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Ask Slashdot: How To Run a Small Business With Open Source Software? 195

Posted by timothy
from the with-nothing-but-emacs-extensions dept.
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."
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Ask Slashdot: How To Run a Small Business With Open Source Software?

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  • Pay for it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 11, 2012 @11:58AM (#40957639)

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

    • Re:Pay for it (Score:5, Informative)

      by icebraining (1313345) on Saturday August 11, 2012 @03:04PM (#40959233) Homepage

      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 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Trepidity (597) <<gro.hsikcah> <ta> <todhsals-muiriled>> on Saturday August 11, 2012 @11:58AM (#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 (Score:4, Informative)

      by UnknowingFool (672806) on Saturday August 11, 2012 @12:23PM (#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 (Score:5, Informative)

        by cayenne8 (626475) on Saturday August 11, 2012 @12:41PM (#40958031) Homepage Journal
        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 (Score:4, Interesting)

          by flappinbooger (574405) on Saturday August 11, 2012 @02:11PM (#40958809) Homepage

          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.

          • 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".

          • by SomePgmr (2021234)

            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

            • As someone who has only barely touched a few quickbooks install (although I spent a couple years tracking personal finances with gnucash) and who has used turbotax's website as well as many other cloud services...that sounds terrible.

              Not so much from a security standpoint (small business accounting records are not really a security risk) but from a UI standpoint. You end up hopping back and forth between a LOT of forms and entry boxes and reviewing different reports/charts/invoices. Unless you have the

            • by Shavano (2541114)
              Not a realistic option. If his internet connection goes down he's unable to process cash business. It has to be self contained but sn offsite backup is also critical.
              • by SomePgmr (2021234)

                His internet connection going down only really matters for POS, which you wouldn't use the Quickbooks Online for. That's done with Aloha, Micros, or whichever other POS option he chooses. Most of those systems will store the transaction for later reconciliation when the connection is available, and have secondary communications options (dial-up and such).

                Quickbooks is for your accounting. You use it to enter your cash receipts, expenses, etc. after all that is done. 100% internet connectivity isn't crit

                • by sumdumass (711423)

                  Quickbooks has or at one time had a POS offering that integrates to their accounting software. I've had to deal with them in the past.

                  As for the POS, about anything that can export to a format that quickbooks can import would work. Built in scripting or automatic communications is nice, custom scripting can be done too, of course spending an extra 20 minutes a day isn't too unreasonable either. Of course something like accpac might be a better option then quickbooks considering the complexity of the invento

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

          • by jvin248 (1147821)
            Quickbooks isn't the answer. Actual CPA's have told me there are some odd ways it handles some accounts and does some 'magic number balancing'. Hard-core middle market cpa's use peachtree and similar programs.
        • by cpu6502 (1960974)

          You said what I was going to say.

          What you save on the free software you will waste on labor costs as people try to (1) learn a new tool and (2) learn a new tool. I mentioned that twice because of it's importance.

        • This, this, this, a million times this. Quickbooks is a laggy POS but it is standard. Your accountant will be able to use it, and various programs and services use it as well, most notably, Expensify. The program itself costs $150 for the Pro version, and it is worth every freaking penny. I run my own law firm, and I tried to do the Excel spreadsheet thing for a year, and it just doesn't work out. You're much better off using Quickbooks, reading the official how-to book, and then using it religiously. In fa

    • Re:lots of options (Score:4, Interesting)

      by aaarrrgggh (9205) on Saturday August 11, 2012 @12:55PM (#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.

      • by Trepidity (597)

        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.

    • Starting a new business is reallly hard. Why make it more complicated by trying to piece together a bunch of software that sort-of works. You didn't say what kind of business you're starting, but for a 5 employee or fewer business quickbook is really pretty good. And there is no reason to do payroll your self. It's really just too hard to get right, and you can get it almost for free from Quicken or your bank.

      If you think you might be looking for a credit facility (aka a loan) your bank will be looking for

    • by sribe (304414)

      Now whether this is a good idea varies.

      No it doesn't. It's an absolutely horrible idea for any business. If your business is so simple you don't need QuickBooks, at least use Quicken.

    • by DogDude (805747)
      I would say most small businesses I know actually don't use any specific financial software, but do everything in a spreadsheet package.

      What kind of small businesses are you talking about? People selling trinkets on eBay? That is some of the worst advice I've ever heard anybody suggest about small business accounting. You can't do any kind of taxes with Excel spreadsheets, unless your Excel spreadsheets are set up by accountants, and updated weekly.
  • My first thought (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cute Fuzzy Bunny (2234232) on Saturday August 11, 2012 @11:59AM (#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...

    • 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 (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Cute Fuzzy Bunny (2234232) on Saturday August 11, 2012 @12:50PM (#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...

        • by Bert64 (520050) <bert@slashd[ ]fi ... m ['ot.' in gap]> on Saturday August 11, 2012 @06:46PM (#40960509) Homepage

          There are people out there who will know the open source software inside out too, and to a much greater level given availability of the sourcecode, whereas only the original vendor will ever have that level of knowledge about a closed source package.

          What you do highlight, is that its important not to get your business dependent on something that can be taken away from you... However you're approaching it from the wrong angle... Any proprietary software is dependent on its vendor, who may stop updating it, may discontinue the product, may decide they dont like you or are part of a larger company which competes against you, may go bankrupt or any number of other risks.
          With an open source package, you have 2 very important advantages:

          1, the source is available, so absolute worst case you can hire someone to work on it for you, as opposed to being stuck at a dead end.
          2, the data will be stored in a format for which documentation is available, wether the format is properly documented or the only documentation is the source itself obviously matters, but either situation is better than a proprietary system where no documentation is available to you at all and you are forced to reverse engineer the binaries.

          Always have an exit strategy, plan for what you will do if the worst happens to any one of your suppliers. In the restaurant trade that will be everything from "buy our rice from any one of the other 50 suppliers" to "migrate all our accounting data to a whole new package"...

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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 (Score:5, Informative)

      by Shoten (260439) on Saturday August 11, 2012 @12:05PM (#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.

      • by aaarrrgggh (9205)

        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.

        • by Shoten (260439)

          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

    • by mysidia (191772) on Saturday August 11, 2012 @12:09PM (#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.

    • by Jawnn (445279)
      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.
  • Think Ahead (Score:5, Insightful)

    by clinko (232501) on Saturday August 11, 2012 @12:00PM (#40957663) Homepage Journal

    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!

    • by shentino (1139071)

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

    • Re:Think Ahead (Score:4, Informative)

      by oakgrove (845019) on Saturday August 11, 2012 @03:39PM (#40959429)

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

      Have you ever really put this theory to the test? I called around my city and was able to compile a decent list of accountants who were familiar with and openly supported PostBooks [xtuple.com]. PostBooks is cross platform and is released under an OSI approved license.

      Of course finding that kind of thing out would require a good 20 minutes of a busy professional's precious time so I'm sure you'd be much better off just going ahead and buying Quickbooks without a second thought based on advice from a web forum rather than actual interactions with real accountants.

      • by DogDude (805747)
        Of course finding that kind of thing out would require a good 20 minutes of a busy professional's precious time so I'm sure you'd be much better off just going ahead and buying Quickbooks without a second thought based on advice from a web forum rather than actual interactions with real accountants.

        I know you were trying to smarmy, but you know that QB only costs $300, right? Spending hours calling accountants to try to save $300 is quite frankly, really fucking stupid.
        • Re:Think Ahead (Score:4, Insightful)

          by oakgrove (845019) on Saturday August 11, 2012 @08:47PM (#40961061)

          I know you were trying to smarmy, but you know that QB only costs $300, right?

