Benefits of online restaurant management systems
Restaurateurs who have been in the business for some time will have seen the arrival of many innovations, not all of which were a roaring success. In what is a uniquely chaotic environment, the idea of implementing software-based technology was often seen as just another fad. Not any more: software used for taking bookings, controlling inventory and scheduling tables has been around for some time, and it has evolved.
In the early days of software systems, they relied on the restaurant, pub or café bar owner buying the software and having it installed on a high spec pc (remember the days when we all referred to “the computer”, because there was only one in the business?) normally located somewhere under the reception desk. Thanks to those early pioneering systems, software has evolved and there is a whole world of web-based systems to explore.
In this blog we will take a short tour through online systems, and their benefits.
Using the internet means that restaurant software no longer has to be installed on that cranky old pc under the reception desk. For any restaurant which has a decent Wi-Fi signal, the software can be accessed on any device, from tablets, smartphones, laptops and – yes – that pc.
Not only does that portability open up new opportunities for more flexible working practices within the restaurant, the system can be opened and used from literally anywhere. With that level of access, owners can check their bookings from home, do their accounts on the train or create a marketing campaign in the garden.
Older, first generation software tended to look and feel a little clunky – all primary colours, blocky graphics and rather unintuitive workflows. Web-based software, on the other hand, allows for much more tactile designs which are not only easier on the eye, but simple to use. Rather than looking like industrial software, systems now make use of beautifully crafted user interfaces which flow, are calming and feature rounded shapes, pastels, gradients and tones. They stimulate a personalised experience for the user and one in which they interact with what they see on screen, rather than have to be a slave to it.
Put simply, the user interface (and by the way, that’s just a technical term for the bit the customer actually sees and uses) looks much, much nicer than older systems, which means it is much more pleasurable to use.
Well, here’s a shock: the term installation doesn’t really apply to web-based software at all; it is a carry-over from the old days when buyers had to install a disc and press “install”. There is no installation of web-based products as they are viewed through the users’ web browsers, just like any other website.
So where is the system installed? Surely it has to be installed somewhere? Well yes, but the difference is that the product is installed on a super-computer often thousands of miles away and a team of clever software people look after it remotely.
One of the nice things about that remote infrastructure is that upgrades are applied centrally, by those clever people we mentioned. Gone are the days when restaurant owners would need to await the arrival of a new disc in the mail and feed it into their pc to get the latest version. Web-based upgrades are carried out centrally, usually seamlessly and apply to all customers.
The smartphone revolution and its almost universal take-up has inevitably lowered the cost of hardware, to the extent that high-spec phones capable of running restaurant software can be bought for well under $100. Consequently there is no need for hospitality business owners to invest huge sums in big, fixed computers costing thousands. Indeed, millennials and subsequent generations actually prefer to use their own devices even at work, which further reduces the need for significant hardware spending.
Access to data
Web-based systems offer much more powerful options for restaurateurs who wish to access their data in real time, rather than have to rely on running historical reports which take an age to configure. Thanks to that central infrastructure and speed of the internet, critical information about business performance, financials, bookings, customer behaviour and practically anything else is available in real time.
Broadly, users can see what is happening at that moment, plus dig much deeper into historical trends just with a click, or as is more common these days, a tap.
Connections with other systems
It’s not just restaurant systems which have evolved over the years into must-have products in a web-based world: pretty much every software product is now available in the same manner. This means that, for hospitality business owners, there is a product for practically any purpose within the organisation, from accounting to staff management.
That’s great, but nobody wants or has the time to manage different systems all doing different things, without talking to each other. There’s little to be gained in efficiency terms if, for example, the restaurant management system has to be manually updated using information from, say, the till or POS system.
Fortunately for restaurateurs, the software companies quickly realised that customers needed a joined-up approach to technology, so contemporary web-based systems do indeed talk to each other, usually with a little technical setting up by one or both of the suppliers.
At some point in their life cycles, restaurants will wish to grow in some way, be it simply adding more tables or opening another property. Web-based restaurant management systems are designed to scale with the business without having to carry out any technical work. At its simplest, this might be the manager adding new users to the software as the staff base enlarges or – at the other end of the spectrum – adding the entire system used in property A to property B.
Web-based products usually come in a variety of priced bundles, from the basic owner-manager variant to those catering for larger, multi-property chains. The subscription-based nature of these products allows the owners to scale up (or down, as the case may be) their systems to meet those changing requirements, usually via a quick call to the vendor or a click of a mouse in their software account portal. The beauty of these products is the ability for owners to flex their software needs easily, and without long contracts or having to await the delivery of yet another computer disc containing the new version.
We’ve kept the less exciting but most important bit until last. All of the above benefits of web based restaurant management software are fantastic, but below the surface of that lovely user interface is a plethora of data, which must be protected at all costs.
Broadly, data can be seen as two areas:
- System data. This is the information which makes the product work. It isn’t necessarily security critical, but if a restaurant loses it then their system will fail. Think of it as akin to the oil and coolant in a motor vehicle – without it, the car will break down with potentially catastrophic consequences.
- Personal data. Quite aside from containing information necessary to make it work, by their very nature restaurant management systems contain a lot of private and personal data. Usually this is information about customers, such as names, addresses, contact details and so on. As we all know, robust legislation exists to ensure the safety of these details with the responsibility for keeping it secure placed on both the restaurant and its software vendor.
If we take a brief look back at the older systems, we’ll recall that pc sitting under reception. Because of its stand-alone nature, that unit physically contained all of these two sets of data, making it vulnerable to critical losses (fire, flood or just hardware failure) and even theft.
Modern web-based systems remove that threat by making use of the remote infrastructure we mentioned earlier. No data is held on site, rather, it is stored in highly secure yet remote vaults costing $billions. With cyber security being a very hot topic, operators of these storage facilities spend $billions ensuring they are not just legislation-compliant but almost impregnable. We say almost because nothing is infallible, but the level of security offered is infinitely greater than anything available locally.
Despite the days of installing software from a disc having long gone, there is still some hesitancy among the hospitality community over the shift to fully web-based restaurant booking systems. However, their ease of use and installation, scalability, links with other systems and seamless upgrades really do put the previous software generations in the shade. A focus on security by the vendors should give restaurateurs the confidence to implement online products which work for their business, allowing them to get on with the job in hand: filling tables.
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.