Get More from Your Restaurant’s POS System

Most of us adore our point of sale systems simply because they make it easier to ring up, record and analyze sales. “It helps me move customers quickly through lines — a key benefit that helps my quick-service restaurant process more customers and earn more revenue,” says Anthony Miller, owner of the Squeaky Beaker Café in Cambridge, MA.

But owners like Miller know if you’re only using your restaurant POS system for completing sales transactions, you’re missing out on the true money-saving and money-making power of this useful tool. Here’s how you can get more from your POS software:

• Optimize Operations: Most point of sale software has the capability to handle scheduling, reducing the time it takes to create staffing plans. Ken Priest, director of operations for Genuine Roadside in New York, NY, runs a labor report in the POS and compares the numbers to the schedule and projected sales. “We use this information like we’re balancing a checkbook; we balance hours or labor dollars to the actual sales and hours used to ensure we’re not overdrawn,” he explains. Point of sale systems can also help you make operations more efficient during a shift, according to Robin Gagnon, restaurant broker and principal with We Sell Restaurants in Atlanta, GA. “Having a POS system printing tickets to a bar while simultaneously printing orders to the kitchen is a time- and labor-saver.” Fewer trips means faster service and more tables turned over.

• Track Peak Hours: “By watching our POS system we’re able to see the busiest times of the day and schedule accordingly,” says Deli Ohio co-owner and general manager Ryan Miller. The Canton-based restaurateur used POS software to identify an ongoing trend of lower traffic last winter. “We adjusted our hours and closed earlier three nights a week with the goal and intention of driving customers in the door on Thursday and Friday nights, rather than spreading them out over Monday through Friday,” he explains. “This helped us cut costs with labor and food costs, as well as utilities.”

• Reduce Shrinkage and Loss: “Besides food and labor, we can track every delete, void, comp and manager override made on each check,” Priest says. “Since every keystroke is annotated, we have the ability to pull up a guest check and watch every item being added or deleted. This is a valuable training tool and a way we can monitor transactions in real time to identify any questionable activity occurring at the POS terminal.” If identified, he has the ability — and proof — to move swiftly to stamp out theft and minimize its impact.

• Track Inventory: When properly configured, your POS system lets you manage food from the time it comes in to the restaurant till it gets to the table. “We have immediate information where all our inventory is and where it’s gone on its way to our guests,” Priest says. “We know if we are over- or under-portioning, or if we have abundant waste. Managers are trained to act on these real-time numbers to keep us as accurate as possible.”

This kind of data consolidation is the most valuable and potentially most underutilized POS system feature, Gagnon says. “It gives a restaurateur the ability to understand sales and productivity at a glance, including sales per hour, sales per labor hour, most and least popular items on the menu, and much more,” she explains. “A POS system is a window to the operation that allows an operator to have complete control over his variable costs — food and labor — and maximize profit in the business.”

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