Buyer’s Guide to Food and Beverage Software
Food and beverage management means so many different things to so many companies in the food production and manufacturing, hospitality and event management industries that it’s practically impossible to come to a consensus as to what food and beverage management software should consist of and do.
Because of this, you will find a wide variation in the scope and functionality of software applications that cater to food and beverage operators. What this means is that before you begin your search for food and beverage software, you must first outline precisely what types of features and functions you are looking for in an application and then begin narrowing down products based on your specific needs.
For example, there are significantly different software applications for food and beverage manufacturers vs. food and beverage businesses involved in distribution/logistics vs. food and beverage companies in the hospitality and service industry (like restaurants, hotels and caterers). Each has their own specific business processes and requirements, like food safety and traceability for manufacturing; inventory management and supply chain management for food distribution; and food preparation, billing and forecasting for food service and hospitality. As such you may want to start your search based on what branch of the food and beverage industry you work in and serve.
Another advance consideration is to determine what existing legacy software applications that your food and beverage system needs to integrate with (e.g., accounting software like Quickbooks, business software like Oracle Netsuite, etc.).
In this article, we are going to outline the three basic types of food and beverage software programs to give you a general understanding of what is offered in the marketplace. However, with that said, you should expect at least some of the following benefits, regardless of your needs or the type of software.
Benefits of Food and Beverage Software
Centralized Data Management
F&B software falls into the category of enterprise resource planning software - often called ERP software - where business processes and workflows are consolidated and automated to create efficiencies, simplify tasks and provide insights so users can make well-informed decisions based on actual data.
ERP software is designed to potentially span across many job functions and departments, which can include ordering/purchasing, production, oversight, sales, manufacturing, delivery, financial management, business intelligence and billing/accounting. However, generally its purpose is to maximize productivity and streamline operations for businesses.
Increased Customer Satisfaction
The idea of business management software in general is to save time for employees so they can focus more on delivering better products and experiences to customers, and this is no different regarding food and beverage software.
Many F&B management systems bring companies closer to their customers through automated processes, improved communications (like email, text messaging and social media integrations) and interactive technologies like cloud-based systems, mobile apps and electronic documents.
More Revenues and Larger Profit Margins
With improved efficiencies and time savings often comes the ability to cut costs as well as attract and serve more customers.
It goes something like this. Your staff are spending less time on busywork and tracking details so they can spend more time selling, producing and delivering food and beverage products and services. ERP solutions allow you to identify inefficiencies in production, ordering and delivery so you can reduce waste from your everyday operations - whether that be wasted food/beverages or workhours. And they can also automate financial and billing processes to improve profitability.
Flexible, Customizable Solutions
Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all solutions. Now, most food and beverage software applications have some level of customization and personalization so that the software, to some extent, can adapt to your needs. This could be in the form of customizable data fields, templates, workflows and functionality, and the broader the scope (and usually higher the cost) of the ERP system, the more customization is provided.
Now let’s take a look at the three primary types or versions of F&B software and who they are built to serve. Important Note: Some applications will cover one, two or all three types outlined here.
Front-of-House Food and Beverage Software
This type of application is often focused on customer-facing hospitality and food service operations, which can include:
- Sales management - Customer relationship management (CRM), lead pipeline tracking, contact and address book tools, quote/proposal development
- Communications - Emailing, text messaging, social media outreach
- Order placement and tracking - Online contact and order forms, ecommerce payment processing, customer-facing mobile apps, item and package tracking, banquet event orders
- Delivery and shipment - Food delivery instructions, packing lists, GIS/GPS location tracking
- Booking management - Event date/time scheduling, room/space assignments, hold tracking
- Contract management - Legal document tracking, electronic signature collection
- Task management - Task assignments and reminders
Back-of-House Food and Beverage Software
These applications focus on food preparation and kitchen operations, which can include:
- Recipe management - Ingredient lists and tracking, nutritional information, portion sizes, menu building
- Inventory management - Stock management and tracking, reordering, spoilage/breakage tracking, resource allocation
- Purchasing and procurement - stock/ingredient ordering, reconciling
- Food costing - Ingredient price tracking and availability, supplier and vendor management
- Accounting - Finance tracking, P&L statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, budgeting
- Waste management and minimization
- Quality management and control processes
Enterprise Food and Beverage Manufacturing Software
These applications are typically built to track operations and supply chain logistics for large-scale food manufacturers and distributors, hotel and restaurant chains and food services companies, and these apps can include:
- Production management - Food manufacturing processes, packaging, labeling and nutritional value
- Equipment management - Monitoring and maintenance, software integrations and repair management solutions
- Warehousing - Stock and shop floor management, barcode / QR code systems, shelf-life and replenishment tracking, first-in-first-out or first-expired-first-out protocols, upstream/downstream tracking
- Traceability - Forward/backward tracking for ingredients and end items, supply chain visibility, recall/contamination monitoring, supplier lot tracking
- Quality and food safety - Auditing and quality control, temperature/moisture/acidity monitoring, allergen designations, by-product tracking, potency measurement
- Regulatory compliance - USDA, FDA, Food and Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), HACCP, HARPC, ISO, GFSI compliance tracking
- Distribution - Logistical management and tracking, shipping manifests, wholesale and retail segmentation
- Staff management - Scheduling, time clocking, hiring and HR management