services.