The Best Restaurant Management Software (Six 2023 Picks)
There are a gazillion and one tools out there for running a restaurant. POS systems, inventory systems, scheduling systems, kitchen management systems—it’s, well, a lot. In response to the increasingly complex tech stack, many restaurants have opted instead to build their operation on top of a centralized restaurant management system.
But should you?
Let’s take a look at the six best restaurant management systems (RMS) for running an efficient and profitable restaurant brand. In this article, we’ll cover…
The different flavors of restaurant management systems (and how to decide which one you need)
Critical considerations to keep in mind during RMS evaluation
Our top six restaurant management system picks
Whether you're a small, scrappy restaurant or an established chain, an RMS can calm a huge portion of your operational chaos and put you on the path to record profitability. You just have to find the right system.
Restaurant Management Systems: A Sort-Of, Not-Really Category
A restaurant management system (RMS) is a comprehensive software solution that streamlines and automates a wide variety of aspects of a restaurant's operations.
Rather than needing a dozen different tools and apps to run your business, an RMS puts many systems in one place. We’re talking tools like order management, inventory control, employee scheduling, payment processing, food costing, delivery management, and many, many more.
This integration gives restaurant owners and managers a centralized platform to manage their daily operations more efficiently, reduce manual errors, save time, and improve overall business performance.
At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. In reality, restaurant businesses have too many functions for a single system to handle equally well.
Because of this, RMS providers end up prioritizing one set of needs over another. They usually start by providing a solution in one area of restaurant management, and then add more functionality as they grow and attempt to meet the needs of more customers. As a result, restaurant management systems tend to take on a few different flavors, depending on the core part of the business they best serve.
Here are the typical buckets they fall into:
Ordering-Centric Systems — Many RMS platforms are built around the point of sale (POS) system. These are among the most well-known platforms in the world of restaurant tech. Many of these systems were built for retail and adapted for restaurant use.
Culinary-Centric Systems — Other platforms are centered around culinary operations and recipe data. Using recipes as the starting point for organizing restaurant operations, they tend to focus on culinary preparation, recipes, inventory management, and food costing, with ordering and payments covered by a POS integration.
Management-Centric Systems — These systems started as back-end management solutions and grew to cover other areas of restaurant operations. Accounting, HR, and scheduling tools are often built for other industries and then repurposed for use in restaurants.
Customer-Centric Systems — A CRM is a customer relationship management system. CRMs typically capture customer data through online ordering and reservation systems to use in marketing and business development. These management systems are more focused on customer experience and marketing, and integrate with other restaurant management systems to provide other functions.
Whatever their original focus was, most restaurant management systems typically handle:
Point of Sale Functions — Employee clock-in and clock-out, in-store order-taking, card and cash payments, and receipt printing
Digital Ordering —– In-store ordering kiosks and online ordering websites and apps
Inventory Management — Inventory counts, purchasing, and inventory calculations
Kitchen Operations — Kitchen receipt printing, kitchen display systems, hygiene procedures, and food safety features
Staff Management— Staff schedules, incentive schemes, and employee payroll
Reporting and Analytics — Daily reports, demand forecasting, business intelligence, and reporting apps for managers
Many other features can be unlocked via integrations, including:
Delivery Management Features— Driver apps, driver-facing order display screens, and driver tracking software
Third-Party Order Management— Automatic order aggregation from third parties, and central menu management for all channels
Reservation and Guestlist Tools— Online reservations, waitlist management, and digital floor plans
Marketing Features — Automated email and SMS marketing, loyalty campaigns, gift cards, and coupons
Choosing Your Restaurant Management System: 5 Factors to Consider
The RMS should cover the core functionality you need and be able to integrate with other systems to provide specialist features. It should also be scalable, easy to use every day, and come with excellent support to set you up for success.
1. Alignment with Your Focus
The best RMS for your restaurant will be one centered around the same functions as your core areas of business. Other areas of operations can be covered by integrations, so you’ll want a system with open APIs, which allow different software systems to share data and work seamlessly together. The system should also have a track record of integrating well with other more specialized systems.
What core functions of your restaurant need to be most efficient? You want an RMS built around those.
If you run a takeaway restaurant built on a great ordering and delivery experience for the customer, your needs are more aligned to an order-centric system. If you run a multi-national chain of restaurants that requires airtight processes, you might favor a management-centric system built for scale. If you have complex recipes and a ton of specialist ingredient suppliers, you will do better with a recipe-centric RMS to handle that complexity and keep a lid on your food costs.
Whatever your core needs are, find the RMS with the core functionality to match. And make sure it integrates with other systems to cover the rest of your needs.
2. Solid Integrations
No system does everything, so you will always need integrations with other tech solutions. Integrations allow different software platforms to share data so they can be used together as if they were one system.
Not all integrations are created equal. They need to be tried, tested, and reliable. The last thing you want is to start losing data or having errors because of a poorly executed integration. Look for established integrations that have been used and stress tested by other restaurants owners. These are usually between tech providers that have a strong partnership in place.
Solid integrations are great for adding specialist functionality to a system that is better in other areas. For example, you might choose a recipe-centric RMS for its food costing and inventory management features, but you also want to be able to receive orders from multiple sales channels. An integration with a POS system and an order aggregator like Deliverect adds this functionality to your tech stack.
