App happy: Applications to help business

Gaëlle Laforest

06 July 2015

There are zillions of apps out there to help you run your business. Gaëlle Laforest trawls through the app stores in search of the best 


XERO
Free app, £20-30 monthly subscription
What they say: ‘Online accounting software with all the time-saving tools you need to grow your business. Reconcile, send invoices, add receipts and create expense claims.’
How it works: First you’ll need to set up the programme in accordance with your business, which can take a while, but the app then allows you to view all transactions, keep track of sales and inventory, and manage payroll and expenses, all in one system.
What you say: ‘This makes life really easy. It’s aimed at small businesses, and it’s good for us to monitor sales on a daily basis. I can set up different log-ins so I oversee everything, while each bar’s manager only has access to their venues. It doesn’t do as well as an accountant, and a bit of advice would be useful to set it up – but for us, this does it.’ Alastair Burgess, Happiness Forgets & Original Sin, London

DELECTABLE
Free
What they say: ‘Delectable has become a way for wine professionals to share their personality, passion, knowledge and hospitality.’
How it works: Take a picture of a wine label and the app identifies the wine, giving you a description and ratings from the community. You can add tasting notes, track your favourites, create a wishlist and share recommendations with friends.
What you say: ‘Delectable allows you to follow people you trust, and see how they rate the wines they drink. This is enhanced by the fact that it also has pro users, meaning there are wine professionals like myself using the app a lot. Most of us merely use it to archive and categorise what we drink; the social factor is a nice bonus though.’ Michael Sager-Wilde, Sager + Wilde and Mission, London

PLANDAY
Free app, £4/employee monthly subscription
What they say: ‘Managers [can] update rotas on the go and be sure that every shift is covered. Instantly approve shift swap requests, see who’s at work and check clock-in and out times.’
How it works: Planday handles your whole employee management system: publish rotas, track swap requests and sick days, and even calculate payroll.
What you say: ‘This is a really good tool that we are in the process of setting up. It means managing rotas and then communicating those hours up the chain to make payroll work effortless. Plus, it logs your staff in and out so you pay for the hours actually worked, not the ones stuck on the wall. As a side benefit it doubles as a communication tool rather than relying on email.’ Rufus Grantham, The Hide, The Arbitrager and Demon, Wise and Partners, London

UNTAPPD
Free
What they say: ‘A mobile, web-based application that enables beer drinkers to share beers, beer-drinking establishments and feedback about beers with friends and other beer-drinking enthusiasts.’
How it works: Keep track of the beers you drink, adding images, ratings, tasting notes and check-ins. The app gives you information about the beer and suggests similar brews. Breweries can also use it to interact with drinkers directly, and analyse how their beers are performing – there are plans for venues to be able to do something similar, too.
What you say: ‘As a brewery it’s great to see people enjoying our beer all over the world. It can also be useful in ways you may not expect, [such as] getting an idea from people’s photographs what kind of condition our beer is being served in. The analytics functions are interesting, but are only one piece of a big picture. The “Top Wishlisted Beers” is always worth keeping an eye on [to know] what people are getting excited about.
‘Much of the engagement with Untappd is syndicated to Twitter, which can be a great way to add context to conversation about beers and bars – [it] will be happening with or without you, so it’s definitely worth listening to what’s going on.’ Andy Nowlan, Siren Craft Brew, Berkshire

SWIPII
£39-59 monthly subscription, £99 first month with iPad included
What they say: ‘Get your own unique and custom rewards programme. Engage digitally with your customers with email marketing campaigns.’
How it works: First, set up the loyalty rewards you want to offer. Swipii users can then scan their cards to collect rewards, while you track their visits and find ways to engage more directly, and effectively, with them.
What you say: ‘We took it up because it’s a loyalty app, not a discount app – it encourages people to come back. The great thing is that you can make your own incentives. For example, ours include facts about our producers, a private champagne tasting, or designing a hot dog that will go on the menu for a month. We can track people’s frequency of visits; then send out a mailer to those who’ve actually been to the restaurant, not just website sign-ups – we already know they’re interested.’ Sandia Chang, Bubbledogs, London

iFNB
£2.29
What they say: ‘Designed to account for the absolute profit value of every unit served, iFNB is versatile and timesaving, combining precision with simplicity, and aims to help those working in the industry sustain, and even improve, the profit margins necessary to the success of their business.’ Creator Ales Olasz adds: ‘It wasn’t meant to be only for F&B managers, but also bartenders. They can deliver great cocktails, but not many of them know how to charge for it so it can become a learning tool as well.’
How it works: Keep track of expiry dates, calculate the GP of cocktails by breaking down the various ingredients’ prices, split tips easily and figure out if brand deals are worth the money…
What we say: This basically does all the maths behind the bar for you, with especially strong focus on upping your profits on drinks, food, event menus and more. It’s really not too daunting to use, even for bartending-happy finance intolerants – but it’s not proper accounting software, so it’s better for one-off calculations than to manage your whole business.

