Catering Software for Your Restaurant Chain

If you’re running a restaurant chain, chances are you’ve been in the business for a while. The one piece of advice you’ll have heard multiple times is to ‘Work on your restaurant, not in it’.

Free up you and your staff’s time from administrative tasks and let Saffron Catering Software for your restaurant chain, do them for you. But what, and how’ In this article we’re looking at some key areas to make this happen, including:

  What are the challenges facing restaurant chains?

   Which catering software is right for your restaurant chain?

What are the challenges facing restaurant chains?

The key to a successful restaurant chain is multi-stranded. You obviously need to serve up consistently great food (that’s also totally safe), but you need to keep costs low for yourself and the customer, and the customer service from your staff should be second to none.

Earning more time back by streamlining your processes gives you and your staff the opportunity to work on the more important creative aspects that a computer should never handle, like food innovation, branding and outstanding customer service. Not to mention the actual cooking!

Let’s look at your specific challenges:

Managing multiple sites and live kitchens from a central head office

This is a fundamental and wide-ranging issue, but the point is that it’s no small feat to manage all your restaurants from one central location – whether you have 10 restaurants or 100. That’s why you need to implement systems that can feed into one central point, so you can always see at a glance what is going on with each site and how this contributes to your holistic business performance.

Consistency across sites and over time

In the oft-cited ‘Franchise Organizations’ by Jeffrey L. Bradach (Harvard Business School Press, 1998), we hear that ‘maintaining the uniformity of units in a chain is what preserves its shared identity’. This applies whether your units are franchises or company-owned. So, it goes without saying that customers expect one of your dishes to taste the same, whatever site they’re eating it at. A lasagne at one site should be just like a lasagne at the next site, with no discernible differences in taste or quality.

However, that would be fine if you’re planning only on serving people in different places once and once only – the added difficulty is that the dish needs to be produced consistently at all sites, and at all times. People expect the same quality of food each time they visit – that’s what keeps them coming back over the months and, hopefully, years. So you need not only to standardise your recipes, but the methods used when cooking them.  This can help to take the risk out of time-related variances associated with staff turnover and shift patterns.

Growth by adding sites/units

In Bradach’s book, he rightly points out that the success of a site is often due to its locational convenience. That is: a perfectly placed restaurant that caters to an area where many people want its particular food. As you may have experienced, sometimes a site reaches its maximum available performance fairly quickly – mostly due to its location’s optimal convenience. Within the model of your chain business, that site quickly becomes as good as it can be! So beyond maintaining consistency, there’s not much else a particular individual site can do to increase its performance. That’s why most chains choose to expand the business by opening a new site elsewhere. This means cloning your existing practices, whilst also accounting for local market differences.

Different suppliers for different areas

While you need to stay consistent across restaurants, the issue with running a chain is the geographical dispersion: often that different sites will have to use different suppliers. So, the cost for stock items could therefore fluctuate between different sites. How do you keep track of this?

Integrating systems (POS, food supply chain, food vendors)

With a chain, the scale of your operations necessitate automated systems – there’s no escaping this fact! What you really need, of course, is systems that can integrate with each other. Whether it’s your point of sale, supply chain or purchasing, absolute efficiency is achieved only when systems are compatible.

Running promotions and evaluating their performance

Your restaurant chain is attractive to punters because it provides great food at a great price, but if it’s already at maximum performance (ie, it is perfectly positioned and is thus drawing the maximum amount of local customers at any given time), then one of the only things that can tip the balance for an undecided potential customer is the special offer. However, whether you implement price promotions locally or throughout your chain, it can be difficult to isolate and evaluate the performance of the promotion, and subsequently get an accurate view of its impact on your bottom line.

Efficient ordering

The ordering process in a restaurant chain has many facets, and just about as many problematic issues. With multi-site operations, there is a fine line between having what you need and keeping your inventory low enough that stock taking doesn’t take forever, and nothing is wasted. Order data needs to be centralised in order to reduce transfers between sites, and minimise wastage.

Catering to special diets

Eating out is inherently a social activity, meaning that people who gather together for food will invariably have differing dietary needs. With the rise and rise in special diets, whether it’s gluten-free, vegan or simply health-conscious consumers who want a nutritional profile for each dish, the chain that develops a reputation for providing something for everyone then becomes a popular choice for parties of mixed-diet friends, family and co-workers. Would you want to lose potential customers by not having at least one dish that fulfils their needs’  No. This can actually be achieved with just simple tweaks to dishes – but it’s really important to keep track of the food costing implications.

