My QuickPicks
Register now to activate

Contents At A Glance

R&IEditorial Archives2000 — October 15 — Business

Touch Control
Point-of-sale data helps hone operations.

When Stephen Meier tracked wine sales recently, the general manager of The Manor in West Orange, N.J., saw gold in the grapes. Data showed reds were selling briskly in the la carte dining room and whites were the main choice in the buffet room. The numbers, collected from his point-of-sale system, convinced him to revamp, upgrade and expand the by-the-glass programs for both outlets.

Understanding the numbers collected by a POS system gives operators more control over inventory, bar revenues, labor scheduling, overtime, customer traffic and service. Understanding POS ultimately clarifies the bottom line, knocking guesswork out of the equation.

When Meier, The Manor’s bar manager, created a display of 25 vodka brands, sales of the spirit jumped. The same happened when chefs arranged a table with farm-fresh produce and sample entrée plates. Lunch customers noticed and ordered accordingly. None of the changes was based on a hunch, but on hard POS data. In fact, dessert data reconfirmed what Meier knew already: “Anything chocolate sells big time.”

In tracking the catering business, managers at The Manor learn when to crank up marketing to local and national companies for event business, says Meier. And the system’s reservations component pinpoints customers who reserve tables at two venues on the same evening, a tip-off to flagrant no-shows.

Isidore Kharasch says a POS system is a restaurant’s most important equipment. “And the most abused,” adds the president of Hospitality Works, a restaurant consulting firm in Lincolnwood, Ill. “People don’t know what to do with the data. When data is used intelligently, decisions can be made based on fact, not guesswork. It hones operations, facilitates efficiency and, ultimately, improves the bottom line.”


When the number of employees hits three digits or annual sales leap past $3 million, a POS system is a necessity, says Frederick Dreibholz. The chief financial officer of Englewood, Colo.-based Champps Entertainment learned systems analysis in the airlines industry. Today, he uses data to manage and tighten operations for the 37-unit Champps Americana chain, with more than $150 million in annual sales.

By tracking food items and sales, managers can engineer menus. If greater sales can be generated from a steak promotion in a unit in Dayton, Ohio, it would be a waste of money and labor to promote pizza and tie up one or two employees. Data alerts the operator to options such as dropping a low-selling item, modifying a portion size or changing a price.

“POS shows where we could re-energize marketing efforts,’’ says Dreibholz. The numbers might point to table tents to introduce a food promotion or new interactive game, which for Champps, attracts customers and return business. Or they might help managers spot weaknesses in a unit or where to improve efficiency, he adds. Champps uses POS data to schedule labor and restrict overtime, a drain on any budget.


The $30,000 Andrée Robert invested in a POS system seven years ago paid for itself within 12 months. “We used to spend that much on cashiers,’’ says the owner of Maison Robert in Boston.

Operating a restaurant with two kitchens places complicated demands on the POS system so it is upgraded and customized frequently. After spending two years learning the system, Robert wants to get the most out of it: “What you put into it is what you get out. You know, garbage in, garbage out.”

She advises operators to be hands-on and expect a learning curve. Skills and confidence in operating the system and using data do not come instantly. Tracking liquor sales, Robert uncovered the fact the house was coming up short on three different liquors. She then discovered that some regular customers were getting free drinks and certain bartenders were too generous in the pours. Though an accountant manages the POS numbers, Robert continues to be hands-on. “That way, you’re in control.”


Servers at the 120-seat Range, in Salado, Texas, use its POS system as a memory aid. During the heat of service, it reminds staff of drinks customers ordered in the bar. That information is transferred to the dining room, assuring an accurate check total and appropriate gratuity.

Finding a POS system that was easy for 20 employees to operate was the goal of Chef-owner Dave Hermann when he bought a local mansion three years ago and turned it into a restaurant.

The system, which cost $20,000, eliminates the frustration of trying to decipher a variety of handwritings, a big source of mistakes. Since each order is clocked when it is turned into the kitchen, managers can check the flow of the meal service and traffic. By studying transaction reports, hourly sales and nightly check reports, Hermann knows how busy servers are. And it helps him respond to customer complaints. “It works like an old-fashioned time card puncher,’’ says Hermann.

He advises operators in the market for a POS system to be sure local tech support is readily available. “All systems do the same dance, each has its nuances. What it comes down to is tech support. In the beginning there re problems. That’s when you need help.”

For Paul Palladino, a POS system fosters better relations with customers and safer, speedier delivery for Simple Simon’s Pizza, the Tulsa, Okla.-based chain, with 210 units in eight states. The POS system enables managers to map directions for home delivery and track customer preferences, says Palladino, vice president of marketing.

Kitchen operators use the system’s inventory procedures to track recipe costs. Managers can keep a close tab on inventory losses and therefore control theft. Since the system was introduced four years ago, Simple Simon’s has reduced labor costs by half and minimized cash-handling errors by less experienced employees.


The POS system rates highly with Hospitality Works’ Isidore Kharasch. But just because a restaurant has one doesn’t mean it will be used.

“When restaurants come to us with financial problems, the first thing I ask to see is the data. When they show me a year’s worth of numbers, many times no one has really looked at it. Most use it to check the balance at the end of the night.’’

POS also indicates who on the staff needs more attention or training. “Use POS to motivate staff,” says Kharasch. Show servers the missed opportunities to sell due to slow or inefficient service, he adds. But he also warns operators not to get bogged down with data.

“Don’t get so hooked on being on the system that you ignore being out on the floor. Use POS to free yourself to be out on the floor with customers.”

You may also like...
Star Tech
- September 15, 2005
Starting Points
- September 15, 2005
The 10-Minute Manager's Guide To Reservations Management
- October 1, 2004
Taking Names
- February 15, 2004
Log On Learn
- December 15, 2002
Cost-Cutting Technology
- May 1, 2002
Generation Next
- May 1, 2002
Point-of-Sale Prepping
- May 1, 2001
2000 Top 100
- April 1, 2000
At Your Disposal
- March 15, 2000
Copyright© 1999-2006 Reed Business Information, a division of
The Reed Business logo, Restaurants & Institutions, R&I, Chain Leader, Foodservice Equipment & Supplies and FE&S are registered trademarks. All rights reserved.
Use of this web site is subject to its Terms and Conditions of Use. View our Privacy Policy. .