Andrew's business goal is the same as that of most restaurant owners: maximize profitability by delivering excellent food and service, and he is always looking for new, innovative ways to achieve it. As often as not, that search leads him to what always ends up an elusive goal:
Keep the servers on the floor
"Over the years," Andrew says, "there have been many nights and many many (many) tables I've handled myself, so I know why staff leaves the floor." Here is his list:
- To enter orders.
- To run orders.
- To return wrong orders.
- To handle other roles during slow periods.
The problem was: these were all absolutely necessary. Orders have to be entered. They have to be run. Mistakes must be fixed. None of those could be eliminated.
Or, at least, that's what Andrew thought.
Giorgio Ristorante had been using Maitre'D POS for two years. Andrew brought us into the conversation and asked: what does Maitre'D offer that can keep staff on the floor? We discussed a range of options. Eventually the discussion turned to tablets running on Maitre'D's Mobile Device POS solution.
Tablets virtually eliminate server trips to the fixed POS station to enter orders, which made the business decision easy to justify in this case. Most of the time, servers left the floor to enter orders at the POS: about 15 percent of their time. Eliminating those trips freed up almost ten minutes per hour—two tables per hour, per server.
"On paper, tablets sounded great," Andrew says. "But, I still had a lot of uncertainty about tablets." Andrew sat down with POS Terminal 2000, and worked through each of his concerns, one by one.
"We're busy. We serve Italian food. We've got lots of sauces. Servers have to move fast to keep up. I could just imagine how quickly a little splash of Marinara sauce would destroy one of those tablets."
There is no shortage of tablet offerings for the hospitality space. After careful review, Andrew selected the Motorola ET1. It weighs the same as an iPad, but is built for the enterprise. This tablet can endure the abuse of a restaurant environment and comes with a three-year "no matter what you did to it" full warranty. Since the implementation 6 months ago, no device has needed replacement.
"The thing I worried most about—and here I learned something important—was training the staff."
The tablet works just like every Android smartphone and tablet—the staff already knew how to pinch and swipe and touch. However, and this was Andrew's surprise, once the staff hit the floor, they were nervous—about making mistakes in front of the customer. It took a couple of days before the tablets became second nature to them. The owners are planning to roll out tablets in three other restaurants, and they’re going to add a little role playing to the training: letting each server handle a few "dummy" tables to build up their comfort level.
First of all, staff was, in fact, devoting at least 15 percent more time on the floor: So, the main goal was reached: servers delivered quality service to more tables. Two more per hour—sometimes more.
With each server able to handle more tables, payroll went down almost immediately. And it did not affect anyone's income: in fact, servers achieved their weekly income goals earlier, so they needed less hours.
The average order increased by $2.00. Since the restaurant does not sell alcohol, that increase is entirely on food items—add-ons, appetizers, desserts. That was a surprising benefit of having the servers on the floor longer. When customers want to order something and cannot find the server, they often lose interest before the waiter returns to the floor. When the server is on the floor, and the customer can make eye contact, that extra has a much better chance of finding its way on to the bill.
Order errors from the kitchen plummeted. That meant that orders did not go back to the kitchen. And that meant that staff was on the floor more.
Andrew can have the last words. "I planned for a six-to-eight month time to reach the breakeven point on the investment. We're going to get there sooner." And the next step? The owners are going to put Mobile POS in their other restaurants.