14 min read
Jun 22, 2017
Food Service Management

How to Choose the Right Food Service Software for Your Catering Business

Food service software can help your restaurant or catering business get on with cooking great food by automating many of your mundane tasks. Here's how...

Abhishek SinghTeam Lead

If you run a restaurant or catering business you'll know there's plenty more to your job than just frying some meat and putting it on a table. Food service businesses need to maintain quality while also planning menus, managing inventory of food stocks, handling staff, marketing the business, and all that other fun stuff. With all these factors in mind, how do you ensure that your customers enjoy a perfect dish - or that Gordon Ramsey doesn't walk in and start throwing dishes at the wall?

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What is food service software?

A food service software solution (often known as "food service management software") can help you maintain an adequate control of your food inventory. The software helps you monitor food items with proper packaging from your restaurant's kitchen to the customer's plate. food service software includes menu management, recipe database, inventory management, cost control, and more.

The main aim of food service software is management of staff within your kitchen, improvement and monitoring of food quality, and management of customer orders and invoicing.

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Does my small business really need a food service software solution?

Food service software can help you automate many manual tasks such as order queuing, labelling, recipe, menu management, and food safety compliance that can increase the efficiency or your restaurant.

According to the 2016 survey by Food Waste Alliance, the restaurant sector in the US disposed 93.7 percent (1,832.6 million pounds), recycled 4.2 percent (83.1 million pounds), and donated 2 percent (39.3 million pounds) of leftover food. These findings indicate a significant wastage of food, which could have been easily reduced by managing the food service efficiently.

One of the best ways to tackle food wastage is using a food service software that lets you know the exact quantity of food ordered by customers so that you can prepare the right amount of food, thus saving on inventory and costs. If you are seeking to reduce food wastage, then food service software could be your answer.

Apart from food quality, a food service software can also help your gain customer satisfaction, by having a better menu management system. For example, the software provides latest updates on discounts and offers on menus, through it built in database, which can be used for future reference.

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Is my business ready?

Here are three questions to ask yourself to evaluate if your small business is ready to implement a food service software:

  • Do you find it difficult to manage and control food cost to maximize profits? The cost of food items changes regularly. To maintain a steady cost of food stock, a food service software alerts you on changes in the price level for vegetables, dairy products, poultry, and more. food service software normally features an intuitive dashboard that lists the cost of each food stock and some even help you buy food stocks in bulk to avoid future price increases.

  • Do you want your staff to have the necessary tools to ensure food compliance to improve food quality? Your staff in the kitchen should have the hands-on experience to ensure the adequate food quality based on compliance standards. food service software helps you create the correct labelling for fast food and other menu items so you can be compliant with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Your staff can also monitor the serving time of each food item to ensure food served is hot and healthy to customers.

  • Would you like to improve your menu planning, inventory management, and meal service operations? Food service software lets you print weekly or daily menus and conduct nutritional analysis. The software also lets you manage your inventory by integrating the pricing of your grocery vendor with the products in storage locations to calculate the value of your inventory. Lastly, food service software can help you manage meal services by printing tray tickets, tray cards, and including labels for personalized items with extra meals and snack stickers.

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What to look for when buying a food service software?

Choosing a food service software depends on your food service specialization. For example, if you are catering to schools and hospitals, you might need to focus more on nutrition and labelling instead of a POS. There are a plenty of food service software solutions available in market, but you should focus on the one that suits your business requirement based on cost, number of users, compliance, POS, and inventory management. Here are some key considerations you should take into account.

  • Will you go for an on-premise software or choose a cloud-based solution?

If you have multiple restaurants across various locations, it's wise to opt for cloud-based software as it allows you to access your data from any location.

  • Will you be able to integrate it with other software you are already using?

Most software don't always have the features for your changing business requirements. For example, you may need to integrate your existing food service software with a dedicated POS software to pull more customer, pricing, and inventory specific information. While opting for a food service software, make sure that it can integrate with other software so the you can do a deep dive on information specific to CRM, ERP, or any other business intelligence parameters. For example, ChefMod integrates with QuickBooks to provide additional accounting features.

