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The Best Accounting Software for Restaurants (Plus a Free Option)

Billie Anne Grigg

Billie Anne Grigg

Billie Anne Grigg has been a bookkeeper since before the turn of the century (yes, this one). She is a QuickBooks Online ProAdvisor, Xero Certified Advisor, LivePlan Expert Advisor, FreshBooks Certified Beancounter, and a Mastery Level Certified Profit First Professional. Billie Anne started Pocket Protector Bookkeeping in 2012 to provide an excellent virtual bookkeeping and managerial accounting solution for small businesses that cannot yet justify employing a full-time, in-house bookkeeping staff.
Billie Anne Grigg

Running a restaurant is hard work. There are the long days and nights, staffing issues, and tons of requirements to make sure you’re in compliance with all applicable state and local laws and health codes.

But running a restaurant can also yield huge rewards. There’s nothing better than having customers leave you rave reviews on Yelp, celebrating milestones like birthdays and anniversaries with long-time patrons, and watching all your hard work translate into profits in your bank account.

That’s why choosing the best accounting software for your restaurant is a key component in making sure profits become a reality for your business. The restaurant industry has some specific business needs, and you have to take these into consideration before choosing your restaurant bookkeeping software. Your best choice in bookkeeping software for your restaurant will incorporate all the necessary components seamlessly, meaning you spend less time on recordkeeping and more time on what you love—running your business.

What Features to Look for in the Best Accounting Software for Restaurants

Because of the nature of the restaurant business, restaurateurs have several unique challenges they must consider when choosing the best accounting software for their needs.

You’ll want to make sure that the business accounting software you choose can tackle all of these:

  1. Inventory management. Careful inventory management ensures your profits aren’t lost to waste and spoilage. A good inventory management software for your restaurant will include reporting that can help you determine what you need to order, as well as when you should order it. Not only will this reduce loss due to spoilage, but it’ll also help you make sure you don’t run out of the ingredients for your most popular menu item on the busiest day of the week.

  2. Payroll and tip tracking requirements. Managing payroll can be cumbersome for restaurants. Restaurants typically have larger staffs than other small businesses, meaning there are more time records to reconcile before processing payroll. The restaurant industry also has unique requirements for tracking and reporting tips. Restaurateurs are entitled to take a tip credit toward their minimum wage obligation. Accurately tracking and accounting for tips received by your staff can significantly increase your profitability.

  3. Scheduling needs. Although you might not think of your scheduling system as something to consider when deciding on bookkeeping software for your restaurant, proper scheduling does have a tremendous impact on your profitability. Making sure you can easily pull reports that show how your scheduling impacts your revenue is a must in your restaurant accounting software.

  4. Point of sale software. The right point of sale (POS) software will reassure you patrons are being charged properly, taxes are being collected appropriately, and tips are reported as they should be. The best accounting software for your restaurant will integrate with your existing point of sale software, saving you hours of data entry.

When choosing the best accounting software for your restaurant, keep in mind the systems you already use for point of sale, inventory management, payroll and tip tracking, and scheduling. Or, if you’re just getting started, make sure all your chosen systems will integrate seamlessly with each other before making your final purchases.

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How to Pick the Best Restaurant Accounting Software

Now that we’ve looked at the specific requirements your industry faces, let’s look at the best accounting software for your restaurant. Whether you want an all-in-one solution, something you can use to easily outsource your bookkeeping, or free accounting software for your restaurant business, there is something on this list for every restaurateur.

Best All-in-One Accounting Solution: Restaurant365

If you’re looking for a cloud-based, all-in-one accounting software for your restaurant, you can’t go wrong with Restaurant365 (R365). It handles your inventory, accounting, budgeting and forecasting, and scheduling, all within one cloud-based platform. This means you don’t have to switch back and forth between multiple software programs to get the information you need to make effective business decisions.

Because it’s specific to the restaurant industry, R365’s reports feature already includes many of the reports that matter most to you. You won’t have to spend hours customizing canned reports designed to work with any industry. With an attractive dashboard and auto-scheduled reports, you can make sure anyone on your team has the information they need right at their fingertips.

Restaurant365 is an all-in-one solution for your accounting needs, but you’ll need to hook up your point of sale and payroll systems with it. Fortunately, R365 integrates with dozens of POS and payroll providers. Even more exciting, many of your major food vendors integrate with R365, meaning you can automatically update food costs and import your invoices, saving hours of data-entry time.

