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How to Choose the Best Kitchen Management Software for Your Multi-Unit Restaurant Business

Kitchen management software

Kitchen management software comes in all shapes and sizes. It makes choosing the system that is right for you all the more complicated.

In this post, we’ll help you narrow down the options. 

Most successful food businesses are now multi-unit and multi-channel. That means you are collaborating with multiple stakeholders who each have their own data points to focus on.

The F&B director works with the order forms, the COO analyses the profit and loss statements, the inventory manager checks the stock counts, the executive chef works in the recipes database and so on.

All come with their own data sets and metrics – food cost, inventory variance, sales numbers, the list goes on.

With more people using the data to organize workflows for purchasing, inventory, production, and even HACCP, the need for a definitive source of truth that is able to capture all the data and connect them in a coherent way has grown exponentially.

Here are some eye-opening findings:

If you run a hotel chain, kitchen network, or multi-outlet fast-casual restaurant, you need the best back-of-house (BOH) monitoring tools – for:

  • efficiency,
  • consistency in production,
  • operational excellence,
  • and cost management

– in order to stay in control of your outlets and remain competitive.

But with so many kitchen management systems vying for your attention, you need to narrow down the options. Here are the key considerations to look out for when making your decision.

Apicbase Is The Backbone of Multi-Unit Restaurant Operations

9 Features To Look For In Kitchen Management Software

You need restaurant kitchen management software that has specific features to solve specific problems but also is general enough that it helps in multiple areas of operations.

That means it needs to be able to integrate with other tech solutions, it needs to be able to take in data, make sense of it, and share it with the whole system, and it needs to give you enough flexibility to make changes for constant improvement.

Here are the top features to look out for to make that happen.

1. Recipes – Your Core Data Set

The back of house or production side of a food business is notoriously hard to manage.

Workflows are criss crossing each other all the time. Inventory, procurement, production, they all depend on one another. To digitise these processes, you need a data set that ties everything together.

That vital piece of information is your recipe.

Regardless of the type of food business you have – large scale catering or hole-in-the-wall burger place – there is one thing that they all have in common, and that is recipes.

Recipes allow you to calculate your purchase amounts, inventory turnover, food cost, margins… well, it allows you to do everything really.

And you can scale your recipes in every possible direction. Much in the same way that having your coordinates allows your GPS-system to calculate the fastest route to your destination but also the most scenic one.

Recipes are your coordinates, they are at the centre of a food business. The kitchen management software is the GPS-system ensuring swift and accurate calculations

So, make sure the system you choose has a badass module to handle those recipes.

Recommended read: Point solution vs platform: what is the best F&B tech strategy for your multi-site restaurant?

2. SaaS – Accessibility

If you have an eye on scaling up to take advantage of new opportunities, you need software that enables you to quickly make changes.

Whether that means adding new nodes or opening new locations, it all has to connect seamlessly to the system as a whole. What you are looking for is a kitchen operation management system.

With multiple stakeholders needing access to the information held in the system, accessibility is all-important. Your finance team, CTO, dev chef, F&B director, COO, and managers at multiple locations need access to the same up-to-date data.

If not, you’ll keep on copying data from spreadsheet to spreadsheet and manually crunching numbers until the end of days.

In short, your single source of truth needs to be accessible for it to be helpful.

A SaaS kitchen management system is future-proof.

The software company providing the kitchen management system will be improving and updating its solution continuously. Not only to help you get better results but also to outshine their competition.

That is a big difference from an on-premise system that your IT-guys install once (bugs included), spend all their time maintaining (at astronomical rates), and is outdated before the year is over.

3. Platform – Build a Reliable Tech Ecosystem

Your restaurant kitchen software should be part of your overall ecosystem linking seamlessly with front-of-house (FOH) systems – reservations, ePOS, loyalty, and ordering tech – as well as accounting, payroll, and HR tech.

The right software allows all your systems to talk to each other and provides insights to improve operations continuously.

Apicbase automates actions and calculations for you. Information from different outlets – and departments – is shared effectively throughout the business as a whole.

4. Modular – Choose What You Need

A modular system allows you to only pay for what you need. But have the flexibility to add more features as you grow or add revenue streams to the business.

Accurate recipe information informs every other aspect of your data from purchasing and inventory, to production processes and costings. It’s vital to have accurate cost calculations and use menu engineering to optimize your recipes.

Without strong product development tools, a kitchen operation management system is going to hold you back from progressing and remaining competitive.

