From June, 2011

Combo Psychology

Combo psychologyI came across an interesting little piece this morning on the restaurant combo.

What really piqued my interest on the article was the psychology behind the meal deal and why these offers are so popular:

“Part of the combo meal’s popularity is that it’s easier to order than choosing a bunch of a la carte items separately. Even so, customers who participated in the study said definitively that they thought they were getting a deal when they ordered a combo, even when this turned out to not be the case.”

I pulled three conclusions from this:

  1. The word combo = deal in the mind of the customer
  2. Customers like combos because they reduce the number of choices and make ordering easier.
  3. It does not need to offer a jaw-droppingly low deal to be successful.

The article further discusses changes in the concept, particularly the rise of the “mix-and-match” variant, where a series of menu items is shown to the customer, and lets the customer build his or her own meal package.

Good stuff. Read the original post here.

SpeedLine user? Learn how to set up combos and value meals with SpeedLine POS.

Lineups out the Door: Sign of Success or a Menu Fail?

Lineups out the doorAs a business owner, you probably get giddy at the sight of a line up that goes out the door. Looks like business is booming, and the cash is just rollin’ in. Right about now you’d love to pull a Scrooge McDuck and go do a few laps in your vault full of money.

But what if the lineup isn’t really a reflection of how busy you are? What if you have a lineup because it’s taking your employees too long to get orders into the POS? If this is the case, that lineup is actually costing you money. The downside of the lineup at your counter may be frustrated customers who wander next door when they decide it’s going to take too long to get their order. Lineups may also cause them to bypass your establishment next time they want to eat out.

The good news? This is a situation that is completely within your control—and it can be quite easy to fix. Granted, part of the problem may be management issues—for example, you may need to improve training for your employees or refine your kitchen processes. But for today, we’ll stick to a few key tips for optimizing your POS menu. I’m a tech guy—it’s what I’m good at.

This is a big topic, so we’ll cover it in two blog posts. In Part 1, let’s address Designing Menu Panels for Speed of Service.

Where to Start. The first step is to determine whether you actually have a problem. Maybe you just are that popular!

Take a look first at the section in the SpeedLine Day Report called Order Entry Duration Summary. This is a snapshot of the total time it takes to get orders into the POS. It also breaks the times down by Order Type and Employee. Have a look, and see if the numbers are acceptable. It could be that your delivery time is much higher then you thought. Think about what you could do to cut down that time without editing the SpeedLine menu first. For example, perhaps you could train your staff to suggest specials earlier or to use the Order History to recall orders. Maybe the report just helped you identify one particular employee who is having trouble. Either way, decide if your store could use some improvements.

Recognizing that you have a problem is the first step to recovery. For argument’s sake, lets say you’ve performed the management due diligence and ironed out all the process related issues your store may have. You’ve come to the conclusion that your POS menu is the root cause. Okay, now what? Fixing menu entries doesn’t mean reinventing the wheel. But it does mean sharpening your design skills. There is a ton of information on the subject of user interface design on the Internet, but for today let’s focus on the critical elements:
Is your menu panel laid out in an intuitive way?
Is it easy to enter Items?
Does the layout/function allow the user to recover easily from entry error?

Panel Layout. This one is generally very easy to fix, but there are two points of consideration here.

Lay out your panel in a way that makes sense for you and your employees. For example, in North America, many people read left to right, top to bottom. So it would make sense that your panel be laid out in that way. Buttons should naturally flow either from left to right or top to bottom in logical groupings and should be in alphabetic order or order of popularity.

Grouping toppings by type is also helpful – for example, meats with meats, veggies with veggies, etc. Beyond that, make sure the buttons are sub sorted for ease of lookup. How do your customers typically order menu items? Let’s look at an example:

“Hi this is Joe’s Pizza. What can I get for you?”
“Um, hi. I’d like one large pan supreme pizza with no anchovies.”

Okay, now lets break that sentence down as it translates in the order entry process at the POS:

  • one (qty)
  • large (size)
  • pan (item/modifier)
  • supreme (item/modifier) pizza
  • with no anchovies (recipe edit)

Are your menu buttons laid out so that your hand naturally starts at the top left of the screen and flows to the right and down—hitting each of the components of the order in logical sequence? Or do you have to skip your hand all over the screen to complete an item?

