Last Updated:
September 2, 2022

Top 4 things to look for when investing in a new restaurant inventory software

If you are a restaurateur and you are looking for an inventory management system, you're in the right place. Here are 4 tips to help you make a better decision.
Top 4 things to look for when investing in a new restaurant inventory software
By
Angelo Esposito
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Restaurant Inventory Software Checklist

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Table of Contents

Are you a restaurant owner or operator looking to upgrade to a restaurant inventory management system?

If you are a restaurateur and you are looking for an inventory management system, you are in the right place. My promise is at the end of this article, you'll be able to make the best decision for you and your restaurant when it comes to investing in a restaurant inventory management system.

Choosing a restaurant inventory software can be daunting - especially when choosing the wrong inventory management tool means a lot of wasted time and money. At the end of this article, you'll have the tools you need to make the best decision for your restaurant or bar in terms of a reliable restaurant inventory management software.

Here are the top 5 challenges I hear from restaurant and bar owners/operators when it comes to choosing restaurant inventory software:

  1. I don't have enough time to find the right inventory management software for my restaurant
  2. Too many inventory management options
  3. Restaurant owners had a bad experience with an inventory management system.
  4. I don't need a restaurant inventory management software, I have an inventory manager who is an Excel wiz
  5. This restaurant inventory management app is too expensive.

I don't have enough time to find the right inventory management software for my restaurant.

The most common thing I hear from restaurateurs when it comes to restaurant management software is that they do not have enough time to dedicate to properly implement a new inventory management software.

I have a lot of friends in the restaurant industry with multiple locations and I understand that finding the time, to find the best inventory management software is time away from the business.

Let's be honest, who has time to truly research all these inventory management tools, figure out the pros and cons, and compare to other restaurant inventory management systems?

Not sure what restaurant inventory management software to choose.

You know what is worse than choosing the wrong restaurant inventory software? Choosing the wrong inventory management software more than once!

I know there are a lot of inventory management options that come with a suite of inventory management features but how do you know which ones are the most important for your small businesses or multiple locations?

Some offer a free trial, some offer a free demo, some have barcode scanning capabilities, some include order management, some even integrate with your sales channels.  POS systems all have some form of basic inventory features but is that enough for good inventory management?

That is precious time and resources that you and your team are dedicating at your restaurant that could be used on so many other crucial things, like calculating food costs.  

The truth is figuring out what inventory management system to choose is hard because most inventory management tools promise everything. Typically, restaurant management systems will over promise and under deliver.

Restaurant owners had a bad experience with an inventory management system.

Honestly, I can relate to this one because when I did inventory control at restaurants I personally tried many different inventory tracking solutions that made me want to go back to my excel spreadsheet to track inventory.

My advice here is don't let a bad experience with an inventory management software deter you from ever trying another restaurant inventory system. Now they assume all systems are bad and nothing is better than pen and paper, which I'll explain why that's wrong.

I don't need a restaurant inventory management software, I have an Excel wizard on our team.

You might have an Excel wizard in the house, or that excel wizard might even be you. Maybe you are currently doing a bit of inventory tracking, food waste, food & beverage inventory levels, purchase orders, etc. all with spreadsheets.

If you are, first of all that's better than not performing inventory tracking at all, but  this manual data entry eventually starts to break when you are managing large amounts of inventory, or multiple restaurant locations.

Restaurant owners,  if you are like me you are probably not a fan of having excel formulas break because of the amount of sheets you linked to each other. In the end, it means your stock management begins to break and it might be time to start looking into a proper restaurant inventory management system.

I will admit though that if you are managing inventory through Excel, that's still better than not managing inventory at all. Another piece of good news is that is is much easier to go from Excel to a proper restaurant inventory management software than from nothing to a restaurant inventory management software.

Excel might be okay for a small single venue restaurant operation but if you are managing larger restaurant venues or multiple venues, the last thing you want to be doing is fixing Excel spreadsheets.

