Ryan Williams
Jeremy Julian

The Restaurant Technology Guys

The Perfect POS System – What to Look For

February 6, 2015

The Perfect POS System - What to Look ForUnless you run a restaurant chain out of Antarctica, you’ve likely heard us harping on the value of a Point of Sale (POS) system for your restaurant (and if not us, then someone else, because pretty much everyone in the restaurant world is talking about it).

In this tech-driven age, savvy restauranteurs understand the importance of “getting on board and getting with the times” in order to reach their customers where they are. (Hint: they’re online via smartphones, tablets, and laptops.)

BUT a POS system is a huge investment, so we understand it can be a pretty daunting and overwhelming task to 1) decide to integrate it into your restaurant, and then 2) determine which one is right for you. You have lots of options, so your pals The Restaurant Technology Guys are here to simplify it a bit. Consider these important factors and how they relate to your unique business needs.

The Perfect POS System – What to Look for

1. User-friendly

This is always a big concern with technology. Too complex, and you open yourself up to employee frustration and errors. Too lax and you can become vulnerable to employee theft. Your POS System should provide the same easy to use, stress-free and pleasant experience for your employees that a table side ordering system provides for your customers.

It needs to accommodate a range of learning capabilities and be easy to use, even for someone who considers themselves “technically challenged”. A good rule of thumb is this: a POS system worth its salt should take the average employee 30 minutes or less to learn.

2. Secure

Speaking of employee theft, your POS system is a piece of technology that requires sensitive and personal information to function. To prevent theft and fraud both internally and externally (by hackers), choose a POS system that is easily equipped with several security features. And don’t forget to follow these simple measures to find out if someone is scamming you and to keep your POS system secure.

Related post: What to do if You’ve Been Breached

3. Meets your business needs

The Perfect POS System - What to Look ForThis may seem obvious, but there will be POS systems out there that simply aren’t a good fit for your restaurant. Carefully consider the functionality you need, and do your research to determine which one is best for you. This is a big expenditure for your company, so save yourself some heartache by doing your homework at the front end to ensure you make a good choice.

For instance, is your restaurant super busy? Look for a POS system that can be integrated with peripherals that expedite orders, such as kitchen display systems and bump bars. These will also need receipt printing and payment processing solutions that allow customers to be checked out in a matter of seconds.

Would your restaurant benefit from these features?

Management Needs

Labor Management 

  • Tracks time and attendance
  • Employee scheduling
  • Employee training – Does the provider offer on-site training?
  • Generate payroll reports

Inventory 

  • Do you sell alcohol or retail items?
  • Do you experience a lot of theft or shrinkage?

Find a POS system that allows access to detailed inventory reports and transaction history to mitigate risks.

Above Store Reporting

This will allow you to identify trends, address problem areas, and pinpoint winning strategies.

  • Track sales trends for day, week, month or any period
  • Sales and customer count reports
  • Category reports
  • Item sales trend reports
  • Product mix reports
  • Sales history reports

Custom, Easy-to-Use Database 

  • Add or remove menu items, seasonal items, specials, etc.
  • Across multiple locations

Payment Needs

Delivery & Carry-Out

You need to be able to integrate delivery and takeout orders into your POS system, as well as track driver dispatch and cash accountability, order timing, order history, and more.

Credit Cards & Gift Cards

Choose a POS system that will enable you to offer gift cards and implement a personalized loyalty program to drive repeat visits and sales.

This will enable management to make changes easily and quickly, and make finding new items easy on the employees.

Shameless Plug Alert: We invite you to take a look at the POSitouch POS system by CBS Northstar. 

4. Provider and Support

Do some research on the POS provider.

  • Do they allow for regular upgrades to the system?
  • Do they provide on-site training and ongoing support?
  • Look at the number and quality of their tech partners.

These are just a few of the things to consider when choosing a POS system for your restaurant.

What other factors do you find important? Leave us a comment below!

