The best point-of-sale system for you is 26 questions away
There’s always going to be a new tech device that promises to make your business hum. But those devices are only as good as the control center operating them. Think of your restaurant’s point-of-sale system as your restaurant’s brain: As Upserve notes in a recent report, your POS routes your orders, helps you transition a guest from your bar to your dining room, secures their payment and provides you with operational data that can help you understand your customers and your business. So if your POS is not serving you well, any bells and whistles you add to it will naturally run into snags. Upserve’s Restaurant Insider blog recently featured a questionnaire to help you ensure you know how the POS options available on the market can help you meet your current and future needs. It asks questions about the size and scope of your restaurant, how important order accuracy is to your operation, whether you need to access your settings and data remotely, how interested you are in providing flexible payment options to your guests, how familiar your team is with consumer electronics that have applications in restaurants, and how you currently communicate with your team. If you are in the market for a new system or want to make sure your current one delivers for you, answer the 26 questions and you’ll get a personalized recommendation delivered to your email box.
Ready to grow?
Are you looking to grow this year, whether that means increasing your sales or expanding your number of locations? Before you think about tactics, take a step back. Richard Kleiner, the CEO of the accounting firm Gerald Edelman and an adviser to many clients in the restaurant industry, suggests a four-step structure based on the Ansoff matrix for thinking about growth. One, sell more of the same product to the same people. Two, sell new products or services to your existing customers. Three, take your current products and services into new markets. Four, create new products and services for new markets. Jumping to step three or four before mastering step one will generate more risk as you grow. So what steps can you take to help you progress through each stage? In a recent Fast Casual report, restaurant veteran Bobby Shaw shared some smart-growth ideas that can apply to restaurants across categories. He suggests you get back to basics and don’t try to be everything to everyone. Optimizing your menu will help you serve what actually sells, make the best use of your inventory, minimize waste and save money. Consider how you can use technology to improve the experience of your guests. Would your loyal customers order more often – or could you attract new ones – if you offered mobile ordering? Or kiosks or tabletop tablets in your dining room? Can your point-of-sale system accommodate those advances? Finding ways to integrate technology to streamline both guest-facing and behind-the-scenes processes can help you increase sales without opening additional locations. Finally, develop a high-performance environment where you only hire and retain your best performers – and then empower them to improve and expand your operation. Offer growth opportunities for the people on your team and those people will develop the next generation of leaders.
The gloves are off
Even pros need a reminder sometimes: Gloves aren’t designed to help you take shortcuts when it comes to food safety. Francine Shaw, president of Food Safety Training Solutions, says over the years, she has observed many professionally trained kitchen staff wear multiple pairs of single-use gloves instead of taking the time to wash their hands. In a report for the American Culinary Foundation, Shaw said these gloves are only effective when used one pair at a time and with proper handwashing when they’re changed. She said she has seen restaurant employees wear and not change their single-use gloves when opening cooler doors, checking cellphones, touching their hair or face, handling money or touching menus, doorknobs or even garbage bags, creating a plethora of opportunities for cross-contamination. Every year, 19 million people contract food poisoning because of improper hand washing. Your policies for single-use gloves and handwashing can help you build a culture that limits the spread of illness.
Build a food safety program that survives turnover
In an industry with turnover that has topped 70 percent for the second consecutive year, restaurants need policies to maintain culture regardless of who is on the payroll. A busy shift with new employees can make it tempting to take shortcuts with food safety. A recent report on the blog We are Chefs suggests your food safety program educates employees about not only what to do but why various practices are important. For instance, when training your team to store raw protein on the lower shelves of your cooler, explain what can happen if they don’t follow that procedure. When you develop your food safety program, assess the effectiveness of your current program. How will your safety education be delivered to various levels of your operation so you boost institutional memory? What certification makes the most sense for your business and who should be certified? Who would be most effective at delivering your training? How will you ensure your team is trained on a regular, ongoing basis? As new employees come on board, they should observe that food safety is critical to your business – and that they’re responsible for upholding it.
Bringing restaurants back to the center of food culture
A recent article in The Atlantic pointed out that while food culture seems to be at the height of popularity, restaurants are hardly flying high (NPD Group predicts flat growth of 2 percent this year). People are spending more on food but the multitude of food choice makes the landscape more competitive for restaurants. Where consumers once looked to restaurants for prepared meals, they are frequenting grocery and convenience stores that offer a growing variety of ready-to-eat foods. Food Republic says the restaurants that are succeeding are adapting to this new kind of consumer. For some operators, that means making takeout easy or offering premium delivery items or all-day breakfast. For others, it means building a strong social media following. Your data can help you uncover your best path. Dining industry consultant Damian Mogavero has made a career out of studying restaurant analytics – check out his book, The Underground Culinary Tour, to understand how you can get the most from the data you collect.
Make more room for organics on the menu
A new Nielsen study found that 88 percent of U.S. households purchased organic food and beverages last year, with grocery stores, mass merchandisers and discount grocers accounting for a combined 25 percent of organic sales, Food Dive reports. Overall, organic product sales increased by 9.8 percent and volume grew by 11.4 percent. Those numbers – along with consumer demand – are likely only going up. A recent survey from the Organic Trade Association found that millennials are already significant buyers of organic products and will be more likely to purchase organic foods when they become parents. While price has long been a deterrent to buying organic, private-label brands are changing that, bringing prices down by 18 percent. As organics become increasingly accessible, look for consumers to demand them on restaurant menus as well.
Faster, better, cheaper produce through technology
Could your freshest, best-tasting, least expensive produce soon come from the likes of Wal-Mart or Amazon? Those behind an agriculture tech startup called Plenty think the company could change the face of farm-to-table food. Bloomberg reports that the company is building massive indoor farms on the outskirts of 500 cities worldwide, which could make it possible to get foods from farm to table in hours instead of days or weeks. While indoor farms have been hyped for some time, some deep-pocketed experts are betting big on Plenty: SoftBank invested $200 million in the venture, the largest agriculture technology investment in history, and Bezos Expeditions, the venture fund of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, is another investor. Anthony Secviar, a former sous-chef at French Laundry, liked the company’s produce so much that he joined its culinary council and is basing his next restaurant’s menu on Plenty’s heirloom vegetables.
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