Even in the best of times, foodservice operators need to keep an eagle-eyed watch on their bottom lines. Budget-conscious patrons are always searching for ways to save money at restaurants. The situation resembles a classic economic arms race, with operators seeking out ever more ways to cut costs, while increasingly sophisticated customers scheme to reduce their bills. No business owner wants to face off in battle against dozens or hundreds of customers a day.
The good news is that it truly is possible to cut costs and improve margins without treating customers like adversaries or compromising the quality of your products. Sure, there are some external factors over which operators have no direct control that can affect the bottom line, such as ingredient prices, macroeconomic forces, nearby road construction, and local wage laws. However, there are plenty of factors that operators can control to varying degrees.
This is part one in our three part series about nine key variables that affect your restaurant's margins and bottom line. We’ll start with what’s most important—and most evident—in your customers' eyes—service delivery.
1. Order-Taking Mistakes
Front-of-house employees have tough jobs, and even the best are prone to occasional mistakes. That doesn't make the costs associated with erroneous orders—wasted food, comped meals or items, or disgruntled customers—any less painful to bear. Every seasoned restaurant operator has a battle story that starts with a seemingly innocent order-taking mistake.
Digital POS systems aren't infallible either. Machines do make mistakes. However, they're far less likely to screw up a faithfully recorded and relayed order than human employees with paper and pen (or worse, poor short-term recall abilities). That means less waste, fewer remakes, less comping, and more satisfied customers.
2. Miscommunication Between Front and Back of House
Order mistakes aren't always the front end's fault. Kitchen and line workers have tough jobs too. During rushes at high-volume restaurants, back-of-house workers may work as fast as they possibly can and still struggle to keep up with demand.
Under such circumstances, occasional mistakes are inevitable, but they're much more likely when the front and back ends aren't in sync. Restaurants that rely on verbal communication between front and back end employees are primed for costly misunderstandings - from relatively innocuous screw-ups that can be corrected with no lasting ill will, to serious failures that destroy customer relationships and create public relations crises.
3. Late and Incorrect Deliveries
With the advent of sharing economy services that have brought a number of on-demand apps to market, food delivery isn't just for pizza joints and sandwich shops anymore. Restaurants from one end of the quality spectrum to the other can and do deliver to customers who can't be bothered to come in for a sit-down meal and don't feel like going out to pick up food.
However, delivery opens up a whole new universe of potential logistical complications and service risks. After all, for delivery customers, the actual delivery process—up to and including the customer's fateful accuracy and temperature check—is a significant share of the experience. The look and taste of the food itself is almost incidental.
Since it's easier to pick up the phone or hop on the web and place an order than to corral your family or friends for a trip outside the home, customers have less emotional investment in delivery food. That means they're less likely to give the benefit of the doubt to a restaurant with which they have a negative delivery experience. Unfortunately, this puts a great deal of pressure on restaurant operators (and their delivery personnel, who shoulder a great deal of responsibility for the end product) to deliver a satisfying experience.
Revel's innovative POS system is designed to improve order accuracy and reduce miscommunication between front-of-house, back-of-house, and delivery personnel. It also boasts a suite of delivery management tools that provide sharper insights into prep status, delivery progress, and timing. No more guessing as to when an order is going to show up in a customer's hands, nor whether it's going to be correct when it finally does.
Meeting and exceeding the expectations of your customers is one of the most vital factors in growing your business. If your customers are disappointed, you run the risk of losing their business. When they’re upset, you might become the target for negative word of mouth chatter. Some sources even cite that unhappy customers tell 15 others about their negative experience. That’s a high price for poor service.
Monitoring and improving service delivery is one of the most impactful ways to make positive gains on your bottom line, but there is certainly plenty more you can do in your business. Stay tuned for the next three variables that affect your bottom line and how controlling labor costs is a big piece of that equation.
Rob Williamson is a business owner and tech enthusiast who writes about strategies for utilizing tools to improve sales & productivity.