Essential Apps For Restaurant Management

What’s the recipe for managing a restaurant?

It’s going to involve a perfect mix of employee scheduling, smart inventory, customer feedback, an organized kitchen, and great food and service.

That’s no small order.

There are lots of great apps out there that can help you manage your restaurant, but it’s tough to know which one to use. We’ve compiled a list of the best restaurant management apps to help you cover and simplify each part of your job.

Management apps

As a manager, you have to work quickly. Good news: nearly all of the most common logistical tasks can be accomplished from your smartphone.

When I Work: Employee management

When it comes to employee scheduling, time tracking, and communication, When I Work does all of that and more. From desktop and mobile devices, managers can track time and schedule data, build schedules using easy templates, track absenteeism and overtime, and communicate with groups or specific employees. Employees can use their mobile devices to clock in, request time off, swap shifts, and see when new schedules are posted.

When I Work’s employee scheduling software will save you time, be easy for everyone to use, and make it easier to manage labor costs.

Zenefits: Employee benefits

Managers and employees can track time off requests, information on available benefits, review paycheck stubs for historical data, and other HR capabilities. You can either use your own benefits options, or use those offered by Zenefits. From performance reviews to onboarding for new employees, Zenefits makes it easy to administer and enroll employees in your complete benefit plans through a mobile app.

It’s like a complete HR department in one mobile app, with always-available information for employees so you don’t have to answer those questions over and over.

FreshBooks and Wave: Accounting

QuickBooks is the most common accounting and bookkeeping software, but FreshBooks excels with its time tracking system and its ease of use. It’s ideal for small businesses, and one of the reasons it’s so popular is that it integrates with hundreds of popular third-party software (e.g. Square, Shopify, Stripe, PayPal, Mailchimp, etc.)

Wave is a cloud-based app that is free to use (with paid support and other add ons). If your accounting needs aren’t extensive, you may prefer Wave over FreshBooks.

Inventory management

Inventory management has never been more important than now. With challenging supply chain issues, tracking and planning inventory can make or break your restaurant through cost or menu availability.

xtraCHEF by Toast: Inventory invoicing and accounting 

Automate your accounts payable and stay on top of quickly-shifting food costs to level up your restaurant management. xtraCHEF provides a dashboard for data that alerts you to cost trends, declining budgets, price alerts, and more—letting you know when you need to make decisions on ordering food and supplies. It can also calculate the cost of a recipe so you can see accurate plate costs in real time.

Inventory management is also available, along with the ability to order food so you can track what was ordered and by whom. Add in manufacturer rebates, and your bottom line can look a lot better than it did without this handy mobile or desktop app.

BlueCart: Ordering inventory (food)

Through an online ordering platform, this mobile app makes it possible for you to order food inventory from all of your suppliers at once. BlueCart has an impressive digital catalog of wholesale food distributors. Considering that the mash-up of print order forms, email orders, and phone tag are often what it takes to place orders, this simple app’s ability to manage all of that in one place is a huge time savings. 

Built-in inventory tracking makes reordering as simple as one click.

Partender: Ordering inventory (alcohol)

Alcohol sales can help keep a restaurant afloat. That needed revenue can be lost due to theft or over pouring on a serve. Partender tracks consumption analytics by comparing what was ordered and what was actually poured out, making it easy to spot shifts where alcohol loss is happening. You can also track what alcohol sells well and what doesn’t.

Partender takes a unique approach to inventorying your current alcohol levels by tapping on an image of the bottle to indicate where the alcohol level is. You can run reports and generate a purchase order to a distributor with just a click. 

Reservation booking apps 

As the restaurant industry comes back from the shutdowns and disruptions of the pandemic, being able to balance online orders for pickup or delivery and in-restaurant customers is no longer optional. This is the new normal in how people perceive dining out.

OpenTable: Online order and reservations

OpenTable makes reservation management easy. Whether at the shop or on the road, you can make customer reservations on the go, see future reservations, and quickly confirm reservations. You can also add notes and tags to guests and reservations, as well as monitor the waitlist to make sure things are going smoothly. Got VIPs? You can track their status and arrival.

OpenTable gives you data on reservation party size, walk-ins, phone-in reservations, shift changes, and revenue; this helps you plan for the future.

TouchBistro: Online order for takeout and delivery

Takeout and delivery are a part of dining culture in a big way, so handling online orders for takeout and delivery are a must-have.

Part of a larger suite of restaurant management systems that includes POS, TouchBistro integrates online ordering and takeout so customers can place orders through your restaurant’s website. 

You can also use outside providers. DoorDash, GrubHub, Uber Eats, and Toast Takeout are popular takeout and/or delivery options. However, these apps have fees that come with them that you’ll need to account for in your prices. Lightspeed is an app that helps you manage these third-party delivery platforms, particularly if you’re using several.

Social media apps

Social media is a mix of marketing, reviews, and connecting with current and potential clients. Getting the social media component right in a tightly competitive market where you’re competing for customers as well as employees is vital. But with so many platforms, it can be time consuming and confusing.

CoSchedule: Organize and schedule all social media posts

CoSchedule is a social media planning and scheduling app that comes in two formats: a scheduling calendar, and a marketing suite. The calendar gives you a visual drag-and-drop interface where you can plan blog posts, website content, and social posts across multiple platforms, and schedule them to post. The marketing suite covers all of that, plus project management tools to help you organize, plan, and communicate with your team about future content. 

If your social media needs aren’t as complicated, you might want to start with Buffer. It’s known for being easy to use and a great way to get started sharing content.