With that in mind, here are the core modules to look for:

The backbone of your multi-site restaurant operation.
  • Product development – clean data on ingredients, allergens, and nutritional values along with recipe and menu optimization tools. Real-time costing – keep your ingredient costs accurate and up-to-date with live price updates.
  • Inventory management – connect with your POS to get real-time stock updates and stock value calculations. Improve accuracy and save a bunch of time on stock counts. Keep track of internal orders by digitally managing stock transfers between units.
  • Smart ordering – innovative procurement tools offer suggestions based on sales data and reduce the time your managers and chefs spend on tedious tasks. Order with suppliers with the touch of a button while reducing ordering errors.
  • Sales analytics – inform every decision with accurate sales data. Optimize your recipes and your menus based on the hard numbers.
  • Kitchen task management – ensure you stay on top of essential tasks like HACCP, food safety, temperature checks, and safety drills. Plan and monitor food safety checks from one dashboard.
  • Production planning – generate detailed mise-en-place lists automatically by simply entering the number of portions needed. Take control of production using production planning tools for better cost control and consistency in production across multiple units.

A modular kitchen management system gives you flexibility and the ability to adapt to ensure ongoing success.

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5. Multi-Unit – Maintain Control Across Locations

Your restaurant kitchen software should be able to handle data coming in from multiple sources and give you access to all of it. 

Whether you have multiple locations, kitchens, or central production units – whatever your situation, they can be monitored from a single dashboard.

This gives you the ability to efficiently compare performance between locations and make positive changes to bring underperforming outlets up to standard.

All while cutting out meetings and phone calls which are far less productive than managing communication through your restaurant kitchen software.

6. Integration-Ready – Key APIs For A Future-Proof System

A full-stack foodservice management system needs to not only talk to other systems and make sure data is not siloed, it also needs to give you the flexibility to add integrations in the future.

APIs to ensure successful communication include some obvious, and other less obvious integrations:

  • POS – share sales data to inform decisions throughout the business
  • Personnel management – process staff rosters for accurate prime cost calculations
  • Menu displays – automate menu updates and ensure all customer-facing information is up-to-date and accurate
  • Accounting tech – make sure your finance team has all the information necessary to do its job
  • Suppliers – get real-time price updates and order directly in the vendor’s system
  • IoT devices – with Apicbase, even your digital scales can be connected to the system. Retail clients send the weight of a portion from the scales directly to Apicbase via API. Apicbase calculates the nutritional values and generates a label ready for print.

The right BOH system allows you to integrate all of your tech elements and make sure they talk to each other effectively to save time and avoid costly errors.

The diagram below shows how Ice+Fries uses the Apicbase API’s to feed real-time information to their kiosks, and how they feed sales data back to Apicbase, which then depletes inventory. When stock is below par the kitchen management software automatically generates detailed purchase order lists. 

7. Automation – Save time And Cut Costs

Automation is an integral part of your restaurant kitchen management system as we have seen above.

A good system has automation features to save time and improve efficiency in almost every aspect of operations.

You can see how this saves time in multiple areas of the business. The recipe cost, menu cost, and profit margins are all calculated automatically. 

Automation tools are vital to save time, avoid errors, and get crucial insights that help improve operations.

8. User-Friendly – Kitchen Management Software Your Teams Are Happy To Use Every Day

You could have the most advanced, smart system in the world, but if your teams don’t like using it day-in, day-out, they won’t, and it is a waste of money and time.

You know how important it is to keep staff happy so you need a system that is easy to learn, intuitive to use, and most of all useful for everyday tasks.

A kitchen management system like Apicbase runs smoothly in the background, taking care of admin tasks that take up precious time, so that management can focus on solving problems, fixing inconsistencies, and actually improving operations in real-time.

This takes away part of the workload for staff and reduces unnecessary anxiety for management.

9. Strong Support – Work With A Company You Can Rely On

Digitising the back of house and setting up your food management system is no small feat.

Make sure the platform you are deploying is backed by a dedicated support team.

When you are developing workflows for your teams and creating menus for each outlet you want people at your side that can guide you through every step of the way.

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17 Kitchen Management Software you need to know

This post outlines the different types of kitchen management software you need to knock your delivery-only restaurant out of the park.

We cover:

The Kitchen Software Ecosystem
Technology improves the efficiency of kitchens while ensuring a great customer experience.

Back-of-house Kitchen Management Software

Kitchen Software - Back-of-house
Optimise your menus and kitchen procedures for delivery, while keeping costs down and quality up. 

#1 Kitchen display systems (KDS)

Smart kitchens use a kitchen display system or KDS. These screens near kitchen stations automatically display orders by priority and show detailed information, such as dietary requirements. Tick ’n Cook is an example of a kitchen display system.

The KDS syncs with the point of sale, so the information on the displays is instantly updated with incoming orders. As a result, a KDS improves communication and order accuracy while making the order flow 100% paper-free. Thanks to the streamlined operational process, kitchen operators can optimise order prep times

#2 Inventory management software

Main characteristics

  • Critical for real-time inventory tracking
  • Prevents stock issues and food waste
  • Must integrate with POS for maximum impact
  • For traditional delivery-only dark kitchens and hybrid cloud kitchens

With dozens of orders coming in through multiple online sales channels, your kitchens require an robust inventory management system. It’s the only way to avoid overpurchasing, theft or understocking. In other words, it’s the number one tool to keep food cost under control.

