Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Ask Slashdot: How To Run a Small Business With Open Source Software?

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the with-nothing-but-emacs-extensions dept.

Businesses 195

First time accepted submitter ahree writes "I'm starting up a restaurant with my wife and a few friends and, well, I'd like to support the OS community and hope that this is a way to do it. Simply put, we need to take care of bookkeeping, accounting & payroll and I'd rather not use QuickBooks. I've heard of some options that are open source (GnuCash), some that are cheaper & simpler (WaveAccounting), but I'm wondering what your experience with them (and others) has been like."

cancel ×

195 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Pay for it (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40957639)

The best way to support the Open Source community is to contribute; not just to get free software.

Re:Pay for it (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40958129)

Yes, because when I open an carpetcleaning shop, the first priority is to develop an open source accounting package for me to use.

Re:Pay for it (2)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#40959077)

Why would you build it from scratch, as opposed to using an existing solution and just paying for installation, support, etc?

Re:Pay for it (4, Informative)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#40959233)

I may be biased, but I have to agree.

I work for a FOSS based software company; we charge for installation, support, training and custom development of a GPL licensed ERP solution.

Our clients get a much cheaper solution and we contribute back to the platform (bug fixes, new FOSS modules, etc).

I won't plug my company, and the restaurant is probably not based on our country anyway, but I'd consider this approach.

lots of options (4, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#40957645)

I would say most small businesses I know actually don't use any specific financial software, but do everything in a spreadsheet package. Excel rules the small-business world in a lot more ways than you might expect. You can probably do most similar things in LibreOffice. Now whether this is a good idea varies. The con is that you can end up with a sprawling spreadsheet-and-macros mess, but the pro is some flexibility in doing complex things, and simplicity in doing easy things.

GnuCash is not a bad option either, but it works best if your processes map on cleanly to one of its default processes. It does standard double-entry bookkeeping just fine. Its documentation is pretty good, also. But if you want to be doing significant scripting or customized report-generation, I find spreadsheets easier than dealing with GnuCash scripting+reports.

Depends on what kind of business to some extent. For example, if you need to interface with shopping-cart software or something of that sort, you may have more specific requirements.

Re:lots of options (3, Informative)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 2 years ago | (#40957871)

The main problem with spreadsheets isn't that they aren't flexible; it's about time optimization. Accounting packages like QuickBooks are built for businesses so their automated functions like printing an invoice are streamlined. Not that you can't do that with LibreOffice but setting it up and maintaining it is just additional time. So either pay the extra for QuickBooks or spend XX amount of time printing an invoice. Some business owners only see cost in terms of money and not time.

Re:lots of options (5, Informative)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958031)

I love open source software, and try to use it myself whenever possible...where it fits and is the best tool for the job.

However, on business financials....do NOT skimp on this. You need to track costs, billing, etc.....this is especially true at EOY when having to deal with your CPA, and the IRS. It is tough enough to have to deal with the myriad of laws and regulations the state and feds put on small businesses, go with something that is set up to help you out and accurately track finances, payroll, etc.

I'd recommend going with Quickbooks. It is almost a 'standard'...which makes it easily portable between you and your CPA.

Don't cheap out....get a good CPA to help keep you honest on your taxes....a good one will help you squeeze out every penny to keep for yourself legally, while being conservative enough to keep you off the IRS' radar.

This is business...and $200-$300 invested on this....will help you out in the long run...and hey, you can write the QB purchase off on your taxes.

Re:lots of options (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40958265)

Nowhere did they say they wanted to "cheap out" or "skimp out". They didn't say they weren't willing to pay money. They said they wanted to support the OSS community.
If you honestly thing that Quickbooks is going to do a better job at handling the requirements for any small business than any OSS accounting software plus $300 of customization would do - that's fine. I'm sure there's plenty of people who would agree with you. But don't pretend this is about money.

Re:lots of options (3, Interesting)

flappinbooger (574405) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958809)

Don't cheap out....get a good CPA to help keep you honest on your taxes....a good one will help you squeeze out every penny to keep for yourself legally, while being conservative enough to keep you off the IRS' radar.

This is business...and $200-$300 invested on this....will help you out in the long run...and hey, you can write the QB purchase off on your taxes.

I'll second this. Get quickbooks. Put it in a VM and do everything else in Linux if you want to. X2 on the accountant that will back you in an audit.

I have NEVER EVER seen any small business use anything other than quickbooks.

When you get QB back that shizzle up. Keep track of your QBW file(s). Have the default file location in Dropbox or something.

Don't update it right away either if it is working. I have seen updates break stuff beyond belief.

You can get a free version of QB as well, it is limited. I think it's called simple start. Not that you're looking for free.

I've tried GnuCash and the other Open Source financials. I couldn't make heads or tails out of it. I tried QB and that is what I use, and it is very intuitive and powerful (pun not intended). I don't know about the "Wave" online free accounting SW but it looks interesting.

Don't take any chances and mess around with the IRS, they will bust your kneecaps quicker than the local mob shaking you down for protection money - especially now that their take is down due to less economic activity.

You are in business to make money. QB helps you track your money and will SAVE YOU TIME. Owning a small business especially in FoodService is terribly time consuming. You don't want to spend hours DINKING AROUND trying to figure out some open source money software that was created with the sole purpose of making a money program and not with the purpose of tracking money.

Re:lots of options (1)

behindthewall (231520) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958893)

If Quickbooks is running in a VM, you can take snapshots of the VM and also back the whole VM up.

Although I would additionally back up the Quickbooks data itself, in a "normal", stand-alone format.

With both kinds of backup (and copies stored off-site), it will be very difficult for "the dog to eat your homework".

Re:lots of options (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958913)

I know the use of cloud services flies like a lead balloon around here, but if you're considering windows in a VM to run quickbooks, he should know that QuickBooks is available as an online service now.

Obviously security should be a concern here. However, it's worth noting that Intuit has been handling online tax prep and various data from standalone QuickBooks over the internet for a good long time. It's probably at least as safe as storing a local DB in a Dropbox folder, anyway. So that's an option if you're comfortable with the idea.

Re:lots of options (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 2 years ago | (#40959001)

Why in the hell would you trust your QB to dropbox when they need to setup a proper offsite backup anyways?

Re:lots of options (1)

flappinbooger (574405) | more than 2 years ago | (#40959111)

Why in the hell would you trust your QB to dropbox when they need to setup a proper offsite backup anyways?

Well, technically, drop box is off site... and then, the other computers the person has such as at home, that has drop box, will then get the copy of the qbw file. Again, off site.

