Managing a restaurant is an exciting job, but also a stressful one. A typical day means juggling a huge variety of responsibilities, lots of different personalities and even a few crises thrown into the mix. No wonder the workdays can be so long.
However, restaurant managers have some secret weapons at their disposal that they didn’t have in the past. Today’s high-tech tools for running a restaurant can put a little time back in your day, keep your stress in check and even enhance the bottom line. Technology solutions abound for just about every aspect of restaurant management. But here are some key areas where you can expect to see the best return on your investment.
1. Start with POS
A point-of-sale (POS) system is the technological heart of your restaurant. If you haven’t yet invested in one, you might be experiencing problems like difficulty tracking sales, a lack of security around credit card transactions or even the inability to accept credit card payments at all. Choosing a POS is a huge decision for any restaurant.
You’ll find lots of options — from basic to feature-rich. You can even opt for a mobile POS system. But there’s no single right choice. It comes down to finding a system with the features that match the needs of your restaurant. It’s worth the time to review a POS selection guide or two before you pull the trigger.
One that is recommended by the personal finance site Nerdwallet is the cloud-based Upserve, which is Nerdwallet’s POS pick for full-service restaurants.. Your final choice for a POS should deliver benefits like greater efficiency and a better customer experience. The right POS can also improve sales by allowing you to speed up transactions, split tickets and prevent errors that frustrate customers.
2. Streamline Scheduling and Communication
Have you ever had a week like this? You finally get staff schedules worked out, only to have to redo them when team members need to swap shifts. Then you find yourself doing damage control because a problem from one shift didn’t get reported to the next one. A successful restaurant requires smart staffing and seamless teamwork. That’s not always easy, of course, in such a hectic business. A little technology upgrade can help you head off miscommunications and scheduling goofs.
Planday is an online tool that lets you both map out work schedules (including handling swaps and requests easily) and stay in touch with your staff. You can send messages to specific groups (for example, all bartenders) or to all employees at a specific location, schedule updates to be sent to employees when they clock in and even set up employee-to-employee messaging. You can use Planday at any time and from any device — something that’s important in the ever-changing restaurant business. Users report that they save on both admin time and payroll. And your staff members enjoy greater autonomy and flexibility.
3. Make Your Marketing Pay Off
Sales reports are gloomy right now, which makes it even more important to help your restaurant stand out with smart marketing. You know that it’s essential to use social networking to spread the word about events and promotions and to engage your customers. But it can be hard to find the time for the regular posting it takes to get results.
A social media management tool like Buffer or Hootsuite is the key to being more organized and consistent. Tools like these let you manage all your social media accounts from one dashboard. Have a (rare) spare moment? Schedule a week’s worth of social media posts so that you’re not worried about social media sharing when you’re in the midst of other tasks. Smart social media management helps you reach more customers in less time — and makes it easy for your already loyal customers to spread the word about you.
Any social management tool you use should have a mobile version (as Buffer and Hootsuite do) so that you can track the buzz about your restaurant no matter where you are.
Need more ideas for marketing tools? Check out the UpCity inbound marketing blog for a great roundup.
4. Take the Pain Out of Taking Inventory
Reports show that many restaurant owners the company talks with admit they either put off taking inventory or that they don’t do a very good job of it. That hurts the bottom line. Having too much stock wastes money and facilitates theft. But when supplies are out of stock and you can’t offer certain menu items, customers get frustrated.
The right tech tools can help you take inventory more easily, quickly and accurately. You’ll get more control over cost, deter theft and ensure that you never have to tell a customer she can’t order her favorite dish because the ingredients are out of stock.
Some POS systems include inventory tracking. Two that are recommended by the personal finance site Nerdwallet are the cloud-based Shopkeep and Revel, which is Nerdwallet’s POS pick for restaurants with multiple locations. You could also use a dedicated inventory tool like Count-n-Control, a web-based tool that supports multiple users.
5. Simply Your Wait List and Seating
Few things make customers more irritated than having to mill around waiting for a table when they’re hungry. They will be more inclined to complain on Yelp. No, apps can’t make time pass faster for them, but they can help you make the waiting experience better (and shorter) for your diners.
The Direct Capital blog includes a couple of wait list and seating apps recommendations. Nowait and Waitlist Me aim to make pagers and cries of “Smith! Party of three! Smith” a thing of the past. Instead, you can notify customers via their phones when tables are ready. Your customerscan enjoy more spontaneity in making plans and more freedom while they wait to be seated. Meanwhile, you save money on pagers, build customer loyalty and get analytics on your performance.