The Best Food Inventory App | Is This the Right Call?
Choosing an inventory app for your restaurant can be a daunting task, but choosing the best food inventory app for your restaurant can be downright intimidating. We’ll discuss ten things to look out for when making this crucial decision.
For new restaurants, smaller scale ones, and even medium sized ones, there is a ration of constant decisions, all of them equal importance and all weighing heavily on the future of your business. There’s the matter of choosing staff members, location, interior design, kitchen staff, a menu, who will supply the ingredients for those menu items, and range more on top of that. Then you get into some of the more technical decisions, like deciding on a point-of-sale system, a restaurant management system, and even the payroll system you want. By the end of it all, your head is spinning, and you’re not sure if you’ve made the right decision for your business.
We do have some good news for you. Here at Hubworks, we have already gone into depth in multiple articles that deal with how to select the right restaurant management and point-of-sale systems for your restaurant. You can find those articles via a quick search of the blog.
Something we have discussed before is the benefits of choosing a food inventory app over your more traditional pen and paper, or even desktop computer-based inventory systems. As such, for this article, we’re going to use the idea of a food inventory app as the sort of basis for our arguments and ideas. In short, we believe an app to be the better choice to standard software almost exclusively because of how convenient it is. Being mobile means the software isn’t tied down to any one specific piece of technology and can move with you or your staff throughout the restaurant on any number of devices. It also makes it infinitely easier to share data between team members and their respective devices, which is a boost in communication.
So what is it about a food inventory app? Well, we’ve covered some benefits related to this software genre before on this blog, so feel free to have a look back in the archives for more information on them. However, to give a quick overview, the idea of a food inventory app is that it combines multiple essential inventory-related functions, such as the inventory count sheets and reporting features, into one, cohesive location that is accessible on any number of mobile devices. This mobility allows for far more freedom when it comes to using your inventory system and accessing the information therein, as well as sharing that information, as we’ve already stated.
Where does that leave us? Well, in this article, we’re going to guide you through ten key points that will help you determine which is the best food inventory app for your restaurant. These points will be a mixture of things to look out for in the purchasing process, things to keep in mind about features, and the kinds of factors at play within your restaurant that should be motivating you throughout this decision process. By the end, we hope you will walk away better informed and more confident than ever when it comes time to choose the app that you believe is the best one for your restaurant.
Determine what your needs are
Now, this is number one on our list for a very good reason it is the single most crucial aspect of choosing any technological system for your restaurant, particularly when deciding on the best food inventory app for your business. Since these systems are designed to be the functional element that helps you to meet your needs when it comes to inventory, it makes sense that the first thing you should do is determine exactly what those needs are and which needs to take priority over which others. Needs, in this context, can be broken down into three categories- your administrative needs, your staff’s needs, and your customers’ needs.
a. When it comes to your administrative needs, you’re going to want to look at things like reporting options and features offered by the food inventory apps you look at when the time comes. Before you can do that, though, you’re going to want to assess what you need those reports to do. Do you need them to inform you of the general trends in supply usage? Will you want them to evaluate the performance of specific menu items based on consumption of the associated ingredients for those dishes? Ultimately, the choice here is yours, but you are inevitably going to want whichever food inventory app you choose to offer some degree of reporting functionality, so figuring out what you want those reports to contain is a valuable first step.
b. Next, on that list is considering the needs of your staff. These are the people most directly interacting with the physical inventory, and as such are going to need as clean and user-friendly an interface as possible. Their ability to navigate the app to get to the point where they can enter the inventory count data is entirely reliant on this, and they must also be able to enter this data quickly and without much hindrance. Finding a food inventory app that offers this is the best way to ensure that their experience using the app is the best and least stressful it can be.
c. Finally, we get to assessing the needs of the customers. Their role in the inventory process is unique since they directly influence it without having any proper interactions with it of their own. Their interactions with the inventory are channeled through the staff, chefs, and other team members. Still, their interaction, as you’d imagine, is the most important of all. You want to invest in a food inventory app that will give you a sense of exactly how your customers are responding to specific menu items based on ingredient usage, something we touched upon in the administrative needs portion of this point. Ultimately, if there is a menu item that nobody orders and many of the ingredients involved in it are unique to that menu item, then it would be a waste of effort, inventory space, and money to continue ordering those ingredients, which all reflect on the customer experience.
Consider multiple options
This point may seem self-explanatory to many of you, in which case, by all means, skip to point number 3, but for everyone else to whom this sounds a bit out there or confusing, pay attention. When going through and committing to attempting to find the best food inventory app for your restaurant, your gut instinct might be to dive right in and go with the first one you see that has decent reviews and feedback (we’ll get more into feedback in a second). The thing is, though, that the food inventory app with five stars and wonderful feedback may have been the right one for all of those individuals, but still may not be the right one for you and your unique restaurant situation. As such, you really should open up the potential to examine and consider multiple food inventory apps, rather than just the first well-regarded one you find. You may ultimately go back and decide that the first one is still the best fit, after all, is said and done, but without putting in the legwork, you’ll never know if a better one is out there.
