3 Steps to Being a Restaurant Data Guru

Likely you have volumes and volumes of data from your point of sale, loyalty, gift card programs and marketing systems, possibly going back decades or maybe just weeks. Regardless, you have at your fingertips, a wealth of data just sitting there waiting to be tapped.

The question then becomes: what do you do with the vast amounts of info you have collected and how can you use it to impact your restaurant business? There are three steps you can take to master the repository of numbers you have at your disposal.

Step 1. Gather Your Data

Aggregating your restaurant data and knowing where to find it is the first step. Make a list of all the data you collect, the source of the data and how to pull the data from your various systems. Then, decide which data points would be most helpful to you in making business decisions. Some obvious first choices are:

  • Ticket and turn times
  • Labor and wage costs
  • Food and beverage sales
  • Winner and Loser items
  • Per-Person Averages (PPA) and Per-Check Averages (PCA)

Before you move to the next step, it is wise to take a moment to make sure your data is “clean”. That means that duplicate information is removed, that it’s accurate and that it is from the correct time frame and in a usable format.

Step 2. Analyze Your Data

Now that you have gathered your data, determined exactly what you want to track and “cleaned” your data, it’s analysis time. When you start tracking and analyzing your restaurant data, you are creating a baseline that gives you a starting point that you can use to measure performance. Ideally, you have integrated systems that all talk to each other. A point of sale system that can do this and then analyze the data for you is a huge asset and time saver that allows you to quickly jump to Step 3.

Step 3. Apply Your Data

The goal of gathering your data and analyzing your data is to ultimately apply what you know to control costs and make good decisions that will benefit your restaurant or bar. For example, once you know your average ticket times you will be able to take steps to reduce the time by making the kitchen more efficient. You can also use the data to make menu decisions. If you find an item is hardly ever ordered, it might be time to cut it from the menu.

Restaurant Data is Your Friend
Size is not an issue when it comes to data. The smallest bistro to the largest multilocation restaurant chain can benefit from having a restaurant data guru with the ability to harness the power of the data your operations spit out each day. Making it a priority to gather, analyze and apply the data you have on hand will pay off big time when you start to see your sales increase, your costs go down, and your spending under control.

How to Use Your Restaurant POS Reports to Make Business Decisions

While we all wish we had an IBM Watson on hand to help us make business decisions, it will probably be a few years before AI makes its way into the hospitality industry. In the meantime, using your POS reports to make crucial business decisions across areas of your operations is fundamental to fiscal management.

The reports can only get you so far. Once you have data in hand, owners and managers need to divine the numbers to make smart moves within their restaurant or bar. Here are three decision areas that greatly benefit from POS report information.

♦ Inventory Decisions
As food waste becomes a hot button topic in the industry and eateries in the greater Los Angeles area look for ways to be greener and just more environmentally conscious in general, the best way to decrease surplus is to optimize inventory. Using your POS reports compare kitchen inventory levels with items sold reveals areas where you are overstocking. To go even further, many cloud based inventory programs integrate POS data to do this analysis for you along with helping you manage inventory control.

♦ Marketing Decisions
Pulling customer demographics from your POS reports gives great insight into your key audience. You can see who and when they are visiting your restaurant or bar. Use this intelligence when making decisions on promotions and marketing initiatives. Then use the data to evaluate the effectiveness of your efforts. If you have a loyalty program in place, there is an opportunity for you to determine dining trends and motivators.

♦ Labor Decisions
Scheduling is a key area where your POS reports can aid in decision making from how many bartenders to put on the clock on a busy holiday weekend to the number of line cooks you’ll need for a slow Monday night shift.

Historical data and forecasting is the place most restaurant managers start for making staffing decisions and drawing up schedules. On a day-to-day basis pulling hourly sales reports and daily attendance reports to show how many FOH and BOH staff you have on the clock and who is going into overtime is a great decision-making tool to have when you are trying to determine when to make cuts and send people home.

Take Advantage of Web-Based Reporting
Having a web-based reporting system takes it to the next level for busy operators who are bouncing from location to location or can’t be tied down to a terminal. Having access on your smart phone or your laptop makes life a lot easier.

As you get more dependent on reports to aid your business decisions, it will become almost second nature. Hopefully, you also will find more areas in your operations that can benefit from data contained in your repertoire of reports.

5 Ways to Harness the Power of Social Media to Create Customer Loyalty in Your Restaurant

Restaurant owners have a head start in the world of social media. Customers already expect you to have a presence and to engage with them there so you don’t have to fight as hard as other industries to gain followers. Creating loyal customers, though, takes some thought and a bit of tactical maneuvering. If done well, using social media can be an easy and low-cost way to gain customer loyalty.

1)  Social Only Offers

Probably the best way to gain and retain the loyalty of your patrons on social media outlets is to offer exclusive offers they can’t get anywhere else. Make it one of the perks of following you. These types of offers often get great share traction, too, as followers share deals with their own social network.

2)  Event Promotion

Making your social outlets a hub for announcing and advertising upcoming events like live music, drink specials, or charity nights is a great use of the medium. Consistently use your accounts, and you will create loyal customers who regularly check your pages and feeds for information about what’s happening at your restaurant.

3)  Contests and Giveaways

Peppering in a few surprise contests or giveaways keeps followers on their toes and checking back with you frequently. Don’t give away anything without asking for a share or a comment though — this will help organically boost your post.

4)  Invite Customer Engagement

It might seem scary to ask your followers to engage with you, but in the end, the reason most people are on social media in the first place is to interact. Ask for feedback on a new menu item, or encourage people to share selfies at your restaurant. Then, make sure you thank them and comment on their posts as well.

