Top 5 Restaurant Inventory Management Software Options for 2020

Want to keep all your inventory items organized? We’ve narrowed it down to the top inventory management options so you can easily find the right fit for your restaurant operation.
Best overall
Upserve
Upserve
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    One-click purchase ordering
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Food waste tracking
Budget pick
Lavu
Lavu
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    $69/mo. starting price
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    POS system included
Best for simplicity
MarketMan
MarketMan
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Low stock alerts
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Vendor management
Best for franchises
Toast
Toast
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Real vs. theoretical profit tracking
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Menu costing
Best for bistros
Touch Bistro
TouchBistro
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Ingredient-level tracking
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Local network connection

Inventory control is complicated enough for run-of-the-mill retail and wholesale businesses. But restaurants face even tougher challenges. How do you use your inventory before it goes bad? How do you manage costs when no two dishes have precisely the same portions?

The good news? Restaurant inventory management programs are available to help. And you don’t have to spend hours doing the research on the best options either because we’ve already done it for you. We’re just here to help.

Best restaurant inventory management software options

Top restaurant inventory management options at a glance

There are a lot of features that go into managing your restaurant, food, and bar inventory. Here’s a quick snapshot of the main features offered by each of our top five choices.

UpserveLavuMarketManToastTouchBistro
Starting price

$199.00/mo. + $50.00/mo. per terminal

$69.00/mo.$149.00/mo. per location$75.00/mo. per terminal$69.00/mo.
Locations1+1+1+1-101
Point-of-sale (POS)
Icon Yes  Dark
Icon Yes  Dark
Icon No  Dark
Icon Yes  Dark
Icon Yes  Dark
Low inventory alerts
Icon Yes  Dark
Icon Yes  Dark
Icon Yes  Dark
Icon Yes  Dark
Icon Yes  Dark
Menu costing
Icon Yes  Dark
Icon Yes  Dark
Icon Yes  Dark
Icon Yes  Dark
Icon Yes  Dark
Ingredient-level tracking
Icon Yes  Dark
Icon No  Dark
Icon Yes  Dark
Icon Yes  Dark
Icon Yes  Dark
Food waste tracking
Icon Yes  Dark
Icon No  Dark
Icon Yes  Dark
Icon Yes  Dark
Icon No  Dark
Purchase order management
Icon Yes  Dark
Icon Yes  Dark
Icon Yes  Dark
Icon No  Dark
Icon No  Dark
Vendor management
Icon Yes  Dark
Icon Yes  Dark
Icon Yes  Dark
Icon No  Dark
Icon No  Dark
Connection typeCloudCloudCloudCloudLocal area network
HardwareiOSiOSAnyToast devicesiOS

Data effective 5/29/20. At publishing time, pricing and features are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

Not sure what all these features are? Here’s a quick breakdown of each feature:

  • Locations: Restaurants with multiple locations should choose a restaurant software that can support all your business needs.
  • Point-of-sale systems: Restaurants use POS systems to process payments and track operating costs.
  • Low inventory alerts: Business owners can use low inventory alerts as a reminder to reorder inventory items that are running low.
  • Menu costing: Restaurant owners can use this feature to calculate the approximate cost of each menu item, track inventory used, and determine the running cost of business.
  • Ingredient-level tracking: You can use ingredient-level tracking to automatically deduct used ingredients from your perpetual inventory numbers.
  • Food waste tracking: Restaurants can track food waste by comparing the theoretical cost of items sold to the actual cost of items sold.
  • Purchase order management: Businesses use this feature to place and track purchase orders (POs).
  • Vendor management: Restaurant owners can use their vendor management feature to store important details on all their suppliers.
  • Connection type: Restaurants with cloud-based software can easily track items across multiple locations and on multiple devices.
  • Hardware: Business owners who want to avoid buying extra hardware can avoid these costs by choosing a compatible software service for their existing hardware.

Now that we’re on the same page, let’s take a closer look at what makes each of these five inventory management platforms good (and bad) for restaurants.

Upserve: Best overall software for restaurant inventory management

Upserve

Everything your restaurant needs

When it comes to the features restaurant managers need, Upserve checks all the boxes. The software can monitor stock levels, help you price out your menu, track food waste, and more.

Upserve is a cloud-based inventory tracking solution that offers all the major features you’d want in a restaurant inventory management platform.

Upserve delivers comprehensive inventory reports to help you stay on top of low-stock items—and you can send purchase orders to restock on those items with just one click in the Upserve app.

Upserve also offers ingredient-level inventory tracking. All you have to do is create a recipe for each of the food items on your menu. Then Upserve can automatically calculate the amounts of each ingredient to deduct from your inventory whenever you sell a menu item (and calculate your approximate food costs).

We should also mention that Upserve offers one of the most comprehensive restaurant POS systems on our list. In addition to processing customer payments, it can also help you assign tables and servers, fire orders, add notes to checks, and do tons of other tasks.

