Impact Printers

By Lisa Terry, Contributing Editor | May 01, 2005

With the many elements it takes to operate a successful hospitality enterprise, the printer doesn't always come first to mind. But the right match of printer to application can give a bustling business just the edge it needs to boost productivity, sales and customer satisfaction. While wireless point-of-sale systems have been around for a while, the development of robust and dependable wireless print solutions and wireless card swipes, are suddenly bringing new attention to the point of sale. Increasingly busy bars, restaurants with outdoor seating and stadiums have turned to complete wireless solutions to speed service and allow wait staff to spend more time in the dining room and less time running orders to the bar and kitchen.

Certainly at Denver's Comedy Works, bustle is the name of the game. With three tightly timed shows on a busy weekend night, wait staff have very narrow windows in which to sell food and drinks, a major source of the club's revenue. Maximizing sales time is essential--but so is processing transactions for 324 audience members in a timely manner. That task got even harder when the fire marshal ordered a layout change that doubled the number of checks needed at the end of a show.

While vigilant about over-serving, management wanted to stretch selling time as long as possible, and then get customers out the door quickly. "There is a tiny window to make our money," says Wende Curtis, owner/operator. "We'll do anything we possibly can to speed up transactions." Comedy Works deployed Symbol (symbol.com) hand-held terminals and Epson Mobilink (pos.epson.com) wearable printers running off the Comedy Works' Digital Dining point-of-sale system from Menusoft (menu soft.com). With wireless access points, the Symbol handhelds wisk orders off to the Digital Dining POS at the bar and kitchen before the waitstaff even move.

When it's time to close out sales, wait staff don the printers and move table to table, taking cash and credit cards and issuing receipts on the spot. The solution enabled Comedy Works to delay last call by five to ten minutes per show--a significant help in an operation where wait staff average $2,000 each in sales on a weekend night. "This is made for my business," says Curtis.

Improving inventory

A printer had a similar impact on Pizzeria Uno. Keeping orders moving through the 200+-unit chain's hectic kitchens was a real challenge. Pizzeria Uno uses a video expo to track orders and ticket times in the kitchen, and wanted to find a way to reliably print bar coded orders at three prep stations. That would allow an expeditor to take the ticket off a completed order, scan the bar code to bump it, and run the order to the dining room. Previously they used a keypad. "If you scan the ticket, you get more accurate ticket times," says Chris Gorman, director of restaurant systems. "The expeditor isn't fishing around screens" looking for the right order to bump.

But finding a printer to stand up to the heat and spills of kitchens was a challenge. Pizzeria Uno worked with TransAct Technologies on development of its Ithaca KitchenJet 1000 (ithacaprinters.com). "Our environment is rough, and printers get a lot of use on a busy night," says Gorman. "A paper jam can be a disaster." A successful pilot in 12 restaurants led to rollout in 126 corporate restaurants and about 75 percent of franchises. "It's been a real good solution to capture correct ticket times, and there is less downtime and repair costs," he adds.

A gift of a printer

Of course POS printers are not just for restaurants. Printers are also unlocking benefits for the Racine Marriott in Wisconsin, where the catering department began using a Seiko (siibusinessproducts.com) Smart Label printer to boost office productivity, according to Jenny Williams, catering assistant.

For the Tropicana Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, a printer change triggered a cascade of benefits from increased productivity to improved accuracy, customer service, merchandising data and inventory taking. An earlier printer making labels for products sold in Tropicana's gift shop and gift kiosks was incapable of printing tiny butterfly labels for small items like jewelry and keychains.

Significantly, Tropicana didn't include prices on its labels, had a low bar code read-rate and required a multi-step process to print labels. As if that weren't enough Tropicana employees were required to hand-attach the labels to each hang tag. Tropicana's store administrator Patrick Leary spent 280 hours seeking an alternative solution, and ultimately chose three Zebra (zebra.com) LP 2844-Z direct thermal printers. The Zebra printers are capable of printing all three of Tropicana's labels--butterfly, hangtag and sticky labels.

Printer software pulls data right from Tropicana's AS/400 POS, and the units print clear bar codes with adequate quiet area around them, boosting readability for point of service and physical inventory taking. They also include prices. That eliminated the need for separate price labeling and reduced the use of "open" merchandise keys on the point of service terminal, improving inventory tracking and speeding checkout for customers, which in turn enhanced sales.

The ability to quickly change label types and print all tag types reduced the daily tagging task from two people, tagging for two to four hours a day, to one person in one hour, and saved about $300 a week, quickly delivering ROI for the project. "We just did a physical inventory, and because the bar codes are so clear, we could scan from a farther distance and the scan accuracy was there, so it sped up the inventory process, with no manual entry," says Leary. "It's been a godsend."

Tropicana will soon use its third printer (which used as a spare) for labeling promotional items, enabling staff to better track usage, incentives and traffic.

Franchise Gets Enterprising

LOUISVILLE, Ky--Hooters largest franchisee, RMD Corporation, recently installed an enterprise management system from Micros (micros.com) to remotely manage its 41 locations in four states via the mymicros.net Internet portal and the Restaurant Enterprise Series (RES) 3000. Brad Harper, controller at RMD, believes this system helps managers more effectively deal with trends in sales and costs. "Mymicros.net allows us to access information on the fly at the supervisor level or from people in the field," he explains. "The system keeps them abreast of current information to which they can react immediately as issues arise. It gives our managers the ability to be more proactive and work at the front end of the curve rather than the tail end."

The Atlantic Ups Service

Fort Lauderdale, Fla--The Atlantic Hotel Condominium, a Starwood Luxury Collection hotel, recently installed Profit Series point-of-sale system from Hospitality Solutions International (hsi-solutions.com).

"HSI is very knowledgeable and experienced with integrating its POS at Starwood properties," states James Huaman, systems manager of The Atlantic. "The installation team knew exactly what needed to be done to make everything perform smoothly and received excellent project management from the HSI team."

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