Setting up a Software Purchasing Process that works for your Restaurant
As we discussed in our Analysis of Restaurant Digital Marketing, software available to restaurants has exploded in the last 5 years.
With so much out there, and new offerings being added constantly, it can be difficult to wade through the pack and differentiate the value from the noise. Having seen firsthand how the best restaurants purchase software, we wanted to offer the secrets they use to ensure they're successful.
You may be thinking, why would Wisely make its life harder by sharing these secrets? The short answer is we exist to help restaurants; beyond that, we're supremely confident our tools deliver.
Surveying our customers, we find that successful software buyers have created a distinct purchasing process. Doing so ensures you aren't wasting time with vendors, and more importantly, are creating consistency for your team.
Here's are the steps we've seen the best use over and over.
1.) Become a Proactive Buyer by Identifying Pain Points on a Quarterly Basis
Every salesperson will tell you they can find an ROI for your business. Fact of the matter is, they're often right, but this forces you into the role of reactive buyer.
A symptom of a being a reactive buyer is spending too much time in sales meetings that leave you feeling empty handed. If time is your most precious asset (it is!), every meeting with a prospective partner company should result in (1) uncovering new tactics or tools to grow your business and (2) a decision on whether the fit is right for you.
The worst outcome of being reactive is that the sales person, through no fault of their own, will drive the conversation around their solutions and the problems it solves, instead of starting from your top priorities.
To become proactive, create a regular process to identify your top needs or challenges.
Fundamentally, moving into a proactive role requires embracing that technology can grow sales and reduce costs, but is unlikely to do so if you don't start from desired outcome—the guest or staff member experience, the problem to be solved, the business goal to be achieved—and working backward.
2.) Assign an Owner to Each Pain Point
Once you have a list of your top priorities, assign a deputy to each whose job is to build a top list of companies in that space.
A variety of reseources exist to find companies that help solve a pain point. Here are two we like:
Capterra: Capterra offers listings and reviews for hundreds of vendors, allowing you to search by the category of sofware you're looking for. A category you might want to start with is Restaurant Management. You can access the complete list here.
TechCrunch: TechCrunch published a helpful graphic detailing relevant players in common pain areas. The graphic was released in April 2016 (you can find it here) - so beware, the companies in each bucket are changing rapidly (for example, Wisely has expanded into Reservations since then)
3.) Create a Framework for Evaluating alternatives
With a list of companies in hand, the next step of a healthy purchasing process is to review the offerings of each provider.
To do this consistently and determine whether they're truly solving what you need, we recommend creating a Rubric and Due Diligence chart like such:
With a consistent framework on which to evaluate each provider, you'll have a clear and transparent way to evaluate each vendor as a team.
4.) Design a Thoughtful Pilot - no Pilots for Piloting sake
Isolate your variable
Piloting software is a critical way sophisticated buyers ensure their ROI - but don't just pilot to pilot. To ensure you design a pilot that you learn from, it's critical to pick stores that help isolate the variable you are testing.
For example, in Sweetgreen's evolution to cashless stores (emphasis ours):
"But just to be sure that consumers wouldn’t be turned off by the change, during its pilot, the company tested stores with both low-cash transactions and those with the highest. They found that customers largely didn’t care whether they accepted cash or not. They claim that when employees explained why they were switching to card and app only, customers were generally understanding."
By choosing stores across the spectrum, Sweetgreen was able to ensure a broader roll-out was merited.
If you're unable to isolate the specific variable in your Pilot, setting up a strict target with a vendor is recommended. If a vendor's ROI model depends on specific numbers, ensure that your tests exceed those assumptions so you can be conifdent moving forward.
Consider multi-vendor pilots carefully
Another approach to pilots is to work with separate vendors at different stores - vendor A at location A, and vendor B at location B.
A word of caution here: the results of the pilot are now subject to the varieties of the specific locations and their staff. For example, if one location's GM or staff is more experienced than another, the results of the pilot may be impacted.
If breaking a vendor tie pre-pilot is not possible, the safest way to pursue a multi-vendor approach is to create sufficient variety - put each vendor to the test at multiple stores under multiple conditions.
5.) Negotiate prior to Pilot
There's plenty written about negotiation tactics that we won't expound on here. But timing of negotiations is important.
One thing we see the best companies do is negotiate prior to kicking off a pilot. Once a pilot concludes, paricularly when it goes well, you've lost your leverage. A vendor is much less likely to adjust price if they are confident you're going to move forward.
It's my hope that this post has made you think about your software purchasing process differently.
Remember, being proactive is the place to start; it will save you time and create a more deliberate buying culture at your restaurant. Beyond this, consistency and transparency are what make for a dependable process.
Wisely empowers restaurant groups to grow and sustain profitability by acquiring valuable new guests, converting them into regulars, and keeping them happy for life. Our software is easy-to-use and enhances productivity, so staff can focus on what really matters. For more information or media inquiries, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.