Gone are the days of damp dockets scrawled in the waiter’s hand being shunted through a kitchen window to chefs wearing oil-slicked glasses to squint at. The introduction of modern point-of-sale systems to the dining experience has done more than simply replace the biro – it’s given restaurateurs valuable new business insights.
Adrian Richardson, owner of Melbourne’s La Luna Bistro and the recently opened Bouvier, is salty enough to remember running a restaurant before point-of-sale systems. “I come from the old hand-written days,” he says. “It just makes it easier.”
Wait staff get to wait
For Richardson, the chief benefit of a point-of-sale system such as Impos, which he uses in both venues, is it allows staff to concentrate on what they do best. “With a screen on the floor, one of the things I noticed from day one was the waiter stays on the floor,” he says. “They can punch the information in and it automatically goes where it needs to. They don’t need to walk into the kitchen to pass it on, it just pops up in there. Over a period of a day, it probably saves me 20 to 30 minutes per waiter.”
At Sydney’s Dead Ringer and its sister-bar Bulletin Place, co-owner David Hobbs has also seen an increase in staff’s performance using his own customised Impos system. “The speed of service is really important,” he says. “Every second counts. If you need to mess around for a minute here or there, it slows everything down.”
Diners and drinkers benefit
Increased staff efficiency makes a substantial difference to the quality of a diner’s experience. It’s simple, says Richardson – when a waiter’s on the floor, they can serve you. “As soon as you raise your eyes, boom, they’re there,” he says. “If they’re in the kitchen negotiating with chefs, they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”
Hobbs uses his POS system to ensure drinks arrive at tables consistently and quickly. “We have a pretty strict eight-minute docket time for all our cocktails, which is fairly unheard of,” says Hobbs. “It’s something we use our point-of-sale system to check, making sure no docket takes more than eight minutes.” It’s not something the general public would consider when ordering an Old Fashioned or Negroni, but the automatic and accurate printing of their order is critical. “The number of cocktails that go over the bar at Bulletin Place is just staggering,” says Hobbs. “You might have five or six dockets up at any one time, each with four different cocktails on it. If it wasn’t clear, it would be a nightmare.”
Changing menus on the fly
The ability to track specific sales through modern point-of-sale systems also allows restaurateurs to fine-tune their menus. Richardson regularly generates reports to help him calibrate La Luna’s offerings, removing dishes or drinks that simply aren’t selling. “The last couple of months, I’ve really been able to figure out that certain product lines just don’t frickn’ sell,” he says. “[The items might] look good on your menu, but there’s no point having them if they don’t sell. Having a gut feeling, and having the numbers in front of you are very different things.”
Technology doesn’t just enable owners to take the long view on business decisions, but watch the restaurant operating minute-to-minute – even from the comfort of their own homes. “I can be sitting on the couch at home playing Playstation with my kids,” says Richardson, “and have a quick look at my phone and get a running total of what’s going on at the restaurant. I can see who’s selling what, what’s moving and what’s not moving [in real time]. I can even find out if they’ve run out of items.”
Hobbs’s venues are beta testers for some of these new technologies, allowing them to trial features before they’re available to the general public. Dead Ringer was one of the first restaurants to offer mobile EFTPOS integration. “We really recommend it, it saves the wait staff heaps of time,” he says. Unlike many venue owners, Hobbs is a fan of allowing customers to split bills, something mobile EFTPOS makes easy. “We’ll split bills as many ways as you want,” he says. “It’s 2017. We’ve got the technology, and it’s something customers really want. If people want to spend money with us, we’ll take it however they want to give it.”
The future is data
Hobbs believes the next big technological development will come from the data he’s already collecting. It allows him to integrate a diner’s preferences into the venue’s reservation systems, helps with social-media profiles, and promotes cashless banking. “If you use a point-of-sale system and suddenly you’ve got a database with two years’ worth of history,” says Hobbs, “that’s basically gold locked in that data scientists or marketers would love to get their hands on. From that you have a pretty big platform to extrapolate trends.”
As more technologies combine, the flow of this data will become easier and seamless. But for all the cutting-edge developments available to the modern restaurant, there are still areas in which it pays to be defiantly lo-fi: “Bulletin Place doesn’t have a phone,” says Hobbs with a smile. “So people don’t call us about things we don’t want them to call about. It works well.”
This article is presented in partnership with Impos.