6 Ways Mobile Ordering Will Change Your Business

January 30, 2015

Do you have a smartphone?6 Ways Mobile Ordering Will Change Your Business

Of course you do. The power of these personal pocket computers continues to percolate through our everyday lives, and people who live without these mobile devices are becoming hard to find.

In fact, the Global Web Index recently found that four out of five of American adults who use the Internet own a smartphone.

And according to a ComScore report released in August 2014, 60% of digital media consumption now happens on smartphones and tablets, while the remainder still occurs on desktop-based systems.

Finally, an eMarketer report predicts that the global smartphone audience will surpass 2 billion in 2015, and shows no signs of slowing.

6 Ways Mobile Ordering Will Change Your BusinessAs the Restaurant Technology Guys, we couldn’t be happier about these developments. And you should be happy too, because the smartphone platform is your next significant opportunity for growth.

By setting up a mobile ordering platform for your business, your guests will be able to access your menu instantly, and personalize their orders for pickup or delivery.

Secure credit card payments make the process easy and inviting, for you and your customers alike.

And that’s just the beginning. These 6 ways mobile ordering will change your business will rewrite the way your company functions online, and open paths to your products that you never knew existed.

6 Ways Mobile Ordering Will Change Your Business

1) Increase Sales

Adding a mobile ordering platform for your business is like opening a door for your customers where a wall used to keep them out.

As the data above shows, more and more people are relying on their smartphones for Internet and digital media access. By adding a mobile platform for orders, your business can meet this growing group of individuals where they are. You can increase sales by encouraging customers, and potential customers, to enjoy your products through the personal device that many Americans can no longer live without.

6 Ways Mobile Ordering Will Change Your Business2) Accelerate Mobile Payment Use

Offering a secure payment method for your clientele’s mobile devices makes purchasing easier.

The customer’s comfort level with your platform and products will increase with every purchase, so that pretty soon, ordering from your business will become as routine as checking for Facebook updates.

3) Improve Data Capture

Mobile ordering is an excellent way to not only boost sales, but grow your customer base through email and data capture.

Every time a customer uses your website or application to place an order, you’ll gain valuable information – their email address, ordering preferences and more, depending on the analytics available through your system.

A variety of methods are available to convert these one-time orders into long-term customers: email newsletters, online-only discounts, referrals, social media offers, etc. This form of direct customer connection can be a powerful tool that pays off significant dividends as your mobile and online presence grows.

4) Build Loyalty & Customer Connections

Easy-to-recognize brands from Apple to Zappos persuade customers to come back over and over again.

How?

6 Ways Mobile Ordering Will Change Your BusinessBy building a culture around their products and services. Choosing a pair of shoes from Zappos or an iPhone often goes beyond convenience, or even cost. Customers keep coming back because they believe in the company’s purpose, even if they can’t define it beyond a basic feeling.

Making your business accessible on a mobile platform is an important step toward this same kind of brand loyalty.

Customers who can order from you through their smartphones – literally holding your business in the palm of their hand – will be able to make a personal connection that can grow and last for years.

5) Personalize Future Orders

Your growing connections and data collection can work together to customize a mobile-ordering customer’s experience when they return.

From acknowledging them by name when they log in to pre-loading personalized orders based on previous purchases, you’ll be able to create an virtual version of the “Cheers” experience – at this (online) restaurant, everybody knows your name.

6) Stay Ahead of the Curve

Maybe the reasons above haven’t convinced you that mobile ordering will change your business for the better. Our clients are happy enough, you might think. We don’t need to invest in this new technology that disrupts the comfortable, familiar way we have been doing things.

You might be right… for a little while.

6 Ways Mobile Ordering Will Change Your BusinessBut the fact is, the mobile ordering space is going to become more and more crowded as businesses optimize their systems for smartphone orders.

Your competitors are going to figure out how to make this work for them, and start building the connections – and personalized client database – we have been talking about.

Since you are here, you have the opportunity to get a mobile ordering system up and running sooner than those who don’t yet know about these possibilities.

