From August, 2011

How Not to Get Hacked

Hot NOT to get hacked

With a number of pizzeria credit card data breaches in the news recently, restaurant operators worry that they could be at risk. In a new video, we outline 10 things every restaurant operator should know to lock out hackers and safeguard customer data. 

Having your personal credit card information stolen is a headache. Having your guests’ data hacked? A nightmare. For a restaurant operator, the fallout from a breach could be devastating. Read more

Google Analytics: Is your restaurant website driving sales?


On the phone, or at the table, you have a good handle on who your customers are and how they feel about your restaurant. How well do you know your online customers? Read more

Controlling profit drains—What’s going out the door that you’re not getting paid for?

Controlling profit drains

Your restaurant’s financial health depends in part on your ability to recognize and deal with profit drains. You know you need to keep a lid on food and labor costs—the two most significant factors in your ongoing profitability. But what does that mean in a typical workday?

Part 1 of this 3-part series on controlling “profit drains” focuses on menu extras—and how making sure that your staff is consistently charging for them can add to your bottom line. Read more

Top Tips for Restaurant Managers

Top tips for restaurant managers

Owning a music business, becoming a partner in an automotive repair shop, working as a chef in a catering company while serving the likes of Bill Clinton and Jean Chretien, and managing myriad restaurants is quite the eclectic resumé. Add point of sale software sales and account management to the mix, and here you have Victor Duarte – the SpeedLine senior account executive I had the pleasure to interview last week.

With a talent for management and years of experience in the hospitality industry, Victor was able to share a wealth of valuable knowledge and insights. In today’s post, the focus is on three of Victor’s top tips for restaurant managers. Read more

The Hidden Pricetag: Understanding the Total Cost of Ownership of your Restaurant Equipment

Cost of OwnershipWhether you’ve been a restaurant owner for years, or are just getting your business off the ground, your pizzeria needs a variety of specialized types of equipment to operate and succeed.

In a recent post on The Back Burner, Greg McGuire urges restaurant owners to change the way they look at their equipment. It doesn’t matter if you can get an ice bin, freezer, or oven for a fantastic deal, second-hand or otherwise. These initial prices often mean nothing. What is important is calculating the total cost of ownership for your equipment.

Greg highlights four factors that determine total cost, among them capacity and energy efficiency.

Capacity. Be certain you understand the volume your equipment can handle. If you buy a pizza oven that can handle 20 pizzas at a time, but rarely bake more than five at once, you are wasting your oven’s potential. If you are only using 25% of your equipment’s max capacity, then 75% of its energy is being wasted, with you fronting the bill. Likewise, if you make a buying decision based on today’s volume, you may find yourself in need of another new oven far too soon—another cost that you may not have considered. It’s a balancing act: choosing equipment to handle growth without going overboard.

Energy Efficiency. Energy usage information is your friend! Don’t always look for the lowest priced piece of equipment, Greg notes:

“Often more efficient units have a higher initial price because more efficient components are usually also more expensive. However, paying 10% – 20% more for a unit that’s 30% more efficient means you’ll still be saving thousands of dollars over the entire lifespan of the unit.”

For more on the topic, check out Greg’s original post on total cost of ownership.

Technology and TCO

When you evaluate the cost of a new point of sale system, the same principles apply. Over the life of your POS system, you’ll incur extra costs that don’t appear as line items in the quote from your POS vendor.

To estimate the total cost of ownership of a POS system, you need to factor in the money, time, and resources involved in purchasing, installing, maintaining, and upgrading it over its life cycle. This means that a high end solution that is easy to deploy, effortless to upgrade, and flexible enough to grow with you may prove less costly over the long haul than a system with a lower initial price.

The costs associated with owning a POS system fall into three categories: rollout costs, life cycle costs, and growth costs.

