How to Choose the Right Food & Beverage Software System
Choosing the right food & beverage software system depends on whether you have existing systems and software or if you have a blank canvas in a new operation.
There are some great systems that can perform many functions, but before deciding to purchase a one-stop system you need to detail exactly what you need and how you want it to perform. For example, a system may have a great POS component with table management but lack analytics or it is difficult to add invoices to the inventory application.
The Evolution of F&B Software Analytics
Early versions were jazzed-up spreadsheets or self-made Lotus spreadsheets. These would speed up the calculations, but there was still a great deal of manual inputting and updating. It was a lot of work that did not provide much more information than the cost of the recipe.
Even with the lack of functions, these new systems were scooped up by owners and managers. Looking for ways to increase profits, they would purchase a system they thought or were told by the salesperson would be perfect for their needs. Who can blame them? They wanted more information than the operations team could provide.
As technology improved and one problem was solved, operators quickly identified the next problem they wanted to be solved. Operators faced so many options that they went with the system that seemed right at the time.
Operations invested in the latest and greatest software and programs, and, as we know, what was great yesterday is outdated today. This left many operations with costly programs that still did not answer all the questions, and, in many cases, with programs that were not compatible with each other.
Fast forward to now, and the market is filled with systems like Hotel PMS (Property Management Systems). These systems complete the cycle by tracking purchases, receipts, recipes, and sales (POS) and provide a great deal of analytics. They produce more reports than you will ever need and sound perfect.
With so many solutions, it should be easy to find exactly what you need or a one-stop-shop system, right? Yes and no.
How to Choose the Right Food & Beverage Software System
First, the decision to purchase a system or software should not be done by one person or without involving the operational leaders. Too often, money is wasted when people buy the system, they think is right for the operation.
What to ask when setting up new food & beverage/POS systems:
- What functions are required?
- Who will be using each function?
- What will be the process/specific for each function?
Answering those questions is important, so make sure to involve the people within the operation to further define each function and to test the system. Here are some of the functions and a few of the many examples of what you may look for:
- POS – table-side ordering, ease of use, functionality
- Table Management – Ability to edit and retains guest preference information
- Recipe – Easy to enter information, customizable units of measure
- Inventory – EDI invoice and cost information, hardware flexibility
- Purchasing – EDI with suppliers for direct purchasing
- Receiving – Invoice entry process, purchase order reconciliation
- Analytics – Actual to Theoretical cost, sales by hour, item sales, too many to list but if you have thought of it there is a system that has it.
- Reports – easy to locate and/or automatically send reports
Once you define these items, find the best functionality. This will take time and it is imperative to review all the functional capabilities as you compare systems. Don’t get lost in a stylish dashboard and miss the functionality that matters most.
In new operations, a system that checks all the boxes is ideal if and only if it meets the operation’s needs. In some cases, there may still be a need for a specialized system if you need very specific functions that an all-in-one system may not offer.
For existing operations, you may be looking to fill in where your current systems leave off and increase your efficiency with technology.
In either case, the major consideration is that the specialized system needs to have a seamless interface with your other existing software. Adding a system that is not compatible will only cause more work and frustration, leading to a system that is not used to its potential or at all.
Be Open Minded to Change
The worst mistake I have seen is when an operation is tied to an outdated system, and instead of putting the system to rest, they keep paying to have the system updated and modified to meet their needs.
Most operations have one or more software or systems they are using. These systems may have been cutting edge when purchased, promised to make managing the business effortless, and came with a healthy price tag. They may have now become outdated, lack functionality, and, as in many cases, are and were never used to their full capabilities. This is the result of ineffective training, management turnover, or solutions that weren’t right for the operation.
Put it to Rest
In the long run, it may be better to put the old system to rest and start over. That may be a difficult pill to swallow but believe me, you will be so much better off. New systems have amazing capabilities, and an older system that is modified will never keep up
The Challenge of Finding the Right Solution
Finding the right system and dedicating the time and resources can be very taxing. Engaging with the right consulting firm can help bring the right systems to the table and dramatically accelerate implementation time. Allow the operations managers to continue to focus on the day-to-day operation and the systems can be initialized in the background.
The Benefits Outweigh the Costs
There is no question that the benefits of the right software and systems outweigh the costs and time to research and implement a system. What is key is selecting the right system and investing the time to maximize its potential benefits.
- Ask the right questions about the functionality
- Involve the operations leaders and employees
- Find the best solution for each function
- Engage in outside support to maximize the system, training, and implementation to yield the highest profits.