A couple things to note: Upserve is definitely a little pricey. We recommend getting at least the Pro plan since it’s the cheapest plan that includes inventory management. We think it’s worth the extra cost, but if $59 per month plus an extra $40–$60 per month per POS terminal is too rich for your blood, we totally get it.

Upserve is also incompatible with Android devices, and you have to upgrade to an upper-tier plan to get features like vendor management.

Lavu: Best restaurant inventory software on a budget

Lavu

Exceptional features for the price

Restaurant owners on a budget will be as shocked as we were to find that Lavu offers tons of features considering its reasonable starting price of $69 per month. We love this software for its value.

Lavu is first and foremost a POS system, but it lets you do so much more than simply processing customer payments.

For starters, Lavu’s cloud-based system makes it easy to do complex tasks like recipe costing (a.k.a. the process of figuring out how much to charge for a menu item based on how much it costs you to make it). It also comes with low-stock alerts, so you don’t have to guess when you’ll run out of your sitting inventory (the stuff you’ve already got on your shelf).

Another huge perk Lavu offers that many restaurant inventory management systems don’t have is the ability to manage your vendors and purchase orders within your Lavu app. That makes it easy to write up orders for new ingredients and decide which supplier to order from.

The downsides: Unlike many of the other options on our list, Lavu doesn’t offer food waste tracking. So if that’s something you’re interested in, you may have to opt for a more expensive platform. And while Lavu’s price is cheap, that $69 per month is only for single-terminal systems. If you need a solution with multiple terminals, you’ll need to contact Lavu to get a quote.

MarketMan: Simplest restaurant management software

MarketMan

Just the essentials

MarketMan is an inventory management system, and it sticks to the basics. You won’t get a ton of extra features, but the software is easy to use—perfect for restaurant owners who don’t want a steep learning curve on their inventory management platform.

MarketMan keeps things basic with simple, restaurant-specific inventory tracking features, including low-stock alerts, vendor management, and the ability to send purchase orders right from your app.

MarketMan also helps with menu costing, but it goes beyond simple ingredient-level tracking. The software actually lets you input both the wholesale and retail costs of your ingredients. In other words, it lets you compare the costs at which you buy your food versus the price you sell it for. It even takes price fluctuations into account, so you don’t have to estimate your costs based on outdated data.

Be aware: MarketMan is pricier than other options on our list, especially when you consider it’s the only restaurant inventory management system we reviewed that doesn’t offer POS capabilities.

That means you’ll have to pay even more to get a POS system separately. But on the plus side, this also gives you more flexibility to find a POS mobile app that works best for your hardware and business model (instead of being locked into whatever POS system comes with your inventory software).

Toast: Best for multi-location restaurant franchises

Toast

Premium-level features and add-ons

If you’re running a restaurant with multiple locations, chances are you need a restaurant inventory management solution that can do it all. Toast is that software.

Running multiple restaurant businesses can be challenging—and it requires an inventory system that can do much more than basic inventory tracking.

Toast does all the basics that other options provide, like ingredient-level inventory tracking, menu costing, and food waste analytics. It even offers high-level inventory valuation reports to help you assess the costs and profit margins for the food items on your shelves.

But where Toast really shines is in its add-ons. For an extra fee, you can add on any of these convenient features:

  • Online ordering
  • Takeout
  • Delivery services
  • A kitchen display system
  • Multi-location menu management
  • Payroll and team management
  • Loyalty programs
  • Gift cards
  • Marketing

Unfortunately, to find out the exact cost of these add-ons, you’ll have to request a quote.

Some things Toast can’t do: Sad but true, Toast doesn’t offer any purchase order or vendor management. So if you have to reorder any food items, you’ll need to do that outside your Toast software.

Toast also can’t provide a super cost-effective inventory management system for all users. The service’s starting plan is affordable at just $75 per month, but the setup fee gets pretty steep ($900 to $1,498, depending on your plan).

TouchBistro: Best for single-location bistros

Touch Bistro

Local management for small restaurants

TouchBistro offers the convenience of a high-tech inventory management system, but it’s run on your local area network. That means you can run your single-location business even without an internet connection.

TouchBistro offers tons of premium features for a budget price, making it a great choice for restaurant operators running a single location.

TouchBistro makes it easy to measure profit margins for each item on your menu, track food costs, and manage your inventory on an ingredient level. And since it comes with a POS system, you can also process customer payments and submit orders via your TouchBistro app.

TouchBistro also offers inventory countdowns on your ingredients, so you can keep close tabs on the amount of food on your shelves. Plus, you can integrate TouchBistro with dozens of other business software to sync your inventory count with your accounting system, vendor management, and more.

Some drawbacks: TouchBistro runs over your local area network, so you don’t need the internet to run your inventory service. You will need an Apple Mac Mini, though, which acts as the “brain” for your network of iOS devices (and yes, it only works on Apple devices).

And while TouchBistro offers tons of integrations, it doesn’t play nicely with third-party payment processors like PayPal or Square. It’s almost like they want you to use their point-of-sale software or something.

FAQ about restaurant inventory management software

What software is used in restaurants?

