Promoting via point-of-sale
When pizzeria operators shop for a new point-of-sale system, they generally are wowed by sales pitches about the system's high-tech marketing and cost-control features. But when they get the POS set up in the restaurant, those features often go unused.
With the economy in the doldrums and consumers cutting back on spending, now might be a good time to take another look at what your POS system has to offer.
The marketing features of modern POS systems tend to be the main feature operators neglect, said Duessa Holscher, managing partner of Hillsboro, Ore.-based FireFly Technologies. FireFly produces the popular Phoenix POS sytem.
"Of the customers for whom we install POS systems, maybe 10 percent use that feature, even though everyone talks about it and loves it in the sales process," she said.
"When it comes down to actually spending the time to do it, a lot of people never take the time," Holscher said. "That is a huge loss because it is very powerful for the people who use it."
Saving money, watching food cost and controlling labor is important, but building sales is critical, she said. The best way to do that is to reach out to existing customers.
"Protecting the customers you have and make sure they are keeping you at the top of their mind is the wisest use of your marketing dollar," Holscher said. "Every extra sale that comes in the door is going to help."
Boosting order frequency
A large part of making good use of a POS system's marketing features is just a matter of getting into the habit, Holscher said.
"For instance, in our system we have an alert that shows up on your main manager page that says you had 5 new customers or 10 new customers that day," she said. "You can click on that and print out mailing labels for those customers."
Operators can keep a stack of postcards or menus ready to go and make that part of your routine every day.
"It will take three minutes, and people see a huge return by doing that," she said.
Hank Paustenback, who owns 8 Maciano's Pizza and Pasta locations, uses his system's e-mail marketing feature to encourage existing customers to order more frequently. Paustenback's restaurants use the Pizza Director POS system from Needham, Mass.-based FoodTec Solutions.
"Whenever anyone orders online, they have to register and give us their address, telephone number and e-mail address," he said. "With that, we do mass emails with coupons and other offers and also we do menu mailers from the information the system stores."
Paustenback tracks how long it has been since a particular customer has ordered, and targets the "lazy customer" with an e-mail coupon.
"We typically start with the people who order most often and work our way towards the people who order least," he said.
Building a database
Collecting the names, address and e-mail addresses of delivery customers is easy. Collecting that information from dine-in customers takes a bit more creativity.
Business-card fishbowls, guest books and giveaways are a good way to collect names and addresses from those customers, Holscher said.
"A lot of people are putting into place customer loyalty programs," she said. "That is a great way to collect information from dining room customers, because that encourages them to let you know who they are."
The Phoenix system, for example, automatically tracks customer purchases and can associate a certain number of points with those purchases.
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"We're integrating a new points program that rewards points for every dollar spent," said Matt Ulrey, IT consultant for Columbus, Ohio-based Flyers Pizza. "If I accumulate 500 points, for example, then I get a $5 coupon. It's a great way to beat out the competition."
Despite the tough economy, if an operator's POS system lacks marketing features, it may be time to consider upgrading to a new system,
"You really have to look at how you can be efficient, how you can increase sales and be more competitive that the next guy," Holscher said. "If you look into some of those features and start spending some time learning how to use them and take advantage of them, they are going to pay for themselves."

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