Restaurant Matters Today

Issue Highlights

How to Lose Money Running a Restaurant

No one enjoys being conned out of hard-earned money. But you could be forgiven for believing that many restaurant, bar and nightclub owners see it as a necessary evil, little more than an overhead to be expected and written off. Whether it’s staff scamming customers, or customers scamming staff, you can be sure that the biggest loser will be the same person – the venue owner.

One restaurant owner reports how a member of staff, entrusted with handing over takings every night, took a certain amount of cash for herself, balanced the books accordingly and hid the cash around the premises until she was sure that it had not been missed, before taking it home. The thefts only came to light when the staff member left unexpectedly and the owner discovered stashes of money bags hidden away in freezers, at the back of cupboards and even in the ladies’ toilet.

There’s nothing new about bartenders’ theft either, as your genial barman over-pours drinks, gives expensive booze to friends while charging for cheaper versions, gives too much change to friends who frequent the bar and fiddles the inventory.

It has been this way for years, but with today’s electronic technology, it no longer has to be. Aloha and Restaurant Guard – two products from NFS Hospitality – can spot potential scams, flag them up and stop them before they get a chance to kick in. There is now no longer a reason why restaurateurs and others should write this off as an acceptable loss.

Common Scams to Watch out For

  • A restaurant receives an email requesting a reservation for a large group of people with pre-payment to hold the reservation. The next day, the reservation is cancelled with a request for a refund. But the scammer used a forged cheque or stolen credit card to make the pre-payment. While that transaction is pending, the restaurant owner issues the refund. When the bank refuses the initial payment, the restaurant loses the money sent as a refund.
  • Catering for a large party, the guest is billed according to the number of empty bottles of alcohol that are left at the end of the event. But unknown to the guests, restaurant staff have sneaked in empties during the party and smuggled away full bottles.
  • Groups of guests, once they have had a few drinks and are less aware, are charged more than due. A duplicate bill is produced that does not show the excess. The guests pay, but the owner does not receive the extra cash.
  • Waiters keep a bowl and plate at their work station, which is topped up with small helpings from customers’ orders. At the end of the day, the waiter gets a good helping to eat. It might not actually lose money for the venue owner, but it could lead to dissatisfied customers who fail to return.
  • Supervisors or managers authorised to delete or discount bills at outlets that use computerised billing, print a bill, take payment for it, then delete it. The next bill generated has the same number and no shortfall is noticed.

How Modern Technology Can Help

Aloha Point of Sale software from NFS is much more than a replacement for a till or cash register. It optimises restaurant or bar management and actively increases revenues. In one complete solution it offers seamless integration between stock control, labour management, loyalty and gift cards, head office management, table reservations, guest management, tableside ordering and mobile payment systems.

Fine dining restaurants and fast-food operators alike have found its ease of use, outstanding cost control, management reporting and integration to the back office invaluable in running a cost-efficient business. Its use in staff scheduling and labour management is invaluable, as is its ability to track table status, relay the time that tables are left unseated, maximise seating efficiency and capture key guest information.

“One of the determining factors in operating a profitable restaurant business is the ability to control food and labour costs whilst increasing sales,” says NFS Aloha Sales Manager Nick Skudder. “In order to meet such an objective, choosing the right technology solution is one of the most important investment decisions to make.“

“The Aloha restaurant software offers the restaurateur all the management tools they will ever need with a single point of entry, allowing a total view of the business.“

Aloha on its own is a formidable force for efficient and profitable restaurant management. But coupled with NFS’ Restaurant Guard technology, the two become a scam-busting dynamic duo. Launched in the US market two years ago, Restaurant Guard now has more than 20,000 active users worldwide.

Its purpose is to identify potential scam events in a restaurant and deter future theft. It does this by importing up to one year’s worth of data from point of sale to learn what is normal behavior for a specific restaurant. Then it monitors employee activity through transaction patterns and statistical variances, after which a weekly report is generated that shows transactions matching documented fraud patterns. These reports include supporting details on the type of scam pattern identified, the associated employee and the forensic details of one of the suspicious incidents.

Aloha users range from the bars of a rugby stadium in Gloucestershire, to London’s biggest South African restaurant and night club, where the system’s sophisticated and adaptable technology caters for the customers’ many and diverse needs.

Here’s how just a few are benefiting from the use of Aloha in their businesses.

Shaka Zulu: The Financial Hub at the Heart of London’s Largest South African Restaurant

Shaka Zulu is London’s largest South African restaurant and nightclub. Set over a ground-breaking 27,000 square feet in The Stables Market at Camden, it is the largest venue of its kind in Europe. Carved wooden murals cover Shaka Zulu’s walls and ceiling, while the lower floor is complemented by a display of 20 feet high warrior statues.

Shaka Zulu opened for business in August 2010 with a special royal blessing from the Zulu King, His Royal Highness Goodwill Zwelithini. Since then, Aloha has been the central financial hub of the business.