Catering to allergic customers

Similarly, food allergies and intolerances are become increasingly widespread, so it pays to be allergy-conscious. In fact, it’s now a legal requirement to provide information on the allergens in your food – so you need to have a system that monitors and tags allergens present in your menus, in order to inform your customers accordingly. Again, the chain that gains a reputation for being allergy-friendly is the chain that gains traction with the food-allergy market segment – a very wide and communicative audience. Why miss out on their patronage if you don’t have to?

Which catering software is right for your restaurant chain?

Let’s explore how our different Saffron products and modules can help your restaurant chain overcome the challenges that are so specific to your business model:

Your challenge Which software is right for you? How can this software help?

Managing multiple sites and live kitchens from a central head office

Our complete Saffron package, which includes these modules:

Recipe and Menu Management module,

Allergens and Nutrition module,

Purchasing module,

Finance Centre module,

Stock module,

Documents module.

Our Saffron Connect barcode reader too.

Our holistic Saffron package has everything you need to manage multi-site operations from a single point. Centralising your systems in this way mean that all of your units can report into you. Whether it’s implementing top-down changes in food management, new cost controls or simply enforcing a company-wide policy, Saffron has something to help. Real-time accurate data in the finance module is particularly useful for getting a real picture of how all your restaurant units are performing against budgets.

You can even perform multi-site stock takes to feed into a central point.

Consistency across sites and over time

Recipe and Menu Management module,

Documents module, Allergens and Nutrition module and Saffron Allergy Web Portal.

Ensure your food is made the same way and to the same quality across your sites, every time, with standardised recipe cards in the Recipe and Menu Management module.

Standardise the nutritional and allergen profile of your food across all sites by using the Allergens and Nutrition module in conjunction with Saffron Allergy Web Portal.

Need to ensure all of your restaurants know about a new policy, customer service standard process or training that they’ve got to do’ Use the Documents module to cascade it and make sure everyone’s read and accepted it.

Growth by adding sites/units

Our complete Saffron catering management solution, and our Saffron Connect barcode reader. With Saffron, the reporting capabilities make it easy to identify where things are working or not, and replicate this for each of your new restaurant units.

The Purchasing module, Stock module, and

Documents module help you to manage your new sites, enabling centralisation of data entered by several parties. Stock taking across new sites is simplified with the Saffron Connect barcode reader.

Different suppliers for different areas

Our complete Saffron catering management solution. Cost your dishes with the Recipe and Menu Management module – tracking prices of every stock item. The Purchasing module can saved preferred suppliers – since different sites will use different suppliers, and the prices will differ for each. From there, it’s easy to make and transmit orders, receive invoices and record deliveries.

Integrating systems (POS, food supply chain, food vendors)

Our complete Saffron catering management solution, with our Saffron Allergy Web PortalSaffron Connect barcode reader. Use Saffron products all together and they work seamlessly. You can automate everything, from purchasing from your suppliers, costing menus and dishes, managing recipesnutrition analysis and stock/inventory control.  You can also integrate the Purchasing module with your own finance management tools.

Running promotions and evaluating their performance

Recipe and Menu Management module, Purchasing module,

Finance Centre module

The extensive reporting functions and the Finance Centre module let you see real-time accurate data on income, spend, sales and budget, making analysis effective and efficient. Make decisions to improve your profitability armed with the best knowledge!

Efficient ordering

Purchasing module

Finance Centre module

Stock module

Use the Stock module to keep track of your inventory and reduce wastage, while the Purchasing module simplifies orders from suppliers, and the Finance Centre module keeps track of what you’re spending.

With the purchasing module of Saffron, you can keep track of any price changes that suppliers may apply. Purchasing reports are available where you can view how often a supplier changes price. You can also see the amount you’ve spent with a certain supplier, maybe even on a certain product – giving you the purchasing power to agree specific catalogue prices.

Catering to special diets

Recipe and Menu Management module,  and

Allergens and Nutrition module.

Easily build different menus and tweak ingredients to suit different diets, with the Recipe and Menu Management module. It shows you fully costed and nutritionally analysed info at all levels from stock ingredients to recipes up to menu level. You can even show your customers the traffic light’ nutritional values.

Catering to allergic customers

Allergens and Nutrition module and Saffron Allergy Web Portal. The Allergens and Nutrition module tags allergens to help your chain to comply with the Food Information Regulations 2014. Use this module with the consumer-facing Allergen web portal to help allergic customers see exactly what dishes on your menu contain potential allergens. The feeds come directly in real time from the ingredients and suppliers databases within Saffron, so any changes in the menu, dishes and ingredients are reflected accurately and in real time on the webpage. Consistent, verifiable and reliable, it’s an authoritative point of reference for staff and customers alike.

Download the Saffron allergy portal brochure here.

Interested to find out how we help your restaurant chain improve its profitability’ Read our case studies here to see how it works in practice, give us a call on +44 (0)114 281 6060 or fill out our contact form and we’ll be in touch soon.


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