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How to run your takeaway effectively using an EPOS System

You've designed and printed your takeaway menus and it has worked like a charm. Customers are using your online menu to order, phoning in orders, foot fall in the shop has increased but you may find at this time that your shop that worked efficiently before may not run so smoothly with all the extra custom you have brought in. There are many ways to streamline your back and front of house processes to ensure speedy and accurate ordering:- N.C.R ordering pads, an electronic till, rigid time management to ensure customers are serviced within a reasonable amount of time, to name but a few. However, there is a simple, cost effective way to combine all of those and many more functions required to make your takeaway run at peak performance levels.

 

The Electronic Point of Sale System

At first glimpse the Electronic Point of Sale or EPOS system looks like an electronic till with a user entry screen. There's a simple reason for that... it is an electronic till with a user entry screen! However, this is only the part of the EPOS system that your staff and the customer see, basically the face of the system. There are more technological 'gubbins' to the EPOS system but the focus of the article are the problems EPOS systems solve and the benefits they bring. A more in-depth look at EPOS systems will be coming in a later article.

However for the sake of the article I need to explain a little of how an EPOS System works.

  1. Orders are taken on the front of house, till and touch screen.
  2. On completion of the order process the front of house unit will allow payment to be taken and stored in the integrated cash draw.
  3. The order will be sent from the front of house unit and will be received by the central processing unit (Usually a PC in your office)
  4. The central processing unit will undertake the tasks it has been programmed to complete ie update stock level, log the order in a storage system, update customer purchasing reports, etc.

PROBLEMS FACING A BUSY TAKEAWAY (and their solutions)

Stock Levels

In our last article "How to make a takeaway profitable and successful" we cover the principle of knowing how much money it takes to create each of your products. Central to this process is super stock control.

The more busy your takeaway the more likely it is that stock levels will deplete faster than you expect often times resulting in low stock levels on popular products and the need to remove the ability to purchase from your customers. You could hire someone to specifically check each ingredient is properly in stock and warn you when the level is low. You could over purchase and stock up for a long time, however that can often lead to overconfidence in the stock level "Oh we bought a ton of that, we shouldn't need any for a while".

Neither of those solutions really help to run a takeaway profitably.

In the center of any EPOS system is a stock control system. Knowing what it takes to make one pizza allows you to see how many pizzas you can produce with ingredients you have, this in turn can be used to tell the EPOS system to alert you at a particular stock level that more stock is required, allowing you to order in more and keep stock levels at an optimum level rather than much too much or way to little.

COSTS OF TIME

Linked to product costings there are time costings. Each pizza that your staff produces not only requires a certain level of ingredients it requires a certain investment of time. As the old saying goes 'Time is money' and in a busy takeaway that has a meaning all of its own. Too little time is spent on a product the customer will not be given a great meal, too much and your waiting customers will leave and go elsewhere.

One way of keeping track of time spent on certain tasks in your takeaway is to follow your staff around with a stopwatch, however most staff would probably see this as a touch invasive and probably leave. An EPOS System with a central processor can log the time between orders and can also create reports based on time spent with the customer, time spent preparing and most importantly for you time spent doing nothing. Removing dead time and spotting trends in customer service time can help to streamline your entire front of house process and ensure you are getting the time your money is paying for.

SHRINKAGE, MISTAKES AND FRAUD

With any busy business mistakes can AND DO happen. Stock can be lost in many ways (going off, hidden, just plain lost), prices can change leaving room for "oh I didn't charge the right price", orders can get confused, lost or forgotten, phone in customers ignored for a walk in customer. Also in the atmosphere of a busy workplace certain actions are more difficult to spot that in a quiet room. Theft and fraud account for a large amount of loss in any business.

A 2009 survey conducted by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, found that U.S. organizations lose 7 percent of their annual revenue to fraud. Based on the 2008 GDP, this is approximately $994 billion in fraud losses. And employees accounted for 48 percent of those cases. CNBC

The figures above, although for the U.S, are directly transferrable to the U.K.

You could install a costly security system to keep a hawklike view on your employees and your stock, however this may not stop all instances of theft and fraud. How do you stop your employees giving "mates rates" with your merchandise? How do you catch a good thief that can cover themselves from the cameras?

The simplest way to achieve tight security is to use (you guessed it) an EPOS system!!!