Look man, I understand "Cloud" stuff is suspect around here. They can always implement some other backup scheme as well.

But for real, how reliable is DB anyway? What percentage of people's stuff have they lost? How often are they down? How many people's private data have they violated? How long have they been around? How popular are they?

What percentage of likelihood is it that a physical offsite backup scheme fails? Compare that with the likelihood that Dropbox will up and lose all of someone's stuff? Which is better odds?

What is the chance that DB loses someone's stuff and the 2 or 3 other PC's that a person uses that ALSO has their stuff on it, such as the QBW file we're talking about, ALSO fail, and the ORIGINAL at the restaurant is lost?

If that kind of scenario happens we're probably looking at the end of the world anyway.

Re:lots of options (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40959355)

Why in the hell would you trust your QB to dropbox when they need to setup a proper offsite backup anyways?

lol, I wonder what percentage of small businesses have "proper offsite backup". In my experience, even if they go through the motions, the part-time "IT guy" never bothered to verify the backups and they can never recover from a server crash.

Re:lots of options (3, Interesting)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958157)

A spreadsheet is asking for problems if you ever get audited.

To the OP, a couple things are missing from your request. What do you want to track? Do you want your solution to help with running the business, or just maintaining records? How are you going to do payroll? Are there any regulatory issues you need to address (sales tax, liquor laws, etc.)?

I hate Quick Books. Our small business used it for five years, and only last year switched to an industry-specific ERP system. The new system requires 50-100% more work to maintain, is completely inflexible, and cost over $50k to get implemented. It is a huge improvement. (I have to keep telling myself that, in hopes I will really believe it some day.) The improvement it made was that timesheets were now integrated into project accounting, so we had better profit visibility at a project level. Unfortunately, far too much of the workflow still ends up being pivot tables in Excel.

My advice would to be to keep things simple as you start out, and avoid lock-in. A small business generally has more time than money, so inefficient workflows aren't a huge problem. Don't get a POS until you have made enough profit to pay for it. Break down and get QuickBooks, but don't integrate your workflow with it; it makes switching harder.

Re:lots of options (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958965)

The businessmen I know doing all-Excel (and in one case, all-Lotus!) tend to be older, but afaict they haven't had any troubles with audits. They just have their stuff configured to print out hardcopy records that look the same way they'd look if you did everything by hand in the traditional way, e.g. reams of monthly double-entry ledgers, and store them in a fire-proof filing cabinet. Then if they get audited, the paper records are what they show as the canonical documentation.

Re:lots of options (1)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | more than 2 years ago | (#40959053)

If you do it right, no problems. Most people don't from my experience.

My first thought (4, Insightful)

Cute Fuzzy Bunny (2234232) | more than 2 years ago | (#40957653)

My first thought is that opening a restaurant is one of the hardest things in the world to do. If going open source helps lighten your load or costs in a significant manner and makes the restaurant launch more likely to succeed, then swell.

If however its going to be a case where you cant get support, stuff doesn't work, and nobody is available to help bail you out when fixing your software isn't in the top 50 on your priority list...

Re:My first thought (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 2 years ago | (#40957691)

Yeah, unless you're able to actually devote time to fixing issues within the code its too risky to actually do accounting yourself. I do it myself, but that's do to the specific requirements I have that most people do not have.

Re:My first thought (3, Interesting)

Cute Fuzzy Bunny (2234232) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958111)

Yeah, unless you're able to actually devote time to fixing issues within the code its too risky to actually do accounting yourself. I do it myself, but that's do to the specific requirements I have that most people do not have.

I still wouldn't do it, unless his partners are also fluent in the open source package, what he's done with it, and how everything works.

Hit by a bus, etc, etc. You can get on the phone and get a quickbooks or peachtree expert to your business by later the same day to sort out your inventory and payroll when the techie has a heart attack and nobody else knows what the hell is going on.

While I've never owned a restaurant, I've watched enough Restaurant Impossible to realize that most people starting and running restaurants cant sort out food and service issues, let alone fix a broken application...

Re:My first thought (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40958137)

Yeah, unless you're able to actually devote time to fixing issues within the code its too risky to actually do accounting yourself.

What a load of crap.

I set up Floreant POS and Gnucash for a local Cafe a couple of years ago with the help of their accountant. They've had fer fewer problems than most people with commercial products.

The hard bit is finding a decent accountant, not working with the software.

Re:My first thought (5, Informative)

Shoten (260439) | more than 2 years ago | (#40957717)

My first thought is that opening a restaurant is one of the hardest things in the world to do. If going open source helps lighten your load or costs in a significant manner and makes the restaurant launch more likely to succeed, then swell.

If however its going to be a case where you cant get support, stuff doesn't work, and nobody is available to help bail you out when fixing your software isn't in the top 50 on your priority list...

This is excellent advice, and I would add a bit more to it. Are you looking at Open Source because you're a Linux guru who is used to managing such types of systems, or because you want to save the money that you'd otherwise spend on QuickBooks and Windows licenses? If it's the first, then also consider how much time you'll have to be the sysadmin on top of your other non-IT duties there. If it's the second, then forget OSS. You'll save less than a thousand dollars, in exchange for which you'll have another learning curve thrown at you while trying to open your first restaurant. Restaurants have, as I recall, an 80-90% failure rate in the first year; don't give yourself more to have to deal with to save a tiny bit of money. Your IT infrastructure won't be large, but it MUST be functional and reliable.

Re:My first thought (1)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958185)

I believe getting a Micros system installed is on the order of $30k for a small restaurant. There are open source POS systems, but you aren't going to save half that money with it when all is said and done.

Re:My first thought (1)

Shoten (260439) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958461)

I believe getting a Micros system installed is on the order of $30k for a small restaurant. There are open source POS systems, but you aren't going to save half that money with it when all is said and done.

Exactly my thought...and the POS is the most important IT asset there. The OP referenced alternatives to QuickBooks, however, so I suspected that he was only looking to replace that kind of system. That's the other half of the POS/financial accounting system that is absolutely crucial to keeping employees paid, spotting fraud, and managing costs. (Cost management failure is the number one cause of restaurants going out of business.) If the POS fails, then the ability to take in money (especially via non-cash means) is severely compromised or eliminated, and managing orders becomes a nightmare (or impossible, if nobody working there has ever done it manually before and knows how it should work). Conversely, if the financial accounting system fails, then the restaurant is flying blind.

Re:My first thought (1)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958491)

open source POS systems

I wouldn't count on the whole /. readership to know about Point Of Sale... You do know what other phrase this initialism stands for.

