Here is our complete guide to the best catering software in 2020.
I’ve personally tested and reviewed all the software on this list, and we use these programs on a daily basis, as they relate to the business of catering and leveraging technology to make businesses more profitable and efficient.
The best catering software is relative. It depends on what kind of catering you do and what your challenges are. The goal is to give you the information you need to make the best choices for your business. We are here to help you navigate the way.
Here’s the guide.
P.S. Don’t have time to read the whole article?
I want catering software for:
Catering services associated with a restaurant or facility that has dedicated spaces or capabilities to serve 20 or more guests. Guest may choose to select the location based on online menus, online reservations or direct contact with a sales representative. The transaction is generally handled through the restaurant’s point of sale system.
Supplemental catering services offered by restaurants, catering companies and grocery stores, who provide predetermined hot and cold menus picked up by the customer, delivered by the company’s own delivery service or coordinated through an online third-party aggregator. These services do not provide staff or additional services not related to direct delivery or pickup.
Supplemental catering services offered by restaurants, catering companies and grocery stores, who provide predetermined hot and cold menus delivered. Companies may offer setup and breakdown of the event by the delivery person or may hire additional staff to be on-site for service functions. The food and beverages are produced and delivered as a traditional delivery but may be presented on company-owned equipment and rentals versus disposables or the customer’s own serviceware and china.
Catering services focused on daily and weekly menus and beverage programs as part of an employee benefit package. These can be delivered from a commissary location in a campus environment with dining facilities or to a single or multi-tenant location. These facilities may or may not include foodservice equipment. These services may be fully subsidized or retail programs depending on the contractual agreement.
Complex multi-faceted catering services. This includes services provided by traditional venues such as self-operated hotels, convention centers and catering facilities or non-traditional venues such as museums, educational facilities, private and public locations and outdoor areas. These events include the coordination of multiple vendors and service providers. The majority of services are custom designed, from proposals to décor and entertainment.
Catering services focused on the daily service of food, beverages and staffing within a professional business or educational environment. Services include self-service food and beverages, concessions, room management and group and individual meals associated with specific needs of the facility and organization. These may be produced on-site or as part of a delivery program based on proximity and contractual agreement.
I want software that can help with:
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Caterease is a multi-dimensional software package specifically designed for the special events and catering industry. Caterease uses internal data managers to store and manage information about prospects, accounts, venues, menus, non-food items and services to create and manage events from initial contact to final billing and follow-up. Highly customizable to fit both the individual user as well as the specifics of each business model and type of catering. Caterease can be self-hosted on a company’s internal server or as a cloud-based option, allowing companies to create virtual offices from anywhere there is internet. An advanced enterprise version allows users to have independent locations and units under a single umbrella.
CaterXpert is a multi-dimensional web-based software package specifically designed for the special events and catering industry. CaterXpert uses a series of task-specific modules for sales, kitchen and warehouse designed specifically for each department that interact to effectively manage all aspects of off-premise catering. The system is focused on off-premise catering with accommodations for corporate and commissary scenarios.
The system is designed around the workflow of an individual custom event from sales to final billing, with modules being exposed to those who need them by department and/or authorization. Information is focused to the task at hand, thus reducing miscommunication.
For caterers who are focused on unique events, CaterXpert allows highly customizable events and assigns dedicated administrators across all departments for best use and optimization of the system.
Like most event management systems, CaterXpert operates from a home page or dashboard where a user will be able to navigate the system and view those modules to which they have been assigned.
Synergy Fusion is a multi-functional EMS software run by Synergy International. Synergy Fusion offers four packages; Fusion Enterprise, Fusion POS, Fusion Rental and Fusion Staffing.
Total Party Planner
Total Party Planner is an online EMS with two packages available for purchase depending on the size of the catering organization. Nibble is a smaller package designed for smaller catering companies with a limited staff. Feast is the larger package and is designed to expedite day-to-day activities for a larger staff, venue and multi-project organizations. TPP offers convenient customer service with the goal of personal company relationships.