This restaurant inventory management app is too expensive.

I always say compared to what? Right in relation to what? Because sometimes you'll hear people say restaurant or bar inventory apps are too expensive.

You know, my internet bill is a hundred dollars a month. Well, why are you comparing an inventory management software to your inventory bill? So we have to figure out compared to what. And we also got to look at what is the actual ROI.

So if you had a tool that wasn't saving you time and saving you money, then it doesn't matter if it was $10 a month, that's expensive. Cause not saving you time and not saving you money. Right. So the price is relative.

What is the best inventory system for restaurants?

Easy to use

The best inventory management software should be easy to use.

Easy to Implement

The best inventory management software should be easy to implement. So it didn't take your team weeks or months to implement this new system and to find out if it actually works or not.

Data to make better decisions

The best inventory management software should be able to get you the data you need to make better decisions.

My promise today is I'm going to walk you through a free tool to use when evaluating different restaurant inventory software systems.

My name is Angelo Esposito, CEO of WISK.ai. WISK helps restaurant and bar owners with inventory management, order management to vendors, invoice management, recipe costing to track food costs and beverage costs.

Whether you decide to try WISK or not as your dedicated restaurant inventory management system is irrelevant. What's important is that you use the framework below before choosing a restaurant inventory management software.  

The MISS Framework (Or how to choose the best inventory management tools)

The MISS framework really incorporates four key elements to look for when you're evaluating a new inventory management system.

  1. Measurable
  2. Integrated
  3. Speed
  4. Support

Measurable

The first point of the MISS framework is that the restaurant inventory software you are looking to implement is measurable. What does measurable mean when it comes to a restaurant management system?

Can you get accurate inventory reports that give you proper control of your inventory? Can you get accurate variance reports to understand where your restaurant or bar is losing money? Can you truly understand your cost of goods - like food costs and beverage costs?

I guess the general way to summarize all that is as a restaurant operator, can you count on the data coming from your restaurant inventory solution?

When looking at different inventory management software options, if the inventory control software has advanced features but lacks the ability to allow for easy and reliable data input, then it is useless.  

No matter how many key features it has, if it can not easily and accurately get data into the inventory app then you can bet it will have bad data out for your restaurant business. As a restaurant operator, whether you decide to use a stand alone inventory software or an inventory software from your pos system ask yourself if the inventory software has the reporting that you can count on.

The reason that's so important is you've probably heard the saying "you can't improve what you're not measuring" but what about "you also can't improve if you are not measuring accurately"?

The key here is you want the restaurant or bar inventory app that you invest in to give you the data you need to make better decisions. This includes inventory data, food waste data, beverage loss data, supplier invoice data, purchase order data,  recipe costing data, and even accounting data.

It's better than nothing, but if it's wrong and it's inaccurate, you're making decisions based off wrong numbers, right. You're ordering based on inaccurate numbers, you're assuming you lost or didn't lose money based on inaccurate numbers. Imagine not being able to trust your sales and purchase orders, your inventory count,  

So you really want to look for a tool that will check that box and say, Hey, this is giving me accurate data. Right. And measurable data. Right. So that's number one.

Integrated

Number two in the MISS framework is integrations. When you think of integration you don't want to change everything you're doing based on the restaurant inventory management system you choose, but rather make sure the restaurant inventory management software you choose works nicely with the existing tools you have in place.

It means you might ask yourself, does this inventory software integrate with your current point of sale system(POS system) ? Does it integrate with your accounting software? Does it integrate with your vendors, and does it have vendor management capabilities?

Can you place orders from this restaurant inventory software to your vendor? Generally speaking, ask yourself, how does this restaurant inventory software integrate with our current ecosystem?

Speed

Number three in the MISS framework is speed.

Is this restaurant management system faster than what you're currently doing? If the answer is no, that is a sure sign that you chose the wrong restaurant inventory software.

