Point of Maximum Return

By Lisa Terry, Contributing Editor | September 01, 2005

A point-of-sale system represents a huge investment for many companies, yet most fail to use even a fraction of the systems' capabilities. That relegates POS squarely to the expense category, when full use of the software and hardware they've bought can make POS a revenue-generator. Smart moves throughout the selection, implementation, integration, maintenance and usage process help users tweak that much more value from the dollars they expend on POS.

There are obvious tips, such as ensuring you train properly and explore functions beyond ringing up a sale, but here are some not-so-apparent ways that restaurant operators make the most of their POS:

Choose hardware wisely. Shopping for refurbished equipment can be a big money saver. Bojangles, saved a million dollars by purchasing and refurbishing two-year-old Par Technology (partech.com) equipment from a chain that had migrated to a new platform after an ownership change. But older equipment sometimes falls short of today's software needs. To prevent obsolescence, "we signed an agreement with Par saying that we need to be viable on the next three or four versions of the software using this equipment," says Rusty Patterson, director of store systems for Bojangles, who hopes to get four to five additional years out of the equipment for the 300+ unit chain.

Really use the frequent diner program. Tracking and redeeming points aren't enough. Mine that gold to reach out to customers on a regular basis. Dairy King, Heber City, Utah, built its frequent diner list to 3,000 in its tourism-friendly town of 8,000 by cooking up enticing offers and mailing dollar-off coupons to list members. Its Christmas-in-July promotion saw redemptions of 75 to 100 a day, with most every customer buying something else as well. That's helped Dairy King grow 17 percent last year, with 20 percent growth expected in 2005.

Don't gloss over the operating system. Texas' Jason's Deli is moving from electronic cash registers to its first POS system, but management didn't want to incur costly Windows licenses for 800 to 1,000 terminals. "There's no need for Windows in a POS terminal, says Toma Bedolla, chief enterprise architect. "We need minimal function from the operating system and it needs to be stable," with reduced exposure to viruses. Finding software was more challenging, he admits, but Java-based iSiva (sivacorp.com) fit the bill, and Jason's Deli is saving $30 per terminal in licenses, he says.

Make your own training materials. POS developers make great, generalized training materials for getting users up to speed. But making your own teaches your way of doing things, including idiosyncrasies of your particular menu and processes. "When we get a lot of support calls for the same thing, we put out a quick tip," updating self-generated pocket guides to POS, says Bojangles' Patterson. Constant training also helps instill optional POS use.

Really mine that data. "I know in depth how much I've done in sales and what I sold in the past, so I can forecast what I'll sell in the future," says Chris Endres, co-owner of four Popeyes Chicken and Biscuits in the Elkhart, Indiana area. Drilling down into detailed data in its Maitre'D POS system (maitredpos.com) from Posera, such as sales and menu mix for the last four first Fridays of the month, helps Endres to ensure sure staff scheduling and inventory match that demand. He also compares food theoreticals to inventory to ensure usage is on track.

Use the "what-if" training mode. Special orders don't upset Dairy King workers, but ringing them up can. With high turnover in its teenage staff, owner Jan Olpin uses her Digital Dining POS (digitaldining.com) software's training mode to run new hires through what-if scenarios, like a hamburger with no tomatoes, cut in half. She also turns off the change calculation, forcing the teens to do the math and accommodate guests who "help out" by giving, say, a $10 bill and a penny for a $5.01 order. Teens have thanked her later in life for forcing them to learn that skill.

Consider integrating POS with security systems. Running POS transactions matched up with video feed helps uncover shrinkage that's difficult to catch in any other way, says Popeyes' Franchisee Endres. "In quick service the biggest way people steal is not ringing up products they sell," says Endres. "If I don't know better, I'll think [my shrink] is strictly in raw product."

Test, test, test. Before installing a new POS application in your restaurants, run it offline for a while, enabling real users to test out every possible order type. That approach helped Dairy King set up the software according to its menu needs and root out bugs before the go-live date.

Minimize support costs. Jason's Deli is looking to exploit the benefit of operating its own distribution channel by locating a POS equipment depot service provider near its distribution facility, so hot spares can ship out on the company's own trucks.

Run disparate businesses on one platform. Got retail and a restaurant? Instead of settling for one POS solution for its grocery operation and another for his two restaurants, Matthew Rupena hunted down a single platform that could do both. PC America's (pcamerica.com) Cash Register Express runs in Rupena's Fine Foods, while Restaurant Pro Express operates Rupena's Summit Café and Rupena's at the Wisconsin State Fair, with similar interfaces, a common back end infrastructure and Dell (dell.com) hardware. "It simplifies our management," says Rupena. "Any manager can go to any location and use the software on the reporting side."

All those bullet points on the spec sheet for your POS software represent features to make it more complete and competitive. Making use of the functionality you already paid for is low-hanging fruit when it comes to maximizing your investment. And smart thinking about the whole solution and how you implement it can help minimize the cost impact and even help POS add to the bottom line.

Point of service news

Par Technology signs a letter of intent to acquire PixelPoint, a privately held hospitality technology company.

Denny's has purchased xpient Solutions' IRIS Point of Sale (xpient.com) system to implement in all of its company-owned restaurants. Denny's will also recommend IRIS to its over 1,000 of franchised restaurants.

Chefette Restaurants, a native quick service restaurant chain in the Caribbean, and Micros Systems (micros.com) have partnered to deploy the Micros RES 3000 point- of-sale system with Micros Workstation 4 touch-screen terminals to its 15 stores.

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