Re:My first thought (4, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | more than 2 years ago | (#40957765)

Priority and IT time should be getting a good, stable, efficient, reliable POS system in place, that has the reporting req'd for the business to function, with good vendor-supported integrations into the accounting system, and fair due dilligence there.

As for accounting.... use what the Accountants are comfortable with; don't try to shoehorn your organization into an open source solution, if it's not appropriate, when the good open source solutions are hard to find or have poor online integrations or restaurant/ line-of-business-specific addons/plugins due to proprietary QB-specific services, banking protocols, and document formats.

An accounting package might not even be the cost-effective answer there; the answer may even be BPaaS, outsourced Accounting as a Service, or a SaaS accounting application.

The main thing is ensuring the management can focus on making the restaurant successful and profitable; they need reports and accounting for decision making and to do that effectively, but otherwise, accounting is a royal pain.

Re:My first thought (2)

Jawnn (445279) | more than 2 years ago | (#40957965)

I third that. Use QuickBooks, or PeachTree, or whatever well supported package strikes your fancy and meets your needs. I am a big proponent of using open source software, but this is one area where the gulf between FOSS and commercial is large. Given the stakes, and that making an open source bookkeeping package is neither your core competency nor something that will earn money for your business, why waste your valuable time on it? Go to Costco, buy a copy of QuickBooks and don't look back.

It doesn't matter (0, Troll)

Kohath (38547) | more than 2 years ago | (#40957657)

You didn't build that.

No matter what you do, you owe your success to the government because you drove or traveled on a road once. If you make any money, the government has first claim to all of it.

Think Ahead (5, Insightful)

clinko (232501) | more than 2 years ago | (#40957663)

Advice on Restaurant Ownership... It's going to be tough, long, and either the wife or friends won't be a wife or friend by the end.

Consider the future, you or someone will bow out. Accountants and/or Lawyers will be involved and they don't know GnuAnything. They know QuickBooks.

You may sell your restaurant as a group, the buyer will likely want to see the accounts in QuickBooks.

You may be successful! congrats! you can now hire an accountant, they'll want QuickBooks.

In short, pool the wife & friend's money, pay the minor entry-fee for QuickBooks and save yourself the time (which you'll need the most now).

Good luck!

Re:Think Ahead (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958455)

Vendor lock-in's great, if you're the vendor.

Re:Think Ahead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40958567)

Yes, and so is having working tools that tons of people are familiar with.

Re:Think Ahead (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40959065)

Advice on Restaurant Ownership... It's going to be tough, long, and either the wife or friends won't be a wife or friend by the end.

So hire hot waitresses.

Been there.

Done them.

SQL Ledger (4, Informative)

colenski (552404) | more than 2 years ago | (#40957677)

http://www.sql-ledger.com/ [sql-ledger.com] ugly as sin but it does *everything* and it's reliable. Good community support.

Re:SQL Ledger (5, Interesting)

6031769 (829845) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958321)

Or try the less cathedral-like approach of LedgerSMB [ledgersmb.org] which was forked from SQL-Ledger a few years ago. We moved then and haven't looked back.

My experience with libreoffice spreadsheet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40957697)

Not completely related. Recently I switched to ubuntu at work for the sake of convenience (everyone else uses ubuntu). My experience with libreoffice spreadsheet is that it's really good. The interface is not as pretty as Excel sure, but its got all the functions that you would expect from a powerful spreadsheeting tool including pivots and advanced graphs.

Where it does fall short is there are no VB macros. That, however, doesn't matter to me, and probably won't make a difference to you.

A word of advice before committing to GnuCash, and really any FOSS software: get a feel of how active the users and (if possible) the developer community is. If there are a lot of people using and developing it, chances are your usecase is already taken care of. Also, the best test is actually trying it out in day to day work for a month.

Best of luck!

Re:My experience with libreoffice spreadsheet (1)

Cute Fuzzy Bunny (2234232) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958149)

My experience with libreoffice spreadsheet is that it's really good.

My experience with libre office spreadsheet wasn't as good as yours. Granted it was about a month ago that I dug into it but I had problems just loading a big set of data and doing sorts and conditional selection. It simply didn't work properly, giving me incorrect results on both sorts and selections. I was kind of surprised. Been a while since I used excel but I've been face deep in spreadsheets since visicalc on the apple ii, so I don't think it was me.

My experience with linux is that its better than it was a million years ago, but 98% of the time when I install it, I have to edit text files, download obscure drivers, and one or two things never works. If you ask the 'community support' a question, they harass you and ask you to read 10,000 pages of stuff in the hopes of finding it on your own. Meh, I think I'll just reinstall windows and move on with my life.

Hell, I've had easier times hackintoshing a box than installing ubuntu on it and having everything work.

Re:My experience with libreoffice spreadsheet (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958583)

" It simply didn't work properly, giving me incorrect results on both sorts and selections. I was kind of surprised. Been a while since I used excel but I've been face deep in spreadsheets since visicalc on the apple ii, so I don't think it was me."

I think it was you. I've been using Open Office (and now Libre Office, since Oracle's acquisition) for around 10 years, and other than a few exotic formatting issues, I've been able to read in large and VERY complex spreadsheets from Excel and use them natively. I have never encountered the kind of problems you are describing.

Re:My experience with libreoffice spreadsheet (1)

Cute Fuzzy Bunny (2234232) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958967)

" It simply didn't work properly, giving me incorrect results on both sorts and selections. I was kind of surprised. Been a while since I used excel but I've been face deep in spreadsheets since visicalc on the apple ii, so I don't think it was me."

I think it was you. I've been using Open Office (and now Libre Office, since Oracle's acquisition) for around 10 years, and other than a few exotic formatting issues, I've been able to read in large and VERY complex spreadsheets from Excel and use them natively. I have never encountered the kind of problems you are describing.

It wasn't me. I was doing some fairly elaborate filter selection and sorting and it just simply didn't work. Items that fit my criteria were excluded and items that didn't were included, the sort didn't work reliably on the filtered/selected data either. I also set multiple filter points and that just simply didn't work at all. I broke out an old copy of microsoft office and did basically the same thing and got the right results.

But like I said, this was about a month ago, maybe two...and I know libreoffice had a lot of funky bugs as its rolled out. Perhaps I had a bad build with a bug they fixed a week later. But I had no confidence in the product after that. Used OpenOffice for many years without trouble, but never tried any sophisticated spreadsheet stuff.