Rollout Costs. These are the costs associated with rolling out the system in your restaurant (or across multiple locations). Do you need proprietary hardware or can you source your own hardware for the system? Is the software easy to use, or will you spend a lot of labor hours training your staff? Does the POS integrate with your existing above-store systems, or will you have to change them to fit the POS? The answers to these questions will help you understand the true cost of the system rollout.

Life Cycle Costs. These costs deal with your POS’s performance and productivity over an extended time. Essentially, how will your POS stand the test of time? When evaluating life cycle costs, find out whether your POS provider offers support options, software upgrades, and online training. What are the costs? What’s included? Look closely at the hardware provided: is it high quality, proven in a dusty restaurant environment? What are the terms of the warranties? And consider the track record of the POS vendor as well: how often do they release upgrades, and how quick are they to adapt to the changing needs of the restaurant industry?

Growth Costs. How scalable is the new POS? When you decide to open a new location, is it a simple matter to add a new POS system? What tools does the POS provide for managing multiple locations and menus? When you decide you want to start a loyalty program, or dive into online ordering, what options does your POS vendor give you for integrating with these types of services?

It’s human nature to search for the immediate deal. But ongoing costs for maintenance, training, and replacement parts—not to mention the potential costly toll of making the wrong choice—should play every bit as big a part in your decision as the quoted price.

Real-life Applications of QR Codes in Restaurant Marketing

QR codes in restaurant marketingA few weeks ago, I posted an article on 5 Ways Restaurants are Using QR Codes to Drive Sales.

Leon McComish, a writer for Digital? Marketing? Blog! in the UK notes that Dominos Pizza’s digital marketing efforts, including QR codes, have contributed to an increase in brand loyalty of as much as 12%.

Dominos first introduced the codes on their takeout menus. The code on the menu takes you to their mobile site, where you can browse the menu and order directly from your phone. Today, Dominos includes that code on all their flyers. On some flyer promotions, the code leads to the online promotion that is linked exclusively to the code.

In Columbia, SC, Dano’s Pizza owner Dan Scheel uses the two-dimensional squares to connect to customers on Facebook.

Kelly Coakley explains in an article on QRPath:

Dano’s QR code quickly links customers to a Facebook page where they can “like” the restaurant. Then they get e-mails with coupons or information about the pizza place. “It’s so flexible,” said Scheel, “You change it and keep it interesting every time they go on.”

Castaways Seafood Grill in Port Aransas, TX has used QR codes successfully on their menu, too, driving customers to a mobile-friendly website where they can learn more about the restaurant, view mouth-watering images of their dishes, choose to ‘tell a friend’, or request a coupon. The restaurant tracks results using PrintingCenterUSA to see exactly how the codes drive business.

Need more ideas?
Watch this short video by interlinkONE on Youtube.
Then, try searching the web for “free QR code generator” to create your own QR codes!

Theft and Security: The Difference a POS Makes

Theft and securitySpeedLine trainer and former pizzeria owner Wiley Borg weighed in this week on the thorny topic of employee theft and restaurant security. Back in his restaurant days, Wiley operated without a point of sale system. Knowing that, I was curious how he dealt with theft in his business, and how he kept his assets secure.
With a pen and paper store, where all of your cash resides in a till, Wiley said, “theft is as easy as pressing a button. You press a button, open a till, and borrow a bit of money every shift.”

In Wiley’s shop, about four times a week, the end-of-day earnings would be about $20 short. Odds were, there was a thief in the store. Looking back at his schedules, Wiley realized that there was only one person who had worked every night that the till came up $20 short. With only pen and paper records, he had to be patient and watch this employee for about a month to gather sufficient evidence against her. Over the 2- 3 months that the thefts went on, his losses were close to $1000.

Contrast that experience with this recent one. As lead trainer for SpeedLine, Wiley invited the IT and Marketing heads of a pizza chain to bring some store logs from a few locations to our office for training. In introducing the two execs to the audit controls in their SpeedLine software, Wiley investigated actual voids from their stores to show them how the tools worked. During this brief demonstration, he pointed out that four of the same employees were voiding items a lot more than normal. A closer look exonerated one of the three employees; the other three were, in fact, stealing about $9000 a month.

