POINT OF SALE NEWS –
In October 1997, Trip Turbyfill and his wife, Marila opened their independent restaurant—Café Strudel—in West Columbia, South Carolina. The small, home-like space had few tables, but enjoyed immediate success. After nearly two decades of continued growth and expansion, today Café Strudel also offers private dining, catering and a full service bar. However, success was a double-edged sword, leading to operational inefficiencies and long guest waitlists while tables sat empty. The Turbyfills wanted to upgrade their technology and find a solution that would help business without impacting the guest experience.
Satisfied customers visited Café Strudel in droves, so a system was created to manage tables and turn them more quickly. As many restaurant owners do, the Turbyfills turned to good old-fashioned pen and paper to manage the waitlist. They noticed problems almost immediately. There was no real way to measure the time guests were waiting, and there was no way for Café Strudel’s hosts to anticipate when the next table would become available. Were guests at a given table just seated, on to their main course, or about to pay the check? This problem became even more apparent on days when there would be long waitlists, yet somehow, empty tables in the dining area. With a lack of data and information, Trip said it was, “as if I was in the dark ages.”
Not surprisingly, many restaurant owners can sympathize with Café Strudel’s situation. A recent Gartner-owned company conducted a survey, which found that a full 55 percent of restaurant owners were not currently using any restaurant management or POS software at all.
At Café Strudel, table turns needed to increase without impacting the guest experience. More than that, any new system could not disrupt the overall flow of restaurant operations or require a major overhaul in how staff was trained. Any new technology needed to work for the popular restaurant, not against it.
With the hope of resolving their issue with table turns, the Turbyfills decided to move forward with implementing CAKE’s table management platform, Guest Manager, in April 2015. Shortly after, they implemented the company’s POS system when they heard about the integrated, streamlined approach the joint system offered.
“I had it for 30 days and after that, I didn’t know how I had ever done it before,” Trip said.
Integration & Plug and Play
Though the installation and training needed for a new POS and Guest Management system can seem like large burden, integrated systems like the Turbyfill’s are largely “plug and play” when it comes to setup. The Café Strudel integration was complete within minutes. Once implemented, continued use also was easy for the entire staff.
“It falls in line with an iPhone in terms of dragging and switching seating arrangements and menu items,” says Trip. “It is intuitive. When I use modifiers and customize orders, all I have to do is click, drag and drop.”
Now that the Guest Manager reservation system and the POS system are connected, Café Strudel’s entire staff can obtain table statuses in real time. Staff no longer have to check on tables constantly and update statuses manually. Now, when a customer sits down, orders food, gets their meal or even receives their check, the system updates automatically in real time. This is because any update on the POS is automatically passed through to the Guest Manager reservation system, showing an automatic status update. When a Café Strudel waiter enters an order on the POS, the Guest Manager also updates itself to change the customer’s status from “seated” to “ordered.”
What’s more, with Guest Manager, Café Strudel is also able to text message guests with status updates and predicted wait times instead of making them wait near the busy restaurant. This is a win for guests—as they have a little more freedom while they wait—as well as hosts who no longer have to give timing updates.
Increasing Table Turns and Revenue:
Because of the integration, Café Strudel was able increase table turns by 6 percent without disrupting workflow. This also resulted in an increase in revenue. As Trip puts it, “The CAKE Guest Manager and POS integration allows us to reduce the time a table sits without guests. This has allowed us to seat two extra tables per day, adding up to a projected $14,000 in additional revenue, just this year.”
Reduction in Walk-aways:
Guest Manager greatly helped to reduce walk-aways at Café Strudel. Its ability to text predicted wait times and let guests know when their tables were ready—no matter where the guests were— was a huge benefit to the restaurant. As a result, walk-aways for were also reduced by 28 percent compared to the old pen and paper method.
More Time and Control:
Because CAKE is cloud-based, the Turbyfills can access real-time data anywhere. Sitting on his front porch at home while Café Strudel operates at full-steam during a busy Saturday brunch, Trip frequently tracks revenue, table turns, and sees which menu items are most popular. Currently, he uses this function two to three times each day. “Any good operator is going to keep an eye on the numbers,” says Trip, but now he does not need to be at the restaurant the entire time.
ADDITIONAL VALUE PROVIDED
There have been other, unexpected benefits, as well. In the past, the Turbyfills had no way to measure staff inefficiencies. Because they now use integrated POS and Guest Manager products that talk to each other, it allows for the collection of important new data, including the time it takes for the first order to be placed once a guest is seated. As Trip pointed out, “In the past I only had anecdotal data or estimates. With this system I have a complete picture and can identify when service slows down or who is working more efficiently than others”.