The ins and outs of third-party restaurant software integration

When it comes to third-party software implementation, the process can often be long, tedious and wrought with challenges. And even under the best of circumstances, external elements can oftentimes stymie the process.
Before embarking on an integration process between third-party catering software providers and point-of-sale (POS) providers, restaurant operators should have a clear catering strategy in place, led by the 5 Pillars of Restaurant Catering: leadership, delivery, operations, sales and marketing, and centralized services. Without these, even the best catering models can run off course.

So, what do restaurant executives need to know before delving head first into an integration process? Mo Asgari, president of MonkeyMedia Software, provides an in-depth look at how the best course of actions needed to make integration easy for everyone.

1. Before launching into catering software integration, what do catering operators need to know/consider?

There are a few things that catering operators need to consider prior to engaging in catering software implementations:

  1. Does the brand have a catering strategy in place and has a program been developed around the 5 pillars of successful catering If not, slow down, and focus on those key areas. Ask for help if needed.
  2. Is there a project owner/lead who is ultimately responsible for coordinating resources and delivering the program on behalf of the brand. If not, appoint one.
  3. Have representative stakeholders involved with the project from these critical areas: IT, accounting, operations, marketing, sales, and service/support. You need buy-in from all of these areas because these individuals will work along side the brand’s project lead in making the appropriate critical decisions.
  4. Enterprise software implementations are not hands-off although typically the vendor partner is actively involved and assisting with the implementation. Be ready to allocate a minimum of 3 to 5 hours per week or more during the weeks when training is involved, as well as the testing phases when the software needs to be verified/approved for go-live.

This is a major undertaking impacting all parts of your restaurant’s business. If you do not have the human resources to allocate to the project, it is best to hold off, or reprioritize other tasks.

2. When does POS integration come into the process and how does that work?

On the MONKEY platform, we interface with the POS for two main reasons. Number one is for the injection of catering orders to synchronize sales and inventory depletion against those fulfilled orders. Since catering orders are very different in nature than individual restaurant menu orders, we help restaurants use production management tools to become batch-manufacturing facilities for their catering business. Executing in batches has proved to be far more effective for catering orders and far more efficient when the volume of orders are high.

Number two is for the injection of takeout orders for fulfillment using existing restaurant systems. For POS integration to work properly, at a minimum, the POS platform must expose a programming interface — a way for an external system to send it data (typically order data) — which allows it to accept and process orders. Of course, for this to happen properly, there must be a way for the two systems to securely and reliably connect to one another so the sharing of information can happen via the programming interfaces made available.

3. What are some components of the integration process operators need to have ready?

The first component is to figure out if there a way for an external system to securely and reliably connect to a restaurant environment to transmit data. Then, restaurant operators need to determine if their POS vendor supports an interface for third-party systems to securely and reliably connect and exchange data with the POS. Finally, is the technical support, either internally, or from external IT support group, available to help with the necessary IT configurations, and other data elements required to setup and configure within the POS.

4. Once started, what are some of the challenges of software integration? 

As much as you think you have everything defined and figured out, there are always new requirements and other technical surprises to be worked through. These could include lack of reliable network connectivity to each restaurant, and incompatible data configuration points between the two systems to allow for seamless data transfer. Not necessarily an impossible situation, but these challenges often require additional development effort from one partner or the other, which can impact integration costs and timing on getting the integration operational.

5. What can operators do to work through those challenges? 

Having the perseverance in getting the integration done and the appropriate experts available, either internal or via external partner, is critical to working through any challenge that may come up.

6. How important to integration is having a cooperative third-party POS provider? 

The partnership of the various stakeholders is key to the success of any software integration and is critical to the success of any integration.

7. What steps can catering directors and IT teams take to ensure a smooth process between both the software company and their POS provider?

  1. Clearly set the stage for the stakeholders involved on the goals and objectives of the integration.
  2. Be the voice and energy behind pushing the integration forward between the partners.
  3. Be present.

8. Is seamless integration even possible? 

Absolutely. But just like with everything, there is no final end-point. There is always room improvement as technologies and systems evolve.

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