How Technology is Boosting Front-of-House Efficiency
Coordinating front-of-house operations with other aspects of a restaurant is not always convenient for operators, especially if it requires time or multiple systems. But as more platforms coordinate operations, such as point-of-sale (POS) systems and guest-management tools, restaurants can save time and money while giving guests better experiences.
At Cafe Strudel in Columbia, South Carolina, owner Trip Turbyfill used to manage tables and wait times with pen and paper. That was before switching over to CAKE’s guest-management and POS platforms. “It was like the stone age,” Turbyfill says of the restaurant’s method before it began using Guest Manager. Now, Cafe Strudel is able to give a guest an estimated wait time and take a cell phone number so guests can leave the restaurant and return when the table becomes available.
“That allows them to wander off,” Turbyfill says. “Close to our location, we’ve got several shops and an antique mall, so we tell the people it’s going to be 30 to 45 minutes and they can wander around since we have the capabilities to capture their cell phone number. Then, we text them when a table is ready and, wherever they are, they can text back and say they’re on the way, “be there in 10 minutes,” or whatever—we can do custom messages.”
With the platform, Turbyfill is also able to sync the POS platform with the guest management aspect, allowing for better guest recognition and improved table turns. “It will flag the table showing the food’s been ordered, a check has been printed, etc., and it will show when the check has been closed to better help with table turns,” he says. “That helps the hostess, when we have a busy restaurant with 30 tables or more, to anticipate the open table. People will sometimes wander off, especially when you’re on a longer wait, and it might take a little while for them to get back, but the hostess can text the person ahead of time without the table sitting empty.”
The software—which is still undergoing integration development—will also recognize a guest’s cell phone number if they’ve been to the restaurant before, which allows for servers to be more personable and recognize commonly ordered items. “If someone puts in their number, it tells you if they’ve come in three times, 10 times, or 15 times, when they got seated, how long they waited,” Turbyfill says. “Theoretically, the end game is when somebody comes in, puts their name on the list, we seat them at a table and they pop up on the screen and the server will greet them by name, see what their favorite stuff is, and what they had last time.”
Similarly, for Steve Brooks, director of purchasing, technology, and beverage development at Tumbleweed Tex Mex Grill and Margarita Bar, a Louisville, Kentucky–based casual-dining brand with 20 locations, an integrated software platform allows for data analysis for nearly any aspect of the restaurant.
Using Mirus Restaurant Solutions, Tumbleweed can measure anything related to sales, labor, guest counts, and even the sirloin inventory in the back of house. “Pretty much anything you can count in the kitchen it can [track], so for a restaurant it can be very useful in keeping accurate inventory on a daily basis on anything that’s high-dollar,” Brook says.
Tumbleweed has also used the platform to measure guest feedback or complaints through a website. Guests go to the site, enter their complaint or review, and then Tumbleweed uses the data to measure performance of its 20 locations. The restaurant company also uses an alert system to make sure the complaints are answered.
Brooks says the platform will measure down to the lowest level of data and can be used to create a “report card” on everyone from servers to district managers, operators, or the whole company. For instance, the platform allows for Tumbleweed to rank servers based on the tips they receive in charged transactions, so they can identify those that may need more training if they fall below the restaurant average. “We can look at every server and say the ones who are below 15 percent need more training; the ones who are above 18 percent are doing a great job, they’re taking care of the guests; and the best ones in the company may be in the 20s,” Brooks says. “You can make an informed decision, not a subjective decision, on how good you think the server was.”
In using the platform Upserve, the owner and chef of Tremont 647 in Boston, Andy Husbands, says the pre-shift email generated through the platform’s Shift Prep feature allows for a smoother service overall because it includes components like alerting the kitchen of any last-minute changes or special guest arrivals, and how those details might impact what menu items may be popular throughout the evening.
“I know what’s going to be happening, and—because I am running around like crazy and half my day is in the kitchen, chopping garlic, and the other half of the day is with my CPA, looking at numbers—what I like to do is look at this email and go, ‘Oh, OK, I see the plan for tonight,’ and we’re able to better adjust where we need to go and what we need to do for that evening,” he says.