QUDINI
From £80/month
What they say: The app ‘allows your busy restaurant to more easily manage customers requiring tables and to communicate with them via text message about when their table is ready. Improve your restaurant operation’s efficiency and table turnover speed’.
How it works: At the door, enter your customer’s details on the iPad on the waitlist app. They receive a confirmation text and keep track of their position in the queue. Track how long they’ve waited against the time you quoted, and text customers via the app when their table’s ready. You can also manage booking confirmations.
What you say: ‘Allowing customers to queue remotely has helped us turn tables more efficiently and offer a better overall standard of service. Customers love the system and much prefer going for a drink nearby to standing and waiting in a crowded restaurant.’ Chris Todd, The Diner Group, nationwide

VIRTUAL POUR
£1.49
What they say: Created by the Word Flair Association – bear with us – this is ‘an ingenious way [of] helping bartenders perfect their pouring skills’.
How it works: The practice round allows you to get to grips with the app, and choose what hand you’ll use and what metrics. The actual game comes in 10 levels with results collated into an international leader board to up the stakes.
What you say: ‘It’s a great tool to practice at home for junior bartenders looking to work on their “rhythm”. I wouldn’t say it’s perfect in comparison to the standard medium pour. But it’s bloody close. This is a must have!’
JJ Goodman, London Cocktail Club and Craft Cocktail Co, London

BAR PASS
Free app, fee/sale charge for venues
What they say: ‘Take payment out of the equation and let your staff focus on serving drinks and delivering great customer service.’
How it works: This can either be fully integrated to your existing EPOS system, or run in parallel on a dedicated iPad. Customers can order and pay from their seat, and you just have to take their orders over when it’s ready – or set it up for collection. Don’t worry about tips: the app can be set up to default to tipping.
What you say: ‘Bar Pass puts customers first by allowing them to get their drinks a little quicker. We’re currently using it for coffee service – the order goes directly through to the barista and bypasses the middle man. We’re looking forward to implementing it in our evening cocktail service; it will work well to make the espresso to order for our Espresso Martinis. I think this is a good app for the cocktail world: venues with table service where speed can be an issue. It probably would be less so in traditional clubs.’ Adam Wright, Grind & Co, London

POCKET WINE PAIRING
Free (£2.99 upgrade to access all content)
What they say: ‘[This app] gives you a detailed index of hundreds of meal types, showing you the best matches for different wine styles, grape varieties and blends.’
How it works: Pick the ingredient or dish you’re serving and get a short wine style guide to match it, with grape recommendations. There’s also a few dos and don’ts to remind you of the basics.
What we say: Not one for somms, as they’ll already know that inside out, but not a bad one to recommend to floor staff in pubs or bars that might be less focused on wine, but who still get the occasional food match query from customers.

PDT
£7.99
What they say: ‘Suitable for the seasoned professional and cocktail enthusiast alike, PDT Cocktails, the most sophisticated database of contemporary cocktails in the App Store, features PDT house creations, fine-tuned classics, and all the housemade ingredients the bar has developed since it opened.’
How it works: Straight from the minds (and menus) of the team at New York City bar PDT, this app by veteran cocktail bar app creator Martin Doudoroff compiles 400 cocktails with clear methods, images and the possibility to keep track of what ingredients you’ve got so you know what to make.
What we say: A great complement to the PDT Cocktail Book, this is a bit more straightforward so you can just get on with the drinks. A well of inspiration for inventive bartending.

VINOCELL
£7.99
What they say: ‘Manage your wine cellar and tasting notes like a pro.’ In your case, literally like a pro.
How it works: Organise all your wines with precise wine cards, sort your collection using 40 filters, create a digital version of your cellar or wine fridge to keep track of bottles’ locations, providers and sales, add your tasting notes…
What we say: Yes, it’s a bit pricey, and yes, it’ll take a while to enter all your wines – and even longer if you want to actually including all the details for each bottle – but it’s a handy way to keep track of all possible aspects revolving around your wine list in one clear, sleek app. Not the most practical to use during service, but worth a look.

MAKE YOUR OWN
How it works: Glasgow-based Kained Holdings is working with start-up Newark & Lyle to create a unique app for the group, pulling together all of its bookings, galleries, social feeds, menus, loyalty schemes and vouchers – along with push notifications to message anyone within 10 miles of the venues.
What you say: ‘We don’t use any apps for the business at the moment, however, we have identified the need to develop apps for each of our units […] in order to bring our businesses into what is the next stage of evolution online. With ever-increasing costs in marketing and advertising, having an app for us means that for a very reasonable cost, we can communicate with our patrons in a unique way.’ Graham Suttle, Kained Holdings, Scotland

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