If you’ve ever tried to get a restaurant in any shape up and running, from food truck to fine dining brick-and-mortar, you know it’s a challenge. Once you’ve fought for funding, it’s time to find space, equipment and get all of the extra bits and bobs that help you run a tight ship. It’s worth remembering something while we break into this list - there are a lot of tools you’ll need for a restaurant to run smoothly.
While actual equipment (ovens, ranges, etc.) is crucial to the success of your business, that’s not what we’re covering today. Our focus is specifically on technology - things you can acquire to make other parts of your business than the kitchen operate efficiently.
Now on to the fun stuff - toys! (Er… tools.)
The Restauranteur’s Most Vital Tools
We’ve got a lot of ground to cover today, so let’s not waste any time. We’re going to cover the twelve most vital tools for your restaurant:
- Delivery Apps
- Tablet Management
- Online Menu
- Google Analytics
- Email Marketing
- Reservation Software
- Scheduling Software
- Payment Processing
First things first - love it or hate it, every modern restaurant needs a Point of Sale (POS) system unless they want to handwrite every order. They’re used to take and record orders, send them to the kitchen (preferably in order), take and process payments, and so much more. Realistically, the POS is the most important part of your restaurant, at least in terms of technology, because it connects to most other gadgets we’ll be discussing here.
These come in an incredibly broad range of styles and applications, and they are absolutely not all created equally. This is where research is incredibly important. If you want to find a POS that’s not only functional, but ideal for your restaurant, you’ll need to look at a few things:
- Pinpoint your restaurant’s weak points.
Realistically, this should be pretty easy for you if you’ve ever used your current POS system. For instance, maybe you want to be able to take gift cards or run online orders directly through the system automatically - if you can’t already do that, it’s okay! There are loads (perhaps too many) of POS systems out there, and most have pretty well-designed functions to address these exact needs.
- Find systems that integrate with what you already have (unless you’re changing that, too).
If you’re already using third-party delivery services, they’ve likely given you an iPad to use. And if you’ve done this a while, you likely have at least 3-4 of those suckers lying around. If that’s the case, let me ask you something - why would you ever willingly throw those out? If you can find a system that integrates with your preexisting gear, be it iPads, payment processing, or something else, use it!
- Be aware of your desired future and plan for it.
While it’s great that you’re taking proactive steps for your restaurant’s future, you should already have an idea of what it looks like. Does it include further locations? Or maybe you want to branch out into delivery? If so, you need a POS that supports multiple locations and allows you to assign and track deliveries in-system.
- How expensive is it, and does it fit in your budget?
This is an obvious one, but it needs to be mentioned. POS systems are great when they work, but you shouldn’t blow more than you can afford on something that won’t serve you perfectly. Know your budget and stick to it - you can always upgrade further down the line.
- How well does it work?
And finally, a red flag to watch out for when shopping for POS systems. If the POS provider you’re talking to won’t let you demo the product (or restricts what you can demo), run. You need to be able to thoroughly test any potential addition to your business, and that absolutely includes your POS. So always schedule a demo session before investing - trust me on this.
Check out our guide to the best POS systems of the year (2022) for more information.
Next up are delivery apps - specifically, third-party delivery apps like GrubHub, DoorDash, and Uber Eats. Even if you have an in-house delivery service already, it’s worth looking into these. They allow you to expand the reach of your business, find new customers, and (when paired with the right software) make it effortless to integrate them into your business.
And the best part is that these platforms are designed to integrate with marketing platforms (which we’ll get to momentarily). So once you’ve gotten them set up, you can begin to reach out to customers, build relationships, and eventually gain a larger following than you would have “normally.”
These systems are often offshoots of POS technology, serving as a means to plan out how your business operates in-house. Generally, tablet management systems are quite common at the host(ess) station, allowing them to manage your guests and maximize efficiency in seating and, ultimately, profits.
High-quality tablet management systems integrate with your POS, marketing tools, and CRM to further improve efficiency.
Customer Relation Management (CRM) is the heart and soul of any effective restaurant’s guest management. It allows you to do several handy things, such as:
- Record contact (phone, email, etc.) information from customers.
- Track how often specific customers visit.
- Keep tabs on birthdays and dietary or allergy restrictions.
- And gain data on your customers to further tailor the experience to them.
Ultimately, a high-quality CRM system allows you to build guest profiles to build your service around them. It makes it easier for your staff to track key information and, importantly, makes the customers think that you truly care about their needs. While that may or may not be true (that’s a you thing), it’s a good look that helps build brand reputation.
Did you know that online menus are one of the most crucial aspects of your business?
