The 9 Tools Every Restaurant Startup Absolutely Needs

Restaurants represent one of the most popular forms of startups in the US market. Whether bakeries, coffee shops, full-service restaurants, bars or food trucks, these startups’ unique needs have inspired an impressive new market of software and tech resources to help them grow. Thanks to our friends at Toast for assembling this list of tools that every restaurant needs.

It’s an exciting time to start a restaurant. People are embracing new trends, and we’ve seen an influx of specialty and fusion restaurants. With so many options for diners, business is booming. $746 billion was spent on food and drink in the restaurant industry last year, and numbers are predicted to rise again in 2016.
 
On top of that, the restaurant business is growing so much that there are expected to be 1.7 million new jobs created in restaurants within the next 10 years. That’s more than ever before.
 
All things considered, you’re in a good place to be opening up a new restaurant!
 
Even more exciting is that there are a slew of tools your restaurant startup can use to get off the ground, some of which are brand new, and some of which have been the crutch of every successful restaurant that has ever existed. Every tool you implement in your restaurant should do one or more of the following:
 
      Better the guest experience
      Set you apart from competitors
      Keep you organized
      Make your job easier
 
So, what tools do you need to take your startup restaurant to the next level? Here are 9 that will do just that.
 
1. A Dedicated Staff: Even if you’re using the most efficient technology in the world for your restaurant, it’s useless if you have an unmotivated staff. In the startup phase, it’s crucial to work with people who share your vision for the restaurant,  - whether that be through the food you serve or the interaction with your customers. These values are all dictated by the quality of people working to build the restaurant’s brand and reputation. Don’t let someone else’s lack of commitment hinder you - work with the right people to bring your restaurant to the place where you want it to be. Check out HotSchedules or Clothbound to make scheduling and hiring a bit easier.
 
2. A POS system: A POS (point of sale) system is a must for fulfilling orders and closing checks, but it can also be so much more. If you’re starting a restaurant, pen and paper orders are a recipe for disaster. Point of sale technology keeps your processes organized and helps you run your restaurant operations more smoothly. Remember, it’s imperative to avoid dated legacy POS systems. Although it may seem like a good idea to go with the “big players” in the industry, you run the risk of being being sidelined in favor of their large customers. It’s best to go with a POS provider who understands your needs, values you, and offers 24/7 support no matter the size of your restaurant.
 
3. Online Ordering: The more convenient you are for guests, the more attractive you will be to potential customers. One modern way to achieve this is through online ordering. As you’ll see in the graph below, the past five years show a trend of online ordering eventually overtaking phone orders in U.S. restaurants. Get ahead of the movement while you still can and implement this feature in your restaurant. When choosing a platform for your online ordering, look into one that charges a flat rate for its services as opposed to one that will take a chunk of your revenue each order.
 
 
4. Cloud-Based Reporting: Just because you live your life for your restaurant doesn’t mean you have to live your life in your restaurant. When integrated with the right POS system, cloud-accessible data reports allow you to view restaurant information wherever you are at any time. Check your restaurant’s performance first thing in the morning, right before you go to bed, or in between rounds on the golf course. No longer will you be overwhelmed with an influx of data that’s too intimidating to consume all at once right before or after your shift. Now, you can frequently stay in tune with your restaurant and make more sane, calculated decisions.
 
5. A Loyalty Program: Don’t just serve your customers - incentivize them to return. Loyalty programs work twofold: they create happy customers and they create repeat customers, both of which are essential to a startup restaurant. As a new entrant to the restaurant industry, you’ll be facing off against many incumbent restaurants for a cut of the business. Consider implementing different reward program ideas in order to engage guests and give them even more reasons to come back.
 
6. A Scheduling System: The question,“Can I have next Friday off?”, should not stress you out when you hear it. One problem still plaguing many restaurants is scheduling conflicts. One request for a shift swap can cause a tedious game of telephone for managers and employees that can get very convoluted very fast. Incorporating a scheduling software for your restaurant, such as PeachWorks, results in a simple way for everyone to know who is working when, for how long, and alongside whom. No more confusion for you or for anyone else.
 
7. An Inventory Management System: I know I’ve already mentioned it, but organization is key for any restaurant startup. One way of achieving this, especially on the planning and forecasting front, is with an inventory management system. This helps you keep a clear idea of what’s coming in and what’s going out so that you can make more accurate orders from suppliers and stop running out of your best seller. Implementing an inventory management tool early on, especially one that integrates with your restaurant POS, sets your restaurant up on a clear path to success.
 
8. Social Media Accounts: Why let the restaurant experience end when your customers walk out the door? Engaging with them on social media allows you to make a connection outside of your establishment, and also allows you to see what others are saying about your food and your business. As a restaurant, Instagram is a necessity - posting frequent pictures of your delicious food is basically free marketing. Twitter works for immediately responding to customer complaints and praise. Facebook helps build a community around your restaurant.
 
If social media isn’t you’re forte, don’t use that as an excuse to ignore it entirely. Use some scheduling and publishing tools like Sprout SocialHootsuite, or Buffer to make yourself known on the web and analyze how well you’re doing. 
 
9. Self-Order Kiosks: If you’re running a fast-casual or quick-service restaurant and want to improve speed of service, why not invest in self-order kiosks? It puts the ordering process directly in the customers’ hands - and sometimes, that’s just how they like it. With kiosks, you’ll create fans who will advocate on the accuracy and reliability of orders as well as the brisk wait times. The positive news of your will restuarant faster than your orders will be completed.
 
The restaurant industry is booming. Each year sees more jobs, more orders, and more locations than the previous year. But remember, your restaurant is one in a million (as in there are 1 million restaurants in this country). With these 9 tools, you’ll make a name for your restaurant in no time.
 
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AJ Beltis is a Content Marketing Specialist at Toast, Inc., a Boston-based restaurant software company that provides an all-in-one platform for point of sale technology. At Toast, AJ blogs on an ongoing basis, writes eBooks and long-form content, and runs the company’s social media pages. You can read his latest posts for the Toast blog here, and you can follow him on Twitter here