Using a Restaurant POS for Marketing and Promotion

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Years ago, the bookkeeping side of operating a restaurant generally involved handwritten tickets, a mechanical cash register and a ledger for keeping track of the day's sales.

Marketing was a separate endeavor, typically consisting of coupons taped to the top of a pizza box, a bowl by the cash register for business cards or flyers mailed in scattershot fashion to the surrounding neighborhood. If the operator realized that a regular customer hadn't visited for several weeks, there was usually nothing he could do about it other than hope there hadn't been a problem that had kept that customer from returning.

Beginning in the 1970s, the mechanical cash register became computerized, setting the stage for the modern-day point of sale systems. Today's POS systems are akin to the nerve center of a restaurant, storing information about everything from up-to-the minute labor costs, sales trends and food costs to specific ingredients.

POS systems have expanded even further, enabling the operator to store information about his customers. For a pizzeria, names, addresses and order history can be matched to a customer's phone number via caller ID, minimizing the time it takes to enter new orders. And in a fast casual restaurant, information from those business cards can be entered into a database and used to generate a mass mailing at the touch of a button.

The power of today's POS systems is virtually limitless, especially when it comes to marketing a restaurant. If a customer hasn't visited in a few weeks, the POS can automatically generate a coupon for a free or discounted entrée to help spur a return visit. A free dessert postcard can be mailed out in anticipation of a customer's birthday, and if sales are lagging, an email blast can be sent out to the database to help bring in more customers.

Yes, there's little a POS can't do when it comes to marketing.

But unfortunately, most operators don't make use of the features at their fingertips. Whether because of a basic unfamiliarity with the capabilities of the POS or simply a lack of time, only about 10 percent of operators make full use of those built-in marketing tools.

Therein lays the opportunity. Those who do make use of the full capabilities of their POS have a terrific competitive edge over the shop down the street whose owner doesn't bother learning about those tools.

This guide, sponsored by Signature Systems Inc., is designed to help restaurant operators take the first steps in taking advantage of the power of the POS.