The Food & Beverage industry is a constantly evolving playing field. Practices that were acceptable just a few years ago are quickly becoming phased out in favor of faster and more efficient methods of operation.
One aspect of restaurant operation that has seen the most change is that of restaurant management software. Every day new systems pop up that are able to do certain tasks in a fraction of the time and with more precision than what was previously achievable.
Restaurant management software, when done the right way, is a sure-fire way to ensure a restaurant's success.
Whether it be by choosing the best POS system or even an inventory management software that saves you hours of headache, restaurant management software is something that shouldn’t be skimped out on at your restaurant.
Read on to learn about the 16 best restaurant management software in 2021 and the features you need to make sure they get the job
Point of Sale System (POS)
In the past, a good POS system was inexpensive, easy to use, and had one primary function – processing sales and transactions.
Nowadays, POS systems are one the most powerful forms of restaurant management software a restaurant can have at its disposal.
Modern POS systems act as a computer/cash register hybrid, with the ability to process credit card payments, print receipts, display information on a user-friendly screen and operate as a service station.
With advancements in technology, formerly bulky tabletop POS systems are moving towards tablets such as iPads for increased portability.
Features you need from your POS system are:
- Ability to calculate cash for each order entered throughout the day
- Make note of cash in and cash out
- Create sales reports for various periods of time
- Record payment methods of each guest
- Calculate payroll data
- Record check averages daily
- Keep track of sales metrics
- Record and store information on recurring customers
Each POS system is different from the other based on the software, applications, and hardware.
When looking for a new POS system for your restaurant, make sure to do sufficient research based on the restaurant’s wants and needs. Keep in mind most POS companies will allow you to try the system out for free before purchasing.
A few things to consider when choosing a POS system:
- Ease of use: A POS system that requires extensive training might not be the right one for you. This will lead to frustration from not only the employees but also customers who are left waiting for certain transactions to process.
- Price and quality: Make sure you know your business inside and out before purchasing a POS system. A modern system can be very costly and hence it should be able to handle your business volume and individual restaurant specifications to make it a worthwhile purchase.
- Necessary components: In addition to purchasing the software itself, do not forget to get the necessary hardware components. These include parts such as the screen monitor and any portable terminal that is linked to the main unit.
- Data tracking: Your POS system should contain all the programs required for not only the front-of-house calculations but everything related to the back of houses such as inventory reports and financial tracking.
Best POS systems in 2021
Harbortouch: Provides POS software and hardware with no upfront cost and free installations. Price: $89 per month, per terminal.
micros by Oracle: Leader in restaurant POS system worldwide. Price: Set up cost starting from $5,000.
Square POS: Quick set up, and very social media and marketing friendly. Price: $169 for hardware, and 2.75% per transaction.
Revel: Easy to use interface, built-in loyalty, and gift card programs. Price: Around $139/month depending on restaurant size.
Restaurant Reservation Software/Table Management System
For restaurants taking reservations, moving from the ‘pen and paper method of restaurant booking to a restaurant reservation system can make an incredible difference.
Using restaurant reservation software not only makes your day-to-day operation immensely easier but also creates a better user experience for your guests.
Rather than answering phones and having to manually enter information, guests can input their own information through a website interface, mobile app, or web widget.
A good restaurant reservation setup will also feature an intuitive table management system.
This allows restaurants to receive bookings through a multitude of channels and also to visualize their restaurant hour by hour.
Useful Features of a good restaurant reservation system
- Reduce no-shows through custom reminders (SMS updates or time-sensitive push notifications)
- Easily make reservations online
- Manage inventory more efficiently
- Restaurant automation to jumpstart efficiency
- Predict the stock needed for upcoming days
- Allows you to allocate a certain number of tables for reservations to prevent overbooking
- Stores guest information to allow for future marketing activities such as emails, or alerts on special occasions (birthdays and anniversaries)
When choosing a reservation system for your restaurant, make sure to find one that fits your daily needs.
A good system should be easy to use and not require hours of training to master. It should also be scalable and not only just fit the current requirements of the restaurant but also the future volume.
It helps if all restaurant information is stored in the cloud rather than on the system itself to create a faster user experience.
Best Restaurant Reservation and Table Management Systems in 2021
Eat App: Complete front-of-house table management system hosted on both iOS and Web. Price: $129 per month for an unlimited number of devices per restaurant.
Food Costing Software
As a restaurant operator, the number one priority is to ensure profitability. In the scope of a restaurant, the primary source of revenue is the food itself, and hence it’s important to know the food cost of each menu item.
Food costing software facilitates the entire process by automating all calculations. A good food costing software will help keep track of your inventory in addition to providing detailed analytics for each dish.
Must-have features from your food costing software
- Understand profit margins for each dish to assess the profitability
- Highlight the money-making dishes to increase demand
- Takes labor cost and fixed costs into consideration
- Allows you to experiment with different price points to achieve maximum profitability
Top Food Costing Software in 2021
FoodCo: Fully integrates into your existing accounting software. Intuitive controls make for easy use. Price: Starting at $4,000.
