Considering technology for your new restaurant opening?

You’ve got the venue, you know what food is going on the menu, you’ve started hiring the right people, the finances are looking good, and crucially you have tested all the cocktails. You’re making great progress towards opening that first ever restaurant…  what else do you have to think about?  Technology! Not always the most glamorous of tasks, but one that could have a significant impact on how well your restaurant runs and ultimately in your guest experience – which means your bottom line. But where to start – what do you really need, and what is a nice to have? Here’s a brief overview of what systems and software will make your life easier, and help make your restaurant a success.

Broadly there are 3 categories of systems you might need – pre visit, in venue, and post visit. By far the largest and most complex category is the ‘in venue’ one as that encompasses everything you need to make your restaurant run smoothly. But the others are worth a mention too!

A word of warning – you might look down this list and think some of these are for much further down the line. That may be true – the only thing we would recommend is that you have a think about the whole structure before you begin. What are your goals – are you looking to scale – with other branches, or different restaurants? This will impact on the type of technology you need. More on key considerations below. 

Pre visit

  • Reservations: this depends on how big your restaurant is. If you are running a small number of covers, you won’t necessarily need a system. Pen and paper – or a simple excel spreadsheet – would serve you just as well. Reservation systems can integrate with table management to automate booking confirmations and manage guests and covers, which can save you time and costly errors.  They will also include waiting list functionality – no shows are the bane of any restaurants life and can be up to 1 in 5 reservations.  If you have a list of people signed up to a waiting list, you can fill your tables and avoid losing that cover.

In venue – your main restaurant management software

  • EPOS: this is your till system, and you will need this from day 1, unless your staff are very talented mathematicians. Keeps track of money coming in, VAT, service charge, and orders sent to the kitchen!
  • Employee management: this is a broad category encompassing shifts, personal data and payroll, training and comms. Very important to know who is meant to be where, when, and how to train and remunerate your people. The comms and training pieces can create a sense of unity in a company particularly if operating across different sites. Your staff won’t stick around long if you don’t pay them or if their shifts are a mess, so a decent system is key from the start.
  • Inventory / stock management: critical to keep on top of ingredient usage, keeping stock levels reasonable (too much stock is harder to rectify than not enough!), and knowing what to order. This is a great time saving piece of software.
  • Supplier management: software that will help your chefs know what suppliers and products they can use, as well as important information about your supply chain, accreditations, and nutritional data. Once you have gone beyond a single restaurant, supplier management software will be a huge benefit.
  • Bookkeeping and accounting: to run a limited company in the UK, you have to keep track of all your incoming and outgoing money. This is unmanageable without some basic software to help and bookkeeping software therefore goes on the must haves list.
  • Recipe creator and menu management: a very useful tool to stay on top of your costings, portion sizes and margins as well as manage the overall theoretical P&L of your menus. This will link to your sales and inventory so that ingredients are taken out of your stock as you sell them. Manageable manually with excel in a small restaurant, but when looking to scale and if looking at costings centrally, this is one to earmark.
  • Reporting and analytics: are you more profitable at breakfast or dinner? Should you open for brunch, or close slightly later? Analytics tools will give you the data to make informed strategic decisions about your business.

Post visit

  • Reviews and feedback: There’s always Google, and Facebook, and plenty of other review sites. But you can also use review software to ask your guests to fill in a survey that you have customised and designed; this kind of software can then help you manage all feedback in one consolidated dashboard, and ultimately improve the guest experience. Not an essential part of your toolkit when you are starting out, but as you begin to scale, this will help make informed decisions.

Key considerations

There are a few key things to bear in mind when deciding on what technology to start using. Are you likely to have several sites, and will you and your managers often be on the go? If so, cloud based software could be a good option. This would give you the flexibility to check your daily takings on the go, so you are not tied to a specific site. On the downside, you would be more vulnerable to internet outages.

Make sure the software used by your staff is intuitive – you don’t want to have to organise lengthy training sessions for each new piece of functionality. Ease of use at least at the front end will save you a lot of time further down the line.

It is also worth asking what your chosen software integrates with. If you want to add a mobile ordering app, or plug in a recipe costing system to your inventory management, you need to know that they are going to be able to talk to each other.

After sales support is a key feature to consider too. Look out for SLAs, turnaround time on enquiries – ask around, and read reviews. Consider also how flexible the systems are – can you make changes yourself or do you always need to the supplier to them to reconfigure.

Hopefully this should have given you an idea of what to consider when you are starting to look at systems for your new venture.  A lot to think about especially when scaling up – but what a great problem to have!

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