  • What mobile capabilities should you look for while buying a food service software? Does it have an iOS and Android app?

Smartphone apps help create a collaborative work environment so that your staff is up-to-date on the latest menu, labelling, recipes, and compliance issues. iOS and Android apps retrieve all your restaurant information in an intuitive dashboard on the palm of your hand. You no longer are dependent on a desktop version of the software. For example, Jolt features Android and iOS apps that provide temperature logs, labelling, checklists, scheduling, and attendance. All these features integrate with the cloud or on-premise version of the software.

  • What pricing options are available?

Food service software is available through various pricing models. These include free trial, freemium, one-time license, open-source, and subscription. On-premise software is based on purchasing the software license that requires a one-time upfront payment. In contrast, cloud-based software is subscription-based that requires monthly or annual payments. Subscription based plans let you add or remove features based on the total amount that you want to pay. Lastly, freemium-based food service software let you use some features without charging anything, with the objective of upgrading to the subscription-based plans.

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Essential features of food service software

Once you have answered all the questions mentioned above, you would be thinking about the key features you would need in the software. Here's what you can typically expect to find in a food service software:

  • Nutritional analysis - Helps you create a detailed breakup up of nutrients and calories in your food for health conscious customers.

  • Recipe management - Helps you manage a database of your secret recipes for your chefs to access it while cooking a meal.

  • Menu planning - Allows you to create customizable menu plans that can be changed daily for customers and your staff.

  • Inventory management - Helps you manage food stocks and send email notifications when they are low.

  • Food labelling - Creates and prints food labels to distinguish types of food e.g. vegetarian or non-vegetarian. Helps customers to get a quick reference if a meal is hot or cold through reading labels.

  • Point of sale (POS) - Helps you invoice orders similar to a cash register in your restaurant. The POS links to your software to record payments made by your customers for calculating your profits margins.

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Examples of popular food service software

Just to give you a head start in choosing a food service software, here are three popular solutions:

Toast POS

Toast POS features a menu management system to create a new menu with customizable fields. The menu is accessible online and offline for viewing special menu offers such as Happy Hours.

The software's restaurant ordering feature takes order from customers and sends automatic notifications when the order is ready along with a detailed break up of bill and menu items. Toast POS helps you streamline payments from customers through the 'pay at the table' feature that allows you to email or print receipts by integrating a printer with the software. The feature also lets you convert payments into loyalty points to be redeemed by your customers in future visits. Toast POS provides real time monitoring of sales and detailed reporting of each itinerary on the menu.

Toast POS is based on a subscription-pricing model that provides add-on modules such as digital and physical gift cards, online ordering, and loyalty programs. The software's price starts at $79 per month.

ChefMod

ChefMod is a cloud-based restaurant and recipe management software that helps in recipe and purchasing lifecycle management. You can access all information related to your restaurant on various devices regardless of location, including smartphones and tablets.

ChefMod has customized Android and iOS apps that directly integrate with the software and provide information related to menu management, recipe, inventory, and invoices. The software's Order 1-2-3 module helps you manage food item supply chain and place orders when food stocks get low.

ChefMod features a secure order feature that utilizes order-forecasting algorithms to place an order based on the customer's purchase history. The software's EZRECIPE module helps in recipe management by calculating the cost of food stocks and total recipe cost per menu item. Pricing information for the software is available on request.

CALCMENU

CALCMENU is recipe management software that helps you standardize the menu for your recipes based on your inventory and cost of food ingredients. The software helps you conduct nutrition analysis for labelling food items, monitor food costs, plan menus, and report on allergens.

CALCMENU caters to various foodservice professionals from restaurant, schools, hotel, catering, hospitals, cruise lines, and more. You can create and modify recipes based on availability of food stock in the inventory. The software's recipe costing feature creates a pricing formula that can be used throughout your menu plan to monitor the cost of recipe. CALCMENU is available for a 30-day free trial period with pricing information available on request.

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What next?

Checkout GetApp's food service management directory to choose a software based on features, price, and your business requirements. You can also compare the top food service software to get a quick snapshot of each software based on their features, integrations, pricing, and mobile support.

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