Low-Cost High-Tech Solutions for Restaurants

Technology offers benefits for restaurants, but practical applications come with technical problems and high costs that could prove unsustainable for small operators and family-style businesses. Restaurants use inventory and ordering systems to reduce waste, but scrupulous managers and owners often know these details about their businesses without technical help. In addition, cloud computing, open-source software and targeted systems to handle payroll, accounting, online ordering and reservations could provide cost savings and prevent redundant functions without compromising sales, service and record-keeping ability.

POS Systems

Choosing a point-of-sale system requires research and study. Owners can narrow their searches by limiting candidates to three or four affordable systems and ask for face-to-face demonstrations.

  • Comprehensive systems often require expensive hardware investments that small companies cannot afford.
  • Service, maintenance, repairs and training add additional costs to operating budgets.
  • Partial solutions might involve engaging outside customer-loyalty programs, using small-stock systems, implementing minimal POS components, or buying independent equipment and software programs for specific functions.
  • Many owners choose systems because of word-of-mouth referrals, but research is necessary to determine if a system serves each restaurant’s needs.
  • Owners need to decide whether they need handheld devices, gift cards, mobile money, gift certificates and other advanced POS system features.
  • Some advanced systems automate kitchens, transmit orders to multiple stations, handle inventory and ordering, and create work schedules.

Choose systems that provide essential services and leave some room for growth. Modular POS systems allow owners to implement programs and new hardware gradually as their businesses grow.

Dining Reservation Software and Systems

Restaurant owners can choose from POS systems that offer table management, dedicated software programs, or online reservation services for small operations to maximize turnover, reduce waiting time, and improve table-arranging efforts for optimal seating efficiency.

  • Smart technologies can track preferred-customer dining preferences, but experienced restaurant FOH managers often handle this duty instinctively.
  • Online reservations systems help restaurants take reservations on their websites, generate booking reports, and send email reminders without requiring staff with programming skills.
  • Booking software can process payments for deposits, accept vouchers and discounts, and book special events and corporate meetings
  • Outsourced reservation systems can integrate with in-house POS systems to stay current with real-time seating, accommodate seating requests, and build repeat business.

Restaurant Accounting and Payroll Systems

Restaurants can use proprietary accounting and payroll software, choose payroll companies to handle these duties, or implement high-, medium- and low-end systems to handle payroll and calculate benefits. Savvy computer buffs could even design their own spreadsheets to keep track of accounting details without spending any money on outside consultants or software. Smart office programs make creating specialized spreadsheets and databases easier to design, but restaurants still need someone to input data properly, file reports and taxes, and respond to employee requests for information.

  • Evaluate payroll needs to determine which systems offer affordable accounting and payroll services.
  • Remember that accurate management of payroll could reduce operating expenses, cut waste and fraud, and improve efficiency.
  • Most software vendors and payroll systems offer trial versions, so request a free trial before buying the software or signing a service contract.
  • A scalable system grows with the business so that owners can avoid changing systems.
  • When choosing a payroll system, find out if the software integrates with time-tracking software and accounting systems.

Open Source Restaurant Management Tools

Savvy entrepreneurs could choose open source software to handle many restaurant-management duties including making POS connections, managing inventory and taking online reservations.

  • Open source software includes programs that control cash registers, transmit orders to printers in kitchen stations, print bills, and work on any standard computer.
  • Owners can lease compatible POS hardware to create effective systems without investing large amounts of working capital.
  • Free inventory software creates databases of dishes, ingredients, suppliers and costs.
  • Open source online reservation software makes it simple for customers to book tables on restaurant websites through a Web server, or owners can use an outside Web server for a subscription fee. Freeware online reservation software allows restaurants to get some of the benefits for online reservation.

Modular technologies, in-house systems to reduce waste, targeted software and online restaurant services allow entrepreneurs to design management systems to meet their needs without buying expensive hardware and POS systems that could cost thousands of dollar per month. Look for programs, open source management programs, and software that closely matches the restaurant’s needs. Some restaurants can run smoothly without investing in highly priced and technically challenging systems to perform management functions. Besides personally owners handled before the digital age changed common business practices.