“Aloha handles all our transactions, including client data and customer loyalty schemes,” said Shaka Zulu’s founder Roger Payne. “It is also linked with the table reservation system in our Braai Restaurant.“

“The restaurant is gigantic, set over two floors with a capacity of 850 and boasting two fully-equipped kitchens which allow service from both levels. In such circumstances, it is important to know when a table becomes vacant and to understand where any customer is at any time.“

“For example, a customer might start with a drink in the bar before moving on to a table to eat. Aloha tells us remotely when the customer has moved from bar to table and when each course has been served, as waiters call away food orders from table to kitchen, using Aloha-linked, hand-held terminals.“

When Roger was planning Shaka Zulu, he looked at the technology he would need to run such a large-scale project. He considered two or three rival products but, being aware of the success of Aloha in several large-scale American restaurants, he came to the conclusion that the NFS system was the best and most cost-effective solution for his needs.

Plans are in hand to open further restaurants, but with each one being a multi-million pound development Roger is thinking only one step at a time. A second Shaka Zulu is due to be opened in London during 2012, and in that venue, Roger has already decided that Aloha will play its own pivotal role.

Gloucester Rugby: Tackling Cash Management and Revenue Generation

When Gloucester Rugby brought their bars operation back in house, after considerable length of service from a bars contractor, they needed a safe and secure management control for cash transactions – and they knew that NFS Hospitality was the place to turn.

Having already installed the technology company’s Rendezvous suite of software, Patrick Morris, the club’s Head of Events, had confidence that NFS would provide him with the solution he sought. As a result, NFS’ Aloha point of sale software goes live at Gloucestershire’s Kingsholm Stadium in December.

With 45 cash registers turning over £800,000 worth of beer sales in a season, a huge amount of cash and an equally huge amount of stock needs managing.

“Previously, using contract caters, we received a percentage of the takings, and had an assumed level of turnover based on stock bought through our purchasing system.” said Patrick. “Now every penny we take will come into the club. But we need to manage those takings effectively and efficiently.“

“We employ up to 120 members of staff on match days. When you are dealing with cash and vast levels of stock, the potential for scams and mistakes are prolific if you don’t have an effective control. Aloha will allow us to monitor bar sales in 15-minute windows, and look for business patterns. According to the pattern presented, we can manage our staffing and stock levels more effectively.“

Making the installation of Aloha even more cost effective for Gloucester Rugby is the way it will help pay for itself.

“Most of the money in the world of sport is made from sponsorship,” Patrick explained. “So we aim to sell advertising space to our sponsors and local business on Aloha-operated customer-facing screens at each till. I’m delighted that we have bought a cash management system that is also a revenue generator, with a potential income stream of £25,000 a year.“

“Our business plan originally showed that it would take around five years to pay back the cost of installing Aloha. With the revenue from the sponsorship advertising, we aim to pay for the system within two years.“

Euphorium Bakery: Rising to the challenges of expansion

Euphorium Bakery opened for business in 1999 with a simple shop in London’s Islington area. They quickly became famous for making and baking as much as possible fresh from scratch every day, and customers raved about their outstanding cakes and pastries. Today, Euphorium Bakery have seven shops, and are planning more than 30 more. And Aloha is playing a major role in that plan.

“When we started to expand, we randomly bought tills from different suppliers for different shops,” said Operations Director Andrew Green. “But it soon became obvious that we needed to formalise the system, especially in the light of our plans to expand into a multi-site operation.”

“Currently Aloha is installed only in our flagship shop in Islington’s Upper Street. But the system is the guiding force behind our expansion plans, and it will be installed in all our other shops soon, as well as in the new branches we plan to open.“

Andrew has found the system’s ability to handle loyalty cards especially appealing.

“In the old days, we used rubber stamps on cards – the old buy nine, get one free routine,” he said. “But with the Aloha loyalty card facility, due for rollout very soon, we plan to offer plastic cards with which we can give credit, award points and build up a customer database. It will become part of our social networking community marketing plans.“

“We also see Aloha as the way forward in reducing paperwork. Traditionally, our managers have written reports on paper and put them into envelopes which are collected by our delivery drivers each morning, and eventually get back to head office. The information is then put into spreadsheets. With Aloha rolled out across all shops, this will happen electronically and automatically, giving us cash-up data in real time. It will mean a massive cut down in paper communication.“

“The speed with which we will soon be able to get the flow of management information disseminated across all branches and the convenience of being able to make changes globally will mark a major step forward for our business.“

Competition: Win Dinner for Two at Shaka Zulu

Here’s your chance to win a taste of African cuisine with dinner for two at London’s largest South African restaurant. Win our new competition and you and a partner could be tucking into food with exotic names such as Dora wat, Bobotie and sweet potato bredie, not forgetting of course koeksisters, lemon and lime syrup with vanilla sugar for desert.

To be in with a chance of winning, all you need do is answer the five questions below, all based on stories in this issue of NFS Today, then tell us something about your business. The prize will go to the sender of the first correct set of answers electronically drawn after the closing date.

  • What is the name of the NFS technology point of sale software?
  • How many active users does Restaurant Guard have worldwide?
  • Shaka Zulu covers how many square feet?
  • What are beer sales worth to Gloucester Rugby in each season?
  • In what year did Euphorium Bakery open for business?

Now tell us something about yourself…

  • Do you operate a customer loyalty scheme?
  • How important are email communications to your business?
  • Do you operate customer-facing video screens at your tills?
  • How important is multi-site operation to you?
  • Is your business particularly prone to being scammed?

Closing date for entries is 31st December. Email your answers to:

United Kingdom USA South Africa Ireland Asia
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