By Graydon Clarke

Welcome!

pepperoniHello, and welcome to On Point !

On Point is a new community resource for restaurant POS and technology news, trends, best practices, and of course, pizza. On Point will give restaurant owners, pizza lovers, and restaurant technology fans a place to share ideas and learn new ways to save money and boost profits.

Get involved. Build a better POS.

Your involvement in the SpeedLine community helps us deliver better solutions, and more effective service. So, join the conversation, and get to know the staff here at SpeedLine, other operators, and industry partners. People from all levels of our company will be posting and responding to your stories, questions, and comments. We want you to get to know us.

What’s your story?

We welcome guest posts, videos, photos, and stories from SpeedLine users, partners, and restaurant consultants. Send us your stuff, or ask us to call you.

What’s to come.

To give you a taste of what types of content we will be posting, here are some of the things we will be talking about in the next few weeks:

  • POS Field Guide: Locking Down Security
  • On Call: Stories from a SpeedLine Support Tech
  • In the Trenches: Award-winning operator Diana Coutu on “Dealing with Fatigue”
  • Restaurant Owners Can’t Take Vacations, Right?

So read, comment, ask questions—join the discussion with other readers. We can’t wait to talk to you.

Google Wallet: Risky Business for Restaurant Operators?

Google Wallet

I came across an old Best Buy flyer from 1996 the other day, with a cellphone ad that read: Enough Memory to Save 102 Names and Numbers! Not 101, not 103, but 102.

Fast forward to today. The average smartphone has more memory and processing power than my desktop computer did in 1996…and on September 19th, Google introduced yet another new tool for Android users: Google Wallet. Read more

Google Analytics: Is your restaurant website driving sales?

Google

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

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.

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.

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?

Your Customers, Your Community: Involvement Strategies to Increase Sales and Reduce Employee Turnover

Your customers, your communityYou may find benefits to community involvement in areas you didn’t expect.

The community in your marketing.

You probably recognize the value of getting out in the community as a marketing approach.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, SpeedLine lead trainer Wiley Borg once owned a pizzeria.
Wiley believes community involvement should be the number one marketing strategy for any restaurant. As a restaurant owner, he made a priority of sponsoring local teams, and having a presence at any local events. Whether it’s hanging a banner for your pizza place above the ball diamond or giving out free pizza and coupons at a local charity event, he insists that you want your name everywhere in the community.

I also asked Wiley how social media marketing tied into his strategy. His answer and plan of action was still the same. Email, Twitter, Facebook, blogs and newsletters should be tools that complement the restaurant’s involvement in the community.

Weave community activities into your blog or Facebook posts, or newsletter articles. Take pictures and video of staff preparing for and attending local events, and broadcast them to people via Twitter, Facebook, and your email list! Though your contribution may not always be free, the returns can be huge.

Your employees in the community.

In general, people tend to give less thought to the value of involvement and charity to the giver. Involving staff in your community efforts can pay long-term dividends back at the shop.

Community involvement is an amazing way to give your employees a sense of purpose and a chance to make a difference. In the Pointblank blog the other day, Dave Choate explained why this is true.

“If your employees are tethered to their desks {or the make line} all day, they may feel like they’re not making a difference, even if their work is important. Bring them out to clean up a local community center, read to kids and work at a local soup kitchen and they almost can’t help but feel they’re making that difference.”

This really rings true to me. I used to work for a massive consumer electronics retailer. Literally every day in my job was the same: go to work, sell computers to people, clean up the department, stock the department, sell computers to people, clean up the department, stock the department…

The zombie factor set in, as the work became routine and monotonous. And, when you’ve sold as many computers as I have, every conversation seemed to be the same as the last. Kind of like taking a pizza order, I imagine.

Eventually, word spread that our company was going to donate five or six full computer packages to a local school. This donation wasn’t a random occurrence. The school’s special education center had recently been broken into and every computer stolen.

So, not only were we donating all these computers, but staff were also given the opportunity to go to the school and help set up the new computers for the kids. I signed up right away. What a positive experience!

I returned to work energized, happy, and excited. If you think your employees will feel half as good as I did from helping out in my community, find ways to get involved as a team.

 

Wi-Fi, PCI, and Your Business

Wi-Fi, PCI and your businessDo you have Wi-Fi?

Wi-Fi can be a draw for new types of customers, and a good way to bring in business at times that are generally slow.

Even so, some businesses are hesitant to incorporate free Wi-Fi , fearing that it will bring in customers who linger for hours over a cup of coffee. While that can happen, in my experience, it’s the exception. A restaurant where I often go at lunch recently added free Wi-Fi. I find myself heading there after lunch or dinner to grab a snack and get some work done. I was a regular before. But now I’m a regular lunch customer who also spends money there during off-hours—as a direct result of free Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi can also be a great way to promote business lunches; an easy connection for an iPad or laptop makes a lunchtime presentation a whole lot easier. And personal experience aside, other businesses are clearly seeing the benefit, as many are taking the free Wi-Fi plunge.

Is your Wi-Fi secure?

If you’ve decided to add Wi-Fi at your restaurant, or already have it, proceed with caution.

  • Be very sure your Wi-Fi network is secure, and has ZERO access to the POS network.
  • Change your network password regularly, and keep it to yourself.

You’d never think of closing up and leaving the doors unlocked…but an unsecured wireless network is like an open door into your point of sale system that hackers could exploit—a PCI security red flag.

PCI compliance is a major concern for restaurant owners today. As the merchant-owner, you are liable for any breach of customer payment data at your restaurant, and the consequences of a breach can be devastating for any business.

Restaurants that have been breached face fines, fees, and loss of business that can add up to five- and six-figure losses.

In a whitepaper on wireless PCI compliance, Cisco Wireless Systems quoted the cost of a breach at $50,000 for a small business or $500,000 for a franchise chain.

So take advantage of all the benefits of Wi-Fi in your restaurant—but be sure your Wi-Fi is secure. If you’re not, call a network technician for help.

Interactive Menus and Tablets: Mobile Sales in Your Restaurant’s Future?

Mobile sales in your restaurants future?Back in the day (not that many days ago, actually), I worked in a giant electronics store as a computer salesperson. I sold laptop computers, desktops, mice, keyboards, monitors, you name it. Then came the iPad, the Blackberry Playbook, and other tablets.

Maybe it was the throngs of customers calling and coming in daily to check if the new iPad was in stock, but I despised tablets. Oversized and overpriced iPods is what I thought they were. But as I spent more and more time around them, I started to see benefits of tablets from both a business and personal perspective.

One of the moments that solidified the value of the iPad as a business tool for me was when my fiancée and I met with our wedding photographer. After discussing rates and ideas, our photographer showed us his portfolio – on an iPad.

The high definition screen made his pictures look beautiful, as I easily flicked from one picture to the next, interacting effortlessly with his body of work.

Wait a second. How does this tie into restaurant technology? Well, today I was browsing the BurkeCorp blog, and read a post about the recent NRA show that discussed new ideas and trends in the restaurant industry. The notion of evolving ordering with technology and apps stuck out to me. Taking tablet technology and giving it to the customer to interact with a restaurant’s menu is such an amazing thought that just makes sense.

The BurkeCorp blog mentioned a company called Hospitality Social in their post, and I checked out the website. Hospitality Social sells what they call Hospitality Pads—essentially an iPad kitted out with an interactive menu—in this case, set up with a focus on wine pairings and recommendations. If, for example, I select a classic Pizza Margherita on the iPad, it will show me a variety of recommended wine and appetizer pairings. Not only that, but I can jump into a detailed and visual description of the wine I am interested in, instead of the 5–10 word description I would find on most menus.

It turns out many of SpeedLine’s web ordering partners have built mobile interfaces for iPad, Android, and Blackberry tablets. Some of our restaurant customers are already using them to drive more sales through the Internet. How cool is that?

After seeing how well tablet technology integrates with the restaurant industry, I can’t wait to see how tablets will be used in the future. Maybe it’s just my obsession with screens, and pictures that do cool things when I touch them, but I’m excited.