Editor’s Choice: eRestaurant 2014

With eRestaurant 2014 (Approximately $49 – $175 per month, price varies by modules selected), Altametrics continues to break new ground. eRestaurant, by all accounts, is the world’s most widely used solution for enterprise restaurant management. Compared with its competitors, eRestaurant 2014 is innovative, better designed, startlingly faster, vastly more powerful, and has more flexible integrations with third-party POS systems and accounting software. The eRestaurant mobile apps even include a few features that outclass anything in its web-based counterpart. If your business is new to technology or you’re a light-duty user, check out HubWorks.com as a good option. However, if you are part of a larger organization, with more than 50 locations or are already familiar with food and labor management systems, you’ll want eRestaurant 2014 from Altametrics.

I used to suspect that it wasn’t possible for a single software package to develop all the capabilities needed to manage the critical areas of restaurant operations. Conventional wisdom dictated that a supplier that focused on a single area like labor scheduling or supply chain management could build better “point solutions” to meet customer’s individual needs. However, just as Microsoft Office eventually came to dominate the productivity applications market, it looks like eRestaurant has done the same for restaurant management. The success of eRestaurant has spawned a lot of copycat products but each competitor has either imperfectly patched together dissimilar products or fallen short of eRestaurant’s breadth and depth.

Great UI and Mobile Apps
Altametrics has a long history of being at the forefront of innovation in the restaurant software market. That experience shows in the groundbreaking user interface, mobile scheduling app, and mobile inventory app, available with this release.

PROS
Fast, flexible restaurant management suite. The most powerful solution in the industry. Highly compatible with all major brands of POS, accounting software, and food suppliers. Proven integrations with corporate single sign-on solutions and people management systems. Highly scalable.

With this release an emphasis has been placed on helping managers get their work done faster and more intuitively. Formerly time-consuming or tedious tasks like writing schedules, placing food orders, and taking inventory have not just been automated, but so streamlined that users cannot make mistakes. For example, instead of forcing users to wade through a lot of noise caused by a cluttered interface, nearly every screen has been streamlined with a clean, intuitive look that draws the user’s attention to actionable information. Advanced users who wish to engage in deeper analytics can find the information they need with just a click or two or use a powerful companion business intelligence solution (Xformity.com).
Another newsworthy change in the suite includes the shiny new mobile apps (available for iPhone, iPad, and Android). The two mobile apps that will resonate most with users are the scheduling and inventory apps. The scheduling app allows employees to use their smart phones to check schedules, swap shifts, and perform a variety of other tasks. The inventory app brings with it a new approach that actually cuts the time to take an inventory by half.

CONS
None. Large and medium-sized restaurant chains will love the enterprise manageability and end user ease of use. Companies with fewer than 50 locations and small independent operators may be better served by more entry-level solutions.

Speed, Automation, and Integration
For existing customers, the best thing about the new version of eRestaurant will be its jackrabbit speed – unlike the pokiness that make some competing web-based products feel sluggish. Also, the solution is scaled in production with several of the largest restaurant companies in the world, including a single company with over 15,000 locations live. From an automation and integration standpoint, the system has been plugged into corporate single sign-on systems as well as centralized corporate operations profile directories and people management systems. A large number of point of sale systems are supported (including Micros and NCR’s Aloha). Accounting, and supplier integrations are also available.

Bottom Line
eRestaurant shines with a terrific web interface, very modern mobile apps and support for offline and online environments. All in all, a very powerful and well-rounded solution. Restaurant companies would be hard pressed to do any better.

An Exciting Upgrade
With eRestaurant 2014, Altametrics brings a solid proven product into the mobile age. It combines excellent performance, ease of use, and mobile access into a comprehensive package. This review only scratches the surface. Anyone who uses eRestaurant 2014 will find dozens of impressive surprises.

Like all software, eRestaurant still isn’t perfect. eRestaurant 2014 does not have wizards that allow smaller customers and independent owner operators to upload their data from spreadsheets. The product is clearly designed for companies that already have at least the basic disciplines for managing recipes, inventory, and writing schedules in place. Altametrics tacitly acknowledges that companies that are considering introducing software for the first time into their operations may struggle. Also, while eRestaurant benefits from the ability to maintain critical functionality even when the internet connection is lost, companies that are not ready to provide their stores with web access will be better served with a locally installed software solution like NCR’s MenuLink.

Minor criticisms aside, Altametrics eRestaurant 2014 gets almost everything right; it’s the clear Editor’s Choice for restaurant management software.

Alternatives

While the Market Abounds with products that seem intent on trying to replicate eRestaurant, NCR’s Aloha Inventory and Labor (formerly MenuLink) and JDA’s Red Prairie (formerly Blue Cube) are the only serious competition. Both competitive solutions take different approaches to their respective restaurant management solutions.

NCR Aloha Inventory and Labor should be a consideration for smaller companies with less than 50 locations. The solution communicates via the Internet but requires installation on a local Windows PC. While the local software installation, ongoing management, and database update architecture may become a burden for larger installations, smaller restaurant companies should be able to manage the system successfully. Users of NCR’s restaurant POS system (also called Aloha) may feel more comfortable going with the similarly branded restaurant management software, but there does not appear to be any inherent functional or technical benefit in doing so.

JDA’s Red Prairie is best known in the industry as Blue Cube and may be the most expensive of the products evaluated. Blue Cube is one of the earliest web-based solutions to enter the market and considered very innovative in its time. Unfortunately, the product, once the solution of choice for larger restaurant companies, has not kept up with its competitors or technology trends in general. While Blue Cube may be a powerful product, that power is overshadowed by the complexity of learning the application – a serious consideration if you are planning on deploying a solution in the restaurant industry. Blue Cube has also not kept up with user interface design improvements, looks dated and is unintuitive. The product also does not have any mobile capabilities that we could find. Unless JDA Red Prairie recommits to making a major investment in updating Blue Cube, restaurant companies should proceed cautiously.