If you don’t want to do your own accounting or hire an in-house bookkeeper to do it for you, R365 can connect you with an accountant who specializes in restaurant accounting and supports your software. This partnership program with accountants who specialize in the restaurant industry makes R365 more powerful than its competitors in the all-in-one solution space. Since R365 is cloud-based, you don’t have to worry about trading files or being locked out of your software while your accountant is working, either.

R365 Pricing

With prices starting at $249/location/month, R365 is not the least expensive option available. What you gain in terms of business insights, though, could make the investment well worth the price.

The restaurant business is tough. Having a specialized, all-in-one accounting software geared toward your specific needs and working with an accountant who understands your industry can be the difference between profitability and barely scraping by. This makes R365 a very attractive option for your restaurant business.

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Best Integrated Solution: QuickBooks Online

If you’re already working with an accountant or bookkeeper and don’t want to switch to a different provider, then an all-in-one, specialty accounting software like Restaurant365 might not be the best solution for you. Most accountants and bookkeepers don’t want to work in more than a couple of software solutions, and you will benefit most from using a provider that knows your software well.

If this is your situation, your best bet for an accounting software for your restaurant is QuickBooks Online. Not only is QuickBooks Online (QBO) supported by hundreds of accountants and bookkeepers—meaning there is a very good possibility your accountant or bookkeeper supports it—but there is also tons of training available if you decide you want to do your own bookkeeping or hire an in-house bookkeeper.

Although QuickBooks Online won’t be able to handle your entire back-end operations like an all-in-one solution can, it does support integration with dozens of restaurant-specific and POS apps that specialize in restaurant operations. This gives restaurateurs flexibility to design the perfect technology stack for their needs. And, like with an all-in-one solution, you won’t have to switch back and forth between multiple programs to get the information you need to run your restaurant.

Much like R365, QBO boasts a dashboard and auto-scheduled reports, meaning you can access the information you need in seconds. And, since QBO is cloud-based, everyone on your management or financial team can access your software simultaneously. Resources abound on using QBO for every industry, and so you can easily find guidance online to create the exact reports you need to run your restaurant business profitably.

QBO Pricing

QBO pricing starts at $35/month, though you might need to go with the $60/month option to get all the features you want your restaurant accounting software to have. Although this is considerably less than R365’s monthly investment, don’t forget to factor in the costs for all your integrated software subscriptions before making a decision based on price.

Best Free Solution: ZipBooks

We usually discourage business owners from using free accounting and bookkeeping software. Typically, the support and functionality you get from a paid solution makes the relatively minimal investment in software well worthwhile. Although this also holds true with accounting software for restaurants, we recognize the high startup costs associated with restaurants might make investing heavily in a bookkeeping or accounting solution right from the beginning unfeasible.

ZipBooks can help you bridge the gap between no accounting software at all and a subscription-based cloud accounting solution. You can start with the free version of ZipBooks and then upgrade to a paid version for as little as $15/month as your restaurant grows. And, if you don’t want to do your own bookkeeping, you can hire ZipBooks to do it all for you.   

The benefit you lose with a free or low-cost solution like ZipBooks is the ease of integration. If you’re doing your own bookkeeping, you will have to either do some data entry or switch between multiple programs to get the reporting you need. If you hire a ZipBooks professional to do your bookkeeping, the monthly cost will increase based on the complexity of your business.

If funds are tight and accounting software for your restaurant isn’t in your budget, using ZipBooks can help you keep your records in order.

The Best Accounting Software for Restaurants Is…

As is the case for all businesses, the best accounting software for your restaurant is the one you’re most comfortable using to help you make sound business decisions.

Whether you go with an all-in-one solution like Restaurant365, an integrated solution like QBO, or a free solution like ZipBooks, take the time to set up the software correctly and to understand how it works. Hire an accounting professional to help you understand your financial reports and what they mean for your industry. And—when you can no longer manage the day-to-day bookkeeping yourself—hire a bookkeeper who knows how to use your software.

Here’s to turning your hard work into huge profits!

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Billie Anne Grigg

Billie Anne Grigg

Billie Anne Grigg has been a bookkeeper since before the turn of the century (yes, this one). She is a QuickBooks Online ProAdvisor, Xero Certified Advisor, LivePlan Expert Advisor, FreshBooks Certified Beancounter, and a Mastery Level Certified Profit First Professional. Billie Anne started Pocket Protector Bookkeeping in 2012 to provide an excellent virtual bookkeeping and managerial accounting solution for small businesses that cannot yet justify employing a full-time, in-house bookkeeping staff.
Billie Anne Grigg

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