Improved productivity, efficiency, time and cost savings. We’ve all heard how technology is one of the greatest enablers of our time.
This is especially true for hospitality, where the best systems can manage nearly every aspect of operations, making up for a lack of staff onsite and levelling the playing field for smaller businesses with lesser resources.
When it comes to hospitality tech, the heart and soul of every restaurant, café or bar is its point of sale (POS), and in a workplace environment with various moving parts where costly mistakes can happen anytime, your point of sale is more than just a screen you record your daily takings in.
It’s also the system that helps you effectively increase your table turnover, reduce errors associated with order taking and fulfilment, and manage your relationships with your customers.
With the POS playing such a heavy role in modern F&B operations today, placing emphasis on accurate training ensures that your employees are using your point of sale in the best way they can. Even though most of your staff might regularly use only certain modules in the POS, there are three features that everyone needs to know inside and out.
1 . Table layouts: viewing and serving according to your venue’s layout
Why this is important: Got a busy evening with groups of all sizes coming in? A POS that allows you to view and map orders to each table means less confusion, especially if you’ve got new staff members on the floor. Being able to see at-a-glance which tables are empty, happily eating and haven’t even been visited by their server yet also means your servers can tell if there are tables waiting to be filled, and guests can be attended to at the right moment.
Good service is nearly as important to your customers as the food. In many cases, it can be more important than cost. A survey conducted by the consumer strategy company thinkJar revealed these two facts:
- 55 per cent of respondents would pay higher prices if they were guaranteed a good experience.
- 67 per cent cited bad experiences as the reason they stop patronising a business.
For a restaurant customer, that bad experience can start as soon as they walk in to your establishment and find that there are no tables available. While that’s often not the fault of the restaurant, first impressions are everything as they say, and new customers will start to get frustrated when they haven’t been seated within a reasonable amount of time.
Other hallmarks of poor service from the customer’s point of view include: waiting too long for a server to show up, waiting too long for the orders to arrive, or getting an incorrect meal order.
Many hospitality focused POS systems have some basic table layout functionality – seeing who’s seated where and for how long – and that will help with those first impressions. But with a more advanced module, you can also tie orders to the table, track how long they’ve been waiting for food, and receive alerts when customers have gone too long without seeing their server.
Getting a POS that lets you see and serve by table is one thing, but for something like this to function optimally, your staff have to be proactive in updating each table’s status along the way (as the tables get served, as the bills get called etc.) But, when everyone’s using it as they should, orders get made in a timely fashion, delivered to the right person, and customers are never left wondering where their server is.
Best of all, laying your restaurant out by tables helps you and your staff anticipate what else needs to be done for a table to be turned over. It means they know when to scoot over with a dessert menu, and can confidently tell waiting customers when the next table will be available. In other words, your customers will get what they expect in a dining experience, and that’s a well-worn path toward tips and repeat business.
2 . Item options and modifiers: serving customers the orders they want
Why this is important: Thanks to Starbucks, something as simple as ordering a coffee has become a deeply personalised experience. You want to be able to give your customers the exact order they want, but also be able to record any deviations seamlessly into your point of sale. Having preset options and modifiers set up in your POS also means your staff are asking the right questions (like how they want their steak done) before placing an order for a customer.
If everyone ordered your dishes exactly as you intended to prepare them, you wouldn’t need a POS that can accommodate different item variants. But people are picky (or intolerant of certain ingredients), and keeping up with their preferences can get complicated.
In a survey done by Consumer Reports a few years ago, 62 per cent of respondents cited incorrect meal orders as their chief complaint, which is too high a number for it to simply be a case of restaurants serving the wrong dish. These could be small things, like not holding the onions, or forgetting to add extra cheese.
A point of sale system that allows you to preset different variations (small, medium or large coffee) and modifications (without pickles, with an extra shot, or with a side of sauce) to orders benefits both the front- and back-of-house alike.
Used this way, your point of sale system becomes a communication tool – the intermediary between both sides of the house. It also means you’re able to accurately capture what customers regularly want to change about their orders, which helps you plan a better menu.
3 . Customer Relationship Management (CRM): knowing your customers and keeping them coming back
Why this is important: It’s not enough to just cook and serve great food anymore. Restaurant owners and operators need to know their guests’ preferences in order to deliver consistently engaging, memorable experiences and nurture existing customer relationships in order to stand out from the competition. Having a CRM element built into your point of sale makes collecting the information you need much easier.
It’s been said that acquiring a new customer costs five times more than it does to retain an existing one.
The easiest way to see if this is true for your restaurant is to calculate your Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), and the most basic way to do this is to divide your monthly marketing spend by the number of new customers purchasing from your establishment. So if you’ve spent $1,000 this month on marketing and get 500 new customers for example, your CAC works out to be $2.00.
This is an important metric for hospitality businesses to calculate regularly as it helps to shed light on whether specific campaigns or promotions are working or not.
A recent Deloitte study on restaurant customer experience found that 40 per cent of diners want to hear from a restaurant once a month or more, with 34 per cent of those respondents wanting to see a personalised message each time.
The challenge for most however, is to determine what percentage of customers are new and which ones are repeat visitors, and identify – out of a customer base – who’s worth marketing to.
This is where having a point of sale that includes a CRM element can make things extremely simple – collecting information about your customers when they are at the counter paying is a simpler process than getting them to fill out a form, and by associating your guests’ information with their orders, you’ll be able to:
- understand what your customers come to you for, which helps you improve the experience you provide them (by recognising them and their usual orders for example) and keep them coming back.
- Run loyalty programs across all your venues, so the same customer going to another one of your outlets is able to have the same personalised experience they get at another store.
By instilling in your staff the practice of collecting customer names and contact information on the spot at the point of sale (as opposed to getting them to sign up on a form after a purchase), you won’t miss out on any customers walking through your doors.
The point of sale is where it all starts
Gone are the days when a POS was a machine used to just accept payments – today it is the central spot that connects the front- and back-of-house operations for hospitality and foodservice businesses, and it’s part of the overall experience you offer your customers.
But while the technology exists to help you serve your customers with more clarity and customisation, understand their wants and needs better and keep them coming back, it can’t replace a good work ethic. Your POS is only as effective as its users so ensure that your staff are well-versed in these three areas, and you’ll be setting them (and your venue) up for long term success.