Features That Every Restaurant Management System Must Have

Toast: No. 1 Restaurant Solution


A restaurant management system is a collection of tools and software that helps you operate your food business – Restaurant, Bar, Bakery, Cafe, Cloud Kitchen, or Delivery business. It has a POS (Point of Sale) system as a central unit. Along with tools that help build your online presence, take online orders, accept table bookings, manage your phone calls, manage billing, streamline inventory, send marketing campaigns, run loyalty programs, report on success metrics and give actionable analytics. All this while integrating with your existing restaurant technology systems (like your accounting and employee management software) and with open APIs that let you integrate with any third party tool. Phew!

With so many different functions, it is very important to consider the must-have features for a restaurant management system. After all, it needs to be capable of handling nearly every core function of a restaurant.

This can be a significant investment. And it can be costly to overhaul your restaurant management system everytime your requirements grow. You need a system that is designed with future requirements in mind. This means feature packed and integrations.

The restaurant management system is at the center of your restaurant’s operations and can play a huge role in its success. Therefore, it is one of the most critical decisions when it comes to ensuring a smooth restaurant operation. And this lets you focus on the things that really matter. The food and the service.

So here’s a compilation of the features that are a must for best restaurant management systems. To arm you with all that you need to consider when you evaluate the hardware, software and technology that is right for your food business.

Key features that a restaurant management system should have:

  • Ease of operations
  • Point-of-Sale Operations

LimeTray’s fully integrated cloud based POS

These days, POS operations include so much more than just punching orders and billing. A good restaurant management system focuses on reducing your order processing time (or table flip time). This can be achieved when you can quickly manage table reservations, take orders on the go, make menu recommendations, change quantities of the order, repeat (drink) orders, apply loyalty codes, adjust comps, apply pre-authorization (for bars), split bills and adjust refunds. Your POS needs to have a robust set of features that lets you manage all of these activities.  This can impact how much business you could generate in a given period. KOTs release in 12 seconds, with LimeTray. 4 seconds if you have Merge integrated.

  • Updating menu – Making changes to your menu, whether on your Online Ordering portal, order management or POS should be easy. You might want to update pricing (we have found this to be one of the most often recurring needs). So make sure you ask for a demo of the menu update process before you make a purchase. Nobody wants to be making calls to the support team to make simple menu changes.

2. Integrations and built-in features

Smooth integrations matter. All your software should talk to each other. But they are expensive. So the more features you get built-in to your restaurant management system, the better. Ofcourse, you might have the need for specialized and granular features depending upon the nature of your business. We recommend you evaluate your restaurant management system with those nuances in mind. Better yet if you can find a software company that is willing to customize features for you.   

  • Online ordering system – Your restaurant management system should be able to handle online orders with ease. Revenue in the Online Food Delivery segment amounts to US$82,714m in 2018. Revenue is expected to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2018-2023) of 10.7%, resulting in a market volume of US$137,596m by 2023. In India, the quantity of online orders received by restaurants has tripled over the past five years. And there’s a 14.5% year-on-year growth in the number of new people who order food online. (Source)

LimeTray’s online ordering system let’s you build your online Front Of House with ease.

  • Your restaurant management system should give users a smooth order, discount, checkout, payment, delivery status, feedback and loyalty experience. Your online ordering system is also one of the primary touchpoints with your customer. Your restaurant management system should collect valuable customer data and provide insights for your marketing activities. A built-in online ordering system should be one of your key considerations when evaluating a full stack restaurant management system.
  • Table reservation system – Table reservations are an important part of the Dine-in experience. You should be able to accept table reservations from your website, reduce wait times and manage all your table reservations from your restaurant management system. Being alerted when loyal customers are headed to your restaurant lets you give them a special experience.
  • Order management (Online, Offline and third party)Managing orders from multiple sources can become a challenge very quickly. Shuttling between multiple tabs and interfaces can be an operational nightmare and lead to customers being lost. A good restaurant management system lets you manage a high volume of orders from multiple sources, by streamlining all incoming data into an easily operable interface.

Process orders in seconds with LimeTray’s Merge.