CaterZen is an EMS and CRM program. CaterZen offers three plans for customer flexibility depending on the size of operations. Pro, Pro Plus and Marketing Pro Plus all offer different services for FOH, client interaction/ordering and behind-the-scenes operations. Pro offers the fewest services, while Pro Plus offers all of CaterZen’s services.
From the creators of Caterease at Horizon Business Services, Cover is their latest product, which will become available in the early quarter of 2020 (in January). Cover is a comprehensive EMS with flexible capabilities for event work and management. For small/medium businesses and enterprise systems, Cover has event management covered. Limited information is available until the official launch of Cover in 2020.
ezCater is an online third-party catering and delivery aggregator for companies that want to expand their network into the catering industry. ezCater can help with both customer ordering and fulfillment services.
Gather is a combination inquiry tool and customer relation management tool. Gather does not offer full EMS capabilities but is useful specifically for management and online booking. Gather combines data, task and calendar management and simple customer interaction to help company growth and outreach for efficiency in transitioning leads into business. Gather offers reporting, templates and management organization. Gather is useful for venue management over catering.
GamePlan is an online ordering platform that allows users to place inquiries and book rooms at venues with private dining and dedicated event spaces for larger groups and reservations. It is designed to streamline the ordering process by using a series of system-generated filters to determine what is available to the customer based on the size of the group, start/end times and date. The filters can determine menu options as well as space options via the guest portal rather than the traditional back-and-forth email and phone process.
ChefTec has been the benchmark of recipe management software for many years. It can be used in many types of businesses, from wholesale and independent restaurants to institutions and multi-unit locations.
The software is built around two major data sets: recipes and ingredients. From there, the two data sets are connected to each other in multiple ways to manage many tasks, from production, ordering and inventory to nutritional information and menu management.
ChefTec offers multiple levels of systems, from basic to enterprise, depending on the organization’s needs. These are ChefTec, ChefTec Plus, ChefTec Ultra, CorTec Premier and CorTec Ultima. Additional modules such as Calendar Builder, Mobile Solutions, Remote Notifications, eRecipe, Reporter, Interfaces and other service solutions are available to each level of the program.
Jamix is a European-developed kitchen management software package that encompasses inventory and procurement management, recipe management and costing and menu planning under one cloud-based application. It is designed to be used by single unit operations and large multi-unit, multi-location foodservice operations.
The software is built around two major modules and data sets, the first being recipes and the second being ingredients, called “stock” in the system. By interacting with one another driven by production needs, Jamix creates and communicates purchasing information, calculates production needs, supplies nutritional information, generates financial reports and creates and publishes unique daily and cycle menus.
Kohmee is a newly released online recipe management application designed for individuals and team members to access recipes from handheld personal devices, tablets, laptops or desktop systems that are connected to an internet service.
The application is designed for easy use and recipe writing. There is a data set of ingredients that grows as ingredients are entered into a recipe. Recipes can be manually entered or populated via cut and paste or data entry services provided by Kohmee.
Galley is a European developed Kitchen Management software package that encompasses inventory and procurement management, recipe management and costing and menu planning under one cloud-based application. It is designed to be used by single unit operations to large multi-unit, multi-location foodservice operations.
The software is built around two major modules and data sets. The first being the Recipes, the second being ingredients, which is called Stock in the system. The modules work together to create and communicate purchasing information, calculate production needs, supply nutritional information, generate financial repor
Placez is a browser-based cloud software application for room design for the special events industry. It is a sister application from Horizon Business Services, the makers of Caterease.
It allows the user to design floor plans and table décor into 2D and 3D renderings, which can be shared with clients through a unique online event-specific posting. Each posting is shareable as a custom event link.
AllSeated is an online collaboration network for planning events. AllSeated enables customers to design floor plans, manage guest lists and create seating charts. AllSeated is best for venue owners and event planners. AllSeated offers two programs for customers: AllSeated VR and AllSeated OPS.
Room Viewer is a room diagramming software that is accessible for Windows or Windows-compatible devices to create a computerized version of a venue space. Room Viewer offers different options for venue shapes depending on how complex the layout is. Room Viewer creates templates for repeated access for clients and companies to review venue layouts for event planning and management.
