Restaurant operators are always looking for the latest solutions to help them cut costs and provide better and faster service. Technologies claiming to do all three emerge daily, so FastCasual.com sat down with the CEOs or founders of four such companies — FrontFlip, Breadcrumb, Irisys and GoPago — to find out if their solutions are worth the investment.
The customer engagement solution founded just last year in Kansas City by brothers Matt and Sean Beckner already serves casual dining, fast casual and quick-service restaurants in 36 states, including McDonald's, Wendy's, KFC and Famous Dave's.
How it works: After downloading the free mobile app, customers can scan the business' QR code, which unlocks a digital scratch card on the phones. Using their fingers, guests then get to "scratch off" the code to see if they've won a prize, such as a discounted dessert or a promotional menu item.
CEO Sean Beckner answered a few questions about why he believes his business is gaining popularity among restaurant operators:
Q: What makes Front Flip different from other loyalty/customer engagement apps?
Beckner:We find that most loyalty programs lack the fun or excitement to drive engagement with consumers. With Front Flip, customers have the opportunity to win with every visit to their favorite businesses.
When customers scan the Front Flip QR code, they enter the business's loyalty program and mobile marketing cloud. Through our online Command Center, the business can get to know their customers by demographic profile, day part and visit frequency. They can also segment their customers and send them meaningful gifts in the Front Flip app.
Q: How much does it cost?
Beckner: Front Flip is available for a monthly subscription fee, starting at $75/month.
Q: Why should a restaurant owner get on board with Front Flip?
Beckner: Front Flip puts businesses in control of marketing and customer loyalty, allowing them to increase visit frequency, boost sales and turn their customers into social brand advocates. Businesses also have full control over their prizes and gifts, which helps them introduce guests to new or premium menu items.
Recently acquired by Groupon, Breadcrumb is a point-of-sale solution that runs on iPads for restaurants, bars and cafes. Created by a team of hospitality industry veterans, Breadcrumb plans start at $99 per month.
How it works: Employees use the iPad app to search for items or rearrange tables with a finger swipe, and operators may also use the solution to merge or split checks, add or adjust menu items, specify guest notes and modifiers, set employee access levels, manage time-clocks and view real-time sales and labor reports.
Founder Seth Harris answered these questions about his system that is now in more than 100 restaurants, including Empellon Cocina, The Queen's Kickshaw, Amali and the Experimental Cocktail Club:
Q: What makes Breadcrumb different from other iPad POS systems?
Harris: We only focus on hospitality businesses, and there are no scales or UPC scanners that retail stores may need. In addition, Breadcrumb's business and pricing models also set itself apart from competitors, since we don't use multiple resellers, do not charge upfront licensing fees, and offer a 30-day money-back guarantee which includes 24/7 support with every subscription plan.
Q: Why should restaurant operators use Breadcrumb?
Harris: I'm a restaurant guy, so we started building Breadcrumb by first looking at all the workflows critical to a restaurant operation. We then molded the world's best technology to meet these workflows. All this means that Breadcrumb is the most easy-to-use, powerful and affordable full-featured hospitality POS system on the market today. Operators will enjoy a solution that has all the POS features they need while still being flexible and scalable.
Although restaurants can easily track the time it takes to place an order, the formula does not account for time customers spend waiting in line to place their orders or to receive food. To combat that problem, several limited-service restaurants are piloting Irisys, a thermal-powered checkout-management solution designed to cut down on dine-in customer wait times.
How it works: The system monitors how long customers wait to order by using thermal sensors mounted over the order lines to monitor their arrival times. It also measures how long they wait for their food after ordering via a feed from the restaurant POS system that provides the start and stop times of food orders. It can also monitor delivery time via an order bump from the kitchen management system or by adding a barcode to the order ticket given to the customer and rescanning this at the point-of-order delivery.
Chris Precious, the company's president, North America, and sales director, worldwide sensor business, answered the following questions about the solution:
Q: How exactly does this technology help speed up lines?
Precious:[Everything] can be shown in real time on a kitchen mounted dashboard, allowing the manager to monitor times as they already do with drive-thru and to reallocate labor in the restaurant as required by service demand. For instance, when lines begin to build up, managers can open an extra register to get the orders in faster — rather than risking a lost customer who isn't prepared to wait a long time to place his or her order. The data can also be used after the fact to look at how staff scheduling can be improved to match customer walk-in demand.
Q: How much does it cost?
Precious: This depends on the size of the restaurant, number of walk-in checkouts and overall queuing area. However, we would expect an average quick-service restaurant to be implemented for $5,000–$10,000.
Q: What is the expected ROI?
Precious: The ROI is in terms of improved customer service and reduced walk-away customers at busy times. The level of increased sales required depends on incremental margins, but we would expect the system to pay for itself within 12 months.
GoPago is a total payment solution that also has a platform for customer loyalty and engagement. The San Francisco-based company backed by JPMorgan Chase was founded in 2009, received funding from JPMorgan Chase in February 2012, and expanded nationwide with the launch of GoPago LIVE in August 2012.
How it works: The POS system comes preloaded with the business' products and services and everything it needs to accept cash, credit cards and mobile payments. It links a receipt printer, a cash box, and a customer's smartphone to a tablet computer.
CEO Leo Rocco answered the following questions about the solution, which is already in use by several restaurants, including fast casual concepts Lucky Dogs and Bistro Burger in San Francisco:
Q: What makes it different from other POS solutions?
Rocco: Unlike GoPago, other POS systems provide no customer support and require restaurant owners to purchase all of their hardware (cash box, tablet, printer, etc.) and set up their own Internet connectivity. GoPago gives all hardware for free and provides 24/7 customer support. GoPago LIVE is also the only POS system that gives customers the option of ordering from their mobile device and skipping the payment line. When transactions are completed through the mobile storefront, GoPago LIVE provides restaurant owners with tools that allow them to automatically track and understand what customers are purchasing. CRM tools also help restaurant operators manage reviews and communicate with customers.
Q: How much does the system cost?
Rocco: There is no upfront investment for the merchant. All equipment (tablet, receipt printer, cash drawer, credit card reader and stand) and Verizon 4G Data Plan is free. The merchant is charged 5 percent for transactions that come through the mobile storefront (i.e. consumers ordered via smartphone), 2.85 percent for transactions on premise (i.e. credit card is swiped at the location) and 0 percent for cash transactions.
Q: What is the ROI?
Rocco: There is a great return of investment, since the restaurant operator doesn't have to pay any upfront cost for the system. GoPago LIVE gives restaurant owners modern tools that were once only afforded by big retailers and some merchants have already seen up to 25 percent of their sales in a given month come through the GoPago smartphone application.
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Cherryh Butler has been a reporter for nearly 10 years, writing on a variety of topics ranging from the restaurant industry to business and health and fitness news. Before joining FastCasual.com as editor, she oversaw KioskMarketplace.com and PizzaMarketplace.com and contributed to RetailCustomerExperience.com. She's also written for several daily newspapers, magazines and websites, including The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine.