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Are You Doing Enough with Your Restaurant Data?

Between your POS system, your forecasting/scheduling software, your inventory management system, and every other system you have, you’re collecting data on just about everything that goes on in your restaurant. Maybe you even have some insight into the data of your competitors. Here’s the problem: you have all kinds of data, but not many insights. If you’re not making business decisions based on the data you collect, what good is that data? Here’s how you can use the tools at your disposal to create actionable insights for your business.

Engage your team

Every restaurant manager regularly reviews all kinds of store information—from hard data like sales and labor, to soft data like Voice of Customer information. The group that sees this kind of data the least also happens to be the group that can have the biggest influence over it: your in-store employees.

If you broke a sales record during the Black Friday rush this year, share that info with the team that made it happen. If a customer gave negative or positive feedback about a recent experience, make sure your employees see that feedback. Get your employees engaged with the data and they’ll be more invested in your success.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” — George Bernard Shaw

One of the best ways to share this data? Using your chat tools, like Crew, Slack, and so forth. Every day, share the wins and results of the day before with the team by sending out a quick message.

Think like a coach

The Chicago Bulls were an unstoppable force in the NBA from 1991 to 1993, due in no small part to the teamwork of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Were Jordan and Pippen great players on their own? Absolutely. But it was the combination of the two that made the Bulls unbeatable.

You probably already know who the Michael Jordan’s are in your restaurant. Take it a step further: in addition to identifying your best players, look for the best combinations of players on your team. If you have 10 percent better sales on nights when Stacie and Josh are working the same shift, schedule them together more often. If Karl isn’t the fastest at prep, but can wash dishes like nobody’s business, put him on the bench during the rush and bring him onto the court when it’s time to close.

You already have all that information by looking at the data at your fingertips! Review your schedule alongside your daily sales report and track results to determine who makes the best team. Take it a step further by observing them the next time they’re scheduled together to find just what makes them so good together. Use what you’ve learned as a coaching tool for the team.

Automate everything you can

A lot of restaurants outsource their payroll, but you probably still have to download your payroll information, package it up, and send it to your vendor—usually days in advance of payday. If you’re paying someone to handle your payroll, why are you still putting so much effort into the process? Many software solutions can automatically export data like payroll and send it where it needs to go. The same goes for sharing security information and sending data to corporate. If you’re doing something by hand, there’s probably software that could be doing it for you—and it might even be something you already own.

Trust but verify

Data can generate important business insights and save you time and effort—but every system needs oversight.

Let’s say your employees use an app like Branch or Earnin, where they can cash in the portion of the paycheck they’ve already earned before their regularly scheduled paycheck gets deposited. Typically, those apps verify their working hours by using their cell phone GPS to prove that they were in the restaurant for the time they claimed. 

Now, let’s say a particularly studious employee has been staying in the store for a couple of hours after every shift to study for schoolbut they’re not working anymore. While these apps are excellent and convenient tools, they are not perfectly accurate unless they’re integrated with your scheduling software. So, they might be tracking time for non-work time spent in the store.

If your employees use one of these apps, you should be regularly checking your scheduling data to make sure it lines up with how much your employees are getting via payrollotherwise, you could be losing money that could get hard to track down the line.

Restaurant data can make your life much easier, but verify that it’s accurate by doing periodic manual audits to make sure it’s behaving the way you expect it to.

Many restaurant software solutions can help you sift through your restaurant data to find actionable insights to use. And the best part is, you may already have these tools at your disposal. Stop sifting through countless rows of spreadsheets and let your data management software do the heavy lifting, so you can focus on using your findings to improve your restaurant.

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Implementing Efficiencies Within Your Restaurant

Whether it’s in the restaurant, financial, healthcare or energy sectors, implementing customer efficiencies that save them time and increase satisfaction affects the entire organization.

When highly successful individuals like Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffet reach a certain financial level, money becomes secondary to time. Yes, they can always make more money, but time for them becomes a precious resource even more valuable than money. Getting more of it back into one’s day can only be achieved by evaluating where time is being wasted and then using techniques and technologies to recapture that lost commodity.

When operators build efficiency strategies within a restaurant business, the implemented tactics hold a promise of generating more time through the process of eliminating the waste; those strategies can also deliver better value for customers, improve reputability, create more manageable costs, and promote higher staff productivity. Yet, restaurant operators may feel that carving out the initial time to uncover those gaps that often lead to wasted effort is a problem within itself. Another holiday season arrives, busy nights ensue, and that desire to improve operations slips between the cracks. However, operators must consider the wisdom of one of our nation’s great leaders. The importance of spending a little time now to create more efficiency later is no better illustrated than through the words of Abraham Lincoln, who once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

How to Sharpen the Restaurant Operational Edges

To create a smarter, more efficient operation, let’s start by looking at three areas within the hospitality industry that hold the most potential for improvement:

  • More restaurant staff efficiency
  • Better guest efficiencies
  • Efficiency within the business as a whole

While all three of these areas can be evaluated in total, it’s typically best to focus on one improvement area at a time in these early stages. If a process or technology solution arises that addresses more than one area, then that can be weighed later. For now, isolate each area, uncover the biggest time-wasting area, develop the tactics to use, then plan for implementing and measuring improvements.

