Things have become more complex for people in the food industry. Many restaurateurs remember times when they could bottle their own hot sauces, package food products and sell prepared food with little or no regulation. Today, things are more complex in the food industry. Packaging must have accurate lists of ingredients, nutritional information and tamper-proof packaging. Owners are responsible for bad ingredients that find their way into restaurant foods or packaged food products.
Regulations grow more demanding every year, and restaurants might have to answer to federal, state and local agencies on issues ranging from food safety to employment practices. Restaurants can even face fines for loading their trash cans too heavily to meet OSHA guidelines. Many restaurateurs arrive at work to find that their local waste handlers didn’t pick up the trash because it weighed too much.
Restaurant owners and stakeholders risk lawsuits and fines when hiring staff, manufacturing and cooking food and complying with consumer and employee regulations. Automated software provides the tools for recruiting staff, confirming references, aligning qualified employees with kitchen tasks, recording attendance and ensuring that employees get the benefits to which they’re entitled.
Recent settlements and awards for noncompliance issues in restaurants include a $12.5 million settlement and $640 million award for misclassifying workers to avoid paying overtime. A small business owner faces a hopeless task in trying to keep informed about every issue, detail and regulation. Fortunately, ERP, CRM and POS software can handle many of these details for restaurants and food businesses so that managers can concentrate on service and delivering high-quality products.
Human Resources Management
Employment laws have become increasingly complex. Food businesses need to fulfill minimum wage requirements, check references and run credit checks on staff members who handle money. Various governmental agencies require that certain companies provide health insurance, screen applicants for eligibility to work in the United States and meet requirements for permits to sell food and alcohol. Issues that even small restaurants face include:
- Satisfying safety, compliance, health and insurance regulations
- Avoiding discriminatory hiring practices
- Ensuring that facilities meet local fire regulations
- Handling employment deductions and court-ordered garnishments and child support
- Paying disability and unemployment taxes
- Complying with zoning, energy and environmental regulations
- Providing ADA-compliant access to people with disabilities
- Compensating staff for overtime, sick pay and vacation pay
- Supporting a safe working environment that’s free of bullying, harassment and discrimination
- Managing staff diversity to match community standards and customer expectations
Failure to comply with any of these issues could expose your business to lawsuits, fines, legal actions or customer dissatisfaction.
Evaluating ERP Vendors for Restaurants
You face a daunting task when choosing an ERP or POS solution for your restaurant, so it’s good to understand what you need, what regulations apply to your business and how difficult the learning curve might be. If you don’t do your homework, you could overlook some critical issues or need to buy more software.
A good idea is to select a software provider that offers modules that are easy to add when needed. Areas to consider when choosing software or POS systems for restaurants and food businesses include:
- Managing compliance issues in food manufacturing, safety, labeling and hiring
- Inventory control
- Accounting and automatic generating of reports
- Staff scheduling
- Kitchen talent management
- Asset management
- eCommerce solutions
- Payroll and human resources management
- Applications for vendor management and customer self-service
- Food manufacturing, warehousing and shipping
- Food and ingredient tracking
- Staff training and assessment
- Menu costing
- Document management
- Business intelligence
- Email and database management
You can find dozens of ERP and POS solutions that focus on the restaurant industry specifically, but you might do just as well with a universal system if it’s flexible, affordable and works for your business and style of cuisine.
Integration and Implementation
Integrating software into your restaurant business could take weeks or months, so you should consider the effort before bringing new software online. It’s great if you can find a peer who has used the software to mentor you through the process, but that won’t always be the case. Choose a software company that offers strong support, and implement your software during your slowest time of year. Most restaurants go through a summer slump, so it’s an ideal time for installing new software or a POS system.
Most modern software solutions integrate easily with your existing hardware, applications, POS systems and online ordering, but you could hit some snags.
General Restaurant Management Software
General software for restaurants covers various food-related businesses from bars to hotel kitchens. General software offers reporting tools, report generation, inventory tracking, staff management, payroll services, social media connections and other features that make compliance, marketing and managing a restaurant less stressful and demanding. The following software and POS systems offer distinct advantages for general-type restaurants, bars, bakeries, pizzerias, bars, cafes and food trucks.
The software earns high marks from a diverse cross-section of restaurants. You get a working POS system that’s easy to use and lots of tools for managing inventory and staff. However, the software doesn’t support liquor control, which is a big drawback for bars, nightclubs and restaurants with high-volume sales of alcoholic beverages. The software does provide integrated payroll services, CRM services and inventory tracking to simplify compliance.
The advanced Toast software is designed for restaurants to manage staff, handle online ordering, fulfill orders and reporting requirements and provide an all-in-one management system.
This system deliver great analytics and reporting tools to simplify management tasks. The system runs on any computing device or hardware and focuses on the tasks that small bars, clubs and restaurants need most.
Aldelo for Restaurants
You get multilingual versatility, custom reporting and configuration capabilities and online payment options with this software.
TouchBistro is popular with restaurants and offers menu-management tools, training and support for your staff, standard POS functions and email management. The FOH features are very easy to use, but some of the BOH tools will require a bit of training. You can set up automatic inventory alerts, run labor reports and calculate payroll, but the software doesn’t support creating work schedules.
NCR Silver provides advanced tools for using iPads at your tables and work well for full-service restaurants, food trucks and counters. You get lots of marketing tools, inventory-management applications and features for managing coupons, gift cards and loyalty programs seamlessly. You can stay on top of compliance and human resource issues, but the system does lack some of the more advanced back-of-the-house features.
Restaurants increasingly connect with social media, and Restaurant Manager software simplifies connecting to social networks and customers. The system offers a strong suite of tools for marketing, managing loyalty programs, handling reservations and reporting to various government agencies.
Software for Food-Related Production
Food-manufacturing software offers detailed management of recipe-based materials, choosing alternative ingredients and generating compliant labels and packaging. If you produce food products, choose software that offers some of the following features for best compliance results and production efficiency:
- Traceability of ingredients
- Tools for tracking shelf life and managing those inventory items that improve with age, such as wine and cheese
- Managing high-speed ordering
- Providing better customer service for wholesale clients
- Overseeing supply chain logistics
- Controlling waste and energy usage
Some of the best options for food and beverage manufacturers include:
- Sage ERP: This software receives top marks for handling diverse management functions such as reducing costs, supporting disparate operations and streamlining production. The software is suitable for startup companies or restaurants with a manufacturing sidelines and large, high-volume manufacturers.
- Entrée by NECS: Distributors need a software application that focuses on the industry’s unique challenges, and the NCES software manages everything from produce distribution to seafood commerce, which has special regulatory and freshness challenges.
- Blue Link ERP: Companies can use this comprehensive ERP software to manage between 5 and 100 workers. Perfect for medium-sized companies, the software handles eCommerce, lot tracking, compliance issues and traditional accounting and management functions.
Restaurant managers face demands from customers, staff members, insurance companies, investors and government agencies like the FDA, OSHA, FSMA, Bureau of Weights and Measures and local health departments. Tracking, supply chain logistics and bioterrorist threats are issues that restaurateurs never considered a century ago when Escoffier was designing the modern kitchen brigade system that many large restaurants still use.
Fortunately, you can get some technical help to manage these issues while concentrating on your core business, which hasn’t changed in centuries — satisfying customers, cooking appealing food and building customer loyalty through personal rapport.