These 6 ways mobile ordering will change your business by giving you the chance to be a leader in your industry, instead of playing catch-up as your potential market share shrinks.

Don’t get left behind. Your mobile ordering future starts today!

Have you added a mobile ordering system to your business? Are you considering one? Let us know in the comments below.

What to Do if You’ve Been Breached

January 24, 2015

What to Do if You've Been BreachedRemember the olden days when you had to use a pay phone or wait until you got to your destination to call someone? When was the last time you sent (or received) a handwritten letter? And if you couldn’t remember the name of that famous actor in that movie? Well, you’d just have to go to bed that night hoping your subconscious would wake you up with the answer.

Though you may have a love-hate relationship with it (you may even consider yourself a Luddite), we’re pretty sure you’ll agree that overall, technology is a good thing. It is responsible for countless advances in medicine, science, travel, manufacturing, law enforcement, IT – and fields we didn’t even know existed. It has saved lives, made jobs easier, allowed for instant communication, and made our homes, neighborhoods, and country safer.

What to Do if You've Been BreachedWe love technology. But every good thing has its price. Sadly, there are always nasty people who come along and try to ruin a good thing. Hackers are out there, prowling around the internet, looking for vulnerabilities so they can steal credit card data and other sensitive information for their greedy, fraudulent schemes.

As the Restaurant Technology Guys, we’re big fans of the latest and greatest technology. We love finding ways to help increase customer satisfaction, reduce staff errors, and expedite orders to increase revenue. However, as business owners, we also understand that technology should support a business, not harm it. Managing exposure to risk is a serious undertaking, and in the hospitality industry, protecting your brand reputation is of paramount importance.

According to Hospitality Upgrade Magazine, “Even if a compromise event never results in financial losses, it can still lead to a loss of customer loyalty and unfavorable brand reputation – if not dealt with quickly, thoroughly and openly” (emphasis ours). And that’s key: how you handle it.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take now to prevent a security breach, AND steps you can take in the event of a security breach that will help protect your customers and your reputation as a trustworthy establishment.

Bottom line: If integrating some new technology would benefit your restaurant, don’t let fear prevent you from doing it. Just be cautious, proactive, and honest.

Here are some tips on preventing a breach, and what to do if you’ve been breached:

STEP 1: Prevention is the Best Cure

Preventing a security compromise boils down to proactivity. First and foremost, regularly monitor your systems for early warning signs of a breach. Those warning signs include suspicious activity and malicious software or unusual code popping up in your system.

Here are some other important preventative measures:

  • Maintain compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and Payment Application–Data Security Standard (PA-DSS) — (This can get pretty technical, so you might want to consult a security specialist to ensure you’re compliant.)
  • Stay on top of security and software updates
  • Install a firewall that allows network traffic only where there is a defined business need
  • Be sure all sensitive data is encrypted and tokenized
  • Install anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-malware, and intrusion detection software

Finally, set up protocols and measures you will take in the event of a security breach, so that if the unthinkable happens, you’ll be prepared to handle it like a well-oiled machine.

Shameless Plug Alert: CBS has 24/7 customer support (via phone, in-person, and in the field) by highly trained experts, as well as extensive learning opportunities for our customers to ensure optimum functionality and security of your Northstar and other systems.

Related Post: Protect and Secure Your Recipes!

STEP 2: TCB

TCB: Take Care of Business. No time to lose – if you have experienced a security breach, act immediately and openly.

Immediately: Take action to contain and limit the exposure of sensitive data. Begin a thorough investigation to determine the source of the breach and preserve any and all potential evidence. Follow your incident protocols.

Next: Alert all necessary parties, including your internal incident response and information security teams; your merchant bank (if applicable); and the appropriate law enforcement agency.

Now, notify your customers. You might be tempted to wait until you have more information, but it’s best to get the news of a breach to the public so customers don’t feel like you sat on the information and placed them at further risk. Plus, you want to anything that will make you look unprofessional, like the press leaking information that you haven’t yet provided.