Social Tables through cVent is an event management system with customer relation management available. cVent has access to a large network of industry connections to increase productivity through Social Tables for customers. For hospitality organizers, there are three main features available; Event Sales, Event Services and Sales & Catering CRM.
Marquii is an online location service that monitors and updates a company’s information by using a custom dashboard to push out data to over 75 different internet listings. Marquii has additional technology to automate menu updates, pricing and social media posting by interfacing with POS systems and using a mobile app.
Advanced users have access to in-depth analytics, real-time monitoring, social media review monitoring and reviewer response tools. Marquii partners with directional services to ensure location and accuracy of operating hours as well as third-party delivery services to provide real-time updates to menus and pricing.
Plate IQ is a well-established invoicing system for food vendors no matter the size or capabilities of operations. Plate IQ manages invoicing and payment systems for companies through established accounting systems. Plate IQ uses vast interface integration and data checking teams for smooth transactions and easy payment options.
DocuSign is an independent company with online e-signature plans for professional document signing. DocuSign provides subscription-based packages based on the specific needs of the client.
Zuppler is an online ordering and menu management service for companies to organize and control an online presence for easy customer to company interactions. Zuppler controls the customer interaction with a company website while forwarding orders and specifics to the company directly.
QuickBooks is an accounting software that is available online and on desktop. For many companies, QuickBooks Online is the most popular and is highly recommended for real-time updates. QuickBooks offers multiple plans for small businesses and self-employed start-ups.
Sage is a cloud-based financial management service for small, mid-size or large businesses. For food & beverage companies, Sage is well versed in the possible issues and environmental problems that industry companies face and can use financial solutions to prepare and solve these issues. For industry operations, Sage recommends three programs: Sage100cloud, Sage300cloud and Enterprise Management.
Microsoft Dynamics GP
Microsoft Dynamics GP (formerly Great Plains) is a financing and ERP solution to manage inventory and operations. Dynamics offers eight different plans: Sales, Finance, Customer Service, Operations, Talent, Marketing, Field Service and Retail.
Staffmate is an online solution for staff management. Staffmate offers one plan for any sized operation looking to manage and schedule staff.
Nowsta is a scheduling, staffing and payroll system. Nowsta easily integrates all of the different aspects of hourly scheduling and offers them in one system. Nowsta has three different plans available: Starter, Professional and Enterprise.
Vantiv World Pay
Vantiv World Pay from FIS is a payment processing system available for enterprise, global or small-/medium-sized operations. Vantiv is a flexible system that has solutions for already managed in-house systems or full devices with system integration for any company’s processing needs. Merged in 2019, FIS and Worldpay have joined forces for global commerce efficiency in all business ventures
PayPal is a digital wallet and payment processing system that can be accessed by clients and their customers.
Compeat is a highly comprehensive restaurant and back office management system. Compeat offers solutions in accounting, inventory, scheduling, labor, bookkeeping, payments and trend analysis all in one platform. In 2017, Compeat acquired Ctuit, a less comprehensive back office management system, to integrate and promote program advantages.
Verizon Connect offers a business solution for fleet tracking and management. Verizon’s plans offer flexibility and comprehensive features for streamlined and efficient transportation and delivery. For fleet tracking, Verizon has conducted random reports on a number of their vehicles. The reports conclude that, in almost all aspects of efficiency, all businesses increased productivity and decreased lost time and wasted labor with the use of GPS, tracking and management systems for company vehicles. “Companies that use field service and fleet management software see 33% greater workforce utilization” (from Verizon Connect’s 2018 reports). As described by Verizon, this solution offers the “world’s largest provider of fleet management” (2018). Visit Verizon Connect for more detailed statistics.
One Step GPS is an online geotracking system that tracks vehicles and fleets in real time. One Step can access and save information on driving behaviors, arrivals and departures for job security.
What can Catering Software do?
