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everyone will tell you that owning and running a restaurant is hectic, my main advice is to use productivity tools that give you more of that most valuable commodity...time.
Key areas include:
- Finding new customers and keeping existing business / Marketing
- Food Logistics
- Staff Management
- Table/booking management & billing
- Financial reporting, Accounts payable and Accounting.
If you are like me, being gen Y or X, then you'll be sweet with leveraging internet tools as a way to promote and run your business - i've found working with older restaurant owners that they are less likely to be adopters of technology, but this doesn't help in a competitive and financially challenging environment.
For me the most time consuming area has been food logistics and staff management, you really need a hands on approach for this. For marketing, tables/booking management and the financial area I use web and iphone applications.
The most useful tool for me which has been a godsend is yumtable.com - a last minute restaurant booking service, essentially allows you to post tables and deals online where you have quiet time periods, eg Mon/Tuesday evenings or for last minute cancellations. But because you can tailor your own offers at any time period for any number of tables, i've also used it for specials as well, eg I got a good deal on snapper and offered 5 tables a night for a special sitting at 5pm with a movie ticket with a snapper main. It's great fun and new and old customers have used it - Offers are also automatically posted to your facebook and twitter accounts 2 hours before they expire - which leverages the social network of my cafe. I also get bookings from text messages so it's very efficient and with no equipment costs and it's free to use for the first 20 bookings to see if it works.
opentable.com has also been handy but I find that most of my customers have bookmarked my phone number to call for a booking rather than bothering online.
For accounting I'm using xero.com, it's an amazing tool that literally takes your purchases from your bank feeds and after you teach it, will remember what transaction should go to what account - this is truly a huuuuge time saver. Being online, at any point i can log in and see the status of my business and it's health - without minimal need for a bookkeeper. Costs around $50 a month but worth it for you not having to think about your accounts, whenever i log in it's all there without the need to spend early hours of the morning entering in receipts, etc.
The last tool i've found useful is billstrust.com - this nifty online business is awesome for businesses that get lots of bills from lots of sources - you can simply grab any bill including hand written ones and fax/email or take a pic with your camera phone and email it - and this service will handle data entry and queue up the bill for payment by the due date - you can view at any one time your liabilities due over coming months. I get stacks of supplier bills as well as your standard electricity/gas bills so all my bills are in one place - and i can sync it with my xero account to have a real time picture of where my business is at - again this saves on the need for a bookkeeper.
The only thing i'd like to be easier is payroll management, but i'm looking into solutions at the moment for that.