A variety of software systems are used in the restaurant industry. While many platforms offer comprehensive restaurant inventory management, point of sale, accounting, employee management, and customer loyalty services, most restaurant owners choose to save money by picking and choosing the systems they need for these processes at the lowest possible prices.

How do restaurants control inventory?

Like other inventory management systems, restaurant inventory software helps restaurant owners control their inventory by tracking inventory levels. In addition, restaurants may use their inventory management software to create recipes in their system for each food item on their menu. This allows the software to track the ingredient quantities used in each sold menu item and update the restaurant’s total inventory accordingly.

What is a restaurant management system?

A restaurant management system is a software solution that aims to consolidate all the management tasks faced by business owners (like keeping accurate inventory records and monitoring items that need to be reordered). This solution may include restaurant inventory management options as well as vendor management, a point-of-sale system, accounting tools, and more.

What is the best restaurant management system?

For this article, we went through hundreds of options, and we landed on Upserve as our favorite restaurant inventory management software. However, the right platform for your business depends on your business’s inventory process, sales volume, and other needs.

The takeaway

Managing your food inventory is a tricky business, but we think Upserve is your best bet. The service offers pretty much everything you could need in your restaurant inventory system—even if it is a little pricey.

For a cheaper option, we recommend Lavu’s fairly comprehensive, low-cost plans. But for simplicity, you can’t beat MarketMan. Meanwhile Toast and TouchBistro offer good solutions for businesses with multiple and single locations, respectively.

If food makes up only a small part of your inventory or if you’re selling raw or pre-packaged food, you may be better off with a more traditional inventory app. Check out our top inventory management software picks to get started.

Disclaimer

At Business.org, our research is meant to offer general product and service recommendations. We don't guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services.

Cities Spending the Most on Eating Out in 2020

In a world of social distancing, work from home, and public health restrictions, eating out has become an important way for many Americans to get out of the house and feel a bit of normalcy. And while restaurant spending is still rebounding from all the shutdowns, eating out is as popular as ever in some US cities.

We’ve collected and analyzed data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and have turned it into an overview of which US cities are eating out the most (and least) in these ever-changing times.

Table with data on restaurant spending

Interesting findings

Anchorage Alaska spends the least on eating out at restaurants compared to the other 18 metropolitan cities we’ve analyzed. Only 4.8% of their annual income goes towards eating food away from home, making up only 36% of their yearly food spending. 

So if you’re planning on moving to Anchorage to start a restaurant business, you may want to look elsewhere. 

Across the US, Americans are spending an average of $269 on eating out every month. That works out to 5.1% of their annual income. Any city above this national average likely has a thriving restaurant market. 

San Francisco residents spend the most on eating out, with a total of $481 going towards monthly spending at restaurants. It’s important to consider, however, that higher-income areas tend to have more overall spending. 

Whereas in Tampa Florida, residents are spending the highest percentage of their annual income on eating out with 7.3% being spent on food away from home. San Franciscans, on the other hand, only spend 6.6% of their annual income.

State trends aside, there’s an interesting regional difference in US restaurant spending. Of all the regions, the West spends the most on eating out (5.8% of their income). So, if you’re looking for a more general area to set up your next restaurant, the West is your best bet. 

And if you’re looking for specifics, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Phoenix are all strong contenders.

Restaurant spending across the U.S

City
State
Monthly restaurant spending
Annual restaurant spending
% of annual income spent at restaurants
Restaurant spending as a % of total food spending
HonoluluHawaii$445$5,3458.4%45%
TampaFlorida$362$4,3417.3%48%
San Diego California$429$5,1536.7%48%
San FranciscoCalifornia$481$5,7736.6%50%
PhoenixArizona$365$4,3856.6%53%
Los AngelesCalfornia$383$4,5936.6%50%
AtlantaGeorgia$335$4,0166.3%49%
District of Columbia Washington$473$5,6816.0%49%
ChicagoIllinois$319$3,8225.9%43%
SeattleWashington$396$4,7485.8%46%
HoustonTexas$357$4,2835.7%50%
DetroitMichigan$307$3,6875.7%45%
Dallas-Fort Worth Texas$297$3,5645.3%47%
St. Louis Missouri$280$3,3575.2%43%
Minneapolis-St.Paul Minnesota$356$4,2715.1%44%
DenverColorado$321$3,8485.0%44%
AnchorageAlaska$307$3,6864.8%36%
BaltimoreMaryland$291$3,4914.5%41%
MiamiFlorida$196$2,3504.1%37%
National Average$269$3,2295.1%41%

Methodology

We based our calculations on average food spending in select metropolitan areas, and we sourced data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The takeaway

The restaurant industry is thriving as long as you know where to go. So, if you have big plans for a new restaurant, be sure you plant yourself in fertile ground. Also, collect and sort all your essentials like permits, restaurant management software, inventory management tools, and great recipes.

And, if you’re just looking for a bite to eat but you live in a city with little-to-no restaurant spending, grab a meal at one of your local small-business restaurants to support your community.

Sources: 

  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Consumer Expenditure Survey,” September 2020. Accessed October 13, 2020.