Buying anything new for a restaurant, pub or café bar can be exciting and none more so than a booking, reservation or management system. However, with so much choice available to restaurateurs it can be difficult to decide which one to choose. In this week's blog, we provide six key areas to consider before parting with your cash.
The best restaurant software will not only make your life easier, but have tools which actually help retain customers. Customer churn is a significant factor impacting f&b businesses right now, so every customer saved is money in the bank, and less spent on attracting new ones. Look for products which allow you to communicate with your customers, such as the ability to send special offers, news and promotions while allowing you to identify diners' personal behaviours and preferences.
It is important to think in terms of value rather than price when buying software, because free or cheap isn't always best if the product doesn't do what you need it to. Compare products to identify what you actually get for your money and try to find a system which has functionality you will use at a price to suit your budget. Similarly, decide whether a fixed monthly subscription works best for your circumstances or whether you'd prefer a system which takes a cut of your income via per-booking commissions.
The past sixteen months have seen unprecedented change in the hospitality sector, with business margins cut and trade levels much reduced. It's not surprising, then, that restaurateurs are looking for software to play a proactive part in helping them recover. As well as a software-based reservations diary, owners seek products which help maximise their business by optimising table plans, scheduling and generate new sales channels such as dining at home and/or click & collect.
In the early days of software, the vendor would usually send someone to site to install the software, configure it and train the staff. The process was not dissimilar to having a new ePOS system installed and frankly rather long-winded. Thankfully, the advent of web-based systems means those days are long gone and it is now perfectly possible (indeed, normal) to sign up for a restaurant system and have it running the same day on your desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile or any other web-connected device.
It can be difficult to spot an old system dressed up to look like a new one, but go by your gut instinct. Is the screen intuitive and easy to use? Does it flow logically? Does it have that same modern feel as, say, your favourite social media platforms or other software? If it feels clunky and looks blocky, then there will be a better, more modern system out there. Move on.
Above all, the system has to be easy to learn by all staff, from you as the owner or manager to the service and kitchen staff. Put simply, everyone should be able to log in and use its basic functions after an hour or so of self-help. Clearly the vendor should provide formal online training, videos or other resources if you need it, but we suggest you decline a system which requires sit-down classroom training – it just isn't necessary in today's software world.
Contemporary software products can be designed and marketed much more quickly than the older “installed” systems, which means there's a plethora of products to choose from, from established players to new tech start-ups. Frankly, it can all be a little confusing but restaurateurs tell us they really do like to opt for established brands when choosing their systems, because they want to know that the product they are going to buy and the company which provides them have a rich pedigree in, and understanding of, the restaurant sector.
Equally, some see new entrants' products as a potential risk – rightly or wrongly – due to a fear of under-development or a below-par support infrastructure.
The key here is to look at products from vendors who have not only earned their stripes over years of working with restaurateurs, but crucially continue to innovate using the latest thinking and technology. If in doubt, software review sites such as Capterra will always give a great insight into what existing users think.
Our final piece of advice is to opt for a system which allows you to try before you buy, with no punitive exit clauses or long contracts. Most reputable restaurant software vendors will happily offer a free trial, so you can use the system in-situ to see if it is right for your business.
Choosing restaurant software can be confusing, especially with the amount of products available. Once you have decided which features you will need, draw up a short-list of well-established brands and try them for free in your business. Evaluate them for look, feel, and ease of use and avoid any which require in-depth training. Don't forget to set a budget but don't pay for what you don't need; above all, try to see beyond the bells and whistles for functionality which will genuinely help retain customers, to enable you to recover and grow.
favouritetable is the leading provider of easy to install, easy to use restaurant management software, designed to make owners' lives easier and more efficient. For over a decade, favouritetable has provided world-class and commission-free systems to enable restaurants, pubs, bars and other businesses to maximise their revenue and create seamless workflows which make owners, staff and customers happy.
For a demonstration, call us today on 033 0124 4785 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and see why favouritetable is the best value full-feature restaurant management system on the market.