Re:My experience with libreoffice spreadsheet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40959369)

I feel for you! Linux and open source software isn't for everyone. It's what I use, and what I've been using for the last twenty years or so, but I don't trust software I can't get elbows deep into. But that's just me. In any case, if you're trying to start a business, software issues should not be your main concern. If you're not already comfortable with open source stuff then don't go there. On the other hand, if you have lots of experience with the open stuff the same way you've been driving a car for the last ten years (it's pretty much automatic) then gnucash or libre office will not be a problem.

Risky Investments (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40957725)

"I'm starting up a restaurant with my wife and a few friends

I don't know if it's wise to risk your investment in your restaurant for the sake of supporting the OS community. When I recommend software, open source or otherwise, I always suggest the very best software available to do the task at hand. It sounds like you are looking for a shortcut and that never pays off.

Here are the steps you should be following:

1) Find best software
2) Is it open source? Then support the product. If not, then buy a license.
3) PROFIT$

Re:Risky Investments (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958329)

Add to that: you don't support open source software by using it, you support it by contributing. If you're using it, then that's easy because you can file bug reports. If you're not, the simplest contributions you can make are either donate some money towards development or create a detailed set of requirements that explain why you're not using it. What does the proprietary program that you end up using do that the open source alternative doesn't (or doesn't do as well) that you need? If you can identify the missing features, that's valuable. If you're also willing to contribute to a fund to improve a project, then that's even better. Open source may or may not be the best choice now, but maybe you can help it become the best choice...

Re:Risky Investments (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958379)

Quickbooks isn't free though, and a business should save money wherever possible. There's also the additional cost of a Windows license, and, possibly, BSA audits - a group you can tell to take a hike if you don't use any of their software.

The savings here aren't going to be huge, but the little things do add up. If there is a FOSS solution that's adequate to the needs of the business then it makes sense to use it.

Re:Risky Investments (1)

Cute Fuzzy Bunny (2234232) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958929)

Deciding to avoid a few hundred or thousand dollars on a core system during a restaurant launch that usually runs in six figures seems to be a bit of a myopic focus. If three grand sinks the launch, they shouldn't open. They don't have enough money.

Contact Restaurant Impossible (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40957729)

Contact Restaurant Impossible because you are putting focus on open source software to save a few hundred dollars when customer focus, a great menu, and marketing is what you need now.

Re:Contact Restaurant Impossible (1)

Cute Fuzzy Bunny (2234232) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958195)

Contact Restaurant Impossible because you are putting focus on open source software to save a few hundred dollars when customer focus, a great menu, and marketing is what you need now.

DING DING DING, we have a winner.

Really enjoyed that last episode where they ran the place to 500k in debt in 5 years, and swore they were making money on their catering business that was keeping the restaurant open. But nobody ever did the food costs and profit margins, and when Robert did they were losing over $100k a year on the catering business, and also losing money on the restaurant.

A number of selections (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40957807)

This site gives you links to a number of FOSS accounting solutions: http://www.smallbusinesscomputing.com/biztools/5-best-open-source-accounting-software-for-small-business-.html

Myself, I use GnuCash for my consulting business. Works well for me. Restaurants are another kettle of fish (sic) entirely, so look at what the capabilities of each package is with respect to your needs as a restaurateur.

Priorities (4, Insightful)

dokebi (624663) | more than 2 years ago | (#40957821)

First of all, I've been using GnuCash for my personal finances for 10 years now, and I'm very happy with it. It taught me double entry book keeping, and basic accounting concepts that I found useful in other situations.

Having said that, I would not recommend GnuCash for your business because:
1. You will need to share your data with your accountant, and they understand QuickBooks or PeachTree only.
2. GnuCash's business functions (invoicing, inventory, paychecks for your employees, loans, etc) are woefully inadequate.
3. GnuCash's reporting functions are inadequate.

I would say go with PeachTree, and support open source software in some other way (say donating some of your profits).

Good luck

Re:Priorities (1)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958343)

Having said that, I would not recommend GnuCash for your business because:
1. You will need to share your data with your accountant, and they understand QuickBooks or PeachTree only.

Aside from anything else, I think this comment is probably overly harsh but does have a useful nugget in it: make sure you're hiring people who are happy with your open source choices.

An accountant is only an employee. If you want to use GnuCash, then it's not unreasonable that your accountant should accommodate it- but it will probably mean shopping around for an accountant who either has previous experience or is tech savvy and open to using a new tool.

Same goes for the rest of your support network. It's not unreasonable that this guy might source his hardware and software from a local computer shop, maybe even pay them a retainer to be his "tech support". If that's the case, he can demand any crazy software and hardware combinations he likes- but it's worth shopping around for an IT shop that's willing to support you, rather than an entrenched MS shop.

Re:Priorities (1)

westyvw (653833) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958769)

Share your data with an accountant. If I have quick books, what heck does my accountant actually do then? Accountants are such a scam. As a small business owner who hates quickbooks, I found some one to do my accounting that did not require me to do any additional work, you know, like accounting.

Re:Priorities (2)

dokebi (624663) | more than 2 years ago | (#40959303)

There is general misunderstanding of what "accounting" means.

There are three things involved in accounting:
1. Book keeping - keeping track of your expenses, inventory, invoicing, cash flow, and other data.
2. Business accounting - using #1 above to generate reports that give insight into how well the business is running, plan for growth, reduce waste, etc.
3. Tax accounting - Using #1 and #2 to calculate how much you owe in taxes, and how much tax credits are due.

Many businesses are small enough that they can't (or won't) pay someone to do #1 and #2, and chooses to use a software or spreadsheets.

the same way (1)

heracross (2706015) | more than 2 years ago | (#40957833)

the same way you do with closed source software, having a good business model, product ideas and customer base is important. Software is just software

An advice if it doesn't work : complain (2)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 2 years ago | (#40957879)

If the OSS software you find is inadequate or if some features are missing, consider complaining (politely) to the appropriate mailing list or forum. User experiences is a very important information for software developers and most will welcome your insights. Even if you end up giving up on OSS, please send an email to the dev of the solution saying "well, I gave up on your software because I can't easily separate weekday sales and weekend sales". It can really help improve the overall quality.

Re:An advice if it doesn't work : complain (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#40959277)

Or, hang with me, have you consider helping them instead of bitching because the software they're gifting you doesn't work like you need it to?

And no, you don't need to be a programmer, just use a small portion of the money you'd be paying the proprietary vendor if the FOSS solution didn't exist.