CostBrain: Real-time food costing, allowing you to scan invoices directly. Price: From $0-$40 depending on the plan.
Alternatively, download this free food cost calculator excel sheet.
Inventory Management Software
A proper inventory management system gives restaurant operators a crystal clear image of the current state of their inventory.
This eliminates the need for regular inventory checks, which in turn reduces the number of human errors involved.
With software automating the process, restaurants have more time to focus on running their business rather than completing menial tasks and are guaranteed the right stock at the right time.
Must-have inventory management software features
- Improves the accuracy of inventory orders (Never overstock or understock)
- Help keep the business organized
- Saves time by automating the inventory process
- Saves money by providing insight into which products are selling and which aren’t
- Can be integrated with POS and accounting software
When choosing an inventory management system, it is important to have a budget in mind as some products can be incredibly costly but unnecessary for your size restaurant.
It is also essential to understand the inventory challenges you face in your restaurant before making a decision.
Top inventory management software in 2021
SimpleOrder: Exports directly into accounting software. Helps control food costs. Price: $19 or $65 per month.
Orca: POS compatibility and financial tracking. Price: $129/ month.
WISK: An all-in-one liquor inventory app. It Helps restaurant managers organize and order bottles more efficiently. Price: Starting at $124/ month.
If you are running a popular restaurant, or just having a busy night, then you know the importance of implementing a waitlist system.
Waitlist software allows restaurant operators to quickly add guests onto a waiting list when a restaurant is full, which are then alerted when a table frees up.
This is achieved through either a portable buzzer that the guest carries or with more modern waitlist systems, an SMS is sent when a table is ready.
Must-have Features in your waitlist software:
- Automate the waitlist process
- Gain insight into your client base
- Quick SMS functionality to send alerts to guests
Best waitlist software in 2021
WaitWhile: Create a waitlist from anywhere and inform guests through SMS updates. Create check-in stations to allow guests to sign themselves in. Price: From $0-$149/month depending on restaurant volume.
Queupad: Can handle multiple waitlists, no internet needed. Price: Free
Waitlisted: Integrates with a multitude of other services. Allows guests to refer friends to move up the line. Price: $60/year.
Restaurant Accounting Software
Running a restaurant can be one of the most exciting and rewarding endeavors, but this will come at a price.
It is easy to overlook one of the most important elements of restaurant operation – restaurant accounting. Without proper accounting practices set in place, restaurants are destined to fail.
But what do you do if your budget doesn’t allow you to hire a restaurant accountant?
Restaurant accounting software is often cheap (sometimes even free) and easy to learn how to use. In no time you’ll be balancing your books like a pro.
Must-have restaurant accounting software features
- Gives you real-time insights into your restaurant's finances
- Shows you both accounts payable and receivable
- Can connect with other restaurant software (POS and payroll system)
- Can be accessed easily from wherever you are
Best restaurant accounting software in 2021
Zipbooks: Perfect for small business owners, customizable emails and invoices. Price: Free
QuickBooks: Accessible anytime on any device, has the ability to create accounting reports. Price: Starting from $5 per month (1-month free trial)
Cash Flow Management Software
In the restaurant industry cash is king and to keep a steady flow of money coming in to balance the money going out, you are going to need to manage your cash flow.
Just being profitable is not enough for a small restaurant, you’re going to need the right cash flow to make that a reality.
Despite it being one of the most important aspects of financial business stability, it’s often the first element restaurant owners overlook in favor of other business offerings.
If this is the case at your restaurant, find out how you can easily get your cash flow managed by using affordable cash flow management software.
Must-have cash flow management software features
- Multiple cash flow views to monitor flow on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis
- Ability to connect to your accounting software for seamless viewing of data
- Project future cash flow
- Export data to process externally
Best cash flow management software in 2021
Pulse: All in one cash flow solution, connects to QuickBooks. Price: Starting from $30 per month (1-month free trial)
Restaurant Analytics Software
Restaurant efficiency is the main driver of profitability in your business. Restaurant analytics software will help you identify different opportunities to improve efficiency.
Whether your goal is to sell more, improve employee productivity, cut costs, or even reduce fraud and deter theft, analytics software will allow you to deep dive into your restaurant to see all aspects of operations.
Important restaurant analytics software features:
- Creates a custom profile for each guest to help you understand your clientele
- Better understand your menu and make decisions based on the data
- Know what each server is doing and how well they are doing it
Best restaurant analytics software in 2021
Fishbowl: Econometric pricing, menu optimization, competitor auditing. Price: On request
Additional Restaurant Management Systems
Employee Management System
A simple solution to managing employees that take into consideration everything from payslips to requesting time off. Allows restaurant owners to ditch the old-fashioned excel or paper-based method in favor of a faster and most likely cloud-based service.
Customer Satisfaction Software
Allows restaurant owners to get valuable information from guests which in turn will help make strategic decisions to increase customer satisfaction.
Customer Loyalty Software
Gives guests an incentive to return to your establishment by providing them with discounts and free meals after a certain number of visits. It also helps boost the restaurant's reputation through word of mouth.