Choosing a new or replacement restaurant reservation, table or booking management system is sometimes a bit of a minefield. Let's face it, the choices of software can be bewildering and most restaurant, pub, café or bar owners' time would much rather be used on something more interesting. Happily, we wrote about some of the things to look for in a previous blog which you can find here, but something we'd like to focus on this week is integrations.
"Inter...what?" is the reply we often hear from restaurateurs having surfaced from a final round of software evaluations and chosen their likely next system. It is an often over-looked area which, if ignored, could come back to bite in the future when the system needs to be scaled up as the restaurant grows.
Put simply, integrations is the term used to describe the software's connections with other systems. A stand-alone restaurant system is great, but as with most products there comes a time when weaknesses are exposed after its period of bedding-in. Cries of "I wish it did this" are often followed by "I wish it talked to my <fill in the blank> system, so we don't have to manage multiple pieces of software".
Contemporary restaurant software will offer highly-rated and award-winning functionality across a wide range of features. However, sometimes customers' own unique needs mean that they require deeper functionality in some of these areas.
Enter integrations: the best restaurant management systems have them, and show a positive attitude towards creating more and more.
The benefit of integrations are obvious: in the case of ePOS, for example, the two systems will exchange data on transactions, sales, refunds, deposits and a whole host of other useful information.
In this week's blog, we look at the integrations which we feel are most important for buyers of restaurant software.
On a day-to-day operational basis, ePOS is probably the singular most important integration. Without it, transactions will appear in one system and have to be manually reconciled to another. ePOS integrations provide a seamless flow of data between systems, so there is never any mis-match resulting in that waste-of-time search for errors.
If the last few years have taught us anything, it is that demand for e-payment technology among the consuming public has never been higher. Customers want to book and pay for their restaurant reservations online, so restaurants which have clunky "phone us with your credit card" type arrangements will miss out as bookers give up and reserve at a different restaurant.
When choosing restaurant software, business owners should ensure their number one choice is able to connect seamlessly with a reputable payment provider such as Stripe, or a consolidating payment gateway like Worldpay.
Savvy restaurateurs are increasingly getting clever with their marketing and realizing the importance of capturing customer data. Every time a customer books or visits, they leave some golden nuggets of data which can be used to interact with them in the future. Unless the restaurant in question happens to have deep pockets or someone with a degree in promotion, they're unlikely to be prolific creators of swish TV ads or clever pay-per-click web activity.
However, that misses the point, because with just the customers' email addresses restaurants can reach their target audience in a very specific, simple but effective way. By linking that customer database within the restaurant technology to an off-the-shelf email marketing campaign program, customers can receive details of new menus, opening hours, special offers and a whole lot more just by the restaurant's click of a mouse.
We'll keep this one short: customers must be able to book via Facebook, period. Software products without this integration should be treated with caution.
Contact Relationship Management ("CRM") systems take the basic email marketing platforms to a different level, by providing a much more granular approach to managing customers' data. Fundamentally they provide an A-Z customer journey with a range of tools allowing the restaurant to interact with their customers (and even the people they'd like as customers). All restaurant software systems will have a customer database with some very useful tools, but plug in a CRM via an integration and they sky is the limit.
Restaurant reservation systems will always include the ability to offer online booking on the restaurant's website, and most do a great job of that. In a competitive and online world, however, this may not be enough to fill the premises week in, week out. There are a plethora of booking channels available which are run by organizations able to generate bookings (at a cost) via wall-to-wall ad campaigns in the wide stream media, and these will be familiar to most restaurants.
The new bookings from these channels are always very welcomed, but unless the restaurant management software has an integration with the channel in question there will be an awful lot of manual data transfer which, to be honest, rather defeats the object of having technology in place. Properly integrated systems will accurately transfer bookings, customer data, transactions and so on between platforms while all the time pushing availability back up the chain.
The boom in dine at home has created a life-line for many restaurants, and has seen the growth of a number of national and international brands offering to take orders and co-ordinate their dispatch. The problem comes when restaurants are connected to multiple consolidators - very quickly the accurate management of orders from disperate sources can become a real headache - and that's before they've each had to be manually entered into the main restaurant management software.
Thankfully there is a solution, again, courtesy of integrations. The best restaurant reservation and pre-ordering systems will integrate with a range of partners, or even one multi-consolidating partner, to converge the orders into consistent and manageable information which is automatically sent to the site's main system.
The growth of restaurant software coupled with the public's insatiable appetite for online transactions is both a saviour and a curse for many businesses. The global reach of internet-driven business provides restaurants with huge opportunities, but without vital integrations they run the risk of being over-run by disconnected data. In an era when software is supposed to make life easier, the last thing restaurateurs have time for is after-hours recondition of different systems.
Restaurant booking, reservation or management systems should come with the possibility of multiple connections built-in - if they don't, buyer beware.
Favouritetable is restaurant software featuring the best range of in-built tools available, from online booking to full back-office functionality. Integrations include for TISSL ePOS, Mailchimp and Airship email marketing, Stripe payments, Facebook, Acteol CRM, Reserve With Google, Stuart deliveries and Deliverect.
For a demonstration, call us today on 033 0124 4785 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by Pixabay: https://www.pexels.com/photo/black-and-blue-electronic-tools-on-green-circuit-board-39290/