  • IVR – Online orders are important. But what about orders placed on the phone? Customers still like to place orders and book table, on the phone especially for brands they are familiar with. Also, customer complaints and concerns are often placed via phone. Your restaurant management system should feature this integration and manage all your calls at one place. As management, you would need to monitor the quality of your customer service by listening to call recordings. But how would you know which call to check? Your IVR feature should be able to suggest calls that need attention. It should be able to segregate long-duration calls & multiple calls from the same customer in a day so that you can focus on the important ones rather than listening to all calls.
  • Inventory management system – This feature lets you measure the quantity of ingredients that are getting consumed in the dishes that you serve. It lets you pre-define your menu and set the quantity of each ingredient that goes into preparing a dish. You could even track the quantity of side dishes that are paired with a dish. This is critical to be able to measure your costs, without which you can never know how profitable your restaurant business truly is. Or which costs you should optimize. It also helps you manage your ingredients and stock. Let’s say you run out of alcohol during a busy dinner service. This could seriously hamper sales. The inventory management feature lets you stock up on critical ingredients by alerting you before they run out. This feature also lets you reduce your waste. Imagine something in your stock is about to expire. Your inventory management system would alert you in advance so that you can run an offer to clear that stock. Or if you know an ingredient that you have an excess of, you could then ship it to another location that might be in need of that exact same ingredient.
  • Payment data – Barely anyone pays by cash anymore. So your restaurant billing system needs to be able to integrate with tools that accept payments the way customers like to pay today. Think credit cards, debit cards, Loyalty points and mobile wallets. Your restaurant management system needs to be able to record payments from all these payment methods. You should check for PCI compliance in your payment processing software. PCI Compliance refers to adherence to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, or PCI DSS. It’s a standard designed to reduce possible credit card fraud and includes a list of best practices and guidelines set forth by the major banks and credit companies. The other thing to look out for, is whether your restaurant software company processes the payments themselves or outsources it to a third party. Should something go wrong, you should just have to call your point of contact at your software company.
  • Employee management – Every restaurant needs to manage employees. And there are tons of specialised software out there that help you do this. Our best bet is that you would already have an employee management software in place. So your restaurant management software needs to integrate with your existing software seamlessly. This will save you the need to reboot your employee management practices (since changing software often needs significant training). If you are evaluating an integration here are some features you should look out for in your employee management software:
    • Employee attendance tracking
    • Timesheets, productivity and overtime tracking
    • User access control settings.
    • Employee details
    • Payroll management feature or integration

3. Tracking restaurant finances

  • Costs & Profits – Profits are among the top priorities for any restaurant. An accurate picture of your profits comes from a stringent recording of your bill payments. Combined with a measurement of your costs. We have seen restaurants struggle with figuring out their food costs because fixed costs are well, fixed. And tracking menu items, waste and theft, can get complicated. What happens when you bought x quantity of an ingredient and according to the recipes that you pre-save on your inventory management system, you are supposed to be left with y quantity but instead you are left with z? You can see that it gets tricky. As mentioned before, a robust restaurant management system that has a good inventory tracking system, lets you measure the true cost of food. Once you have the costs, calculating profit is easy.
  • SalesYour restaurant handles many payment transactions in a day. A gap here can lead to serious difficulty in figuring out the profitability. Also, a good picture of your sales data allows you to know your top selling menu items, best outlets and the servers who sell more. You can then focus on your top performers while isolating your weaknesses. Tracking you sales data to the tee, is one of the most important functions of your restaurant management system.
  • Taxes – A restaurant deals with many categories of taxes, depending on where you operate. There’s the state level tax, a VAT (Value added tax), a service charge. There could be a variety of other taxes depending on your local tax laws. Managing tax can be a hassle, especially if you are multi-outlet and operate across geographies. Your tax computations need to flow to your accounting software to leave you with the right data to run your business on.

4. Analytics and reporting

Analytics gives you visibility into key areas of your operation and is arguably the most defining feature of a restaurant management software. You can use analytics to know which problems to attack first. And analytics starts with the data that you collect.

LimeTray Analytics shows you data in actionable ways.

  • Customer data – Knowing customer details, what they like to order, how often they order, how they like to pay, when they order or respond to communication let’s you create marketing campaigns that convert. You can use this data to tailor your communication, hand out loyalty or run offers to your loyal customers. And these data points need to be visualized and presented to you in easily understandable formats – as an email in your inbox.
  • Sales and menu analyticsYour restaurant analytics should give you insights on your sales – by location, outlet, product and people. When you know which menu items are selling the most, you can feature them more. Similarly, you could redo or drop items from your menu that customers just don’t order. A good menu analytics system can then power your menu recommendation to your customers. You know when customers ask you what they should order? (or as a recommended add-on in your online ordering check out screen). Knowing which of your servers sells sides more lets you encourage them to pass on tips to other servers. Collecting, processing, modeling and then visualizing all this data effectively is the sign of a good restaurant management system.
  • Inventory and procurement analytics – Your stock needs to be managed. And what better way than to use the power of data to optimize your inventory. Inventory analytics can help you reduce waste and manage your losses. Your restaurant management system should be able to analyse your past data and tell you what gets wasted the most or runs out quickly.

