Technology promotes healthier bottom line, healthier customers
Tin Drum: The Value of the Personalized Ordering Experience
By Helen K. Kelley
Increased revenue. Decreased costs. Decreased customer wait time. Increased customer satisfaction. These are the results achieved by Tin Drum Asia CafÃ© after implementing Usable Healthâ€™s SmartMenu terminal. But there was one other benefit that Tin Drum owner Steven Chan found so intriguing that he agreed to pilot the technology in his six restaurant locations.
â€œOne of the most interesting aspects of SmartMenu is that itâ€™s health-based. It can help the customer make better food selections by suggesting side items and other add-ons that make up a healthy meal,â€ explains Chan. â€œI donâ€™t consider myself that knowledgeable about making healthy choices. I wonâ€™t think about how many calories are in the handful of chips I just put in my mouth. The general public just doesnâ€™t have this wisdom. Theyâ€™d like to make their own choices, but they’re not knowledgeable enough, so SmartMenu give them the tools to help balance their diet.â€
Itâ€™s all about choice
SmartMenu is an interactive POS system that providers diners with a very personalized ordering experience. The self-service terminal allows customers to select their meals quickly and efficiently and, at the same time, it tracks and addresses their preferences, such as if the person is health-conscious or price-sensitive. When a diner swipes his or her card, SmartMenu recognizes the person and automatically suggests what he or she ordered on the previous visit. If the customer asks for recommendations, SmartMenu will make suggestions for selections, up-selling from the regular menu or the healthier menu based on those stored preferences.
Jiten Chhabra, founder and CEO of Usable Health, says that SmartMenu is a great help to not only health-conscious diners but also to those with specific health concerns such as high cholesterol and diabetes.
â€œIf a customer indicates that he or she has specific health needs, the system will address those needs,â€ says Chhabra. â€œSmartMenu incorporates a â€˜food swapperâ€™ engine that will make recommendations for menu items and suggest combinations of items, such as â€˜have a small salad and a small sandwich,â€™ to the customer. Even if a restaurant doesn’t have many healthy choices available, SmartMenu can make selections based on portion sizes.â€
Itâ€™s a win-win situation â€” operators make more money on margins by selling combinations of menu items that wouldnâ€™t otherwise be found by the customer, and customers are able to satisfy their taste buds and their health needs at the same time.
Customers also have a choice between using the technology or old-fashioned counter service. SmartMenu is meant to work in tandem with restaurant employees, so if a customer feels more comfortable talking to a â€œrealâ€ person, they can bypass the terminal and place their order with a cashier.
Personalized ordering = a healthier bottom line
Point of sale systems are designed to lower operating costs, but SmartMenu takes that design a step further.
â€œThe traditional POS system was not designed with improving the diner experience in mind,â€ explains Chhabra. â€œSmartMenu makes the ordering process interactive so that the diner doesnâ€™t feel ignored. It also makes the ordering process â€˜intelligentâ€™ by taking food item margins into consideration before making suggestions to the diner.â€
According to Usable Healthâ€™s data, when SmartMenu is implemented, on average, operators start instantly saving at least $500 a month due to decreased labor costs, and the average increase in check size is at least 15 percent.
Chan agrees, stating that SmartMenu has definitely decreased Tin Drumâ€™s operating costs by cutting down on labor. And since customers enter their own orders, there is less chance for cashier error â€” this improved accuracy makes for less waste.
SmartMenu also has increased revenues for Tin Drum. â€œIt raises the check average by making up-sell recommendations to customers on a consistent basis,â€ Chain explains. â€œIt also cuts down on customer wait time, so the orders are coming into the kitchen faster.â€
Additionally, the system manages the redemption process, saving the operator valuable time.
â€œWe donâ€™t have to accept coupons anymore. I donâ€™t have to count them manually and track them myself,â€ says Chan. â€œThe system does it for me.â€
SmartMenu as a marketing tool
SmartMenu logs a variety of data about customers including how long a person looks at a menu item and whether or not they order healthy options. This information comes in handy as a marketing tool for operators who want to target certain customers with specific offers.
â€œThe system lets operators configure deals and promotions themselves without paying an outside vendor,â€ explains Chhabra. â€œFor example, if you see that your restaurant is empty at certain hours, you can notify your customers to come take advantage of a special during that particular time and increase your business.â€
Chan adds that SmartMenu has given him the flexibility to launch whatever kind of promotion or loyalty program he desires.
â€œIn the past, restaurants had to go to the expense of printing gift or loyalty cards and setting up a program. With the SmartMenu system, I log on to my account and set up special offers for my customers whenever I like. Then, all I have to do is post the offer on Tin Drumâ€™s Facebook page to get the word out,â€ he says. â€œAnd all customers have to do to take advantage of the offer is log in when they come in to one of our restaurants.â€
Personal choice represents opportunity
Serving as a pilot chain for SmartMenu has been rewarding both for Tin Drum Asia CafÃ© and for Chan personally.
â€œIn a way, I feel like Iâ€™m sort of a partner to [Usable Health] in developing SmartMenu. I can offer them opinions and share real-time experiences, ideas and suggestions,â€ Chan says. â€œI think this is just the beginning of this kind of technology. The personal choice terminal presents a lot of opportunity for both restaurants and customers.â€
Tin Drum Asia CafÃ© has five metro Atlanta locations and one in Forsyth County and has begun franchising in the southeast. All locations will incorporate the SmartMenu terminals. For more information, visit www.tindrumcafe.net.
To learn more about Usable Health and SmartMenu technology and see customer and diner testimonials, visit www.usablehealth.com.