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LS Retail | 02 February 2023

Five top tips to managing a successful POS implementation in a large restaurant chain

Five top tips to managing a successful POS implementation in a large restaurant chain

What do you think of when you hear the words ‘new point of sale (POS) system implementation’? Does the idea fill you with dread, or have you had a positive experience?  As one of our customer’s CIO put it, there is your company’s reputation – and yours, too – at stake with the selection and implementation decision.

Either way, we know that few businesses enter into a technology upgrade lightly, especially when we’re talking about a system which will affect every facet of your business for years to come. When your existing technology still gets you by, it can feel like a huge risk making such a big change. And, let’s face it, it’s not like we all have the extra budget and resources going spare.

But technology is one of those things where the old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” does not apply. There comes a time when you must consider upgrading your systems if you want your business to remain competitive. Perhaps you need to boost efficiency in your kitchens, or maybe you’re looking to improve guest satisfaction. Modern POS solutions can make all the difference when it comes to simplifying your operations, having better oversight of your inventory, keeping track of your customers and speeding up service. Today, this technology is no longer a nice to have; it’s a strategic imperative.

So where do you start? How do you choose the right technology, and ensure the implementation project runs as smoothly as possible and you get the most from your investment?

One of our customers, a large restaurant chain in the US, faced this exact challenge a couple of years ago. They faced an end-of-life situation with their 20-year-old POS system. No new versions were being built and it was no longer supported. It was time to choose a new platform, and embark on a company-wide implementation project.

Fast forward to today: they are running their brand new unified POS and ERP system in over 70 restaurants with many more to follow. Sales are on the up, efficiency is at an all-time high, and they’re able to open new outlets faster than ever thanks to their integrated platform.

Here are five tips they shared to help you manage a successful POS implementation too.  

Tip #1. Plan, plan, plan

From start to go live, our customer’s project took eight months. We would say this is a fairly typical timeframe for an implementation of this scale. And this includes periods where the system is on lockdown as a result of seasonal constraints.

To ensure the project progresses as smoothly as possible, don’t cut corners in your planning. Look at your business and understand how the project will impact it at every stage of the process. Make sure your milestone dates are sensible and won’t place unnecessary strain on your business during busy times.

Leave no stone unturned and break the project down into manageable chunks – from pilot phase to initial implementation to company-wide rollout. Consider important factors such as how you’re going to train your staff effectively, and when you’re going to install new hardware.

Remember, the work doesn’t stop once you’ve completed the pilot. Be prepared for multiple pilots and a lot of learning before you rip off the band aid. It’s all a learning process.

And when you think you’re ready to roll the system out, take a breather. Don’t steamroll ahead; take a moment to see how the system is working and identify any issues that you couldn’t have planned for in your testing environment. Companies that are successful in projects like these take a considered approach.

Tip #2. Set realistic expectations and ensure your key stakeholders are onboard

Get the buy-in from all stakeholders right from the beginning, and make it very clear what the goals and objectives of the project will be. Everybody needs to fully understand the desired end results. Don’t sell them a dream you can’t deliver on.

It may sound extreme, but some businesses have likened a POS implementation to a heart transplant. It’s a big deal. POS data drives so many of your business decisions, and you don’t want to get anything wrong. That’s why it’s important to ensure that the decision-makers in this project are available to answer the critical questions when you need them to.

Equally, you must understand how much time should be devoted to a project like this for it to be a success. And then you need to give your project teams sufficient time to carry out the work. Make sure everybody knows what’s required of them, and ensure your IT and operations stakeholders communicate with one another. They need to be working from the same page, towards the same objectives. At times their roles will almost blur, so make it easy for them to work with one another.

And don’t rush. Set sensible, realistic timeframes from the start, and put the effort in to make sure you’re getting everything right, at every stage of the process.

Tip #3. Be prepared for changes along the way

Even the best prepared projects still encounter hurdles along the way. Know that when you’re dealing with an implementation of this nature and scale, it’s hard to plan for every eventuality. So be willing to adapt.

For example, our customer’s plans regarding staff training ended up being revised several times. At first, they intended to spread out their pilot restaurants across multiple districts. But then they realized this would make matters unnecessarily complicated for their district managers. In the end, they decided to roll out the new POS to all stores in one district at a time. This way, the managers were fully invested in the project, and the organization was able to focus their training resources in one place at a time.

Ultimately, you need to accept that what you thought was the best approach initially may, in fact, need to change for the good of the project and the company.

Tip #4. Choose a trusted partner

The importance of selecting the right partner should not be underestimated. When deciding on a solution, ask yourself who your long-term partners will be. Once the pilot and system rollout are complete, who are you going to be left working with? At first, you may be dealing with resellers. Take the time to figure out who you’ll be dealing with directly once they’re out of the picture. Will they provide the kind of ongoing support that you need? Do they fully understand your business needs?

For our large US restaurant customer, it was important that they found an IT partner which had deep knowledge of both the retail and hospitality industries. They needed someone who could relate to their business needs, appreciate the unique intricacies of both sectors, and be open to making positive change in the product. Success comes down to establishing a mutually beneficial partnership based on trust and gained through transparency.

Tip #5. Make sure you look at the bigger picture

In some ways, installing a new POS is like putting a new roof on your house. It will prepare you for the storms ahead.

So while it’s important to focus on the immediate benefits your new solution will bring to your business, it’s just as critical to consider the longer term impacts, too. For example, our customer has seen a significant rise in efficiencies on the restaurant floor as staff can take orders much faster using mobile POS. But the benefits reach far beyond this. Equipped with a modern POS, the business is now able to grow. With a modern platform to rely on, it’s far easier to open new stores. Leaders can now explore how to expand the business in different ways. 

Keep an eye on how you’re going to achieve a return on investment, but make sure you’re constantly re-evaluating what those returns will be, and keep your perspective open: in some ways, you cannot really put a price on a platform which will future-proof your business, scale with your needs and adapt to your unique requirements.

But don’t just take our word for it. Starfleet Research’s latest survey on Restaurant Management and POS Systems found that almost three-quarters of fast-food and fast casual restaurants owners saw a significant or dramatic improvement to their overall performance and financial results when they upgraded their restaurant management and POS system within the last three years. The response was even more positive from full-service restaurants. More than eight out of ten said their POS implementation had a dramatic effect on their business.

Want to find out how we can help you on your new POS implementation journey? Please get in touch and we’ll show you how you can get the most from our complete restaurant management solution, LS First.

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