These days, more and more restaurants are taking advantage of point-of-service (POS) technology, replacing cash registers with fully integrated, PC-based systems. In many cases, the technology is staying well ahead of customer demand, as most users report they are utilizing only a percentage of the available features, but talk excitedly about moving forward in the future with the introduction of several of the additional features being offered by providers.
Now: fully integrated features
Athens, Ga.-based Locos Grill & Pub had been using a legacy system for a number of years, according to Bridger Loftin, the eatery's senior vice president of purchasing. "However, when we grew to 25 stores, we found that it was difficult to get aggregate totals in our office for corporate reporting. As such, we ended up spending a lot of time compiling reports from our systems," he explains. Management soon realized that to increase efficiencies it needed a new solution.
Before selecting a system, Locos' management took the company's unique needs into account. "We are a full-service restaurant, as well as offering pick-up and delivery, so it was important to find a fully-integrated software package," continues Loftin.
Locos Grill & Pub selected the Maitre'D 2005 Software Suite by Posera (maitredpos.com) "because of its comprehensive reporting capabilities and its flexibility that allowed it to be tailored to the needs of our corporate operations and our franchises," Loftin states.
The system is installed in all of the restaurant's locations, now numbering 27, as a way to centralize operations. Maitre'D handles corporate reporting, inventory management, time and attendance, accounts receivable, electronic funds transfer and delivery. "The system allows us to pull down corporate reporting every day," notes Loftin. "It also has a Web-based solution that we employ to track sales, labor and food costs in a real-time environment." Corporate reporting features assist managers across multiple departments. It allows Loftin, for example, to see which products the restaurants are using the most and how quickly they're moving through product supply, allowing him to do a better job of communicating with suppliers. Regional managers use the sales information, broken down by revenue center, offering visibility into how the franchisees are utilizing the different areas of their restaurants.
Later: Locos is excited about the future. "We are constantly modifying our use of the system," states Loftin. "In fact, we have just scratched the surface with what it will do. For instance, we are currently looking at using their hand-held solution as well as bar-code scanners to check in and count inventory."
Now: multitasking solution
Friendly's Restaurants, with more than 500 corporate and franchised restaurants, serves sandwiches, entrees, and ice cream desserts to its mostly family-group clientele. When the Wilbraham, Mass.-based chain began looking for a POS system to meet its needs, it considered several criteria, including price, system stability, expansion opportunities, and vendor history and reputation. "We also wanted a vendor that could easily handle the conversion and support of the sites in our operating geography," explains Richard Del Valle, director of restaurant systems support. Friendly's currently has restaurants in 16 states along the East Coast. "In other words, we wanted the vendor to install the system in all of our locations and also make sure they had a dealer or corporate network capable of handling the needs of our area of operations."
Friendly's selected the Restaurant Enterprise System (RES) 3000, offered by Micros Systems, Inc. (micros.com), one element of which is the Micros 3700 Table Service Restaurant POS system. The system is now in place in all of the company's 387 corporate-owned locations.
Friendly's prefers the system for several key features, including its ability to help staff ensure that customers get the correct order in a timely fashion. It also controls prices and menus, and manages profits on a chain-wide basis. "All POS systems handle order entry," explains Del Valle, "but we see big wins in menu price add-ons and package pricing." When customers order ice cream, for example, the dish is served with preset toppings. If a customer requests toppings beyond these, there are additional charges. The RES 3000 automates these processes.
"Another feature that really helps is cash management, which we did not have in our previous system," he continues. "The system is also very reliable," says Del Valle, "which is a big plus for us from a service and controls perspective."
Later: Friendly's is exploring a number of expansion opportunities, such as kitchen display systems and the system's labor management application.
Now: hosted applications
At Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville the Revelation solution by Infogenesis (infogenesis.com) is the POS solution of choice in three of the company's 13 locations — Las Vegas, Myrtle Beach, and New Orleans.
Infogenesis hosts Revelation as an application service provider (ASP) solution from a secure data center in California and maintains Internet connectivity with each of the three restaurants, processing all outlet and site transactions in a real-time environment. This approach allows the restaurant to receive the benefits of POS without having to hire a support staff or install server hardware. In addition, the system integrates with those the restaurants have from other vendors.
"We also like the off-LAN functionality," adds Eric Forward, chief financial officer. "If the connection goes down and is not able to communicate to the server, we can still process all of our orders. We don't need to use 'crash kits'."
It is a very solid system, according to Forward. "It never goes down, which is great for a high-volume restaurant business such as ours, where we deal with thousands of guests a day," he explains. The company finds programming the solution very easy. "If we need to add an item or change a price, we can do it on the fly," he notes. When the company introduces database changes, such as new menu items, Infogenesis automatically builds the updates into the system.
Jimmy Buffett's also uses an additional feature of the technology — a wireless POS terminal — in its Myrtle Beach restaurant. "We have bar service outside of a lighthouse, which is about 50 yards from the main restaurant, so the wireless feature is very useful," he explains.
Later: Jimmy Buffett's expansion opportunities include plans to open three new locations in the coming 18 months. Each will operate the Revolution ASP. In addition, the eatery is implementing Eatec back-office software (www.eatec.com) and will integrate the solution with Revolution at the POS for advanced reporting capabilities. The company is also toying with the idea of using handhelds for pay-at-the-table capabilities, though no launch plans are yet in place.
Now: order accuracy
Bill Miller Bar-B-Q, with 67 locations and headquarters in San Antonio, Texas, has been using Menusoft's Digital Dining (digitaldining.com) for about 12 years, since the "DOS" days. At the time, six of its locations operated on Digital Dining DOS. "When their Windows capabilities became available, we saw the benefits of being able to manipulate reports," states Rick Dworaczyk, IT-POS director. "We converted these six locations to Windows," he informs.
Now, as the restaurant adds new locations, it installs Digital Dining with Windows capabilities. It is also in the process of converting its other existing locations from cash registers to POS technology. It currently has 43 locations using POS systems, with the remaining 24 still using cash registers. "We plan to eventually do a complete conversion," states Dworaczyk.
The system is apt at ensuring order-charge accuracy — to charge the customers properly for everything they order — which greatly benefits the restaurant's customer service. "We also like the speed," Dworaczyk adds. "It improves customer service, because it improves response time."
Recently, Bill Miller Bar-B-Q implemented the system's hand-held unit technology, which allows employees to take orders while customers are standing in line. "As such, in most cases, by the time the customer is paying, their order is being called," he notes.
Later: In the future, the restaurant plans to implement the corporate polling feature, which will allow it to get reports in real-time.