According to a study by the National Library of Medicine, customers are far more likely to engage with an online menu that’s well-designed and visually appealing.
While you may find yourself saying “no duh” to this, it’s something that’s left to the wayside far more often than it should be. Even if you don’t have an online ordering system or third-party delivery (you should, by the way), an online menu makes it far easier for customers to find you.
Take a peek at our Complete Guide to Online Ordering for more information.
This is perhaps the most important (and most often overlooked) aspect of owning any business in the 21st century. We’ve said it countless times here, but the truth of the matter is that businesses live and die by their online presence. While this pressure doesn’t lie exclusively on your website’s shoulders, it is a major part of the equation.
While we certainly don’t have the space to get into the finer points of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your business, there are a few things to keep in mind when trying to build an online presence:
- Your website needs to be efficient and appealing.
- In other words, don’t waste space. Make the site clean, easy to read and navigate, and cut down on clutter to ensure it loads quickly.
- The site should have contact information, a menu, and hours clearly available
- This is a bare minimum. Things like “About” pages and photo galleries are also excellent additions to boost your search rankings.
- Don’t stop at the website.
- Building social media profiles and claiming your business on Google are both superb steps to building an online presence.
If you’d like more information on building a website, see our guide to restaurant websites.
We’ve talked time and again about the importance of tracking various KPIs and analytics for your business. If you still haven’t hopped on the train - now’s the time. I highly encourage you to take a peek at the two linked articles above, as they’re extremely thorough in detailing what you’ll need to track (and how).
Realistically, though, the most important tool in any business owner’s repertoire is Google Analytics. While the details of how and why Google Analytics works how it does are extremely complicated, the long and short of it is that it allows you to track some super handy information, such as:
- Page view, visits, and interaction
- Where visitors come from
- How long visitors stay, when they leave, and why
There’s a whole host of other things you’ll be able to track, but the main importance of this ties into your restaurant and marketing efforts. It allows you to pinpoint what’s doing well and what’s not, and make changes accordingly.
This is where CRM and your website come into play. With them, you can record and track emails of customers and, ultimately, reach out to them through email marketing. You already know what I’m talking about - those emails you get from mail lists urging you to come back, highlighting new deals, and the like.
While you don’t have to engage in email marketing, it’s a proven tactic. And I don’t expect you to believe me - I have proof. According to Statista (as of 2022):
- 4.14 billion people use their email on a daily basis.
- Email marketing brings in $8.49 billion in global revenue every year.
- And email marketing can bring in up to $44 for every $1 spent - that’s potentially 4,400% Return on Investment (ROI) and up to 40 times more effective than social media marketing efforts.
So yeah, you could say that email marketing is kind of a big deal.
This only applies to brick-and-mortar shops, so virtual and ghost kitchen operators can skip this - reservation software is increasingly common, and there are a number of excellent options that integrate directly with your website. It’s also worth noting that some POS systems integrate with your reservation software, making things seamless.
Our article on how small businesses can compete with larger names breaks down the importance of reservations further.
This is one of those things that is often integrated into high-quality POS systems. However, there are a number of options out there. The most important thing is that, once again, you do your homework. Look for systems that allow demos and integrate with software that you either already use or plan to use in the future. And most importantly, don’t be afraid to shop around for a bit.
You’re already scheduling employees (more likely than not) - scheduling software just makes it easier.
Without payment processing, your business is dead in the water - simple as that. The days of cash-only businesses are rapidly fading into the periphery, and that means you’ll need to catch up with the times. While there are numerous options out there, it’s worth looking for services that offer competitive fees and integration with your order management and POS systems.
Personally, we here at Cuboh quite like Square, as it offers seamless payment processing for both virtual and brick-and-mortar locations. Additionally, we recently added them to the large repertoire of services that integrate in moments with Cuboh. And best of all, it allows you to hold onto those iPads and keep things rolling. There’s no need to recycle old gear or invest in loads of new readers; Square keeps things simple.
Okay - you knew we were coming to this. Cuboh is your one-stop-shop for… pretty much all of the aforementioned needs. We help you build a website, track vital metrics and KPIs for your business, build and tweak your online menu, and we integrate with just about every reputable POS, payment processor, and third-party delivery service. If you’re tired of trying to wrangle a kitchen of frazzled chefs and cooks as they try to figure out which order came first, Cuboh is the solution.
We bring all of your business’s most helpful and crucial pieces of software into a single, easy-to-manage package - and better yet, we don’t charge you an arm and a leg for the privilege. So, reach out today and schedule a demo to see what Cuboh can do for your restaurant.