Be transparent. Take responsibility for the security breach and express your regret. Then move onto the solution. Just as you took the blame for the compromise, now take credit for the solution. Let customers know what you are doing to remedy the problem, and what you’ll be doing to prevent it from happening again.

Put an executive on the front lines. Do not expect customers to be satisfied with a message from your IT department or lower level management. Hearing directly from the CEO or president will demonstrate that you are taking this very seriously and will help customers feel more at ease.

What are some other steps a restaurant can take to prevent or remedy a security breach? Tell us in the Comments section below!

 

 

5 Reasons Your Restaurant Needs a Table Ordering System

January 22, 2015

5 Reasons Your Restaurant Needs a Table Ordering System

Here’s the typical restaurant scenario: After guests are seated, they wait for a server to show up with menus. They may take drink orders, but who knows when they’ll be back to ask about appetizers, or answer questions about the menu. Then there’s that inevitable awkward moment when you stare intently at your server, waiting to catch his eye so you can flag him down for a refill or get your check. We’ve all been there, it’s not fun.

Now imagine this one: Once seated, customers can immediately view the menu via their tableside ordering system. (Check out the Northstar Order Entry POS!) They can place an order as soon as they are ready, and order additional items whenever and as often as they’d like. The servers are available to answer questions and meet the customers’ needs as they dine. After the meal, they can pay and leave, again via their tabletop ordering system.

Which scenario would you prefer? We’re guessing the latter. And guess what: that’s the same one most of your guests prefer too.

Not sure whether to take the plunge and invest in a table ordering system for your restaurant? Or perhaps you’ve already made the decision to go for it and need some validation that you made the right move?

Your pals, The Restaurant Technology Guys, are here to provide valuable, useful information about how your restaurant can benefit from a table ordering system.

Speaking of useful info, check out our related post, Tips for Using Tabletop Tablets for Guest Ordering

A table ordering system is a great way to let your customers know you are here for the long haul and want to be relevant to them. Set your restaurant apart with technology that makes the guest experience better, your job easier, and your business more lucrative!

Here are our Top 5 Reasons Your Restaurant Needs a Table Ordering System:

1. Give Guests Control5 Reasons Your Restaurant Needs a Table Ordering System

A table ordering system means your guests have more control. (Who doesn’t want to be in control, right?) Review our restaurant scenarios 1 and 2 above.

Tableside ordering starts the guest off on a positive note. After being greeted with a friendly smiling face at the host/hostess station, then led to their seats, the guests can sit and chat for a while, or get down to business – up to them. Servers will come around to introduce specials and answer questions, but the rest is up to the customer.

The system can accommodate special requests and substitutions, and allow guests to flag ingredients for food allergy. (It can even offer tableside entertainment, such as games or music!)

When guests have finished their meals, they can pay and leave at their convenience – again, no waiting for the server to close them out.

NOTE: Ideally, these features free up servers to attend to the other needs of the customers as they dine. Tablets should not be a replacement for quality, experienced servers who can anticipate the needs of the customers. Rather, this technology is simply a perk to enhance efficiency and improve the customer experience, which leads us to #2.

2. Improve Customer Experience

The table ordering system described above improves 1) the accuracy of orders, as it eliminates server error when taking orders, and 2) the speed and efficiency of service, both of which contribute to a better customer experience.

People want more control over their dining experience. Tableside ordering gives guests that control. And guests in control are happy guests, resulting in improved customer loyalty AND more word-of-mouth/social media recommendations.

While adding new technology to a restaurant takes some getting used to, the learning curve with a table ordering system should be fairly easy. A good manager will put measures in place to ensure a smooth transition for both the wait staff and kitchen staff. And chances are, the customers are already familiar with iPads (or other handheld devices) and smartphones. As long as the ordering software is intuitive and simple, it will be easily navigated by the customer.

3. Increase Revenues

Not only will customers enjoy being in control of their ordering and paying experiences at your restaurant, which will increase repeat visits as well as word-of-mouth recommendations, but the increased speed and efficiency of service means higher table turnovers, enabling the restaurant to service more guests.

