EPOS Systems for Take Aways
A fast and efficient EPOS system is critical for fast food and take away establishments, where the whole customer experience is driven not only by product quality and consistency, but also by speed of service. That service starts with order taking - you have an efficient and well-managed kitchen, so anything you can do to get those orders to your cook staff faster will improve your service delivery. Frequently, the order taking starts outside your premises; there are nowadays many new channels through which customers can place orders and your EPOS system needs to interface to them all.
CLI, Telephone & SMS Text Orders
For telephone orders, one powerful EPOS technology that can be employed is CLI, or “calling line identification”. This technology instantly retrieves full details for existing customers the instant you answer their call. Details retrieved can include not only name and address but information on the customer's previous orders. Any customer likes to be recognized and this powerful system can be used for up-selling at the point of order, based on the customer's previous purchases. CLI is also a great time saver, as the need to re-take customer details each and every time they place an order is eliminated. It can also immediately alert you to orders originating from “black-listed” addresses, where payment or other problems have occurred in the past.
SMS text messages are another channel through which you may decide to take orders. Whilst SMS may be less prevalent with the advent of mobile web browsing, sending a quick text remains a very simple and attractive way for your customers to order, especially if they are on the go. Consider gaining your own “short code” - a five digit number that customers will easily remember, rather than using an ordinary full mobile number. Once again, with SMS ordering, your EPOS system is able to identify a returning customer from their phone number, so there is no need to re-capture customer information.
A website can combine the ability for customers to set up their own menu choices in advance, thereby enabling simple SMS ordering (send “Food Eat 1” to 60399, for example) or this functionality can be integrated into your own website by your EPOS supplier. For a more basic use of this technology, your EPOS provider can also supply simple devices such as an SMS Text message printer, ideal for locating next to the kitchen, enabling texted orders to be safely added to the order list as soon as they are received.
Another major channel through which your customers should be able to place orders (and the more channels you provide, the more business you will attract) includes an Internet website. The web also provides an excellent method to communicate automatically with your customers, as you can upload full details of special offers, promotions and availability, which are time-consuming and difficult to communicate via more passive ordering methods such as the telephone order. Once you capture your customers email addresses, you can “push” your marketing promotions at your customer base as they occur, either by email or SMS text.
Some takeaway operators have reported as much as 40% growth in sales as a result of introducing online ordering, so it is a vital area that is not to be ignored! It can also mean your takeaway in the digital world is open 24 hours a day, as customers should be able to pre-order and schedule delivery for any time your kitchen is open, attracting orders that might otherwise be lost. Many will appreciate the ability to order in advance before that long drive home from work for example - and if your competitors offer this service but you do not, your business will rapidly start to lose out. Apart from which, you could open shop to a stack of waiting orders - what better way to start a shift?
You may either choose your own sophisticated customized website to offer on-line ordering, or subscribe to any of several third-party hosted websites, aimed specifically at the fast food sector. Whichever path you decide to take (own website or hosted service) your EPOS system supplier should be able to fully integrate your EPOS system, so that orders are processed direct to the kitchen and are immediately ready for payment on collection by customers, or for dispatch with your delivery drivers.
Several larger restaurant chains have recently developed individual iPhone apps, which allow customers to browse their menus via the intuitive iPhone interface, then to place their orders (which appear directly in the kitchen) and to then pay for their order online, direct from their iPhones. There are also general mobile user applications operated by independent developers - schemes which privately owned restaurants may also choose to join.
One further method to receive orders is via simple email. Whilst many EPOS systems generate a confirmation email for orders taken online, few will receive a customer email and convert it into an order, due to the varying format of incoming emails and the risk of mistakes. However, it is important to regularly monitor incoming emails, as they might contain not only new orders, but customer complaints such as wrong deliveries, which are important to rectify promptly. So do ensure your EPOS system has the ability to at least receive and display the content of incoming email or at the very least, alert staff to an incoming email's presence, without them having to go and regularly check for incoming emails at another computer.
At the Counter
Internet and telephones orders aside, many takeaway customers will still arrive at your counter without having pre-ordered. For these customers (and for pre-ordered customers arriving to collect and pay) efficient and reliable EPOS terminals are essential. Once an order is captured, it needs to be immediately transmitted to the kitchen, if need be to the relevant area. Individual kitchen displays or printers are a tremendous help, with relevant instructions being sent directly to the responsible staff at their individual work areas. Of course, in the background, such a system will also be performing all the back-end functions you would expect, including stock control, cash control, sales reporting, reconciliation and re-ordering - which can optionally be completely automated and directed to any of several of the large national cash and carry networks.
At front of house, payment processing is next on the agenda and here, the takeaway owner should look for speed, simplicity and reliability. Do choose a touch screen system, as these are easier to use and more resilient and hygienic in a food service environment. If you have multiple staff, provide sufficient terminals for the busiest times and look for a system that uses touch buttons (known as “Dallas” keys) or swipe cards for staff identification at the till. Not only does this enhance the cash control function, but lets you use your EPOS system to monitor staff productivity and to record timekeeping and attendance data for payroll.
Obviously, insist on an EPOS system that has integrated credit and debit card handling facilities, as these are far more reliable and speedier in operation than tills that connect to a separate card payments terminal. Be aware of new technologies for taking payment, such as “contactless” cards - where small orders can be paid for without PIN entry, just by the customer “touching” their card on a contact pad. Also, do look out for upcoming mobile phone based payment methods also - these are predicted to become hugely popular over the next couple of years, so be prepared for their widespread introduction.
One final point while we are in the counter area: Did you know that modern EPOS systems can also incorporate CCTV, providing not just general security for your staff and outlet, but also cash/stock security over your tills? By logging the exact time of transactions, such systems can even replay you footage of each individual transaction, on demand.
The order isn't complete until it has been delivered and a good EPOS system specially designed for take-away operations can even speed this process. With on-line links to Google Maps, some systems will print order slips that include maps to guide your delivery drivers. Distances between your shop and the customer can be worked out based on post codes, automating the calculation of delivery charges. Some EPOS systems can even plan the best delivery route and give real-time GPS based feedback as to just where your drivers are!
Finally, where delivery drivers are taking payment, why not offer your customers the option of payment by card on delivery? GSM (mobile network) card machines are a popular innovation as they offer secure Chip and PIN payment taking, with full real-time authorisation, wherever your driver might be. Mobile card taking also reduces the amount of cash your delivery drivers are carrying, reducing risks. These mobile terminals are also very useful if your catering business engages in outside operations such as festivals or other outside events. The terminals can either be purchased outright with a service contract, leased or are available on short term rental if you are only an occasional user or wish to test the technology before you buy.
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