Alternatives (4, Informative)

LordThyGod (1465887) | more than 2 years ago | (#40957915)

I've been involved in the bookkeeping end of several small businesses. My suggestions .... as to payroll, do not do this in house. Its a PITA, and you will wind up either making mistakes you will come to regret, or spend more time on it that you might be able to use more wisely somewhere else. Keeping up with local tax districts, who lives where, when the govt(s) (assuming you are US) decide to make some subtle change to tax regulations. Penny wise, pound foolish to do this in house for most small businesses. As to basic accounting and booking, I am not aware of anything that does the sheer number of things that QuickBooks can do, or as well. But I haven't tried everything. This sounds to me like the kind of thing that is hard for free / open source projects to compete with. Maybe your needs are very simple? I would suggest some of the SaS products like FreshBooks. These may not meet your critieria of open source projects per se, but many of these have open API's which is a step in the right direction. Also, these are likely built with open source projects, eg Apache, Ruby, PHP, MySQL, Python and so on, so there is some second hand support of open source that way. They also free you from the local installation situation, and can be accessed via mobile or remote locations (ie work from home), with zero hassle. I have used FreshBooks for accts receivable situations, and found it very nice. Compared to QuickBooks, I would opt for FreshBooks for billing and invoicing easily. I have not looked at with acct payables or general ledger in mind though.

Your time vs principles (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#40957931)

Whats your time worth to you? Customers are not paying you to play with software. THey are paying you to get a job done. You need to be a dick to yourself if you want to successful as customers only care about what you can do and nothing else. If Quickbooks works pay for it. Use a spreadsheet in LibreOffice if it is small and just need to keep track of a few assets and expenses.

Remember you are not being paid to be an idealist. You are paid to produce. If you want to spend extra time with a FOSS go for it. To me quickbooks is a great product for a small company as it means you work a ton of hours as it is right now. If you can come home at a reasonable hour then its worth it.

As others pointed you have no idea how the other solutions will work when you have a deadline to pay those bills. Quickbooks has support.

Re:Your time vs principles (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958051)

Disregard. I read the post in more detail and a restaurant has specific needs

Just bite the bullet (1)

Chris Deckard (138) | more than 2 years ago | (#40957953)

As someone who has used Linux for 15+ years and who has run a small business, there is nothing out there that can match what QuickBooks will do for your business. It is a time saver and has capability beyond what any open source package has. I understand your fundamental want to use OSS, but honestly, you pick the right tool for the business. Maybe GnuCash will work for you, but QuickBooks will work so much better. It's probably the best $200 I ever spent on my business.

try also KMyMoney (1)

jaromil (104349) | more than 2 years ago | (#40957957)

on KDE there is this pretty good open source alternative to gnu-cash
I find it more intuitive
http://kmymoney2.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]
also make sure your bank's ledgers export is supported by some of the plugins in AQbanking

POS edition of Quickbooks (2)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958021)

Get quickbooks POS edition [intuitpayments.com] .

I watch Restaurant Impossible on the foodnetwork and the first mistake any struggling restaurant makes is not knowing costs, revenue, and profit per item. The second is poor food quality.

A POS system with a restaurant add-on will keep track of EVERYTHING. It does so automatically as long as you put the costs in your waitress will print the bill and all this information is updated automatically. Free software? Come on you have a business to run and need to know numbers.

Customers are paying you for a service. Not for you to play with FOSS and the better you know what you are doing right and where you are messing up and spending too much time the better your company performs. If you have extra time I would highly recommend a finance and accounting class 101. You will learn a ton and your accountant would appreciate it. You can have the most awesome food in the world yet go broke otherwise! It does happen as many restaurants spend half their time in catering and not know the costs lose money every month thinking they are getting rich from the revenues of it, yet not knowing the profits. If you do not know the difference between a revenue and a profit then another reason to use quickbooks to handle it though your cash registers and take a finance 101.

Re:POS edition of Quickbooks (1)

Cute Fuzzy Bunny (2234232) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958235)

I watch Restaurant Impossible on the foodnetwork and the first mistake any struggling restaurant makes is not knowing costs, revenue, and profit per item. The second is poor food quality.

Don't forget 10+ year old decor, bugs and mice in the kitchen, unclean facilities, mismatched furniture, menu's with 5000 items, stupidly poor locations, apathetic owners, etc.

LedgerSMB (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40958025)

LedgerSMB seems comprehensive enough to examin. And has active development suport. Might be worth alook.

Ask your accountant: and don't bother (1)

mveloso (325617) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958037)

When you do your numbers at the end of the year with your accountant, they'll be like "WTF is this piece of shit accounting package you used? It'll take me a month to have someone re-enter all this info into Quickbooks, and I'll charge you $20/hr for it."

Don't bother. Do you really want to take the chance that some developer did your payroll tax calculations correctly -and- updated the forms that you needed for the latest tax year? Do you really want to be the one that finds the bug in the quarterly payroll tax submission code?

You're already going to be in a tough spot opening your business. Debugging your accounting software is something you should leave to professionals.

Nice idea, but realistically impossible... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40958063)

Running completely OSS is a nice idea, but realistically, it is impossible:

1: Quickbooks or Peachtree -- there are no solutions that even approach their flexibility, and one is better off spending time doing business stuff than trying to get a tool which doesn't work going.

2: Exchange. I'm sorry, but there is nothing else out there. You HAVE to have Exchange/Outlook because clients want dedicated send/receive connectors oftentimes (a lot of clients use homegrown root certs so a hacked CA in Elbonia can't cause E-mail to be divulged.) Exchange isn't great, but the rule of thumb is "you use Exchange in your business, or else you don't have a business."

3: Office. Almost all office suites are "99%" compatible with Word. However the small formatting differences can utterly destroy critical document formatting. Office is a must in the real world. Same with Excel.

4: Acrobat. Businesses live and die by document archiving, and it is critical to have stuff put into a PDF format, preferably PDF/A since any reader can use it.

So, OSS is a nice idea, but realistically, you cannot run a true business on it, period.

Re:Nice idea, but realistically impossible... (1)

dskoll (99328) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958463)

So, OSS is a nice idea, but realistically, you cannot run a true business on it, period.

Hmm. I guess my 13-year-old small software company is not a true business, then.

We run entirely on OSS. Asterisk for our phones, SugarCRM for CRM and Ledger-SMB for accounting. Linux on the desktop for everyone, including non-technical staff.

That being said: Accounting is the weak point. We outsource payroll, and when it comes time to file taxes, I give a couple of boxes of paper to my accountant and he does his magic with whatever proprietary software he likes.

I have a slide deck [roaringpenguin.com] about our software infrastructure, mostly concentrating on Asterisk but also mentioning the other software we use.

Re:Nice idea, but realistically impossible... (0)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958479)

Sad but true, +1 insightful please.