In all fairness, your menu may not be built to match this example, but you can see where I’m going with this.

Item Entry Process. This is an extension of the panel layout. There is wide debate on how to design the most efficient order entry panels that can cascade all the way back to what you consider an Item or a modifier – for example, what would you classify a pizza crust? Is it an item or a modifier? That my friends, is another topic for another time. So instead of giving you tips, I’m going to present a series of questions to get your panel design juices flowing:

  • How big are the buttons on the panel and button spacing?
  • Can employees with bigger hands easily touch the buttons with a high level of accuracy?
  • Are employees being affected by the button size? Is the type size on your buttons big enough for everyone to easily read?
  • Are buttons color coded according to purpose or category? For example, are all your meats one color but your veggies another?
  • Do you suffer from Panel Clutter? Are there too many graphics or buttons on a panel? Have you considered breaking down items on a panel into separate panels?
  • Would adding a modifier pop-up panel make sense?
  • Do you sell a number of combo meals? Are you using SpeedLine value meals to assist with this? When a combo has multiple items, it’s a lot easier for employees to be guided through the entry process by the POS rather then having to guess at what a combo might include and end up getting it wrong.
  • Are you using “enforced modifier” pop-ups to help prevent order entry errors and missed items—like salad dressings or sauce type?
  • Is the Ticket window on the menu panel large enough for an employee to review an item before completing it?

How efficient are your order entry panels? This is just a starting point for a process of testing and refinement that could have a big impact on the time it takes your staff to complete an order. Ask them for input too.

For those of you who have had SpeedLine for years, what have you done to make your menu easier to use? What suggestions would you give to the rookie owner just starting out with SpeedLine?

Handling Employee Theft

credit card theftEmployee theft is always a touchy subject to deal with, and dealing with a thief can backfire on the employer if it is not done with great care.

Restaurant blog The Back Burner has posted some excellent tips on how to confront an employee who is stealing.

The overall key seems to be to find ways to keep your staff rallied around you and the shop, rather than identifying with the thief. Doing this depends on your ability to gain adequate proof, to discipline correctly, and to communicate the situation to your staff in the right way.

Accusing someone of stealing based on suspicion – even if it’s well founded – could lead your staff to empathize with the thief. Regaining your employees’ trust back after a situation like this can be tough.

Avoiding the theft in the first place is the best defense. One of the first steps, of course, is to take a close look at your hiring process, and how to identify candidates with the right kind of character.

The next step is to make sure you have the right security measures in place in your store. To read more about taking proper security measures, check out our series on locking down security in the restaurant.


POS Field Guide: Locking Down Security, Part II

Locking down securityWelcome back to our series on locking down security. Did you miss Part 1: Know Who’s Doing What? Today, let’s look at time theft.

Stopping Buddy Punching

Time clock abuse is the most widespread form of theft in restaurants. Clock-in times and break length can be tough to track, and infractions hard to prove—particularly when staff cover for each other.

Your POS adds a level of control you never had before. For example, using the built-in time clock, SpeedLine users set the number of minutes employees can clock in or out before and after a shift. They can also require a manager’s override to authorize overtime. In addition, the system provides meal and break tracking options to control break times.

Always looking for a way to play the system, staff often ask other employees to cover for them by clocking them in early. A foolproof way to eliminate this kind of “buddy punching” is with fingerprint security. Unless she lends him a finger, her friend will be hard pressed to punch her in early when she’s late for work.

To make this possible, we integrate fingerprint sensors from DigitalPersona, the experts in biometric security.

How do you deal with time clock abuse?

On Call: Stories from a SpeedLine Tech

Stories from a SpeedLine techA few weeks back a customer of mine (let’s call him Joe) wanted me to program X functionality into his menu. I worked on his menu for some time, consulted some colleagues for a second opinion and finally came to this conclusion: the only way this was going to happen was if I built an altar to Jobu, offered a cup of rum, and sacrificed a chicken. Read more

POS Field Guide: Locking Down Security, Part I

Locking down securityWhether your staff cheat the clock by a few minutes at the start or the end of their shift, over bake a pie to take home, manipulate coupons, or take cash straight from the till, it all has an impact on your profit and loss. Hiring the right staff is a vitally important step in reducing these internal losses—but when it comes to employee theft, nearly every operator has a story to tell. So how do you reduce and prevent it? Read more