Proper training of employees and customers are both very important for maximum efficiency and ease of use. In order to reduce the amount of mistakes made by customers and cashiers during the food ordering process, make sure to utilize these 12 steps:
1) Always repeat the customers’ orders verbatim, in a slow and clear voice. Proper and repeated training of cashiers to always repeat orders regardless of how long the line is goes a long way to reduce error. Yes, the customers are hungry, and yes of course they want to order and receive their food as fast as possible. But customers will also be very upset and even possibly give bad reviews on Yelp when we mess up their order. It’s always better to spend an additional moment in the beginning to make sure orders are 100% correct before processing them through the POS (a Point of Sale system is referred to as simply “POS” in industry jargon) and printing out the receipt for the line cooks.
2) Create a simple numbers system to track each item that corresponds to the menu board. You should not have over 20 items if you are in the fast-casual category. There may well be over 500 total items in restaurants like Cheesecake Factory, however that system is completely different from the fast-casual concept.
In sit-down restaurants people take their time to order, and orders routinely arrive up to 20 or 30 minutes after being seated. In our business, customers will want to kill you if they have to wait 20 or 30 minutes. Each minute counts! Reduce the menu to the very best 20 or less items. Number them in a proper sequence, bundle the sides together and the rest in categories to make it easier for customers to know what they’re getting. For example the chicken can have its own category, meats a different category, and vegan dishes their own section marked by the color green, etc.
3) Use lots of pictures on the menu; people are visual creatures and remember better when photos are involved in every stage of the process. Hire a professional photographer and editor. Taking your time and doing your homework early will go a long way later and produce dramatic results and better sales!
4) Use a great POS system that has clear, large order buttons that are programmed in sequence with the order numbers in your food menu or catering menu catalogue. There are various models out there made by different companies. You have to use some trial and error to help determine which operating system is best for you, your employees, and your organization. Get feedback from everyone and ask the company for a free trial.
5) Make sure that the menu board you use is lit and as large as possible with legible font. If you don’t have enough room for a back-lit menu board, create one with lights pointed towards it from an angle.
6) Use effective “Marketing and Upsell” strategies for each customer according to their order and in a case by case basis. Make up selling easy for the cashiers by providing a simple and easy to use “cheat sheet”. I have created beautiful and easy to use cheat sheets on both sides of the POS system, one for cashiers to remember the top 3 bestselling catering menu items and one for customers to help them order. It’s a constant reminder to customers that they can get a better deal if they spend a little more and works without being overly pushy.
7) Clear and easy to understand paper menus that have only a few colors and a solid background (not too many shades and not different types of backgrounds ). Many businesses opt to make these extremely cheap and small. If you do your homework, you should be able to find a professional printing manufacturer that can create high quality prints at a very reasonable price. It’s not wise to be cheap on something as important as the menu. This is the one piece of paper that will relate to hundreds, maybe thousands of customer about your restaurant.
My advice is make it as nice as possible. I spent about 4 years creating and fine-tuning Zankou Chicken’s catering menu, modifying it once a year. It initially took 18 months just to create from scratch. Being creative and coming up with new designs and menu ideas is extremely difficult. This is why it makes me angry when others choose the fast route and simply cheat and copy what we do. It’s so much easier to steal other people’s ideas than to come up with your own and work hard.
We are in the process now of completely re-doing the regular menu, since we have not updated the photos on there for some years now. My goal for that is to create a menu that not only makes people hungry, but that it also continually educates people as to what we’re all about. I want to make this iteration more about the adventure of wonderful Mediterranean food and the people that bring it to you at Zankou. The newer menu will be copyright 2016 Zankou Chicken, Inc so this time I want to make sure I make it very difficult to copy.
8) Reduce the amount of menu customization that’s allowed. At Zankou, in order to appease our wonderful customers’ diverse pallet, we allow for side order variations based on their tastes and preferences in the plates. However we don’t allow customizations on every conceivable item. For example you can’t have a wrap that has both beef and chicken shawerma in the same wrap. Even though this is being requested a few times, it would throw the chefs off. The wrap itself would probably not taste as good because the beef usually tastes great with tahini sauce and the chicken tastes great with garlic sauce, and mixing these sauces would be too much.
Also, they are marinated a bit differently. Throwing in all these different meats and sauces in the same wrap might make it messy and soggy by the time the customer gets home. Reducing the amount of customization makes errors in ordering less likely to happen.
9) Use people’s names instead of numbers. We now use people’s names when taking orders, especially phone orders. Yelling out numbers during the busy lunch hour is not only obnoxious but may make the customer feel as though they are just a number to us, not an actual person we care about.
Every customer is unique and we care about all of them. Use their names to call out orders. Not only will this make them feel special, as they truly are, but reduce the amount of times people mistakenly take someone else’s plate only to go home and discover that’s not what they actually ordered.
10) Use technology to help along the ordering process. This can be in the form of online orders (which we are in the process of starting soon hopefully). You can also use POS systems placed strategically off to one side where it won’t bother customers. In the future we will be seeing more iPads placed around the ordering area facing customers so they can easily fill in their orders themselves.
11) Use a downloadable order form. In 2014 I created a wonderfully easy to use order form. It can be downloaded from our web site, http://www.zankouchicken.com.
This order form has all of our food on one simple form, both the regular menu as well as the catering menu. Customers can download the form, fill it out, and fax it to us. Not only does this reduce error but it also helps reduce the amount of time our cashiers spend on the phone deciphering orders and receiving numerous calls. A win-win for both sides.
12) Allow cashiers to “hand-write” description AFTER a customer changes an order.
Often times a customer will place an order, only to remember they forgot some addition or customization to what they ordered. They may also opt to add something tot heir order.
Allow employees to physically go back into the kitchen or turn around and grab the receipt and write the changes down to that receipt right away.
Just remember this, in the restaurant industry whatever is not written down is easily forgotten, and that is how many mistakes are made.
Questions to Consider for Review
1) Why should cashiers repeat orders?
a) To make sure the customer has ordered the right thing
b) To increase profits
c) To make sure the cooks serve the orders faster
d) To make sure the food is hot and delicious
2) What does the acronym POS system stand for ?
a) Piece Of Software
b) Point of Sale
c) Print of Sale
d) Part of System
Answer = B
3) Why is it better to use people’s names rather than numbers to call out orders?
a) They are much likely to come faster and speed up the process
b) Sometimes they forget their own names
c) It makes them feel like human beings and gives them the message that the business actually cares about them
d) It helps cashiers not mess up their order