Those idealists who think open source is a godsend have sadly not realized that commercial proprietary software has already entrenched itself in the market and is quite willing to fight dirty to keep it that way.

Re:Nice idea, but realistically impossible... (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#40959293)

Not true, and my salary proves it.

Re:Nice idea, but realistically impossible... (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958489)

The only thing valid in your screed is Quickbooks and that's because it's considered an industry standard for accounts. Your account is likely to require Quickbooks. That requirement is really out of your hands.

The rest is just stupid FUD cliches.

Acrobat just for exporting to PDF? Really...

Re:Nice idea, but realistically impossible... (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958537)

2: Exchange. I'm sorry, but there is nothing else out there. You HAVE to have Exchange/Outlook because clients want dedicated send/receive connectors oftentimes (a lot of clients use homegrown root certs so a hacked CA in Elbonia can't cause E-mail to be divulged.) Exchange isn't great, but the rule of thumb is "you use Exchange in your business, or else you don't have a business."

You should open your eyes and look around if you think Exchange is the only mail/calendaring solution out there. I'm not sure why a hacked CA in Elbonia can cause email to be divulged but having my own CA will prevent that - is a small business owner really going to install his own trusted certs on every computer and device that accesses his exchange server, or is he just going to tell employees "Ignore certificate warnings when you check email since I'm using self-signed certs".

I moved a 500 person company to Zimbra with great success -- saved a significant amount of money on licensing and it was more reliable than their old Exchange server. Many enterprises have migrated to Google Apps - Genentech has 13,000 employees on that platform.

If I were starting a small business, I'd definitely use something like Google Apps for email and calendaring, plus it can handle just about all of the word processing and spreadsheets that a small business needs while letting employees have full access from home or work.

But for accounting software, I'd go with commercial software that my accountant is familiar with.

Re:Nice idea, but realistically impossible... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40958825)

2: Exchange.

The LAST thing most small businesses should be doing is running their own fucking mailserver. Serious waste of fucking time and huge liability when it inevitably goes down/gets hacked/gets blacklisted. Run Exchange if you'd like, but outsource the fucking thing. (Oh and smartphone support will likely be more important than the Outhouse client.)

software, who needs it? (1)

cmdr_tofu (826352) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958069)

Accounting software that someone else has written just gets in the way and will never meet your needs exactly. Just use vim, and perl to do your accounting. If you need to print a check, write a postscript file and | to lp. If your accountant doesn't like it, give them an O'Reilly book.

In all seriousness, that's what I'll probably do someday. However like everyone else says, that might be unwise. Might be smarter to wait until your restaurant has been running for a few years. Right now you can use Linux on a WRT54g to run your free restaurant wifi (or maybe implement a netreg system), and a fileserver for your backups (which I hope are going to be synced offsite), and also a webserver so people can read your menu and maybe even place takeout/delivery orders online.

Re:software, who needs it? (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958201)

and also a webserver so people can read your menu and maybe even place takeout/delivery orders online.

If you take online orders, it would be a better move to get the web site hosted professionally in a HA datacenter, where reliability can be assured to a higher degree, for this business-critical application, with a telephone, serial, or pager-based backup for order data transfer in case your internet connection goes down, so you don't lose orders, and remember losing orders = losing $$$.

It doesn't have to be all or nothing (1)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958079)

You can keep a Windows box around for specific tasks while running the bulk of your system on open source.

I run the bulk of my current business on Ubuntu, but keep a Windows box around for my one client that wants to use Word and some other Windows only software.

Re:It doesn't have to be all or nothing (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958533)

"I run the bulk of my current business on Ubuntu, but keep a Windows box around for my one client that wants to use Word and some other Windows only software."

You should get your hands on some pre-made WineBottles, run those few programs in Ubuntu under Wine, and just ditch the Windows box. It's an added expense that you don't need at all.

"I'd like to support the OS community"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40958093)

It does not sound like you are planning to contribute changes to the mentioned programs or sponsor developments for your use case financially, so it does not look like you are actually planning to support the "OS community" rather than rely on them. If you are not saving money worth the time you are likely to spend for making this work for you, it will be a net loss for you while not actually supporting anything or anybody.

So put off your rose-tinted glasses and do the evaluation. If the Open Source solutions fall short, can you provide yourself what it takes to make them meet the line, and contribute that back? If not, you are doing nobody a favor by pretending otherwise.

Re:"I'd like to support the OS community"? (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958255)

Right... the best way to contribute for such an application is to contribute information about what they lack. Or build your restaurant, and then donate, once you are financially successful. I say wait until you are financially successful, so you will have more $$$ you can donate to OSS projects.

Whereas right now every $$$ of investment should be spent and every minute of your time should be planned to be spent as efficiently as possible to start the restaurant and make it profitable, not for the purpose of helping others benefit immediately through greater use of OSS software.

Tackle the harder problem. If you say you want to start a successful restaurant using open source software, instead of doing what's obvious or simplest, now you have two problems, which is a MUCH harder/more unpleasant situation

With regards to business... "Keep it simple, stupid, and think it through."

There are well-known solutions that work well, and other restaurants know about, follow best proven practices.

the best advice here is not use gnu (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40958127)

the best advice here is not use gnu. see, when shit turns real, we never use gnu, oss etc. its ok for passion and all, but don't put your hard earned pennies there unless it is for hobby and fun.

important lesson learned.

Yeah, Mr Ballmer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40959201)

..would certainly vouch for that. Except that billion-dollar enterprises like Deutsche Börse/Eurex, Google, Facebook, CERN would not touch Windows in the server room with the proverbial ten-foot-pole. They are all already on Linux or transitioning to it. Not from Windows, but from Solaris and VMS.

Software for a small business (3, Informative)

blackC0pter (1013737) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958171)

Productivity:
--Ubuntu (base OS)
--Openoffice (office tasks)
--Gimp (photo editing, photoshop alternative, lacks CMYK though)
--Inkscape (vector editing, illustrator alternative)
--Scribus (book/graphic design, vector+photos on multi pages, indesign alternative)
--Gmail (email)
--Google apps (professional gmail, sending from yourdomain.com vs. gmail)
--Simple webpage for reservation system (if you take reservations)


The biggest issue on top of this is the POS and accounting functions. I haven't researched open source tools for this and you don't want to mess these up. I'd pay for something decent in this area.

Fixed (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40958177)

How To Ruin a Small Business With Open Source Software?