This discovery took about 30 minutes of auditing, compared to the month-long investigation Wiley had to conduct during his ownership days.

Restaurant operators spend a lot of time considering the cost of a new POS system. The better question may be, “What’s the cost of not having a POS?” And if you have a POS system in place, the question is: “Are you using the one you have effectively?”

Learn your system’s audit controls and schedule regular audits. It’s worth the time.

Case Study: Nancy’s Pizza Shrinks Food Costs With POS Controls

Nancy's Pizza shrinks food costs with POS controlsPizza Marketplace recently published a case study outlining how Chicago Franchise Systems put its SpeedLine Point of Sale system to work to shave 5% off food costs at Nancy’s Pizza restaurants.

According to Chicago Franchise Systems president and owner of Nancy’s Pizza, Dave Howey, when they purchased the Nancy’s Pizza name and development rights in 1990, Nancy’s was using another well known point of sale. When the POS vendor was purchased by a larger company several years later, Nancy’s decided to find something better.

Dave and his team were looking for something flexible and customizable; something that they could make work how they wanted it to, something that made sense to Nancy’s Pizza.

“The beauty of SpeedLine is that it is totally customizable, and you don’t have to be a techie to work it,” Howey said. “When you are dealing with a franchise system, the easier it is to use, the better. And yet, it is incredibly powerful.”

Download the case study from Pizza Marketplace for more on the results of the change, and how Nancy’s Pizza franchises used the POS system’s portion control and inventory tracking capabilities to cut food costs.

The Inside View: Transparency in Restaurant Marketing

Transparency in restaurant marketingRecently, I found myself reading about Domino’s Pizza. Mainly, I was quite interested in the game-changing marketing campaign the popular pizza company launched in 2009.

Known for speedy delivery and low prices, Domino’s has also been widely criticized for turning out poor quality pizza – cardboard, if you will. To address the negative brand perceptions, Domino’s launched a marketing and advertising campaign that was anything but typical. One article has a humorous take on it:

“Let’s say you make mass-produced pizza that tastes like cardboard. How would you sell it?

A) Hire Jessica Simpson as a spokesperson to tell everyone how good your pizza tastes
B) Have your founder drive across the country in a classic sports car to tell everyone how great your pizza tastes
C) Launch a nationwide campaign to tell everyone how bad your pizza tastes (and then make it better)”

Domino’s ‘anything but typical’ approach was option C. In 2009, Domino’s launched a campaign that openly acknowledged the criticism surrounding their “cardboard” pizza.

To many, this sounded like marketing suicide. This isn’t Buckley’s cough medicine – you can’t just say “It tastes bad but we get it to you mighty fast!” That’s not going to fly.

To follow up with their open acknowledgment of the problem – bad pizza – Domino’s took another important step by publicly conducting a complete revamp of their menu and “original recipe.” To much surprise in the marketplace, the campaign was a huge success and still goes strong today. Domino’s still uses transparency as a key marketing strategy, extending the concept to social media like Twitter and Facebook, embracing both praise and criticism from consumers.

As social media gives more consumers and end users a voice, transparent marketing, like this Domino’s campaign, may become a necessity. If you have a restaurant, odds are people are talking about you online. People can broadcast their thoughts and ideas to large audiences, both locally—within their personal networks—and globally, through their friends’ friends. When someone wants to know if X business is any good, she needs only to search #Xbusiness on Twitter to see what people are saying.

So listen! Don’t ignore what’s being said about your business – in blogs, on Twitter, on Facebook etc. Take the time to see what’s being said about you. Particularly, look for criticism, and respond openly. Throwing down brand slogans and ad speak won’t save you in the world of social media.

Now, I’m not suggesting that every business take the extreme approach that Domino’s did. Chances are, your product and brand image don’t need a total revamp. But getting a Twitter account and Facebook page set up is easy. Listening and responding to customers in a way that is honest and personal is too.