          What are you running, a lemonade stand, skippy? Let's talk money. Which version do you want? How many seats? Which support package? Do you have a bookkeeper in-house? Seat. Use it for inventory control and management? Seat. And on and on. Payroll? Seat. A very small business gets into the thousands real quick. Oh, and don't forget to renew those licenses on a regular basis, bucko. Of course every so often that'll also run you a little extra (inflation you understand). Oh, and when you're done with that let's talk plug-ins.

          Spending hours calling accountants to try to save $300 is quite frankly, really fucking stupid.

          Your "$300" figure has been debunked. Your "hours" figure was addressed by the post you replied to had you actually read it instead of launching into immediate anti-FOSS kneejerk troll-rage (like you always do, checked your history) but here allow me to quote it so maybe you can take the time to read it a little slower:

          Of course finding that kind of thing out would require a good 20 minutes

          If your lips were silently moving while you read that, you need to do it again.

          That's how long it took me in My City, USA on the phone to find more accountants than I had days of the week to talk to that assured me that they would be happy to support PostBooks. PostBooks should I remind you is the FOSS product from xTuple a commercial company headquartered in Norfolk, VA with years of experience and multiple profitable products.

          As an addendum, not only did I find a great accountant that would work with PostBooks but she was a techie that I had a very easy time building rapport with due to our shared interest in open source business solutions.

          Now, this was my experience. I don't know what yours is peddling your dog food [phydeauxpets.com] but it's pretty obvious that it never even occurred to you to test the efficacy of any other accounting software. Probably because you are a) an arrogant obnoxious closed-minded jackass and/or b) you probably don't have sense enough to see 2 feet in front of your nose to embrace business tools that your competitors might be missing out on and leveraging those.

          Now get busy running your dick-beaters over your keyboard on another uninformed ignorant rant so you can get told. Again.

          P.S. To be such an anti-Linux and anti open source douchebag, what the fuck is your site doing running Apache on Linux? Hypocrite.

  • SQL Ledger (Score:5, Informative)

    by colenski (552404) on Saturday August 11, 2012 @12:01PM (#40957677) Homepage
    http://www.sql-ledger.com/ [sql-ledger.com] ugly as sin but it does *everything* and it's reliable. Good community support.
  • Risky Investments (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 11, 2012 @12:05PM (#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$

    • 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 identif
  • Priorities (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dokebi (624663) on Saturday August 11, 2012 @12:16PM (#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

    • by Patch86 (1465427)

      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

    • by westyvw (653833)

      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.

      • by dokebi (624663)

        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

  • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Saturday August 11, 2012 @12:23PM (#40957879) Journal
    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.
    • 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.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      Maybe if you use it non-commercially, but if you say "well, I gave up on your software because I can't easily separate weekday sales and weekend sales" then with 99.9%+ certainty they'll say if you want it, you pay for it. Don't expect nearly the same treatment when you're obviously asking them to help you improve profits for free. There's not a whole lot of people into corporate charity.

  • Alternatives (Score:5, Informative)

    by LordThyGod (1465887) on Saturday August 11, 2012 @12:28PM (#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.
  • 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
  • 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 ar

    • 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.

  • 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

    • by DogDude (805747)
      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."

      I think you made a typo. Most accountants that I know start at $120/hr, not $20!
  • 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 Lin

    • by mysidia (191772)

      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 $$$.

    • Honestly I can't tell if you are serious or not. postscript and lp? Is this 1988?

      • Honestly I can't tell if you are serious or not. postscript and lp? Is this 1988?

        Why mess with what works? I fairly recently (2006) automated a high-volume production and shipping facility, using packing slips (with Postscript bar codes) generated using Perl and HTML::Template Postscript files, that were FTP'd to HP LaserJets. The whole thing took maybe a day to automate (including figuring out how to embed JPEGs in Postscript), was light-weight and reliable, and ran for years.

  • 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.

    • "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.