Salon like restaurants (1)

theatrecade (1080063) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958211)

A few years back I was the sole tech for a hair salon and the major problem with pos was tipping. Usi g quickbooks pos at the time was woefull inept at handling tips. We had to devise a work around for 2 years the. Was forced to purchase another 3 copies of the new version that handled tips. I had found an open source pos at the time (bananaPos I believe) that allowed tips had record keeping we needed but didn't work with our financial service providers tech. It's can be painful on both ends.

Don't overlook your phone/messaging system (2)

trentfoley (226635) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958215)

As other have said, don't take chances with the accounting - bite the bullet and go quickbooks. When my wife and I started our law firm 20 years ago, we did our own accounting and it was not ideal at all. After the business grew we hired a CPA to take care of everything and that is where we moved to Quickbooks. Quickbooks makes it much easier to integrate with other businesses and government agencies than some homegrown set of spreadsheets and such. That being said, there's more to running a business than accounting.

You will need a phone system. Phone systems don't require much maintenance, but when they go down, you need to get them back up immediately. My best investment was to learn the open-source Asterisk PBX system. Take an old pc, get a card with some phone jacks for connecting your analog phone lines (Or get a voip provider assuming you have reliable and adequate bandwidth), go buy some phones that do SIP (I've been happy with Grandstream devices) and you're good to go. No need to run separate phone lines - just run ethernet and have data and phone.

Asterisk is a relatively easy system to program, and there are appliance distributions like AsteriskNow that greatly simplify things. Over the years, I've been able to integrate xmpp/jabber messaging, video messaging, integration with customer records for incoming calls, etc. I even integrated a front-door intercom that rings reception with the ability to unlock the door with the press of the star key. So far, every idea I have had for improving office communications has been readily handled by Asterisk. Asterisk is one of those amazing open source projects like Apache that provide such a robust framework while still maintaining simplicity of use.

Quasar is close (1)

markdavis (642305) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958307)

Quasar Accounting and Point of Sale System: http://linuxcanada.com/ [linuxcanada.com]

We have been using it to run a gift shop for many years (in USA), including ordering, invoicing, inventory management, accounting, sales, and the register.... and all under Linux.

It is not free, but it is multiplatform, GUI, affordable, and source is available. It used to be mostly open source, but they couldn't make the model work.

P&L's and Payroll (1)

vinn (4370) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958325)

Have you considered just paying a bookkeeping service to do payroll for you? As a small business owner, I recommend doing that. It's especially true if you need to do anything like garnishments. I think you'll find the cost to have them do just your payroll is a no brainer.

Second, depending on your business structure, what you most likely need to generate out of your financial software is a P&L - profit and loss statement. When it comes tax time, your tax person should be able to use that regardless of which system it came from. Most accountants know how to work with Quickbooks though, and if you use Quickbooks you can just do a simple export and hand that file over to them. You'll get the best tax analysis that way.

I think if you have a simple business, then you probably have a lot of options. If your business is planning on expanding rapidly with lots of complicated accounting or inventory management or job costing or a myriad of other things, you really might want to consider Quickbooks.

See this article from LWN in 2009 on the state of open source accounting systems. It's probably not that out of date: http://lwn.net/Articles/314577/ [lwn.net]

In my experience... (1)

Pav (4298) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958371)

...there's a gap in what's available. For personal finance you have GnuCash, and for the big end there are packages like Adempiere, OpenERP etc... that do much more than accounting, but ERP packages are arcane toolkits for building your own system rather than an off-the-shelf solution.

I'd love an open source "franchise in a box", and I'm actually involved with a project (Fusion Directory) that could be a fantastic base for something like that. FD handles deployment of workstations and servers, deployment of software and management of many generic network services via LDAP. An open source POS + accounting framework would be great to tie into this, but none of us are ERP nerds so some collaboration on this kind of thing would be great - anyone??? We're at #fusiondirectory on FreeNode (IRC).

As for your specific problem... there are no off the shelf answers that I'm aware of at the moment unfortunately, and anything else (eg. cobbling something together wtih an ERP solution) looks like a LOT of work. It's not something I'd suggest attempting unless you're interested, no, passionate! ...and have ERP expertise or are willing to burn much time on learning the arcana. If you're getting into this soon then it's probably too late in any case.

Open source? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40958385)

for accounting - go buy an accounting ledger. Write entries in. balance weekly and monthly. About as open source as it gets.

In reality, tho, go with quickbooks online.

As a small business owner myself... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40958397)

DO NOT PROCESS YOUR OWN PAYROLL. People do it but it's a huge risk and not worth it. If you mess something up there's criminal liability, not just civil. There's payroll services out there that are quite reliable and cheap. You'll get direct deposit, IRA/401k deductions, federal income tax, state income tax, unemployment insurance, all sorts of stuff. On the other hand, use open source tools for any document creation you need, creating work schedules, even tracking hours worked if you want. But do yourself a big favor and avoid handling your own stuff internally for payroll.

PIck your accountant first (2)

Relayman (1068986) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958405)

You need an accountant. Your accountant will support one or more packages. Pick one and use it.

You can try to find an accountant who supports open source. It might work!

Risk reward (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958411)

One thing you want to b sure of is that whatever files your package produces can be used by your bookkeeper. I'd see what other restaurants use and what your bookkeeper recommends; the last thing you want or need is to unravel a years worth of journal entries while starting up a restaurant. Use OSS to design menus and flyers, where the penalty for a mistake is small,to start is my humble addition to the discussion.

check out waveaccounting.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40958423)

works well with freshbooks and google apps, and best of all it is free!

Motivation (1)

jones_supa (887896) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958547)

I'd like to support the OS community and hope that this is a way to do it.

Why?

Get the government to build it for you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40958551)

Can't take credit anyway

Remember the Actual Costs (4, Insightful)

wrfelts (950027) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958569)

You've got to remember that using FOSS software doesn't mean that you aren't going to have an expense for this. One of the downsides of FOSS is that it is generally software that "scratches the itch" of those willing to develop code for it. It doesn't mean that the software is lower quality, just that they may not have covered everything you need. Also, it may not be the easiest thing to install. If you aren't a Linux geek, or you now don't have time to be since you are running a restaurant, make sure you have some competent local support lined up. Proper install, setup, and security is important and can't just be swept under the rug.

Also, another somewhat obvious suggestion is to make sure you can line up an accountant that is familiar (or willing to become so) with the software you choose for the books. If you find one that actually uses some FOSS, they would have better advice on what packages to use, since they are more familiar with the accounting/regulations side of things.