  • An EPOS system can monitor the till draws opening - stopping employees opening the till when no sale is in process.
  • It can keep a running tally of what should be in the till at all times - enabling you to do spot checks and if tallys do not match up find where your money is going be it a mistake in the change given or something more sinister.
  • It can track which employee is logged in to the system at what time limiting the need to conduct witch hunts to find the person who made a mistake or the guilty party.
  • It can keep an accurate view on stock levels - ensuring that disappearances of stock are noticed quick enough to make a difference
  • It can set the price that a product is sold at and not allow it to be altered - removing the possibility of your employees giving their own "special discount price".

Essentially, the EPOS System acts as a layer of security between your employees and your money and stock. Nothing goes in or out without being logged.

OTHER BENEFITS

The lists above are solutions to problems faced by a modern, popular takeaway and restaurant but these are only a small part of the benefits an EPOS System can provide!

More and more features are being integrated into EPOS software all the time that solve more and more needs and provide way more benefits, check the list below for another small part of what an EPOS system can do for your takeaway!

  • Electronic in shop ordering allows for more flexibility in the ordering process. Adding, removing and editing items on an order is simple on an electronic touch screen rather than a written pad or till slip.
  • Uniform pricing - Using multiple EPOS Systems even in multiple locations allows for the centralisation of your pricing structure ensuring that all customers are charged the same price across all shop EPOS terminals and locations.
  • Stock level control can allow you to remove products from sale automatically if levels become too low.
  • Storage of customer information - See section below on personalisation
  • Integration of all forms of ordering - Have your phone and online orders pushed into the system automatically and not need to worry about one form of ordering getting priority over another.

The benefits above are just for you as a takeaway owner, but EPOS systems can offer benefits to more than just you, your staff can benefit from a new EPOS system too:-

  • Easy to read and use price list - No more needing to remember the price of everything in the shop and that the price of mushy peas has just gone up by 5p a tub. The simple easy to use interface gives access to all items on the menu in categories, and keeps a running total of the order cost ensuring that calculation mistakes are no longer an issue.
  • EPOS systems can keep track of employee working times and calculate wages accordingly ensuring that they get paid correctly and for you no more having to work it all out, just look at the report. That takes the chore out of it and makes payment of wages on time an easy thing to do.
  • Customer interaction - The ease of use of the EPOS System allows your front facing staff to interact more with your customers, allowing for the get to know you approach of a friendly, local takeaway.
  • Mulitple user accounts - By allowing each member of staff to log on as an individual EPOS systems enable use of a single ordering unit/till to be used easily by multiple people removing the need to wait till the last order has been put through entirely before the next can be entered.

PERSONALISATION

More and more shops and businesses are gathering information on their customers to help them provide a more personal approach to using their service. Use of demographics (who people are, how old they are, what they like) to tailor offers and discounts is becoming common place.

Using an EPOS system you can record, store and use the personal and order details of your delivery customers (if not your walk in customers too) allows greater personalisation of all services. E.g. Customer A always orders a pot of curry sauce with his chips, if he doesn't order it the system can tell the order taker to ask "if you want your usual curry with that".

Personalisation of your services also enables you to send out targetted promotions, special offers and discounts aimed at only those who would want them. E.g. You don't send an offer for a family meal deal to a single male living alone, instead you send a "football evening" meal. Knowing their birthday and age can enable you to offer a targeted "To you on your birthday: 75% off" offer making your customer feel special and remembered by their takeaway of all places!

Finally...

Using an EPOS system is a simple and cost effective way to keep your takeaway running smoothly, if used correctly most EPOS systems pay for themselves in around a year! But as well as the cost:-

  • Your staff will thank you for making their working lives that much easier.
  • your customers will note the improved speed and ease of ordering
  • Having refined your stock control and time management you will have more time to put where it needs to be put, your customers and your food.
  • Your life will be less hectic and worried, no more stock shortages, no more worries about the disappearance of money.

That being said you need customers to be busy and to get customers you need to...

Remember

Good menu design makes you money!
Cheap menu printing saves you money!

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About the Author

Darren Hiles

Working as an internet application developer for the last 8 years and with 7 years experience in Electronic Point of Sale system software, Darren's expertise lies in discovering the technical potential of your takeaway.

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