  • by blackC0pter (1013737) on Saturday August 11, 2012 @12:57PM (#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.
    • by bazorg (911295)

      POS and ERP, Finance and such are covered by OpenBravo and Compiere if you really want Open Source. If not, just search for ERP in the cloud and some "pa as you go" software will probably suit what you need.

    • by jvin248 (1147821)


      OpenERP for the POS option: http://www.openerp.com/products/pos [openerp.com] OpenERP has built in inventory and all the financial accounting plus management drill-down 'dashboard' (so you as the owner can monitor the business "what are sales today?" "Ok" "what are sales of chicken platters today?" "hey, that's nice"). An average technical person can install this on an older pc you might already have and be up and running pretty quick.

      gnu cash as noted - real accounting package. Think 'peachtree' not 'quickbooks'.
  • 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 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.

  • 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

  • ...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

  • by Relayman (1068986) on Saturday August 11, 2012 @01:20PM (#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!
  • 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.
  • I'd like to support the OS community and hope that this is a way to do it.

    Why?

  • by wrfelts (950027) on Saturday August 11, 2012 @01:40PM (#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.

  • 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.

  • do what is best for your business starting a business is so much harder then you think, and the odds are so stacked against you, that anything you do that isn't 100% focused on getting the biz up and running will kill you. decide what software you need; do not waste 1 second on open source if it ain't right
  • GNUCash is better suited for home.

    For a business you want something like SQL/SMBLeger or project open.

  • If at all possible, see if you can afford an accountant who does the work for you, but still check your books regularly (never trust anyone 100% with your money, and that includes banks - if you can possibly avoid being dependent on your bank, please do).

    As for the rest (POS, possible menu management etc), decide if you want to run an IT shop or a restaurant - either is a full job. Go for what works, not for something that matches someone's religion, because there are only 24 hours in the day. On that top

  • ...then you haven't got enough capital to run a restaurant. My advice would be *don't* - don't do your own books. Get yourself an external bookkeeper or accountant and use whatever tool they recommend. Use them to create your P&L and balance sheet, and you focus on driving the restaurant to make the numbers on those reports improve. In addition, you have a bigger issue than your accounting system - and that is your restaurant employee scheduling, and your forecasting/purchasing system. Do those two
  • Make sure you and all of your stakeholders know why open source is part of your requirement. This is essential. You need to make a business case.

    If you have two accountants that can/is willing to do GnuCash, do it. GnuCash is used by real businesses to do real things :), don't let the rest of slashdot get you down on this. You want to find two, just in case.

    Running Windows on PoS certainly causes a lot of pain, if I was starting a business I would want better reliability than I have seen from Windows

  • I own a small business and I had similar ideas of using FOSS, but when I evaluated I decided that I first need to do what is best for my business, and that ended up being to use software created by Intuit and Microsoft.

    The compromise I made is that when things are going smoothly enough and I well know my business processes, I will work with developers who are experienced with the appropriate FOSS projects and create a system that will work well for me. I think this will end up being better because when I am contributing, I will be doing it as an experienced business owner in that category, and this will help out others even more than trying to push the square block through the round hole while my business crumbles.

  • by smugfunt (8972) on Saturday August 11, 2012 @07:44PM (#40960817)

    bookkeeping, accounting & payroll

    OpenERP [openerp.com] does that. Also Point Of Sale (there is a special restaurant POS module too), asset management, stock management, HR, CRM, and 500 other (optional) things including (hotel) restaurant management.

    It's written in Python, backed by PostgreSQL and has both web and standalone clients. It will happily run on one PC or scale to dozens, even hundreds, of users. Or you can use it online for a modest fee: demo [openerp.com].

    It is Free and Open Source supported by a commercial company based in Belgium, with offices in the US and India, and an international network of partners; 10 in the US. Being FOSS you don't need to be an official partner to be able to support it.

    I use it for factory operations (using my own custom modules) and think it's well worth consideration by any SME that's looking for this kind of thing.

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