3. Reliable Customer Support
Using software to manage restaurant functions makes you dependent on that software. It stores your data. Your staff are trained on it. It becomes an essential part of your operations. But what happens when something goes wrong?
It’s essential that your tech partner has a support team ready to fix any issues as they come up. You can’t wait around until Monday morning for a fix if your system shuts down during Friday night dinner service.
You want a tech partner with a dedicated customer success team, actively invested in helping you get the best out of the system. Some even provide a dedicated rep you can call when you need help or advice.
With labor shortages still a major problem for many restaurants, one of the most important characteristics of a management system is how easy it is to use. Not only should it be intuitive and fast, but the features should also be accessible enough that your team actually uses them.
You don’t want a recipe system so technical that your team prefers to just write recipes down on paper.
A system that’s easy to understand and use will give you a host of compounding benefits:
Staff will understand the system and get the most out of it, making operations more efficient.
Team members won’t get frustrated with clunky software, which will improve morale and retention.
Training new team members on the system will be faster and easier for everyone involved, saving time and money when onboarding.
Your restaurant’s needs will change as it grows, so your RMS also needs to adapt and grow with your business. Look for a system with flexibility in terms of features, pricing, and integrations to accommodate your changing requirements over time.
Here are some factors to look out for:
Modular Features— An RMS that allows you to add or remove features as your needs change means you won’t pay for features you don’t need and you can add more functionality as you grow.
Flexible Pricing— A tiered pricing model or a usage-based pricing structure allows you to start small and gradually add more to your subscription. As your business grows and you need to add more locations and users, you can upgrade to a more advanced package, rather than having to switch providers and start over.
Data Storage Capacity— As your business grows so will your data storage needs. Make sure your RMS is ready to handle a higher volume of data without compromising performance and reliability.
Multi-Location Management — If your growth plans involve multiple sites, look for an RMS that has a proven track record of providing excellent multi-site support. With the right cloud-based system, you’ll be able to easily compare performance and manage multiple sites remotely.
Our Top 6 Restaurant Management System Picks
1. Galley Solutions
Galley is a recipe-first restaurant software provider that uses open APIs to integrate with other software for a complete RMS. Billing itself as the “culinary operating system,” Galley is especially favored by large food service companies, restaurant chains, and prepared meal providers for its advanced recipe and inventory management, food costing and menu planning features, and ability to connect with vendors and suppliers.
Galley is used by some best-known names in food, such as delivery platform DoorDash and pizza chain &pizza, as well as the giant of food service management Aramark and meal provider Thistle.
Lightspeed is a Canadian retail and restaurant software provider that started out as a retail POS and ecommerce specialist. Expanding internationally, it now focuses on retail, ecommerce, and golf, as well as restaurants. The system is used by burger chain Five Guys, fashion retailer Nordstrom, and golf course management company KemperSports.
While its POS and integrated payments are the core product, Lightspeed also offers a host of restaurant management features, such as delivery tools, inventory management, accounting, and a kitchen display system.
Restaurant365 puts the focus on accounting and “bridges the gap between accounting and operations by centralizing all data.” The full package includes restaurant-specific accounting software, advanced labor management tools, inventory management tools, and sophisticated business intelligence that provides insights into your back-end operations.
Restaurant365 is used by large, multi-location and multinational chains, including Blaze Pizza, Taco Bell, and Dave’s Hot Chicken.
TouchBistro is built on a foundation of POS and customer engagement software, and is now known as one of the biggest players in restaurant management. With payment processing as one of its core functions, the company claims to process more than $13 billion in payments each year.
The core POS product is supported by customer and kitchen display systems, integrated online ordering software, loyalty, gift cards, and marketing tools.
TouchBistro serves a wide variety of restaurant and hospitality businesses, from fast-casual restaurants and coffee shops to food trucks, breweries, and wineries. Countless restaurants and hospitality businesses, such as Glacier Brewing Company, fish restaurant Oh My Cod, and Ichiban Sushi, rely on TouchBistro as a trusted partner.
Crunchtime is built around inventory management and provides operational data management tools for multinational chains, including cruise lines, retailers, golf brands, and fast food restaurant chains.
Crunchtime specializes in helping hospitality businesses “achieve operational excellence” delivered via inventory management, staff scheduling and labor features, staff onboarding and training, auditing and compliance tools, and more. Clients include the world’s largest fast food chains like McDonald’s and KFC, as well as Top Golf and Carnival Cruise Line.
SevenRooms is an example of a CRM-based system that branched out into other areas of restaurant management. Its core functionality is reservations, customer profiles, and tools to use this data to automate restaurant marketing.
SevenRooms serves full-service restaurant chains, hotels, bars, nightclubs, and private members clubs—all businesses that are focused on delivering great customer experiences and making the most of their customer data. SevenRooms' clients include Indian restaurant chain Dishoom, high-end retailer Fortnum & Mason, and the Hilton hotel group.
Elevate Your Restaurant Game with the Best Restaurant Management Software
Navigating the complex world of restaurant management systems can be overwhelming, but getting the right tech in place gives you the power to transform your business, leading to better efficiency, improved margins, and long-term profitability.
By zeroing in on the core functionalities that best align with your restaurant's priorities—and ensuring the system provides seamless integrations, robust support, user-friendliness, and scalability—you'll have the tools to empower your team and elevate your restaurant to new heights of success.
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