With the idea of transparency in my mind, I was struck by a news piece I heard on the radio while driving home from work. McDonald’s in Canada recently launched a new All-Access Moms program, inviting a select group of Mom bloggers to a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of McDonald’s. An article I found about the program sums up the basics:

“The All-Access Moms program, a joint endeavor between McDonald’s and the television show Cityline, gives five blogging Canadian mothers a chance to visit McDonald’s head offices, french fry facilities and charitable Ronald McDonald Houses. Accompanying the bloggers on the tour is Cityline parenting expert Nanny Robina. Those chosen to participate will catalogue their experiences on their own blogs as well as a microsite devoted to the program.”

Transparency is at the heart of this program. Karin Campbell, senior manager of external communications for McDonald’s Canada explains:

“It’s a response to the questions that we know Canadians have about our brand,” said Campbell of the program. “This is just a more formal way to answer them and use an important customer for us, which is moms, to answer stakeholder questions… If their questions aren’t answered, this is a transparent program, and they can write that.”

A customer tour through your shop is nothing new, I’m sure. But inviting a group of influential bloggers to see the inner workings and discuss anything they see or think about your restaurant through social media is a very interesting idea. McDonald’s clearly recognizes the importance of social media in shaping brand perception. Their choice of participants was also interesting – moms with popular blogs. Basically, these social media moms are key influencers for other moms. If they decide that chicken snack wraps are a healthy choice for their kids’ lunches, you can bet that other moms will do the same.

In a world where consumers’ opinions on brands are shaped by their peers, and not by one-way adspeak, honesty and transparency are critical. If major players like Domino’s and McDonald’s are running with this trend, clearly there’s value in it. So take the time to solicit feedback—the good, the bad, and the ugly—and to listen and respond. And make an effort to identify and reach out to the key influencers in your market, the way McDonald’s is doing with blogging moms.

In fact, this has me thinking. Interested in an inside look at how a POS developer works?

What Messages are You Sending Your Customers?

What message are you sending to customersIn a Pizza Marketplace blog post by Ed Zimmerman, “Looking out, looking in: What messages are you sending to customers?,” I was astonished at what he saw at the restaurant he was writing about, but totally on board with his advice to restaurant operators.

Ed writes “The word restaurant comes from the root rest or restive, a place to relax and enjoy. Make your guests feel welcomed, not intimated with your policies.” I couldn’t agree more with this statement, and wanted to share with you a recent story of my own.

Every so often, I meet up with a close friend for dinner and drinks. While it’s not as often as I would like, it is a night out I cherish. We take the obligatory 15 minutes or so to discuss what new and exciting little ‘hot spot’ we’re going to visit, and when we can’t decide, we settle on a old favorite. I look forward to those nights because I usually know, even before I get there, what I’m going to order. This particular evening, we both felt a little tight for cash, and wanted to stick to the standard to save a couple of bucks.

Approaching the restaurant, I noticed it didn’t look as lively as usual. I ended up having to drive completely around the block because I missed the entrance to the parking lot while I was frantically looking around for any sign of it being open for business. Truth be told, I did this twice. And why? Because the restaurant did not show any visible signs of being open OR closed. The only thing that indicated the latter was a large garbage bin obstructing the out-of-view parking lot once I turned in.

Eventually, I spotted a sign announcing a new location opening up the month prior, as if stating this was in the future, not the past. Confused, I attempted to look for more information and was disappointed.

At this point I was more frustrated that anything, and my friend and I chose another restaurant for our get-together. We weren’t going to bother ourselves anymore with trying to find out where this ‘New’ location was, and further, didn’t feel they deserved our business anyway.

The message we heard? Our business wasn’t important. Sure, we’re just two people—but if that’s the message we heard, others did as well.

My experience was vastly different from Ed Zimmerman’s but the message was the same. What messages are you sending to your customers?