February 26, 2021

How To Pick The Right Restaurant Tech Stack

by Ottimate Editors

This is a part 2 of a series on selecting restaurant software solutions that support your business needs. 

In Toast’s 2019 Restaurant Success report, two-thirds of restaurants reported not putting a high priority on invoice automation. Restaurants’ lack of invoice automation also suggests that owners haven’t found their current software to be very good at it. If a restaurant’s general ledger software digitized invoices in-depth and accurately, the owner would use it. If a corporate card program provided detailed insights into the restaurant’s purchasing, the owner would use it. 

But software does not typically provide a quality experience with processes outside of their core purpose. So owners end up not using them for those processes;  rather they default to using software for certain parts of their operation and leave other areas stuck on manual, paper-based systems.

Today, the explosion of software choices (as detailed in our previous post) mean that modern restaurant operators now have the luxury of automating almost all of their operation that previously required paper. The downside to this is that the modern restaurant operator has to juggle dual roles of running a foodservice operation and being an IT systems thinker. This is because they have to consider workflows, data integrations and how every software solution works together. 

In this article, we’ll walk you through a simple framework that will help you decide how to pick software solutions that support your business needs. 

Reducing The Number Of Manual Touches

The most important question that you, (as the operator, controller, or accountant) should ask yourself is:

Does this software reduce the number of manual touches that my team has to perform in order to do what they need to do?

If the answer is yes, then by all means you should do it! 

Reducing manual touches in your workflow is critical because it has compounding effects on the accuracy of your data, timeliness, and overall cost of labor. This is because any step that requires manual input opens up surface area for errors to creep in, which then forces you to add additional steps to manually verify accuracy. 

Data Portability and Integrations

The most essential feature of modern software is the ability to share data, accurately and quickly, with other software. 

Data portability is what allows software to work with other applications. It’s what allows owners to plug in one solution to solve one problem, knowing that their existing solutions for other operations won’t be affected.

Portability can take the form of formatted data exports, such as a CSV and FTP system, or via API for an even more seamless transfer. However it connects, the ability to integrate with other software is a must.

Another option to look out for is the ability to port over digital copies of the source documents that underpin the data. For example, digitized invoice line items mapped to GL codes that also have the original source document attached, so the user can eyeball it easily. 

Any system that does not play well with other systems should be an immediate veto from you simply because it will add even more manual touches to your already complicated workflow.

Flexibility and Ease of Use

However you want to run your processes, modern restaurant software should help you do it. You should feel supported, not confused. And you shouldn’t have to change workflows in ways you don’t want.

An unfortunate majority of software platforms force users to conform to the system’s way of thinking, (and often), to work around its limitations. Keep those systems away from your business.

We talk to restaurants all the time who are unable to implement the invoice approval process they want because they’re using technology that doesn’t support it. Usually, the problem is that the software wasn’t designed for invoice approval. As a result, either too few or too many people need to approve every invoice. It’s no wonder there are so many restaurants still using a paper-based system: at least a paper invoice goes wherever you tell it.

A gold-standard software solution should have enough flexibility built into it that it can be molded to fit your own, unique workflow needs, while being easy enough to be used by your daily users.

One way to do that is by making it really easy for a user to ingest invoices into the system via a direct vendor connection, taking a picture of the invoice, or directly scanning it in using an office scanner. 

Another method is to enable the system admin to set up a default automated workflow that handles every step of the previously manual process. For example, automatically ingesting an invoice, processing and routing it for payment, while only flagging invoices for manual review that trigger certain pre-set rules (for example invoices that are higher than a certain amount or are coded to a particular GL-code). By being automated-first, your team can focus their time on items that truly need their attention. 

Flexibility and usability are your friends. Software that’s easy to use and fit to your existing process is a piece of software that you’ll actually get value from — and that you’ll help others start using too. 

Intrinsic ROI

There are two ways an investment in software can pay off: by helping you gain efficiency and by generating revenue. “Intrinsic ROI” refers to the second of these.

Software can be useful just by helping you spend less time doing necessary work and by automating highly quantitative and repeatable tasks. Freeing up that time for more valuable work is a form of return on investment, or ROI.

Some software, however, is able to actually create revenue on top of the gains from efficiency.

Ottimate, for example, is software that helps a business almost eliminate the manual labor from invoice processing. This efficiency helps AP employees focus on more valuable work than hand-entering invoices.

But Ottimate also delivers intrinsic ROI. Bill Pay lets the AP team pay vendors right from the platform, earning up to 1% cash back for the business. It’s efficient, it’s convenient, and it also generates revenue on its own. Even apart from saving time, the software yields positive ROI.

In a business with margins as tight as a restaurant’s, intrinsic ROI is an important contribution to the bottom line.

The key to success is to think big picture

At the end of the day, the most important factors to business success is reducing the cost of manual paper-based workflows and making it easier to run a smooth operation, leveraged by technology. When selecting the right software solution, taking a step back and thinking through how everything fits together is important. No one wants to waste time trying to implement a solution that doesn’t play well with other pieces in your system.

At Ottimate, we focus on working well with as many restaurant software solutions. That’s why we support hundreds of integrations with inventory, accounting, and other industry-specific software solutions. That way you can rest easy knowing that AP automation will always be just a “drop-in” solution for your system.

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