Modular software code embedded on a user’s website that captures inquiry details and directly imports the contact information and user-defined details directly into an event management system. Most common platforms are iframe elements, which are virtual documents embedded in other documents. These can be included or purchased as additional fees from software suppliers.
These are software systems that are fully dedicated to the complexity of special events and catering, from simple deliveries to complex multi-day events. Event management systems (EMS) are configured differently based on the type of event, complexity of proposal and level of business. There are options for small, mid-size and even enterprise solutions for multi-unit organizations. The type of event customization and/or level of business may direct you to one option or the other based on desired operational or fee structures. Other options, such as a company’s available resources to set up, manage and optimize a system, can also dictate what system is right for your organization.
These include both websites embedded or third-party reservation systems that allow customers to make reservations at your establishment. Some reservation systems interface with event management systems.
A custom relations manager (CRM) is a software application that allows users to collect, communicate, manage and analyze potential and current customers. Tracking leads and recording this data allows you to focus on customers who provide the best business opportunities as well as a way to nurture the relationship from inquiry to long-term partnership.
This represents an e-commerce application directly built into a company’s own website. These embedded applications allow customers to order direct from restaurants. The digital order is then sent to the restaurant. This can be anything from the form in an email or a printable document to an interface, POS or EMS system where the details are automatically inserted into the specifics of the event. Payment for these orders can be handled through the application or passed through as a digital token to be processed by the receiving POS, EMS or credit card processing application. Business rules such as type, size, frequency and advance order times can all be managed through these applications.
Cloud-based services can monitor and update a company’s menus and locations in real time across multiple sites to ensure that your business’ information is accurate across all listings during internet searches. Services may provide automatic updates through industry partners such POS and third-party delivery services. Monitoring and analytical services may also be included.
Software platforms allow users to consolidate all of their social media feeds and activity into one dashboard. This allows the user to quickly manage all the social media outlets to monitor organization activity across all social media and current and potential customers.
Operations looking to expand their core business by adding additional lines of business—such as delivery and catering—might choose to contract with third-party aggregators who post, manage and facilitate these types of services through a cloud-based proprietary application. Most coordinate the delivery and payment processing, where a service fee is charged by the service provider.
When choosing software, especially with restaurants and operations that use a point of sale system, consideration should be placed on systems that have the ability to communicate with other systems, such as recipe and production management, online menu management solutions, accounting and back office solutions.
This is the ability for different software applications that may share similar information such as customers, purchasing, events, menus and accounting to easily share and synchronize with each other. Systems may include optional unique interfaces that have been designed specifically for two unique applications. These also include EDI exchanges for purchasing and pricing updates typically used by broad-line foodservice wholesalers. Advances in security are now allowing the use of an open API (application program interface), which allows software designers to create specific interfaces with other applications by what is made readily available from the other software.
Services that allow the processing of credit cards through online ordering applications or through EMS systems. The selection of this feature will be based on when a payment is made—whether at the time of transaction or over a period of time when deposit schedules and payment plans are made. The key precursor to the selection is if the system is PCI (payment card industry) compliant. This set of standards was established by the industry to protect cardholders’ information from being accessed by cyber criminals.
Software platforms used to manage a company’s recipes. Inventory, ordering, nutritional information, labelling, instructions, production and costing are completed within the system. These systems can interface with POS and EMS systems to provide both costing and sales data. Knowing exactly what something costs is vital to a company’s profitability. Recipe management systems may also feature EDI (electronic data interchange) ordering interfaces, where orders can be placed, as well as digital invoices received electronically, eliminating double entry of data as well as real-time cost updates.
Similar to a recipe management system but uses an internal data set built into an EMS system to create recipes or prep items that can be associated with menu items. These systems generally require manual updates and maintenance for accuracy and costing information. When the relationships between ingredients and prep items are well established, operators are able to produce production lists with calculated quantities and production responsibility delegation by simply printing a report, thus eliminating hours of mental math.
This is similar to an ingredient manager but focuses on other relationships between sold food and service items, equipment, rentals and inventoriable items such as beverages and liquor. By associating these items and creating rules or ratio relationships to items sold, accurate pack lists can be generated from the event data created in an EMS.