Be aware that regional corporate and finance laws may be different than those of the software developers'. Commercial software has a general business requirement to keep up with those and supply the necessary patches. In absence of the commercial incentive to "not get sued over missing a patch" you will need to make sure that you have that covered. A few dollars of support to a local programmer (in conjunction with the aforementioned accountant to keep things moving in the right direction) will keep you out of the legal ditches as well as ACTUALLY support FOSS software.

In general, there is a price to pay for freedom. There always has been. If you want software that isn't locked up by greedy or laconic software corporations, you can't be greedy either. You still need to pay for the expertise to keep things on track and actually support the free environment that you wish to take advantage of. Costs are still there. They just shift. If you go in with open eyes, it won't shock you. It's still worth the investment. It just takes a slightly thicker skin to (hopefully) get a slightly cheaper and more customized outcome.

I like FLOSS, but you really need to consider... (1)

nighthawk243 (2557486) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958635)

I like FLOSS, but you need to consider the business impact.

Take your business partners and discuss the tech side of the business. Find out what they're comfortable with. Are they only comfortable with using Windows? Are they open to using a LTS release of Linux? They're using the system too, so the point is to make everyone as comfortable with using the system as possible.

You also have to weigh cost vs productivity. Does it really save you money going FLOSS, or will you get a return on investment going with an off the shelf package that is proven and well supported? As a business owner, you cannot get locked into any one mindset. You have to find and do what is best for the business; even if you have to compromise with your own beliefs a bit.

One word - Phreebooks ! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40958691)

An Open Source Quickbooks .....

business failure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40958777)

If you are wasting time on what open source software to use, your business has already failed. The cost of this type of software is minuscule, use what works already; invest more time into your core business.

Support the community! (0)

bratmobile (550334) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958807)

Give your food away for free.

The answers to your questions lie elsewhere. (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 2 years ago | (#40958813)

Talk to your lawyer, your accountant, your banker.

Trade association. Small business advisor.

The odds are pretty damn good that the professionals you will be working with will know QuickBooks. That they will know the right customized versions and add-ons for QuickBooks you will need.

The same will be true for MS Office and so on.

These people have a stake in the success of your business. Listen to them.

Tough but doable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40958841)

We owned a few fast casual and take out places with nothing but OSS, running things like touch screen tills, receipt/ticket printers, SMS order queues to drivers, automated SMS specials, and we just faxed the call-in sheet to one of our partner's personal friends, a CPA, nightly. Unfortunately, we had to let her go after we found out she'd funnelled out about $100K from the busness accounts and $50k from him over the course of that first year. That, plus the stress and long hours, wrecked his marriage when his wife of a decade left him, and he spent a year trying to get custody of his kids. I was lucky to have been young and single, but like many have said, the restaurant business is not a place for friends or spouses.

Whatever you choose, you're going to have to have to put in the time to tailor it for your business's needs yourself, but there are many options. I tried several POS OSSs before landing on OpenBravo [amazonaws.com] , which I ran off linux live USB drives for the touch screen thin client tills in the front and had the server in the back for managing the database, viewing reports, handling software ACH, etc. Setting it up to automatically track inventory was a nightmare, and I never got the products receiving to work exactly right for calculating ideal vs actual inventory, but it was excellent for the cashiers and I had a tremendous amount of control over the reports, which was all I needed anyway.

As far as the accounting, if you've got a small place that grosses less than $10k a week and you know how to do your taxes and payroll, you're probably more than capable of managing it entirely yourself. I can't remember which application I was using that could do it, but GnuCash might be able to export in a QuickBooks readable format. If not, for all the work you'll have done to make the money, it wouldn't kill the bean counters to enter it manually.

The biggest secrets to happiness and success when running a resaurant: hiring bright young people who don't know what they're worth and making them do everything, never telling anyone anything more than they have to know to get their job done, and $15 kitchen shoes from Wal-Mart.

Get advice from those in the hospitality industry (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40958953)

As someone who used to work for a payroll company that specialized in the food and hospitality industry, let me share some insight.

Opening a restaurant means LONG LONG LONG hours with little return for the first few years. But you don't want to be penny wise and pound short. Certain things, like integration of your POS, time clock and payroll, will help you keep your sanity.

First off - talk to your state's restaurant association. These organizations normally want you to become a memeber, but they also promote you and are a wealth of information for advice of veterans that actually know what they are doing. (The firm I worked for was in Maryland, and the people at RAM were top notch.)

Next - talk to a payroll company. Actually, talk to several. There's the big guys like Paychex and ADP, but you'll probably get better customer service from the mid-sized regional providers. (The really small providers tend to not be as quick on the ball with hospitality payroll law changes, nor usually have the ability to offer integrated products.) Also, talk to your restaurant association if they have a preferred provider. Usually the preferred providers offer discounts to members of sponsored trade associations, usually a substantial figure. When you talk to the payroll company's salesperson, tell them you are looking for the whole financial system, POS and everything. The salesmen should be able to offer you solution ideas other than Micros, Posi-Touch, Digital-Dining or any of the other big guys. Sometimes they even have systems you can rent, so you don't have to shell out the money up front.

Sometimes there are ways to help the open source community, but if you want to keep your wife and friends, this isn't the best way to do it. Restaurant finances can be a tricky thing. You have tips, blended wages, various tax rates that constantly change, various minimum wage rates and laws that constantly change, inventory, cost analyses.... you don't want to muck them up from the start.

Trying to for small business (1)

Mr.Ziggy (536666) | more than 2 years ago | (#40959267)

I have a small business and going all FOSS seems very difficult.

Linux on the desktop + Openoffice + GIMP has made life a lot better. Less Windows issues, less viruses. Particularly when an employee plugs in a USB device 'just to charge it'.

Zoneminder (newest version) on Ubuntu desktop works well for our needs (with AXIS cameras). Zoneminder is really a cost issue-- I've installed some of the commercial software for managing 40+ cameras on windows servers. Software was very expensive. But also a LOT easier to use, and easier to search and view. Using zoneminder takes probably twice as much time as good commercial software.

Wine: use it to run a very old windows application a vendor uses for ordering. Not perfect in implementation.

Windows: I have windows on an old laptop. Sometimes someone sends me a tricked out excel spreadsheet and nothing in FOSS works with it right. The application to talk to my Sharp cash register only works on windows.

I would love to use a linux based full POS system, but can't find one that makes sense. May go MerchantOS next year.

Accounting: I absolutely hate Quickbooks on the desktop. Constant data corruption issues when you have multiple users. That being said, we use Quickbooks Online. Not that expensive to do our own payroll and can write checks at work/home easily. Constant warnings "does not support Linux" but it's fine.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?