FAST CASUAL – By Mani Kulasooriya, CEO of CAKE

Even with the rapid evolution of technology, many restaurant owners think of cash registers as serving only two basic functions: calculating purchases and storing money. A recent Gartner-owned company conducted a survey, finding that a full 55 percent of restaurant owners were not currently using any restaurant management or POS software at all. However, point of sale has evolved into much more than the ability to carry out transactions. To manage a profitable business, restaurant owners need to be privy not only to what they are selling, but also be able to calculate revenue quickly and easily, see what is selling well and what is not. Furthermore, owners and operators need to understand who their customers are, what they are buying and how much.

While many large or chain restaurants have already adopted these systems, independent restaurants often fall behind, either because they think it is too expensive and will therefore lack the upfront capital to invest in new technology, or they have no desire to shift from a management style that has been in place for many years.

To develop a competitive edge in an ever-growing industry, it is crucial that independent restaurants adapt to new systems in order to operate more efficiently, understand their own strengths and weaknesses and build stronger relationships with customers. Fortunately, POS solutions have come a long way in recent years in both quality and affordability, with some providers making the up-front investment minimal for the restaurant owners. An integrated POS system offers an alternative for those independent restaurants that are still managing revenue through cash registers and bookkeeping, with usability improving significantly and making it much easier for operators to learn and adopt these systems into their daily operations.

Choosing an integrated POS system tailored to the restaurant vertical comes with several key advantages, and options do not necessarily have to be costly. Your POS should provide:

Better customer service: Some POS systems offer more than sales and revenue tracking, and include additional tools to further improve customer service through integration. By maintaining a database of customers through a restaurant industry-focused, integrated POS system, restaurants are more equipped to greet and build relationships with repeat customers, offer menu suggestions, change menu items based on their past purchases and create loyalty programs that drive repeated business.

Increased speed of service: By having a system that allows staff to quickly and consistently enter orders and take payments within an integrated system, more customers can be served within that timeframe. This keeps lines moving as orders are taken and fulfilled quicker, helping to also decrease wait times for service and for tables.

Increased tips: Research has shown that people are more likely to leave a tip at a restaurant when they order on an order pad because of the direct interaction they have with the cashier. Studies have also shown that people are hesitant to leave cash tips on a table after they eat.

Managing staff: POS system data can identify the busiest days and times, so owners can staff the restaurant accordingly and better manage scheduling and labor costs. POS systems can also serve as a clock-in system for employees, so all aspects of management are housed in one integrated system.

Decreasing paperwork: A POS system allows staff to run reports on their sales and expedite the check-out process at the end of the shift with accurate sales numbers, eliminating the need for manual calculations that can result in errors that are difficult and time-consuming to track. This means more time is spent on customer service, and less on administrative tasks and calculations.

Access to real-time information: Knowing what’s happening at the restaurant at any given time, from anywhere, allows an operator to quickly make important decisions to improve the business. An integrated POS system will put timely data right at your fingertips, providing tools to help decide on everything from labor needs and menu changes, to projecting revenue and optimal hours and days of operation.

Ultimately, the benefits of saving time on tasks with a reliable and integrated POS system are significant. This is more time that the operator has to improve customer service, train and develop staff, and in turn, increase profits.

When considering a POS system for your restaurant, be sure to check with the provider to ensure that these capabilities are included as part of the system, and that training and ongoing support is readily available to you at all times. The earlier in the new restaurant planning process that you can integrate POS into the training and operations of your business, the easier it will be for management and staff, who can all learn together.

Regardless of whether you operate a new or a well-established restaurant, it is never too late to make this change and invest in improving your business. With POS technology having evolved significantly in recent years, the obstacles that independent restaurant owners previously encountered, including usability and high costs, are no longer prominent. While making a major change can initially appear to be costly and time-consuming, the right technology partner can help make this a smooth transition to initiate what will be an important change in support of the longevity of your business.