People tend to look at their POS reporting tools as a way to document the past. The point of sale records all its transactions, taking note of order totals, tips, taxes, inventory, customer info—any bit of data that’s associated with a sale, really. Owners can pore over all this data to get the vital information they need for running their businesses efficiently and be assured of accurate record keeping.
But the reports you get aren’t just a record of something that happened; they’re also a forecast for what could be. In practical terms, that means you look at how much cheese you tend to go through in a week, then use that as the basis for future orders. But the data doesn’t just help you improve the way you do things. It can also be used to improve your business. And for a restaurant, where the pace is so hectic nobody has time to stop and observe how things are going, that kind of insight is invaluable.
Here are some ways to use your reporting you might not have thought of:
#1 – Better evaluate your servers’ performance
In general, the employee reporting you can get out of a POS is fairly basic. With a time-clock feature, you can track hours for payroll and make sure everyone’s on time. But when it comes to your waitstaff, there’s plenty more data baked in that can help you evaluate their performance. Transaction data—like average check size and sales totals for the day/week/month—can be filtered down to the individual staff member attached to each order. From there, it opens up plenty of information.
You can easily spot underperforming staff through a simple report. Just look at each server’s average check size. If there are any glaring underperformers, you can dig deeper into their orders. Maybe you notice they tend not to sell as many sides, desserts, or drinks. Or maybe they have to issue a lot of refunds and discounts because they make a lot of mistakes. It’s also possible their totals are lower because they just don’t get that much in tips. These are all problems in their own right, but at least you can know about and can address them. The answer could be extra training and performance incentives, or just getting rid of someone who’s not performing.
#2 – Find your most popular and profitable items
Use reporting to really understand how your food sells. Generate a report, sorted from most popular to least popular menu item to find out what reliably sells and what doesn’t. Then generate another one based on profit margin and, again, sort it from highest to lowest.
Are there any items that are both popular and profitable? Great! That’s a natural fit to use for a promotion that gets people into your restaurant. You’ve got some wiggle room on the price and can afford to discount it as an incentive.
Do you have very popular items that don’t yield much in the way of profit? Take a look at what you can change about it to bring the cost down. Or, if it’s popular enough, you might be able to raise the price.
#3 – Learn about your customers and market directly to their preferences
Who always gets a salad? Who loves your burgers? Which customers tend to order a glass of wine with dinner? You can find out all kinds of information about your customers’ dining habits, and start marketing directly to them.
If you’ve got a mailing list going, you can tailor different versions to different crowds. Create a segment of your salad fans and send them an email the next time you’ve introduced a new one to your menu. Make another segment of your wine drinkers, and send them pairing suggestions for the next time they dine with you. Those pairing options could be among your most profitable items, and then offer them a free glass of wine if they order one of your suggestions.
You can also segment by other behaviors. People who only eat lunch with you shouldn’t get emails aimed at the dinner crowd. The ones who’ve liked you on Facebook shouldn’t get emails at all. You should meet them on Facebook. The point is, with POS reporting you can get detailed pictures of who your customers are, which gives you all sorts of ways to keep them coming back.
#4 – Find out when your slow times are, then do something about it
This is one of the most basic kinds of reports you can run, but it can have a very big impact. You’re probably already pretty aware of when your business hits a lull, but it’s much easier to understand the impact when you have solid numbers to go along with it. You’ll be able to quickly see how much you earn and compare it to what you’re spending to stay open. In some cases the answer can be pretty clear cut: if everything slows to a crawl on a Monday, you can probably just stay closed. Likewise, if you open for breakfast but find it’s not nearly as profitable as lunch or dinner you can narrow your scope and stop opening up so early.
But what about those odd times in the middle of the week, after the lunch rush and before dinner? You could implement a Happy Hour, which doesn’t necessarily need to involve alcohol (though it never hurts). You can run specials on select items—probably the ones you identified when you followed our advice up above.
#5 – Stop wasting food
Wastage is a huge problem for restaurants. There’s the money lost in the purchase, there’s the revenue lost because it couldn’t be sold, and there’s the cost of disposing it (whether that’s time or money). A good POS will have some kind of mechanism for tracking waste and recording the reasons for it even happening. That certainly goes a long way towards prevention.
But a proactive inventory check and some agility with the menu is even better. Running stock-on-hand reports can show you where you stand with all your ingredients. Create specials around any ingredients that you have too much of and need to be used quickly.
You can see that POS reports offer unique advantages, not the least of which is split-second access to thousands and thousands of data points and data events that shine a light on your business. If you and your staff are using your POS properly, it’s going to dutifully record all the information you’ll need to make smarter and better decisions. You can compare and correlate all this at a level that wasn’t previously possible for smaller businesses. It’s more than just improved recordkeeping and accounting for the past. Reporting gives you insights to build a better future.