Using Technology to Increase Your Bottom Line
By Margie Walker
Successful restaurant operators understand the adage, “it’s not what you make, it’s what you keep that counts.” Controlling costs and maintaining sales volume are essential. Fortunately, there are software tools available to help manage cost, generate more sales and increase revenues.
Point of Sale (POS) technology applications help manage a restaurant’s two largest variable expenditures – food and labor. Alan Wright, Vice President of Hospitality Sales for Postec, a reseller of POS solutions, says the most important aspect of effectively using technology is “finding technology that fits with your operational rhythm.”
Inventory control can range from the macro to the micro. One of the micro applications is the ability to handle spot inventory at the end of a shift. For example, at shift end a report is generated giving a piece count of all your proteins. The manager on duty can quickly count the line box inventory to reconcile usage. By focusing on the most expensive items per shift, applying technology plays two important roles. First, it communicates to employees that inventory is closely guarded. Walt Davis, Southeast General Manager and Operating Partner for Retail Data Systems, a POS reseller, remarked, “when the economy goes down, theft goes up.” Managers are able to isolate the cause of waste much more closely in the short term. Monthly or weekly inventory reports cannot perform this function of immediate cost control. Secondly, the technology highlights any staff members who might need additional training.
POS technology has many exciting functions for managing labor costs. The POS system can act as a virtual comptroller. These applications monitor employee timesheets and send a text alert to the manager on duty when an employee is nearing overtime. It can also monitor the timesheets of minors and send text messages signaling mandated breaks or shifts exceeding Labor Board regulations. Greg Teague, Food and Beverage Director at Barnsley Gardens Resort, commented he would like to see the use of biometrics for timesheet applications (biometrics is the use of a thumb print to log on to a computer). Teague explained by using biometrics “you either clocked in or you didn’t.” It is a solid solution to the problem of employees padding payroll.
Customer service is central to maintaining revenue. Ultimately, customer satisfaction is only as good as their last experience. Consistently, excellent service is the hallmark of successful operations. QSR Automation’s kitchen software options are applications focusing on providing real-time information to keep back-of-the-house operations running smoothly, enabling the restaurant to provide a great dining experience. Their products work with various POS solutions to scan the incoming orders and direct items to the proper station. Its intelligent routing has the ability to hold back items that are faster cooking until the other, longer cooking items are underway. The “all day” feature keeps stations on track. If the kitchen is getting behind, an alert notifies management that the front ticket is over 25 minutes old. It tracks the time of reorders and missing items for an accurate picture of how the kitchen is running. It can also coordinate orders so all the food is the freshest and fastest possible. Niko Karatassos, Director of Operations for Buckhead Life Restaurant Group, has utilized Retail Data Systems to provide a solution to include QSR’s products working in conjunction with his POS system, Aloha. He states, “our kitchen video system is a real breakthrough. It allows our restaurants to have better control on the speed of our service and improve the consistency of our timing.” Additionally, the expediter monitor helps assess if a staff member, a station or even a menu item is consistently holding up table times. These forecasting aspects are designed to keep operators out of the “weeds,” thus increasing customer satisfaction.
New developments are on the horizon for restaurant technology. One example is employee pay cards. A pay card is a Visa card that is given to employees instead of a check. Wages are directly deposited into employee accounts. This eliminates time spent tracking uncashed checks, the disruption of employees coming in to pick up checks, check fraud and stolen checks. Employees are paid immediately without incurring any check cashing costs. The card and account belong to the employee, so they can access online banking for bill paying and the card is transferable from job to job.
Quick-service restaurants are also pioneering two new applications: kiosk ordering and contactless payment options. Installing kiosks saves labor and cuts down on staff errors. The Subway restaurant chain and Moe’s Southwest Grill are experimenting with kiosks, allowing customers to select their own order. Contactless payment is similar to a windshield sticker for toll roads. It is a form of radio frequency identification. Ty Hardison, Vice President of Business Development for Vantage Card Services, explains, “contactless payments are more secure than credit cards because the data cannot be extracted from the chip. Also, you are instantly aware if your chip is stolen because it is on your key ring, cell phone or other frequently used daily item.” As added security, it has a small limit because it is designed to replace small cash transactions.
The defining factor for what is right for your operation is finding a balance between applications that produce the greatest results for the lowest cost. “How does this application maneuver in the heat of battle” is a yardstick that Teague uses. Do an assessment of the operational obstacles and the tasks that require large chunks of time. By implementing one or two cutting-edge technology solutions, restaurateurs can increase productivity and profitability immediately.