Once operational gaps are pinpointed, ruthlessly eliminate those activities so that improvements can be realized. Operators typically have some knowledge of where energy, time, or product waste is occurring, but he or she may not immediately understand how these are causing ripple effects throughout the organization. Obtaining staff input from those employees affected by the issue ultimately ensures knowledge that originates from its source. At the same time, probe deeper by asking staff what other areas need improvements. Soliciting staff opinion will ultimately help confirm their value to the team and instill partial ownership of the solutions once implemented. From this input, select a minimum of two issue-prone annoyances to tackle, and begin.

Most of the time restaurant operations continue day-by-day in the manner in which they ended the day before. However, by examining present day organizational problems against the solutions that can lead to more productive operations, extra time can magically appear so that other areas of the business can receive the focus they deserve.

Creating Stellar Staff with Efficiencies 

Gathering staff feedback for problem areas can often set in motion the answer to the problem at the outset—improved employee attitudes. When employees don’t feel heard, they shut down and problems ensue. Every team member’s attitude, from the head chef to front of house hosts, all the way down to the high school junior who sweeps the floors will improve through regular visits from management who listen to their suggestions. According to McKinsey & Company, productivity improves by 20–25 percent in organizations with connected employees. Operations will run smoother when communication flows and efficiencies are put in place.

A few of the restaurant problems that arise in restaurants without staff efficiencies include:

  • Low staff performance
  • Stress-filled shifts that increase safety risks
  • Poor communication between teams
  • Increased staff turnover

Today’s restaurant staff expects to work in a productive environment and that often means operators must implement technology to help them meet and exceed customer needs. Putting a point of sale (POS) system in place may be one of those technologies that illustrate how management values time for the staff. If servers have used a POS system at other restaurants where they’ve worked previously, once hired to work in a restaurant operation without one can add to frustrations and wasted time.

If a POS system is already in place, organizational improvements can be furthered by implementing technology that builds upon the time saved at the point of sale. Many digital operation platforms that integrate with a wide variety of POS systems can automate the kitchen while giving front of house staff the tools to improve management of guests.

Ensuring Grateful Guests with Efficiencies

Nothing turns away customers like a crowded restaurant with long wait lines, only to discover their workaround for that scenario—a reserved table—has been scheduled for the wrong time, or double-booked. If this occurs far too often within the organization, technology exists to correct the problem. A guest management platform can improve areas that satisfy guests and staff alike.

Some of the issues that occur in restaurants that have not deployed a restaurant management platform are:

  • Unorganized wait staff
  • Inability to manage online reservations
  • Dwindling guest traffic
  • Failure to quickly respond to guest complaints

As with improved efficiencies for staff, guests also appreciate being heard, so from the get-go, implement a method to start collecting customer feedback. An operation can’t improve guest satisfaction if it does not listen and respond quickly to complaints or suggestions. Wagering a guess as to why customers aren’t returning for their next dining experience is operating with one hand tied behind the back when so many digital solutions are available to facilitate the collection of guest feedback at the end of every meal.

Whether it’s in the restaurant, financial, healthcare or energy sectors, implementing customer efficiencies that save them time and increase satisfaction affects the entire organization. Last year, the Temkin Group, a thought leader in the experience economy, stated that a moderate increase in the customer experience generates an average revenue increase of $823 million over three years for a company with $1 billion in annual revenues.

Affecting the Entire Operation through Efficiencies

When implemented, restaurant efficiencies rival the banking industry’s secret sauce: compounding interest. And by now, the financially astute know that the sooner you begin, the more you’ll have when you need it. The same is true for restaurant technology and the efficiencies the right solution can provide. Additions in efficiency add up quickly; when a restaurant brand begins scaling, technology improvements today pay huge dividends later.

As an operator ditches the inefficiencies of pen and paper for a kitchen automation solution, back of house operations become nimble and highly responsive to changes in the front of the house. This technology adoption also increases staff cooperation where a previously siloed team with an “us against them” mindset is transformed into one where everyone feels they are working on the same team to achieve a common goal—customer satisfaction.

With the right kitchen automation system, busy kitchens have access to real-time production information, better bin management, programmable prep times, and from a management level, operators can access an enterprise portal to view data anywhere they are. If kitchen operations still run on spreadsheets, then an upgrade is in order to maximize efficiency. Without an automated kitchen, individual restaurant functions suffer, and time is wasted from front of house to back of house.

