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R&IEditorial Archives2005September 15 — Operations

Starting Points
Tracking revenue is only the beginning of POS system capabilities.

Shake’s POS system not only measures product costs but studies weather patterns to predict their impact on frozen custard sales.

It took passion for unit expansion and sales growth for Corey Osborne to see his point-of-sale (POS) system as something more than an expensive cash register.

“We evolved from using a register to a full POS,” says Osborne, president and CEO of Fayetteville, Ark.-based Shake’s Frozen Custard. “Our POS system basically had remained a cash register for years in terms of how we actually used it.”

Since their introduction to the marketplace, POS systems’ functionality continually has advanced, adding capabilities and sophistication. Operators looking to better manage both front and back of the house are integrating software into existing POS devices to do everything from track inventory to train staff.

Appetite for Information
Calling 43-unit Shake’s a family business is not just idle boasting for Osborne.

“This remains a family business, but when we started our focus was on customer service and putting out a quality product,” he says. “Those things are still important but now we have a heightened understanding of our business model.”

With that insight came the realization that to become more successful the chain would need not only to use the technology already on hand but expand it as well.

“As we polished our company goals, we began asking more questions,” he explains. “I looked to the POS software to give me the answers I needed.”

Percent of noncommercial operators who invested in point-of-sale systems in 2004.
(FE&S 2005 Operator Industry Forecast)

Describing himself as “starved” for information about his operations, Osborne searched for software that would control inventory expenses as well as help him understand how national gasoline prices were affecting his food costs. When he couldn’t find the precise product, Osborne turned to his twin brothers to develop the program he needed.

“They’ve married knowledge of the foodservice business with their education in software,” he says. “We needed to design something that would meet our specific needs.”

Thanks to the new software, Shake’s POS system allows Osborne to measure product costs as well as study weather patterns to understand their impact on sales.

“I wanted to tear down every wall and misconception about what we thought we knew and take a look at what the reality was in order to improve our business,” Osborne says. “It’s been helpful to lean on our POS system and the internal software we developed for it.”

Safe Training
In addition to controlling costs, R.J. Gator’s Florida Sea Grill & Bar looked to incorporate its employee training program into the existing point-of-sale system.

“We wanted to use our computers for worker education but we didn’t want another tech system in the building and didn’t want to increase our technology investment,” explains Jim Samuel, vice president and director of marketing for the Jupiter, Fla.-based casual-dining seafood chain.

“We found a training system that is Internet-based and could be done through our installed POS system.”

Hire by POS
In addition to training existing staffers, R.J. Gator’s software allows the chain to give prospective employees their prehire test via POS without them leaving the dining room.

“Previously we conducted all of our testing in the back office,” he says. “We didn’t even know who these potential hires were and we were bringing them behind the counter. Now the testing can be done off to the side in the dining room.”

No Sure Thing
Dan Parsons was sure that Nature’s Table Café’s Tuscan wrap would outsell the chain’s Buffalo chicken wrap when both debuted at one of its test locations.

“We rolled out the two new sandwiches at a high-traffic office building and didn’t think the chicken wrap would have as much customer appeal as it did,” says Parsons, director of operations for the 53-unit Orlando-based sandwich concept.

Instinct is not enough of a business-planning tool, he says, adding that without the software recently integrated into existing POS systems, the Tuscan wrap likely would have been more widely menued than the stronger-selling Buffalo wrap at office locations.

The software used with its POS systems allows Nature’s Table Café to determine the best fits for new products at its numerous locations, which include freestanding units as well as mall- and office building-based units.

“We serve so many different demographics,” Parsons explains. “The POS systems allow us find the best menu for our customers at each site.

“We’re finally using the POS system to its fullest potential.”

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