Canva: Photo editing for marketing

Canva makes it easy to create graphics using photos or custom design elements to fit standard social media, print media, and digital media sizes. A drag-and-drop approach with a simple user interface means anyone can be an ace graphic designer without complicated software.

Snapseed is also an option if you’re looking for a platform that offers a more focused approach to working with photos and filters.

Mailchimp: Marketing automation

Most people think of Mailchimp as an email newsletter platform, but it’s much more. 

Yes, you can build custom email campaigns to reach your customers, but you can also create templates and tracking analytics so you can see how well your marketing is performing. A multi-channel marketing platform is possible in that your emails can be generated based on customer groups, events, responses, and more.

Utility apps 

Utility apps are often forgotten until suddenly you realize you need something. Without good planning, you’ll start using tools that might not serve you well down the road.

Feedly: Consuming industry news

You have to stay in the know for your industry. Two problems face you: information overload, or ignorance. Feedly is an aggregation app that pulls in RSS and website feeds that you set up so you can read it all in one place instead of hopping all over the internet. You can categorize the feeds as needed, and with a great UI, see what you’ve read and easily share it. 

It’s great for finding content for social media on topics your customers would be interested in as well as staying informed.

Google, Apple, and Windows: Organized note taking

The platform you prefer determines which app you’ll use.

If you’re working with a Windows PC most of the time, you’ll probably use OneNote. It has mobile apps that sync across multiple Windows devices, as well as with some Android devices (e.g. Samsung). It offers powerful features for both organization in multiple sub-levels as well as handwriting and clipping functions.

If you’re relying on Google products, you’ll probably use Google Keep. While much simpler in organization, it does have its own stand-alone mobile app as well as being available in the sidebar window of desktop versions of popular Google products like Gmail, Docs, and Calendar. 

Apple’s Notes is similar to Google Keep, but offers a little more organization. With folders and subfolders, and sorting within those folders, you can easily create and share notes. Evernote is also popular with both iOS and Android users.

There’s no shortage of cloud, desktop, and mobile app note-taking options. The one you should choose is the one that integrates into the systems and devices you use the most. Jotting yourself a note should be fast and easy.

Google, Apple, and Windows: Email

If you’re using a Windows PC, Outlook is a great email option. You can connect email accounts from Microsoft 365, Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo, Protonmail, and more, making it easy to track all of your accounts in one place. Outlook also syncs with Sticky Notes, Calendar, and many of the other Windows software and apps you may already be using. There is an Android mobile version as well. 

Gmail is a powerful email app that can also be connected to many accounts, creating one seamless inbox. Because Gmail is creating a work suite within their Gmail desktop experience (and on some mobile devices, such as Pixel phones), you’ll also have Google’s Chat, Spaces, and Meet tucked into Gmail.

Apple users can make use of Outlook and Gmail, but they may prefer to use Apple Mail. It can integrate with other providers, like Yahoo, Gmail, Outlook, and iCloud.

Again, the systems and devices you currently use will dictate what email apps and software you should choose.

Critical review apps 

There’s no avoiding the reality that customers are going to review your restaurant. Whether it’s your food or your staff or even the cleanliness of your restrooms, people are going to talk about their experience. You have to stay on top of reviews to spot trending problems or to respond if necessary.

Yelp: Reviews and feedback

Yelp is the go-to place for restaurant reviews. Some customers won’t go to a restaurant until they see what those reviews are. While customers can submit a review to Yelp, businesses aren’t locked out of the system. They can respond privately or publicly, depending on what’s suitable.

Whether you want to deal with Yelp or not is irrelevant. The reviews are going to show up with or without you. 

ReviewTrackers: Track reviews in one place

Yelp isn’t the only place people are leaving reviews. They’re reviewing your restaurant on Google, TripAdvisor, Facebook, and more. Keeping up with all of them can be rough. ReviewTrackers is comprehensive, pulling all of those reviews into one place and generating data to get a sense of overall customer sentiment and experience, brand consistency, and customer engagement. You can also place real customer reviews on your website.

TapHunter: Drink reviews 

For the serious aficionado, TapHunter is the go-to app to find restaurants with great drinks. It allows users to review their favorite beers and cocktails, and even track them or events at the restaurants that serve them. Restaurant owners can add their unique drink menu, and even use the system to engage with customers on social media. 

Kitchen display system 

If your kitchen is chaotic, it doesn’t matter if everything else about your restaurant is perfect. Kitchen management is the heart of your business, and the right display systems can drive staff acquisition and retention, as well as help you spare the bottom line.

Toast: Kitchen display for cooks

Toast is an overall popular kitchen management system, display system, and restaurant POS. Toast offers large touch screens that make it easy to click through completed orders. It also comes with all-day counts and prep timers that help your cooks plan how many orders are on deck and cooking order so all items are ready at the same time.

If the costs associated with Toast and the hardware are prohibitive, Square has a free baseline plan with a kitchen display system add-on that functions with the iPads you’re already using.

Jamix: Kitchen management 

Many of the kitchen display systems that work well for cooks overlap in the kitchen management department. However, Jamix is an app that goes beyond customer and staff, and dives into the food. It helps you create recipes and track nutrition, calories, allergens and more. You can track menu items and know what to order based on the recipes you’ve created, as well as reduce food waste. For restaurants with multiple locations, Jamix allows you to share kitchen information in real time, including deliveries between kitchens.

Conclusion 

A restaurant is hard enough work on its own. Working smarter, not harder, is the key to keeping your restaurant operating at its peak performance. Smart automation with apps for restaurant management in this constantly changing industry is the best way to satisfy your customers.