Here are some of the problems experienced by restaurants that have not automated kitchen operations:

  • Out of date inventories
  • Poor stock management and rotation
  • Inadequate forecasting of stock levels
  • Inability to address restaurant trends such as off-premises dining

When time isn’t set aside to anticipate trends and the technologies that address upcoming trends like ghost kitchens, a rise in third-party delivery companies, and off-premise dining, competitors can quickly get a leg up and surpass any past gains an operator may have made. Even though the restaurant industry is known for its low margins, operators can do more with less, but not without the technologies in place to enable that transition and enable more time for staff, guests and the overall operation.

Restaurant efficiencies are critical for long-term survival. They save businesses from further earning declines; they improve growth, but best of all, they ensure a pleasurable dining experience for all parties involved.

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Types of POS Systems Available in Singapore

So you need to get a point-of-sales (POS) system for your outlet. What kinds of point-of-sales systems are popular in Singapore? What can they do, and what should you know about them?

Singapore has a pretty wide selection of POS systems – a simple Google search will tell you that. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the variety available, so this guide was put together to help make your search a little easier.

First off, POS systems can be divided into two types: Legacy POS  and Tablet (or Cloud-based) POS.


Traditional/ Legacy POS systems

Legacy POS: Also known as “on-site” or “traditional” POS systems, they store data locally and run on a closed internal network – in other words, the POS system is essentially a PC in your restaurant and you can only access your data there. They are typically bulkier and older – usually running on Linux or Windows software.

Cloud-based/ Tablet POS

Cloud-Based POS: Also referred to as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), cloud-based POS systems are Web-hosted and have their information accessible online. That means you can access your restaurant’s data anytime, anywhere, on a browser. They are newer-generation and more lightweight (run on tablets), catering to the modern day need for accessibility.


Which is better?

The answer really depends on what you want out of your POS system. One size usually doesn’t fit all and some brand design to expand rapidly to many outlets where another one happy with single store. We give you some pointers below that can help you choose what’s best for you.

iPad ordering ≠ Cloud-based POS

Some traditional POS systems do have iPad ordering capabilities, meaning that while your waiters can take orders on iPads,  you still need a POS terminal, which is also where all your data is stored. 

With these legacy POS systems, you will need to buy an additional iPad licence (a few hundred dollars) for each device on top of the basic POS terminal.

As you can see, some brands of POS serve both retail and F&B clients – in some cases the software is different and specialised for each kind of business (like Raptor) but in other cases, the same software serves both, with some features going unused. Most POS accept different modes of payment (such as NETs, Mastercard and Visa) and all you need is a credit card terminal, which you can get easily enough from the banks.


Restaurant-specific features

Systems that serve both retail and restaurants might not have all the functions you may want to run your restaurant optimally

For example, some POS systems do not have table layouts, meaning they cannot display where all the tables in your restaurant are located and their current status. Some F&B owners and managers find this feature very important. Likewise, a POS system that can be used for retail might not have other restaurant-specific features like queue management or photo displays for menu items, which make it easier for waitstaff to recognise dishes – especially useful for big menus.

Pricing

It’s important to note that as the layout, needs and concept of every F&B outlet is different, there is no fixed price for any POS system out there – they are customised for your restaurant. 

Legacy POS systems will probably have a higher upfront costs because they are one-time payments. As for Cloud POS, there are usually monthly payments due to the online data storage. The number of devices you may need will determine the price you end up paying.

“Lifetime price” or “one-time payment” does not necessarily mean that you only pay once. 

Hardware

For many traditional POS quotations, the one-time payment includes a 1-year warranty for your POS terminal. After the first year, you will be required to pay for a maintenance package or extended warranty to ensure that you are covered should your POS terminal break down.

If the point-of-sales system runs on Apple iPad or Android devices, the warranty comes under the individual POS hardware provider (e.g. Apple) and you pay the same maintenance fees any other consumer pays. 

Check with your POS vendor if you can only purchase hardware from them. It is important that you have alternative option and not retrict to purchase from the vendor only. Afterall, one of the reason that you choose a modern cloud based POS is to have hardware agnostic and able to buy it anywhere.

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Scalability

Scalability does not mean open another new outlets, but it is about flexibility that the platform design to adapt to your store. For example, you can ask if the POS software has a CRM built in, and is the CRM data visible across all outlets. You will be surprise that some branded POS may not even have such function. And the handicap may cost you more that what you try to save.

Another example will be open API, or in a nutshell, if the POS vendor allow other third-party cloud application to connect to their platform to retrieve data. Who knows you decided to move to another platform later and realise that you have no way to extract data out from the provider.

Support

Support is another additional cost that is seldom factored in when considering the price of a POS system – and that’s a crucial mistake. Most POS quotations will include a training for management and staff on how to use the system, but extra trainings will be chargeable. Few companies provide onsite support, and those that do charge exorbitant amounts by the hour. Find a point of sales provider with a service and support package that you’re comfortable with before committing for the long haul, you’ll thank yourself later.