The smart way to choose restaurant software

by John Jones | Oct 07, 2022

There are few restaurants, pubs, cafes or bars out there who have not installed - or considered installing - management or table booking software into their business. The onward march of available technology has created an insatiable demand in the consuming public for easy access online systems which enable them to interact with their favourite brands quickly, accurately and from anywhere. Inevitably this has lead to most food & drink businesses to at the very least think about adding management software in order to capitalise on these new ways of working.

Once a restaurateur says "ok, I'm going to put some management software into my business" and sets off with credit card in hand, they can quickly become embroiled in a huge amount of choice around which product to buy, and why. 

In the world of restaurant software there is a huge array of vendors all selling management software, so it is important to understand the differences in their products. However, it is also vital to understand the types of vendor, too. We would put these into the following categories:

1. Well-established but old or limited functionality product/technology
2. Well-established with contemporary product/technology
3. New to market with limited functionality product/technology
4. New to market with contemporary product/technology

Looking at the above categories, we can immediately make some observations: New to market businesses are great because they have a lot of growth potential and will look very fresh and modern, however their products may lack depth, which will show in their limitations. Similarly, even if their product is good, the company's finances may not be what they seem - start-ups need a lot of funding which the investors will eventually want back. That's created a lot of software businesses which have entered the market with a glitzy flourish, then disappeared into obscurity just as fast. 

Well-established companies will have a wealth of experience and really understand the restaurant sector but if they haven't evolved their product it is likely to be time-bound, despite its number of users. That's dangerous for so many reasons: the product's underpinnings must be able to deliver a modern user experience; it must be scalable, secure, stable sustainable.

That leaves established restaurant management software companies which have been in business long enough to have "got the T-shirt", while providing a product which is strong, relevant, modern, robust and extremely usable. In our view, companies which fit this latter category are the ones restaurants should look for.

Buying restaurant management or table booking software for the first time can be daunting, but it needn't be is you follow our five steps and seek out the best vendor.

1. What do you need?

In our digital world, it is easy to be lured by social media adverts peddling what appear to be great restaurant software systems. It is also very easy to buy those products, but we would suggest restaurant owners make a list of what they need from their forthcoming software before jumping in feet first.

There really is no need to buy full-function restaurant software if you are never going to use all of its functionality, so it is vital to make a list of essentials and nice-to-haves before you go software shopping. Make the list a collaborative project with staff and colleagues, to ensure you haven't missed anything but then audit the list to to make sure the essentials really are essentials and the nice-to-haves exactly that.

Where are the peaks and troughs in your restaurant business which indicate you need more tools at your disposal during those busy times? For example, if you do a roaring trade at Christmas and New Year with constant party bookings, it is probably vital that you choose a system with a party booking module with menu pre-ordering and one designed to make managing all those seasonal reservations less of a headache.

Similarly, think about what you need from the software company: do they need to be based in your country? What support regime do they have?

2. Search

Armed with your list of required functionality, it is time to have a look around at what's out there. A quick Google search will bring up a never ending list of restaurant reservation systems, all shouting "Try me! Buy me!", which can be overwhelming. Time to check the basics against your list and reject those which just don't feel right, are too big, too small, too remote or don't appear to really understand restaurants.

3. Try before you buy

We would suggest choosing 3-6 products/companies to evaluate, based on your research. The chances are you will reduce this down based on the experience you have with these companies: some may not respond (if it is difficult to speak with anyone or they are slow, that's not a good sign), so you can rule them out. 

The next step is to try the software, and by "try" we mean really try it. Sales demos are great and invaluable because you get a feel for the company, its people and its software, but nothing beats actually using the software in your own time courtesy of a free self-help evaluation. Put simply, these arrangements give you full access to a dummy version of the software, so you can play with it to your heart's content without breaking anything or using real data. Once you have access, check the functionality against your list of must-haves and don't compromise.

3. Keep trying

Don't stop evaluating at the first company: repeat the exercise until you have tried all of the products on your short list. By now you ill be an expert!

4. Noughts and Crosses

It is vital to repeat this exercise with all of the software products and vendors, so that you get a good feel for the points of differences and main benefits. Map the pros and cons of each, and give them a score. Once you have that, take a break so you can reflect on what has been quite an intense period of software evaluation. 

When you're ready, have a fresh look at your findings and be really honest about which product looks best for you. It might be worthwhile reconvening those staff and colleagues to give their input, too. 

Once done and you have a verdict, get in touch with the vendor and get ready to order your software!

5. The small print

You really should have done this at stage one, but it is worth checking the small print of your chosen software. Do you have to sign-up to a long contract, or is it a rolling monthly agreement? If the worst happens and you want to leave, are there any penalties or notice periods? And if you decide to leave, will you have easy access to your data and the vendor willing to provide it?

Wrapping up

Buying restaurant management or table reservation software can be a big step, as can upgrading to a new supplier. Given the  myriad of software products and companies out there all competing for your attention and money, it can be tempting to jump in with both feet and buy the first or most prominently-advertised system.

Don't do that - it is important to identify what you need from both the product and the company, then shop around and try-before-you-buy. Speak with the short-listed brands and check the small print before committing and if all goes well you'll have a new software supplier for life.

Sign up to Favouritetable by 1st November and get your first month free.

Favouritetable is contemporary, easy to use restaurant management software designed to increase bookings, efficiency, revenue and profits. Loved by restaurateurs and UK-based, it's the best value full-function restaurant management software on the market. 

For a demonstration, call us today on 033 0124 4785 or email us at