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POS Saves Restaurant from Tax Man

The Smokehouse is a 230-seat casual restaurant and bar located in Ann Arbor, MI ( that, because of inefficiencies with its POS, was paying for customers’ sales tax whenever food was ordered from the bar.

General manager Duane Owens explains: “When you have both bar and restaurant customer clientele, there are some tricky tax issues. I knew that a POS that handled sales tax well would save us several thousand dollars a year.” The Smokehouse needed a POS that would recognize when food items were added to a bar order and automatically recalculate taxes accordingly.

In addition, Owens wanted a POS with user-friendly customer loyalty and electronic gift card programs, plus the flexibility to configure menu and bar items to specifications. “We were issuing gift certificates manually in a very tedious process,” Owens explains. “Money was falling through the cracks.”

For assistance in the selection, Owens turned to his local division of US Foods (, which opened up an unexpected bonus: The Smokehouse would be eligible for a generous discount on the purchase through the US Foods Resource Advantage program.

Owens was referred to Pontiac Business Systems (, the authorized ASI Restaurant Manager ( representative in Michigan. Pontiac Business Systems designed a custom Restaurant Manager system that was well suited for The Smokehouse’s needs. “My bartenders ring in drinks very differently from how it might be done in other bars,” Owens explains. “As part of their training, I want to make sure they know the ingredients in each item; so they ring up drink orders by first selecting the type of alcohol in the drink, rather than being able to simply select the drink by name.”

The new POS has resolved The Smokehouse’s tax issues: Restaurant Manager’s Smart Tax module identifies bar transactions that include food and automatically switches the way taxes are processed on that transaction. “This has saved us about $1,000” in taxes, says Owens. The Smokehouse was also able to realize tax savings on catering orders to nearby colleges and hospitals. “We fill catering orders for these institutions regularly. We had been paying taxes on these sales that should have been tax exempt because our old system did not have a way to track them properly,” says Owens, noting an additional expected $400 to $700 in tax savings on the catering side of
the business.

Frequent Diner Program Keeps Customers Loyal
Owens is making use of a variety of diverse functions on the new POS. “I ran an employee contest with some great prizes, including dinner here at The Smokehouse for the team of servers that signed up the most customers for our new frequent diner program. We had 900 people sign up in the first two months,” says Owens.

The flexibility of the customer loyalty module allowed Pontiac to design a program whereby customers need not carry loyalty cards; instead, the system uses the customer’s phone number to track purchases and generate coupons. “Our frequent diner program helps us reward customer loyalty and keep our tables filled.”

With the built-in promotion and coupon capabilities, The Smokehouse is able to deliver tailored promotions to loyalty club members. Owens has discovered that customers respond best to special offers issued through Facebook and he can use Restaurant Manager‘s database to build targeted lists of Facebook users that he wants to reach.

What’s more, Restaurant Manager’s RM Monitor service allows Owens to keep tabs on the restaurant from his smartphone. With it, Owens has been able to reduce labor costs by 5 percent. “I check RM Monitor 10 to 12 times a day when I am not on-site,” he says. “It allows me to see my sales and labor costs and I have literally cut servers over the phone to keep The Smokehouse’s labor-as-percent-of-sales under control on slow afternoons.”

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