Restaurants with table ordering technology can also expect customers to spend about 5% more by ordering more items and saying yes to upsells, another way to increase revenue.

Moreover, with a digital ordering system, you will save printing costs for paper menus, reducing your carbon footprint. Also, you can easily make immediate menu updates and changes to all restaurant locations (or only selected locations – your choice).

4. Collect Better Data

Table ordering systems provide a wealth of information to your business about what your customers are ordering, when they are ordering it, how they like to pay for it, and more. Effortlessly grow your customer database and strategize new marketing techniques based on this priceless data using your table ordering technology.

You can also use this data to maximize your pricing strategy for better profitability and increased sales.

5. Show You’re Ahead of the Curve

Finally, a table ordering system shows your customers you are here to stay. You’re current on trends in restaurant technology, you’re ready and willing to adapt to the evolving needs of your customer base, and you want to make their experience at your establishment as enjoyable as possible. You want customers for life!

Supermarket self-checkout stations, digital fast-pay devices, online ordering, and custom apps have adequately paved the way for tableside ordering systems. Most customers are already up to speed on all this digital, do-it-yourself stuff. Invest in a quality table ordering system, and it will be intuitive and user-friendly.

Have you implemented a table ordering system into your restaurant? Tell us about your experience in the Comments section below!

 

Secure your Beloved Recipes with Recipe Viewer

October 7, 2014
Secure your Beloved Recipes with Recipe Viewer

Image courtesy of “Stuart Miles”; freedigitalphotos.net

How does your restaurant document, organize, and secure its recipes? There are the good old fashioned flip cards, binders, and laminated sheets. For those who like to live on the edge, how about post-it notes, or old scraps of paper strewn about the kitchen?

You DO have recipe documents, right? (Please tell us you have recipe documents.)

Hopefully it goes without saying that all of the methods mentioned above have inherent weaknesses. A simple guest of wind from an air conditioner or open door can blow your recipes to kingdom come. How easy would it be for a coveted recipe to fall into the hands of a careless staff member, a former cook with a vendetta, or worst of all, a competitor?

 

Secure your Beloved Recipes with Recipe Viewer

If only there were a product out there that could house all your recipes in one secure place and distribute them where you need them to be.

If only.

 

Aha! Lucky for you, Custom Business Solutions (CBS) has created just the thing you need: Recipe Viewer. Restaurants such as Golden Corral, BJ’s, and Lazy Dog Restaurant and Bar are all using and benefitting from Recipe Viewer.

What is Recipe Viewer?

Recipe Viewer is a digital recipe distribution system that allows you to automate your kitchen’s recipe management system. CBS has launched Recipe Viewer in many restaurants to help each of them solve a number of common issues found with the traditional (often costly) way of distributing recipes.

What are the benefits of using Recipe Viewer?

Here are just a few of the solutions Recipe Viewer provides:

  • The recipes are easily updated and always current across all locations
  • Recipe Viewer reduces the cost and waste of paper recipe distribution
  • The food is prepared consistently by different cooks and across all locations.
  • Recipes are secured and not able to “walk off” or fall into the wrong hands
  • You can automate your training of new staff members and cooks with videos, pictures and text recipes in each working space

How does Recipe Viewer work?

The system works via a centralized database with touch screen terminals in each kitchen. The central database is either hosted on the corporate headquarters for the restaurant or hosted in the cloud. The database contains all the images, recipes, videos, and notes that each menu item needs to be consistent and delicious. These all have the ability to be pushed online to one location, a few select locations, or all locations.

In each kitchen, the cooks can access recipes in several different ways. First, there is a convenient search function that eliminates the need to flip through pages upon pages of recipes. It provides pictures and videos to help the cooks deliver consistent dishes each time. It also works seamlessly with the QSR Automations bump pad to help make every kitchen even more efficient. Recipe Viewer is also able to display recipes in multiple languages to cater to those who are more comfortable working with languages other than English.

What kind of hardware is needed to launch Recipe Viewer?