The goal of any analytics system is to help you see what actions to prioritize. And your restaurant management analytics should be no different. It should be able to give you insights on how to build long-term relationships and retain your most valuable customers.  

5. Marketing, CRM and Loyalty

Helps you build an audience, acquire new customers, keep them engaged to your brand and maximise customer lifetime value by retaining them. And good customer insight is a must for marketing. And this happens when your POS speaks to your CRM tool. You should be looking for time-saving features such as automated customer segmentation in your CRM tool. Next, look out for features that let you schedule your emails and text messages to different customer groups at different times of the day. You would still have to create your own communication but your restaurant management system should help you target it to the right audience at the right time. A great way to retain customers is by onboarding them to your loyalty program. Look out for a tiered loyalty program that lets you reward your loyal customers based on how much and how often they order.

LimeTray’s tiered loyalty program is built for adoption.

The success of your loyalty programs depends on how much it gets used. And you would need features like reminders and loyalty scorecards to drive up your loyalty usage. Look out for your these essential features in your restaurant software. Your restaurant management system should have powerful in-built marketing features since this is one of the most crucial functions of your restaurant business with direct implications on the sales you generate.

6. Support when things go wrong

Technical failure can really hurt a restaurant. Especially during peak sales periods. A few minutes of downtime can result in significant losses. Even during lean periods, your restaurant should be operationally efficient. But the fact remains, that technology does break down. And this is where support matters. You shouldn’t always need to pick up the phone for the slightest commonplace trouble. These days, support is often baked into your product in the form of short videos that help you troubleshoot common problems. This way you solve them quicker. And the faster you resolve problems the faster you can serve the customer. The math on this is simple. So go beyond the 24/7 support tag, and look at the quality of the support of your restaurant technology partner. Is resolving technology issues quickly a priority for you? So should it be for the restaurant management system company. So look for a dedicated and passionate support before you make this investment. Try placing a support query before buying the product you are evaluating. See how long it takes for the company to resolve your problem and evaluate your experience with them. This should be a good litmus test for the support experience you will receive after you buy the product.

7. Technology features of your restaurant management system

  • Cloud-based – Cloud-based restaurant management systems offer the flexibility that traditional systems cannot. Whether it is enhanced security, maintenance, real-time software updates, remote access or simply cost effectiveness. When nearly every piece of technology that you operate daily lives in the cloud, why should your restaurant’s technology be any different?
  • Permissions and access control – You should be able to pre-set different levels of access and control according to the role of the user. For example, you might want to keep certain sensitive information hidden from your servers or even disallow certain actions. This will foolproof your operation and stop anyone from taking any undue advantage.  
  • Centralization – Managing everything from a single interface allows you to manage your business effectively no matter where you are. And a restaurant management system that is centralized will ensure better data gathering, processing and analysis. Having a central unit to control all the other parts of your restaurant software, gives you better agility.  
  • Scalability – Whether a single instance in a single space or multiple instances in multiple outlets, your restaurant management system needs to be built for scale. It should be easy to deploy it without burning a hole in your pocket.
  • Theft control – Your restaurant is operated by many different people. And theft is unfortunate but common. Your software should be designed to check against it. This means it has been designed with the necessary checks and balances in place.
  • Security – Against external threats, malware, data security & network security. Your restaurant management system stores sensitive customer data. As you can imagine, it must be able to protect that data and your network from attacks. A good software security architecture separates the wheat from the chaff.
  • Mobility – The days of bulky hardware sitting and occupying space at your restaurant are over. A mobile restaurant management system allows you to take orders as they move. This will impact your order processing time and give you a head start over the competition.

So how should you evaluate a restaurant management system?

At the end of the day, software should make the user’s life easier. And the best judge of that is your restaurant manager. But you could use the criteria mentioned above as a guideline to evaluate different restaurant management software. As a quick recap you should be looking for – A cloud-based system, the ease of operations, Integrations (but it’s better when you get a feature-rich tool), tracking restaurant finances, analytics, reporting, marketing, CRM, tiered loyalty, responsive support, scalability, robust security and mobility.

Category: B2B News

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