Automated inventory management software allows you to 

  • easily track stock levels, 
  • organise inventory data, and 
  • generate food waste reports
  • forecast procurement.

As a result, you can improve inventory accuracy, prevent stock issues like stock-outs or excess stock, and save on operating costs

At the same time, automated solutions free up employees for more valuable tasks – like preparing consistent food in record time.

#3 Production planning software

Whether you prepare food for on-site consumption or for delivery, food production is at the heart of your business. So, how can you ensure your kitchen team produces food fast and consistently?

Next to training, production planning software is the most logical answer. 

By integrating your production planning tool with other systems, like your inventory management software, you can also update inventory levels based on production progress.

Finally, production planning software automatically generates bills of materials (BoMs), turns them into purchase orders, and sends them to your suppliers directly.

#4 Procurement management software

Procurement is an integral part of restaurant operations. The better you can predict demand and purchases, the higher your inventory turnover – and the lower your food waste and food cost.

Restaurant procurement software helps you organise the procurement process by automating purchase orders (POs). In addition, this kitchen tech solution eliminates wastage and prevents empty shelves.

#5 Menu engineering software

Critical to a restaurant’s success is its ability to adapt flexibly to customer preferences and supply chain capabilities. Menu engineering — the process of creating highly profitable and popular menus — is, therefore, crucial to long-term success.

But constantly analysing and improving your menu requires time and effort, especially if you operate multiple brands or kitchens. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. 

By using the right menu engineering and recipe development software, you can: 

The real magic happens when this software communicates with your POS and online delivery platforms. In that case, you can publish menus to your sales channels with a few clicks. That means you’ll be able to create and test new brands and dishes, seasonal items, and limited-time offers without much effort.

#6 Central kitchen software

If you run multiple kitchens or a CPU, you need to be able to track internal orders and update inventories across locations. The same is true for hybrid kitchens that deliver (semi-)finished products to food halls or for operators using host kitchens to prepare their brands.

That’s where central kitchen software comes in. It streamlines the internal ordering process to eliminate mistakes

#7 F&B management software

What if there was a way to combine essential kitchen management software systems into one high-end solution? That’s what F&B management software, like Apicbase, does. 

These innovative kitchen tech solutions solve different issues simultaneously by connecting the dots between menu engineering, sales, inventory, procurement and even traceability and HACCP compliance.

In addition, they automate back-of-house operations so your kitchen can focus on creating epic food and customer experiences. They provide the data and tools you need to build a restaurant empire.

#8 Brand marketplaces

Restaurants use virtual brands to tap into new food trends, experiment with their menus, and expand their customer base.

While virtual brands are easy to set up, you need to do extensive market research before launching them: what types of food does the market crave? Are there any competing brands? Which type of consumer does the brand attract?

If you don’t want to reinvent the wheel, you can work with an existing, proven brand. To do so, browse a brand marketplace packed with exciting brands, select the brand you want to work with, and license it. And you’re off to a great start!

#9 Restaurant CRM systems

Every restaurateur wants happy and engaged customers that are eager to come back for more. A customer relationship management platform or CRM system will help cultivate such a relationship. The software collects customer data, like email addresses, phone numbers, and order data, for example, what someone ordered, at what time, and in what area. 

Kitchen operators can then use this information to create personalised marketing campaigns and promotions to encourage repeat business and engage with customers.    

#10 Robotics platforms

While robotics may seem futuristic, restaurants across the globe are already using them today. Chipotle, for instance, is testing a robotic tortilla chip maker, and Stellar Pizza has developed robot-made pizza.     

Restaurant robotics are gaining momentum because they eliminate dull, dirty, or dangerous kitchen tasks. Applications range from ‘simple’ robotics like conveyor belts or automatic stock-pickers to complicated ones like automated robot waiters, chefs, or bartenders. 

#11 Business Intelligence tools (BI)

Business Intelligence tools (BI) enable restaurant companies to generate actionable business insights and make informed decisions.

The great thing about BI platforms is that they collect and monitor past and current data, making it possible to predict future business scenarios based on those insights. That’s potent knowledge for restaurateurs – not just for strategic development but for identifying upcoming food trends and spotting evolving customer behaviour.

BI software, like Tenzo, brings together all relevant data in one place and in real time. It automatically pulls in POS, inventory, sales, and other data, providing you with a single point of view on all your business processes. 