5)  Handle Complaints Like a Pro

Creating customer loyalty in a virtual space can sometimes be tricky. After you invite engagement and put yourself out there on social media you should be prepared to handle negative comments and complaints. Remember that everyone can see your responses so it’s vitally important to conduct this type of customer service in a highly professional and polite manner. Here are a few quick tips for handling unhappy campers:

  •    Always be polite and remain calm.
  •    Take the high road in any mud-slinging.
  •    Don’t make excuses, but instead offer resolutions.
  •    Apologize for bad customer experiences and any inconvenience.
  •    Invite them to private message you to resolve the issue.

Customer Loyalty is Earned

There are many things competing for your customer’s attention, especially on social media so you are going to have to earn your spot among the noise and make it through the priority filters. However, if you become a valuable social media resource and learn to harness its power, you will go a long way in creating customer loyalty for your establishment.

How to Upsell to Increase Your Check Averages

As a restaurant owner or manager you are in a constant state of strategizing, trying to move the numbers — like getting costs down and revenue up. One of the first places you can look for improvement is in your average check amount. Small bumps in this area can add up quickly in a week. Learning how to upsell to your patrons is a low-cost endeavor that highly profitable restaurants, regardless of size, have learned to do effectively to increase average checks.

Turn Servers into Salespeople
Your staff, the waiters, bar keeps, hostesses, and cashiers all need to be salespeople. As the manager you set the tone and your goal should be to make the sales-mindset an automatic response. We’re not talking the pushy, in your face salesperson. No one wants that during a dining experience, but you do want upselling to be an integral part of customer interactions.

When teaching your staff how to upsell, give them specific items to focus on for the shift, make sure they are ready to recommend favorite dishes and drinks, and have them plant seeds from the start like mentioning dessert selections while taking drink orders.

Use the Menu for Pairing Ideas
Adding pairing suggestions to your menu is a subtle but effective tactic. Think beyond the wine list. You can suggest a specific side salad or appetizer that pairs well with each entree. By adding callouts and creative messages on your menu, you can steer your customers towards additional purchases while they’re still deciding what to order.  

Quick Service and Fast Casual operations can also upsell to their guests. While employee based upsells have been the mainstay of the QS & FC space for years, technology such as guest facing digital signage and POS-integrated interactive displays provides visual suggestions to guests.

Don’t Forget Online Orders
When brainstorming ideas on how to upsell to your customers make sure you consider online orders. Use technology to your advantage and list complementary food items and add-ons throughout the order process, especially right before check out. You are just a click away from nudging that average check up a few clicks.

Highlight Promotions
Daily specials and promotions are great motivators for customers to justify a more expensive meal or an excuse to have a beverage from the bar that they would have normally passed on. Not to mention, specials and promotions give your staff a great way to open up conversation, either at the table or when taking a take out order.

Make Upselling a Part of Your Culture
How to upsell is not a big mystery, but it does take effort and a little forethought to make it part of your restaurant culture, whether fine dining or quick service. Training your employees to upsell, updating your menus to include suggestions, and offering specials are all cost effective ways to get your check averages up and ultimately increase your profits.

Innovations on Mobile POS

It’s interesting to be in the point of sale industry. It’s especially interesting being in the POS industry for 10+ years. Technology has changed quite a bit in 15 years. Now we’ll take a look at how Mobile POS is impacting the restaurant industry.

When POS systems were first introduced, they were clunky machines that took up a ton of counter space. As technology in the PC and gadget industry progressed, POS didn’t change all that much. We still saw large “computers” sitting on restaurant countertops and in server stations, taking up space and robbing restaurants of critical real estate.

Focus POS Mobile Tablet iPad

Fast forward to today, mobile POS is now a mainstream option. Many restaurants are recognizing the benefits of using POS systems driven in part by tablets. Restaurant operators are finding that blending POS solutions (a tablet coupled with traditional workstations for example) is also a recipe for success.

In many instances, operators want a rock-solid and reliable workstation in the heavy use areas and an aesthetically pleasing tablet in guest facing areas such as hostess stands, patios and dining rooms. Some POS suites even offer tableside ordering solutions driven by mobile devices such as Apple iPod Touch or Apple iPad Mini. These gadgets are quickly becoming tools in the hands servers throughout the restaurant industry.

There are many in the industry that feel that equipping servers with a tableside ordering unit gives off the wrong vibe. While there may be some truth to that, the proper use of these tools can streamline a restaurant’s operation.

Let’s look for a moment at a restaurant with a large dining room. When “Sally” goes to service her tables, she is often going out loaded with drinks, food or checks to drop off. Obviously we want to maximize Sally’s time. We all know the adage full hands in, full hands out. What happens after Sally services her tables? What is she bringing back with her? Possibly some dirty plates or empty glasses, but often times she is heading directly for a POS station to input the next round of drinks or the next course for her guests.

Now what if we equipped Sally with a device that could allow her to get that next round ordered while she is still crossing the dining room? That would improve Sally’s and the restaurant’s overall efficiency.

Investing in mobile POS technology can bring impressive benefits to your restaurant. There are a few items to consider when reviewing options for mobile POS.

  1. Can my current POS support mobile technology?

  2. Do I have the infrastructure in place to allow for mobile POS?

  3. If I add streamlined mobile POS to my current environment, what unintended consequences will I run in to?

  • Can my kitchen/bar handle the increased ticket traffic?
  • Can my staff properly utilize the tools while still maintaining the same level of service?
  • Can management enforce the necessary policies for staff to use these handheld devices?
  1. How will my guests react to tableside ordering?

  2. What is the cost versus return?

Mobile POS technology can be an awesome advantage to restaurants, so review your options and see if your operation would benefit.

If you’d like further information on the mobile POS solutions available from Focus POS California, feel free to contact us at info@focusca.com or call us at 877-362-8440.

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