The role of a restaurant manager is always in motion. There’s always something else to get done, a new fire to put out, and broken things to fix. All of that on top of the everyday tasks from scheduling to payroll to reporting can catch up to you.
But there are several different tools to help you manage your restaurant—from single shifts and tasks to top-level overviews showing your business's health. These tools can help you start spending more time doing what you love and growing your business for the future.
1. Task management software
The best way to keep your restaurant running smoothly is by making checklists of all of the little things. From cleaning flat tops to refilling sanitizers, it’s easy for tasks to get lost in the shuffle.
Paper checklists work well enough for the occasional list, but when you have to print them off every day, it becomes yet another thing to do. And the laminated paper and dry-erase method just gets messy.
That’s where task management software comes in. It’s a great way to streamline your tasks, with separate checklists for each role and shift. It also allows you to track your team’s productivity. Not sure if something got done earlier in the week? Task management software maintains historical data of tasks completed.
2. Manager log books
Even if it’s just a shared cloud document, you need a centralized place for your managers to exchange information. This keeps information from getting lost in the text and email shuffle. It also gets rid of those frustrating sticky notes all over your POS.
Management log books also cut down on confusion. When customer complaints or employee concerns come up, each manager can get up to speed just by reading the log book. Managers can also use the book to prepare for shifts on their own time and keep track of wins and losses.
3. Employee scheduling software
Say goodbye to frustrating spreadsheets, paper schedules, and confusing text message chains. Creating analog schedules is time-consuming, and you also won’t collect any scheduling data.
There is a better way—employee scheduling software. With cloud-based scheduling tools, you can easily make schedules, edit them as needed, and track your labor overtime to make smarter decisions.
4. Employee communications tools
When it comes to employee communications, texting and phone calls get the job done. But the constantly moving and shifting nature of the restaurant industry deserves a dedicated and agile tool.
Having a secure, business-centric communication tool allows you to share schedules and announcements instantly. It also makes it easier for your employees to request time off and address payroll concerns like missing punches.
Slack is a more general employee communication tool that also makes it easy to connect online. However, it doesn’t offer any restaurant-specific features.
5. Time clocking
Time-clocking software is a must-have tool for your restaurant—to think we ever used actual paper cards and physical punches! With time-clocking software, employees clock in and out with the touch of a button. Plus, the software syncs directly with your payroll to automatically calculate hours worked.
Restaurant time clocking software can also help prevent early clock-ins, cutting back on labor costs. And compliance? Not a problem with enforced break times and shift lengths. The software will quickly calculate overtime and keep secure records of your team’s hours.
6. Tip management
At many restaurants, servers need to complete tip pools and tip payouts at the end of each shift. In a tip pool, employees combine their tips and split them evenly among tipped staff. With tip payouts, servers share portions of their tips with other staff members, such as bartenders, hosts, and food runners.
7. Payroll automation
Using payroll software is a great alternative to hiring a payroll specialist or agency. The benefits of using payroll software are substantial and become even more powerful with integrations.
Payroll software syncs directly with your time clock and scheduling software. This automates wage calculations, overtime pay, and tax and benefit withholdings. There’s no relying on manual calculations, so you’ll have fewer payroll errors and spend less time at the computer.
8. Labor management reporting
When synced with your sales data, labor management reporting tools give you full insight into your restaurant. This helps you make informed staffing decisions by tracking where your labor dollars are going, identifying reliable employees, and comparing projected vs. actual hours.
9. Kiosk ordering
Your busy customers don’t always have time to wait in line. Kiosk ordering tools speed up the ordering process, making it easier to keep up during a mealtime rush. Many customers also appreciate the quick and user-friendly process of ordering on a kiosk.
With kiosk ordering, your customers place orders digitally, rather than talking to a cashier. They receive a number, and the order is sent directly to the kitchen.
This allows your team to focus entirely on fulfilling orders when it’s busy, rather than payment processing. Kiosk ordering also makes it easy for customers to browse the entire menu at a glance and request order modifications as needed.
There are many restaurant kiosk providers, including Toast, Grubbrr, and TouchBistro. These platforms offer kiosks in different sizes and configurations to suit your restaurant.
Many fast food chains already have successful kiosk setups, with McDonald’s being the most prominent. These kiosks not only created a positive customer service environment but also helped the chain navigate FOH labor shortages in recent years.
10. Inventory management
Inventory management software helps you monitor your restaurant’s stock levels. It integrates with your POS system and other restaurant tools to keep track of your stock and let you know when you’re running low. This helps prevent stockouts, which are frustrating for customers and BOH and can hurt your restaurant’s bottom line.
Additionally, inventory management tools can help you prevent unnecessary waste. You’ll be able to track how much of each item you’re consuming and adjust future order quantities as needed. Leading restaurant inventory management platforms include MarginEdge and MarketMan.
11. Point-of-sale (POS) system
Your point-of-sale system, or POS, is the technology that your team uses to process customer orders quickly and send them directly to the kitchen. POS systems also accept a variety of contactless payment methods, including debit cards, credit cards, and mobile payment systems.