Additionally, Business Intelligence software eliminates manual tasks. For example, you can easily pull reports, presentations, or even visualisations from the tool instead of consolidating data from different sources into a spreadsheet or PowerPoint. In this way, the software enables faster planning, analysis, and reporting

Front-of-house Kitchen Management Software

Kitchen Software - Front-of-house
Customer-centric software turns unknown passers-by into loyal customers.

#12 Customer loyalty software

Like CRM systems, customer loyalty software focuses on customer relationships. The ultimate goal is to turn loyal customers into brand ambassadors and boost your revenue.

F&B operators can use customer loyalty platforms like Yollty to reward loyal diners with points or stamps, giving them access to gifts. In addition, customers can provide your restaurant or kitchen direct feedback through the platform, helping you improve your loyalty program, promotions, and marketing strategy.

#13 Online ordering systems and delivery apps

Restaurants serve customers increasingly through delivery and pickup. To streamline the process they use online ordering systems and delivery apps. It enables them to reach consumers and collect the orders online.

Many restaurants partner with third-party delivery services like Uber Eats, Just Eat Takeaway, and Deliveroo. This partnership helps them expand their visibility and focus on preparing food rather than fulfilling orders. 

However, developing your own online ordering system may be worthwhile as more and more consumers prefer to order directly from restaurants. With an online ordering store you own the entire experience, you get big data (allowing you to build a strong marketing strategy), and receive direct customer feedback. Easy Order is a great partner to help you set up your own app and loyalty program. 

#14 Delivery aggregator software

Imagine operating 3 kitchens with 5 brands, each available on 3 different delivery platforms. That’s a lot of delivery tablets pinging away and distracting your kitchen staff from their core tasks. 

More importantly, managing multiple online sales channels requires a lot of effort. You need to track order statuses, manage menu and inventory, and gather insights into your sales and customer behaviour. These are all time-consuming activities prone to error because they’re mostly done manually.

Fortunately, delivery aggregator platforms like Deliverect and RusHour will solve this issue. They aggregate all online orders and synchronise them with your POS, automating your operational flow. 

They also enable you to manage menus across sales platforms with just a few clicks. Additionally, delivery aggregator software offers insights and reporting functions to help you make informed decisions.   

#15 Point-of-sale systems (POS)

At its most basic level, a point of sale – POS in short – records sales, takes payments, and issues receipts. Restaurant POS Systems are an essential part of a business’ tech ecosystem. Without them, restaurants wouldn’t be able to record transactions. 

Restaurants use a POS to increase productivity and simplify the sales process. Both online and offline orders need to be consolidated into one system.

Modern POS software integrates seamlessly with software for inventory management, menu management, restaurant analytics, and CRM. The data these integrations generate are essential for kitchens to do effective marketing, menu engineering, and cost control

#16 Contactless ordering and payment systems 

Contactless payment technologies grew significantly more important during the global pandemic, and it looks like they’re here to stay. According to a survey by Juniper Research, contactless payments will be a $6 trillion business by 2024

Mobile ordering and payment apps offer many benefits for traditional restaurants and hybrid kitchens with physical touchpoints or food halls. Advantages include faster table turnover, improved order accuracy, and an enhanced customer experience.

For instance, you can utilise a QR code platform to allow customers in bars, hotels, and event venues to order your brands and make payments online. As a bonus, consumers ordering through a QR code don’t need to download a delivery app. That’s incredibly convenient for tourists or business people in town for only a few days.

#17 Self-order kiosks

Self-service kiosks, like Tabesto, are another example of technology that boomed in the wake of the pandemic. These kiosks meet in-house diners’ expectations, allowing them to browse your menu, select items quickly, and pay for their order without waiting in line.

On the restaurant’s end, kiosks free up your staff’s time, speed up the order process, and increase average check sizes – thanks to upselling prompts. But, of course, these benefits also apply to (hybrid) kitchens offering pickup, takeaway, or on-site dining.

In other words, setting up self-order kiosks in your kitchen can pad your bottom line while improving the guest experience.

Choose A Kitchen Operation Management System That Ticks All The Boxes

Trusted by more than 350 top food and beverage companies worldwide, Apicbase has all the features you are looking for in restaurant kitchen software.

It provides a platform that talks to your FOH, accounting, and payroll systems, giving you a solid base to build your entire foodservice management system upon.

Apicbase can help you:

  • Avoid data silos between systems and modules
  • Increase efficiency, reduce food waste, and cut cost
  • Improve quality and increase margins
  • Keep your workforce happy
  • Maintain agility and the ability to adapt and grow

Apicbase is the BOH kitchen management platform that you’ve been looking for. It will streamline all kitchen data and connect the dots between your operational nodes.

If you need a restaurant kitchen management system that pushes costs down, margins and quality up, and keeps your staff smiling every single day, schedule a demo today to see the difference Apicbase can make.

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