Phone: (413) 727-8897 email:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Reader Questions - Food Cost Software

I received lots of follow up emails regarding food cost control software options this month.  At the current time, there are many good choices available to restaurant operators.

Single unit operators with small menus can take advantage of the many low priced options.

Although I have only worked with a few of these systems, I have heard of good results from people who use CostGuard, Optimum Control and ChefTec.

If you work in a complex operation (casino, major sports arena, ski resort, large beach resort, four season mountain resort, restaurant with a major catering component, etc.), you generally will look at battle tested, server based systems since you need many people on the same database.  I am biased toward the FoodTrak solution due to many years working closely with clients.

Many of the companies who decided to work with me over the years took a look at Eatec.  My first database implementation project ever was an Eatec recipe costing system I setup for a caterer in Lewisburg, PA.  I know the Las Vegas casinos have a bias toward Stratton Warren.  I do not have any experience with this system.

Although FoodTrak handles many complex tasks, two of my clients moved from even more complicated solutions (CBORD MMS and Eatec) because they did not need many of the reports.  It's important to know your top priority report needs before going on these websites to get information.

When I moved from Canada to New York in 1990, I found American operators had not settled on a back office accounting solution.  My background included auditing jobs before I became a controller and later the CFO in a remote site feeding company.  We used AccPac Plus in Canada because the product was widely supported by consultants and chartered accountants in every province.  In the US back in 1990, there were many accounting products and a few systems specifically designed to handle recipe costing and inventory control.  QuickBooks had not been invented at this time.  Today, every system seems to have a QuickBooks interface.

I began working with FoodTrak in 1992 after I had been unsuccessful in persuading 3 companies to use AccpacPlus.  All 3 had chosen FoodTrak.  They each had a different accounting package (DacEasy, One Write Plus and Cougar Mountain).  FoodTrak had (and still does today) lots of interfaces.

Today, many operators are willing to put their entire accounting system on the Compeat solution.  No doubt, the many experiments with interfaces and software updates just wore out the IT departments.  Windows has so many different versions to support.  You'll find many IT departments who insist on staying with older versions of their software for dependability issues.

From a hands on viewpoint, I have worked with Eatec, FoodTrak, ReMACS, Foodtech, iPRO, CBORD, Optimum Control, CostGuard and EZChefSoftware (listed in chronological order).  Every system has strengths and weaknesses.  I find the number one issue today is survival.  There are so many solutions it's tough to decide who will be here in 2020.

ReMACS was merged into Radiant prior to their merger with Aloha.  Aloha had merged with MenuLink just before the Radiant merger.  So unless you know a rock solid ReMACS DOS consultant in your town, you won't get support.  Foodtech was merged into Micros who used some of the reporting as inspiration for their own back office suite.  They then became the inventory solution for Aloha for a short time.  Today, I never hear of this system.

Agilysis purchased both Eatec and Stratton Warren.

Will your solution be merged into another company?  Will support be available in the future?

The inability to answer these basic questions leaves me in a unique position.  Although I love working with many inventory control solutions, at this time I have decided not to endorse any company.

I have an implementation plan which will help any operator with any system.  Most companies fail to achieve success with food cost control software due to a poor initial implementation plan.  They simply do not invest the time and resources necessary to succeed.  Regardless of your choice, you need to spend the time it takes to do an excellent job on the setup.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Food Cost Control Software Question

Dear Joe,

I have finally decided to stop working so hard to breakeven and take the time and effort to properly cost out all of our recipes and then do it all over again for the catering division.

Years ago I looked into FoodTrak and ChefTek (?) and wonder what you would recommend for a small operation (less than 1.5 million in sales). I am also looking to take over another location and implement our menu and "brand" but surely don't want to do that until I have properly costed out and determined the best menu with the most effective profitability.

Please help!


I would choose Chef Tec if my annual sales were less than $1.5 Million. FoodTrak is a superior system but it is designed for complex operations with many simultaneous users (think of an active ski resort). Generally, single person food cost control operators use Excel as the default. Before you spend a dime, make sure you are going to continue to use the software beyond the initial recipe cost cards.

As FoodTrak moved from a budget level DOS solution to a pricier Windows solution, profit center level reporting was added in early 2000. The software became relatively high priced for low volume operations. Complex operations found a home and the new FoodTrak customer community expanded into sports venues, resorts, clubs and contract catering companies.

Although I have never used Chef Tec, my understanding is the software was designed specifically for operations with no standard recipe cards. Chefs and food and beverage controllers could purchase the software for a fair price and achieve their limited objectives. The popular price allowed the company to add features and they have become the logical choice for small restaurants.

As ReMACS and Foodtrak left the door open in the late 1990s, many POS systems and 3rd party developers stepped through and created a fragmented marketplace. Recently, some developers decided to study the actual system usage and found many companies only used the software to cost their current menu. They only use the software after this chore is completed when they look at future menu changes. EZChefSoftware (uses Excel macros) and MenuMax (web-based solution) come to mind when I think of menu pricing projects.

Restaurant Data Pros

web counter