It’s important to note that your POS system is not a comprehensive restaurant management tool, but rather one piece of the overall puzzle. A well-designed restaurant POS system will integrate directly with other tools you’re using, such as task management, tip management, and inventory management.
12. Food cost tracking
The cost of food changes regularly based on supply and demand. Food cost tracking tools integrate with your inventory management to monitor the cost of your ingredients.
You’ll get detailed daily reports on price changes and even price forecasting. You can then use this information to adjust your menu, make purchasing decisions, or change your pricing. Food cost tracking tools include Meez and MarginEdge.
13. Restaurant analytics software
Restaurant analytics software takes your sales, inventory, and employee data and analyzes it, looking for trends and patterns. These analytics will help you identify key customer patterns.
For example, analytics can help you identify which shifts are most lucrative and which menu items are most popular with customers. This information can then influence your marketing initiatives.
Analytics will also give you a closer look at your restaurant’s operations, letting you track labor costs and other internal expenses to determine the profitability of specific spending decisions. Since restaurants tend to operate on very tight margins, these financial analytics are particularly important for long-term planning.
Many restaurant tools have some analytics features built in. For example, Toast has its own analytics platform called xtraCHEF. Restaurant 365 Intelligence also offers in-depth analytics options.
14. Reservation tracking
If your restaurant accepts reservations, you’ll need a tracking tool to manage them. Reservation-tracking tools allow customers to make and edit reservations online. Your team can also adjust reservations directly.
Reservation-tracking tools use your dining room’s capacity and floor plan, which helps prevent overbooking. These tools also send email and text message reminders to customers who have upcoming reservations. This helps prevent expensive no-shows. Leading reservation-tracking apps include OpenTable, Tock, and Resy.
The impact of restaurant management tools on employees
Restaurant management tools benefit your entire team, from hosts to servers to chefs. More efficient operations and better communication create a less stressful work environment for everyone.
Restaurant management software digitizes tasks like clocking in and out, tip pooling, and training. Speeding up these daily tasks helps your team stay organized on the job. It also minimizes confusion and stress, particularly during busy shifts.
By improving the overall employee experience, your team is more likely to reach its full potential. They’ll also pass that great experience onto your customers.
Restaurant management tools give your team real-time feedback on their performance, as well as ways to improve. These tools also make it easier for managers and employees to communicate—and help your team feel supported and engaged at work.
Employee turnover is a huge challenge in the current restaurant market. Running your restaurant efficiently shows your employees that you respect their time and value their talent, making them more likely to stay on board. An effective restaurant management system is a key part of building a positive environment.
Juggling emails, texts, and social media messages from your employees quickly gets confusing. This scattered approach to communication can also result in frustrating misunderstandings. Restaurant management tools help you keep communication in one place so everyone’s on the same page, even across multiple locations.
The benefits of using tools for restaurant efficiency
When you look at your restaurant’s current operations, what’s holding you back from growth? Chances are, it all comes down to limited efficiency—and restaurant management tools can help get you over that hump and take it to the next level.
More time for other essential tasks
Routine tasks are what keep your restaurant moving, but they’re also boring and time-consuming. Management tools automate many of these essential tasks for you. This gives your team more time to improve your business strategy.
Use this extra time to improve your menu, develop supplier relationships, and implement new operations strategies. You can also focus on training and team-building, which benefits the entire team.
Enhanced customer service
Your customers will notice when you make your operations more efficient. Your team will have more time to connect with each person and create a memorable customer experience. Restaurant management tools can even help you speed up ordering and collect helpful customer feedback.
Opportunities for creativity and innovation
To stay relevant in a competitive restaurant market, you’ll need to keep innovating. Restaurant management tools save you time, giving you more room in your schedule to be creative. You’ll be able to play around with new menu ideas, test new marketing strategies, or even plan community events.
As both fine dining and casual restaurants have been busy implementing new technology over the past several years, we can now see the real-life effects. For example, Nick Kokonas, a chef at the Alinea Group in Chicago, started experimenting with restaurant CRM solutions in 2011.
This led to the founding of Tock, a restaurant reservation and marketing platform. The platform became particularly helpful for marketing to-go and socially distanced options during the COVID-19 pandemic, helping local restaurants stay afloat.
If you don’t address problems in your restaurant right away, they’ll spiral out of control. With so much to do in a short period of time, your team needs to be able to adapt quickly when things change.
Management tools provide real-time data and analytics at the touch of a button. This helps your team identify problems more quickly and make informed decisions.
Restaurant processes aren’t set in stone, and there are always opportunities to make your business more efficient. Using restaurant management tools can help you identify and change processes that would otherwise increase costs, cause supply waste, and hurt employee productivity.
Using the right restaurant management tools and apps will help your business grow
If you’re still using paper schedules and messy spreadsheets, it’s time to explore what modern restaurant technology can do for you. You can manage and grow your business using platforms designed to improve operations and make a tangible difference in your employees’ experience.
Restaurant management tools support hiring, scheduling, training, and payroll so that you can streamline your business instead of being bogged down by outdated methods and processes.
Simple to set up, easy to use. Give your restaurant the team management tools they need to be successful. Start your free trial today.
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