According to Brech, these trends do not leave much time -- or money -- available for dining at full-service restaurants. In this study, the respondents "reported their families ate at cafeterias, family or chain restaurants, or fine dining restaurants only once or less each week" (Brech 1998: 21). This is not to say, though, that the number of full-service restaurants in countries such as the United States has declined in recent years. To the contrary, during the period between 1972 and 1997, the number of full-service restaurants increased by 35%; however, the number of fast food establishes more than doubled during this same time period (Akst 2003). These trends represent a sharp divergence from consumer eating habits a few years ago, and it was not until 1995 that consumers spent more at fast food establishments than they did at full-service restaurants (Pardue 1999).
Not surprisingly, given the highly competitive nature of the restaurant industry, many full-service restaurants managers try to distinguish their board of fare from their lower-priced fast-food competitors in several ways, including going so far as to end menu prices with ." 00" rather than the ." 99" used by cheaper eateries (Parsa & Naipul 2007). Another way that restaurant managers can help differentiate their service from their competitors is by providing top-flight service, food and beverages that will compel their customers to return for more in the future and to tell their friends and families about their dining experience so they too will patronize the business. In today's highly competitive marketplace, though, achieving this level of customer service requires more than intuition and experience. Fortunately, restaurant management software can help managers achieve this level of customer service in ways that have not been possible in the past, an issue directly relates to the aims and objectives of the study which are discussed further below.
Aims and Objectives of Study
The overarching aim of this project was to support restaurants' owners or other people who are interested in how restaurant management software can support management of the small- to medium-sized restaurant in term of sales processes, for instance; order taking, table reservation, billing, inventory control, and so on. In addition, this study examined the scope of various restaurant management systems in order to determine which is best suited for assisting all employees' operations and managers' or owners' decision-making processes. This study can be applied as a supportive resource to create refinements in existing restaurant management software. This primary aim was supplemented by several key objectives as follows:
1. To deliver current research on the issues and situations of SMEs competing in the restaurant industry, including restaurant processes in both front and back offices, as well as representative restaurant computerized systems to develop an improved understanding of how these applications can facilitate sales operations.
2. Conduct a cost-benefit and analysis concerning the use of restaurant management systems and also conduct GAP analysis of the current and future of the restaurant.
3. Determine and discuss the possible solutions to improve the performance of restaurants.
4. Evaluate the triggers and barriers of implementing restaurant management systems.
5. Analyze and build the requirement specifications for optimum restaurant management software systems.
6. Draw relevant conclusions and provide recommendations for the progress and approach for the future implementation of restaurant management software that can be used as a best practice guide by restaurant managers.
Importance of Study
Although many entrepreneurs aspire to restaurant ownership, success stories are the exception rather than the rule and new restaurants come and go so fast that many consumers have trouble keeping track of what is currently available. In fact, Boggs (2007) emphasizes that fully 90% of new restaurants are unsuccessful. These failure rates may be even more pronounced during periods of economic downturn such as the one currently being experienced worldwide when people tend to eat at home rather than spending scarce money on food in a "sit-down" full-service restaurant, or spend what discretionary income they have available for outside food purchases at inexpensive fast food outlets. Indeed, the fast food industry has outpaced full-service restaurant growth across the board, and now accounts for almost half of all food dollars spent outside the home (Van Giezen 1999). According to this authority, "Over the past 20 years, [the fast food industry] has accounted for a larger proportion of food budgets, reflecting, among other reasons, greater spending power and changing lifestyles prompted by the increasing participation of women in the labor force and the rise of one-person households" (Van Giezen 1999: 25). These trends in the proliferation of fast food establishments have held true with countries besides the United States, including the United Kingdom (Hall 2003). Therefore, in order to entice people to patronize their restaurants, full-service restaurant managers need to develop a competitive advantage that can help them not only survive during such periods of economic doldrums, but grow their businesses as well. For this purpose, restaurant management software has been developed in recent years that is ". . . easy to manage, modular yet simple and easy to update, point-of-sale software is designed allowing smaller restaurants to install basic systems and software functionality with the ability to upgrade by switching on built in modules as and when business dictates" (Software shows accurate record for your restaurant & bar 2010: 3).
Scope of Study
This scope of this study extended to restaurant management in a number of countries, but with a specific focus on the restaurant industry and small- to medium-sized restaurants competing in the United Kingdom.
Rationale of Study
Because customer satisfaction is the key to success in the restaurant industry, identifying opportunities to improve the processes that provide superior service represents a timely and valuable enterprise. Although savvy restaurant managers recognize this fact, many of them may not know how to go about achieving superior customer service given the paucity of best practices in this area, particularly as they relate to the integration of software solutions to their restaurant operations. In this regard, Vernon defines best practice as, "Ways of conducting business processes that are generally agreed to be the most efficient or effective" (2002: 21) and suggests that identifying best practices in the restaurant industry can help deliver superior customer service. According to this authority, "Best practice has come to be associated with an ongoing management style that focuses on processes. The idea is that an organization should not be stymied by being oriented towards people or product. The argument is that best practice in processes is what delivers improvements in the most important business indicator, customer satisfaction" (Vernon 2002: 21).
Overview of Study
This study used a five-chapter format to achieve the above-stated aims and objectives. Chapter one of the study was used to introduce the issues under consideration and provide relevant background information, including a statement of the problem, the importance of the study, as well as its scope and supporting rationale. Chapter two provides a review of the peer-reviewed, scholarly and popular literature concerning restaurant management and restaurant management software systems and chapter three describes more fully the study's methodology, including a description of the study approach, the rationale in support of selected methodology, the analytical context in which the research was conducted and limitations to the study's methodology and findings. Chapter four consists of an analysis of the primary data collected during the research process and chapter five provides the study's conclusions, a summary of the research and recommendations for software solutions for restaurant managers today.
Chapter 2: Review of Related Literature
This chapter provides a review of the relevant literature to describe the current environment in which restaurants compete and the factors that affect restaurant performance. A discussion concerning front and back office restaurant process is followed by an analysis of various restaurant management systems that are currently available and a brief summary of the research concludes this chapter.
Restaurant industry situation.
Although more and more people have been dining out and spending larger percentages of their disposable income on food consumed outside the home, in many cases, these meals are so-called "fast food" obtained from facilities that feature drive-through windows rather than full-service restaurants (Thiers 1999). In addition, many restaurants are faced with inordinately high turnover rates that adversely affect their ability to delivery high-quality customer service and which also require restaurant managers to expend scarce resources for recruitment, hiring and training of new hires (Mardanov, Sterrett & Baker 2007). According to these authorities, "Due to the nature of the restaurant industry, [restaurants] tend to experience a large degree of turnover and employee job dissatisfaction because of supervisor issues and availability of same-type jobs located within the industry" (Mardanov et al. 2007:…