The only thing that should be faster than your restaurant inventory management system is doing nothing. You heard that right. Unless you're doing nothing (and I always tell my restaurateur friends that if you're doing nothing that is a whole different problem), your restaurant management system needs to be faster than doing it manually. If your restaurant management system is slowing you down, that is a red flag.

A good restaurant management system should increase your efficiencies and streamline your operations, not slow you down.  

Now for my restaurateur readers who are currently not doing anything when it comes to inventory management - that is alarming.

That means you have no idea what you're losing, what you have on hand. You don't know your dead stock or over-stock, you probably don't have your cogs, right? So it's a whole different video. And assuming you're doing something pen and paper Excel, maybe using another system. You want to ask yourself by switching or by implementing this new.

Will these processes be faster, right? And the process could be inventory and you can measure inventory time currently versus with the system, right? Maybe time to enter invoices currently, versus with this new system, you might ask yourself, you know, in terms of speed, can you split up the work easily?

Does it work in real time? Does it work offline? I've seen so many venues that will use us off. And when they're demoing, everything looks great because on their computer, on a wifi, but in a real life restaurant, when you're in a fridge or a basement and there's no wifi. What do you do? Right? And then you're doing double the work because you're putting it on paper and transferring it into the system.

So these are things to think about when you think about speed

Support

When it comes to support, it's really important that you work with a company that is easily accessible. If you're going to invest in a system, is that system going to be there for you when you have questions?

Some questions you may want to ask yourself:

  • How responsive is the team?
  • Can you easily reach them?
  • Is there a phone number?
  • Is there a chat within the app or within the web portal?
  • Can they easily assist your team and your staff remotely?

As much as we all would love to have someone come in with. It's not scalable. Meaning if you're relying on someone to come, that means you're going to be waiting days or weeks. Every time there's a problem, right? You want your team. If your staff has an issue, they can reach out on the chat, talk to support.

They can remote in, they can assist and they don't have to involve you. You know, the owner or manager. Every time there's an issue or a learning. Right. And then another one I like to look for is, is there an up-to-date help desk? So what I mean by help desk? Well, is there an area where you can see videos, articles?

Self-learn answer questions anytime any day. And one thing I always encourage people to do is see how up-to-date it is, right? Because you'll find sometimes there's software companies that have put up some content, but it hasn't been updated in years. Right. So that might be a little bit of a red flag that you want to watch out.

The classic myth when it comes to inventory management systems

One myth I hear all the time is "my Excel version is better than the restaurant inventory software we previously used," or  "nothing beats pen and paper - my pen and paper is better than a restaurant inventory management software I tried".

I hate to burst your bubble, but think about this logically. If your Excel version (and I respect Excel, don't get me wrong) or your pen and paper is better than the system you use, that is the number one sign that you have used the wrong restaurant inventory management system.

If you are a restaurant owner or operator, you should honestly ask yourself if you simply did not choose the right restaurant management system. Think about it, if pen & paper or excel is the best inventory control you got, it means you have to use the MISS framework when auditing the next potential restaurant inventory app. I'll be the first to tell you that if pen & paper is better then I know what restaurant management system I would NOT use.

The software checklist for inventory management systems below this video. So click on the link. Totally. It's going to go through the miss framework, but what's nice. Is you going to get an actual checklist item by item of what to look for when investing in a new inventory management system for your restaurant or bar?

The idea here is whether you're shopping for a new one, you're maybe auditing your current one, it's a free template downloaded, and you can kind of go through each item and see are they hitting those points? And if, if your system is diamonds, you've invested in a good one. And if it's not, maybe it's something to consider.

And the other thing I would say is if you're looking at news, WISK's. This will save you a lot of time. This checklist means that you're not going to invest money, time, implementation time, ultimately to say, wow, this didn't work. And then six months later, people figure that out. I had to download the link below.

Download the Restaurant Inventory Software Checklist below to make sure that you choose the best restaurant inventory software for you!

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