We have found great success with IBM Anyplace Kiosk devices. We have also had several customers deploy their own hardware. Products from HP, Elo Touch screens, and Apple iPads have been put into the field with varied levels of success.

On the administrative end, the tool is easy to use, easy to train, and easy to deploy. The administrator view has functionality to upload the videos and pictures, and to modify the text and category for each recipe. You can also search recipes by component, which can be incredibly valuable when food prices fluctuate or certain foods should be avoided due to customer allergies or recall. For example, over the years there have been a few nationwide spinach scares due to E. Coli. Customers were able to easily identify each recipe that contained spinach and substitute it for another item.

Interested in securing your recipes with Recipe Viewer?

Do you use a digital recipe distribution system in your restaurant? Tell us about it below!

Tips for Using Tabletop Tablets for Guest Ordering

October 7, 2014

Tips for Using Tabletop Tablets for Guest OrderingTechnological advances are happening fast and furious these days, permeating every market and industry imaginable. The food service industry is certainly no exception. Restaurants like BJ’s, Chili’s, Applebee’s, and Taco Bell have hopped aboard the technology train – and they are seeing the fruits of their efforts, too.

In our previous post, we mentioned BJ’s Restaurants’ use of an app which allows guests to reserve tables, order food, and pay their bill via their smartphone. Restaurants like Applebee’s, Chili’s, Stacked, and B-Dubs (Buffalo Wild Wings) are employing the use of tabletop tablets for what we call guest-facing ordering.

A recent article in Nation’s Restaurant News highlighted the use of tabletop tablets for guest ordering as a means of not only staying current with technological advances, but to keep their heads above water as labor costs, minimum wage, and health care costs rise. Guest-facing ordering allows servers to take on more tables, reducing the need for as large a waitstaff. It also results in higher customer satisfaction (and incidentally, better tips!).

It can be hard to keep up with all this technology, and to know what’s worth investing in for your restaurant. Restaurant Technology Guys to the rescue! We’re here to keep you in the know and provide our expert opinions on how to get the most out of technology, to improve customer satisfaction and employee retention, decrease costs, and increase profits so you can stick around for the long haul.

Here are some tips for using tabletop tablets for guest ordering:

1. Start small.

Technology can be incredibly simple and user-friendly, or it can be overwhelming and counter-productive. You may have a ton of great ideas such as music, picture-taking, and more – but keep in mind your purpose here is to improve the customer experience, not frustrate or confuse them. So ease your way into this technology by starting small.

Prioritize your ideas, keep the user interface simple, and start with the basics. Once your customers start to get the hang of it, you can gradually introduce more features into your tabletop tablets.

2. Don’t assume anything.

You know what happens when you assume…

As a restaurateur, you have your finger on the pulse of the restaurant industry. You can see what’s happening at BJ’s, Chili’s, and B-Dubs – and all the success they are enjoying – but that doesn’t mean the customers know what’s up. They may not inherently know that the device on their table is for ordering appetizers or drinks, or playing games or whatever.

Spend some time training your servers on how to introduce this technology to customers and explain to them what it is, why it’s there, and how to use it.

3. Don’t pull the trigger just yet.

The grand vision of every restaurant owner is to decrease costs substantially. In the excitement of adding guest-facing ordering to your restaurant, resist the temptation to heavily reduce your waitstaff. Let customers become accustomed to the new ordering interface and identify how many die-hards will refuse to use the technology altogether. Then you can decide how best to proceed. Ideally you will reduce your waitstaff, but until the drones take over, you’ll always have a need for human servers.

4. Think beyond the table.

You’ve introduced guest-facing ordering to your customers. Now’s the time to get creative. Consider other locations that might provide a fun experience to customers. Try the bar, lobby, exit (for the “should’ve-gotten-a-dessert” remorse), or whatever you think would work best for your restaurant. Test out some spots and have fun with it!

Have you tried guest-facing ordering or other tablet technology at your restaurant? Tell us about it! Comment below!

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