Check for positive feedback
One of the best places to glean information about a food inventory app that doesn’t come directly from the people trying to sell you on it is from the reviews and feedback that most online marketplaces will have set up. While you will always get the people, who leave a rating and no written review, which certainly doesn’t help explain why they liked or disliked the product, what you want to look for is the positive feedback the app has received first. The more detailed the feedback, the more likely it is to be useful in your decision-making process. From there, you can learn how the app performs in action from people much like yourself who are using it with the same intentions. This, as a resource, is invaluable.
Check for negative feedback
Ironically, you also want to always look at the negative feedback as well. In some cases, this can tell you more about the product than even the positive reviews. Now, yes, you will always get people who hate the product unjustly or give it negative feedback that is exaggerated to reflect their disappointment, but typically, those examples are pretty easy to spot. What you’re looking for are the examples of feedback that begin with sentences like 'I like the app, but I gave it this rating because…' or 'I would have rated it higher if not for…' or similar examples. In those instances, the reviewers are likely providing the company with constructive criticism on issues they encountered with the food inventory app. Some of those issues may be things that did indeed need to be fixed by the company, while others might only be reflective of their own needs not being met. Whatever the case may be, it is still worth spending some time checking out these more negative feedback examples.
Talk to your peers
Something that most people seem to miss when it comes to evaluating any restaurant software is to connect with peers who make use of the software you’re looking to buy. In the case of a food inventory app, put the feelers out and see if anybody who owns a restaurant near enough to yours makes use of the app, and ask if they’d be willing to share their experiences with the app with you since you’re in the market for one. The worst thing they can say is 'no,' but more likely they will be open to that kind of discussion. Ask them about their pros and cons for the food inventory app in question, and if they’ve got any advice about its use. It’s the single most direct, fruitful way to gain insights into an app’s performance, and is a method that is grossly underutilized.
Look for apps with free trials
Here’s probably the most direct way to test out whether or not a food inventory app is the right one for you. Finding apps that offer a free trial of their software allows you to test the software out, usually as if you’d bought it, for a set amount of time to decide whether you like it enough to purchase it. When it comes to free trials, you don’t even need to necessarily employ the food inventory app as your method of inventory management. You could always run the app’s functionality side-by-side with your current process to see which is more efficient and effective. In some cases, you may find that the food inventory app is more efficient, sometimes it may be that the app is better but will lack some key feature that you won’t realize you need until you don’t have it, and sometimes your current method will win out. Whatever the case may be, this is the most direct and foolproof way to gain experience with the food inventory app to determine if it is the best inventory management system for you.
One of the best resources at your disposal when it comes to assessing different food inventory apps is the developers themselves. In most cases, typically on their company website, there will be presented to you a means to contact them. This contact info should be used almost religiously as a way to get answers to any and all questions you might have about their products, and will always provide more accurate feedback than asking other restaurant owners or users of the app. Sure, there may be a sense of sales bias in their responses, but it is undeniable that they will know more about their app than anyone else, and thus are precisely the resource you might need.
Talk to your staff
Something else that should be a part of the process, specifically when assessing the needs of your restaurant, is talking to staff about what they might want to get out of a food inventory app. One of the areas of conversation that absolutely should come up is what about your existing inventory management process is not working for them or makes their job difficult. This can explain to you not only your staff’s pain points, but also areas that they would need to see improved with the introduction of such an app. Not to mention, having an open, honest dialogue with your staff about what they want to look at improved will go a long way in helping to motivate them in the future.
Investigate the customer service reputation of the company
Now here is something that very few people take the time to do, likely because they never even think of it. You should always do some digging to find out what kind of reputation the food inventory app developer’s customer service team has. Are they notorious for not giving the kind of thorough, complete, helpful answers that you would want? Or do they have the reputation of going above and beyond in assisting their clients? Or is it somewhere in the middle, where they’re always able to help but may not always go the extra mile? Ultimately, you have to decide what you are comfortable dealing with, but it is strongly advised that you don’t interact with the company with notoriously bad customer service skills since this can only be a stressor in the long run.
Look for a refund policy
Now, admittedly, you won’t see this with too many food inventory apps, strictly based on the nature of downloading something a product like this. However, some companies will offer refunds if you are dissatisfied with the product. With iOS apps, in particular, the Apple App Store asks when you go to uninstall an app what you would rate it and, I believe, why you are uninstalling it. Whether this is information is given directly to the developers or not is unclear, but regardless, there is a way to track that you did, in fact, delete an app from your devices. As such, iOS app developers may be more inclined to offer some reimbursement, should you find that the app is not what you’re looking for?
Well, there you go, our top ten tips for helping you in your quest to select the best food inventory app for your restaurant. We hope that you have found these tips helpful and that you will seriously consider them when you begin your journey towards food inventory management mastery through technology.