Accounting software is the primary financial system of record for any one organization. The reporting contained within the program is what will be used to report on taxes and fees owed to local, state and federal agencies. Most systems have the ability to interface with many different auxiliary systems such as EMS, POS, back office, recipe management and any other system where accounts receivable and payable are processed.
Software applications that have the ability to embed signing elements within a emailable document that requires the receiving party to acknowledge the receipt of the item. This can be an important step in guaranteeing an event and the conditions for both parties entering into a contractual agreement. Most of the systems have fee structures based on number of transactions.
Software applications included in or as separate software applications that manage and schedule both internal and off-premise staff. These packages allow users to set up events and schedule staff based on requested shifts and employee eligibility. Employees may have the ability to receive and accept job requests via mobile applications. Most systems will have the ability to directly communicate with the traditional payroll processing companies through exports. Additional features may include geo-fencing, ride-share partnerships, emergency planning protocols, digital time clocks and advance employee communication tools.
These are generally applications with other systems that allow you to schedule vehicles and equipment, furniture and other resources as well as creating delivery and transportation schedules. Inventory control features allow you to set up pars and send messages to users that there are not enough of an item’s stock or that an item is being used somewhere else.
A combination of hardware and software used to track the location of delivery vehicles. This is important technology, especially for organizations that conduct their own delivery service and require fleet management assistance. This system utilizes both GPS and internet connections.
Applications, standalone software or cloud-based solutions that create and manage specific steps and deliverables that must be completed during the course of an event to ensure that levels of service, planning and communication are met to the standards and standard operating procedures (SOP) directed by an organization.
These generally consist of applications or modules within event management or venue management software packages to schedule and manage event spaces such as rooms, meeting spaces and venues at single or multiple locations. Some technologies are server- or cloud-based applications allowing “members” to manage and book their own needs by referencing a core room scheduler and the use of business rules and services established for each space.
A consolidated and encompassing software package that manages all aspects of restaurant food service management needs. These tools are more focused on minimizing data entry steps, creating efficiencies across multiple units or cost centers while actively updating management teams on the health and activity of their business. Functions include POS reporting, accounts payable, accounts receivable, inventory control, recipe management, cost accounting, purchasing tools, production tools and other routine tasks. Usually these programs are used by restaurant and broad-based hospitality sectors. Most applications do not have specific event management modules.
Modules or applications within an EMS system that allow users to monitor and review or audit changes within the lifespan of an event. Notifications or change request processes generate automatic notifications to specific persons or departments that a change has taken place on an event. Generally, these change notifications are targeted and require a person/department to acknowledge or make the change that directly affects their responsibilities or actions.
Modern software applications can use optical recognition to scan invoices and EDI communication to track and report on all accounts payable responsibilities. These systems also directly communicate with recipe management, back office and POS systems to provide seamless, easy to manage solutions for a single location or large multi-unit multi-state operators.
Some software packages allow you to copy and paste events as well as create a calendar for menus. Cycle menu tools are advantageous to educational or corporate clients. These are generally supplemental add-ons to recipe management or EMS systems.
When a client asks you to provide a proposal to them for catering services, you are at a point that the appearance and speed that the proposal is presented at is a potential make or break point. This collection of pages is a chance for you to promote your company’s image and sell them the services you are proposing.
The pretty proposal is a combination of graphics, imagery, marketing, financial reporting, details and calls to action. Creating a proposal that is quick and efficient to produce, visually appealing and highly customizable is the hallmark of highly functional software packages. This is the pinnacle of a highly successful catering company—the proposal is the face and ambassador of your brand and all of the hard work that goes into perfectly executing and event, as well as why we do what we do.
The key is to use software that allows users to create such a document from one source of data versus having to replicate it in another software package. Most event management systems have generic prints that can be used for the purpose of proposals from the moment you own the system. For custom documents, look for companies that contain robust modules that include some graphic design capabilities with a “mail merge” structure. Some companies also provide an additional service to design the document for you where they manage formatting and structure as part of their services.