A restaurant chain’s decision to extend its partnership with a provider of solutions for the foodservices industry will ensure that most of its locations across North America will be moved into next-generation point-of-sale.

Keg

Restaurants Ltd., an operator of steakhouse restaurants, has started rolling out Squirrel Restaurant Management System’s latest suite of hardware and software, which includes Squirrel Version 1.3. The chain has also named Squirrel the preferred vendor for the The Keg Steakhouse & Bar restaurants.

“”The primary benefit of the rollout is the reduction of the learning curve at the stores for both using and maintaining both the POS and our inventory management systems,”” said Ron Varley, director of planning and systems at Keg Restaurants’ corporate office in Richmond, B.C. “”We’re centrally managing way more of the functions.””

According to Varley, about half of the chain’s 80-plus locations across the continent are corporately owned while the remainder are franchises. And while the rollout phase should be completed by year-end 2006, he said some restaurants would likely maintain the status quo.

“”Within the next three years the majority will (use the system),”” he said. “”There’s a couple that won’t because they’re integrated with their hotel management system — the POS system that they already had for the hotels. And there’s a couple of guys that will be reluctant to change. . . . We will be 95 per cent corporately rolled over in a couple years — not quite as high for the franchises.””

According to Barry Logan, president of Vancouver-based Squirrel Systems, The Keg has been a customer since 1988. He explained that in the late 80s to early 90s the chain rolled out his company’s first generation product, and six or seven years ago, it upgraded its hardware. So the recent announcement, he added, represents a “”recommitment”” to the Squirrel brand.

“”Our latest product is a true real-time system,”” said Logan, explaining the potential benefits to clients such as The Keg. The Squirrel solution runs on Microsoft architecture in the back office and on thin clients running on Linux in the front.

“”We actually used ergonomic sciences to help us design the interface to make it much easier to use, and so the human factors that have been built into the product are all geared around the mandate to make this product extremely easy to use. We’ve eliminated things like end-of-day updates, traditional things like that to …reduce the learning curve on initial training and on retraining.””

Managers from two of the chain’s franchises spoke positively about Squirrel tools, but said that their respective restaurants haven’t yet upgraded.

“”I’ve found it to be quite a beneficial tool, particularly with its popup screens,”” said Bruce R. Copp, a manager at a franchise in Victoria, adding that the popup screens basically guide the user through the entire process, significantly reducing the learning curve. He added, however, that the costs associated with upgrading and training staff are a bit high.

Darren Kirk, a manager at a franchise in Halifax, said that one benefit of the Squirrel solution is that it simplifies organization.

“”Everything is categorized,”” said Kirk. “”You can look up receipts from the previous night or the previous months, and it’s easy to do. It’s a well organized system.””

The software includes features that manage the transfer of data from disparate sources; streamline inventory, facilitate purchasing and product movement; and enable the management of remote sites from head office locations so as to permit things like menu changes. The hardware includes printers, network servers and the Squirrel Flatscreen Restaurant Terminal, which enables employees to both place orders and authorize credit card purchases.

Squirrel Version 1.3, designed to enhance the functionality of Squirrel’s POS solution features options for guest surveys, reservation/waitlists, take-out and delivery, wireless handheld ordering, and high-speed payment processing.

“”The biggest benefit with (our) partnership with Squirrel Systems is their ability to customize the solution as we need it,”” said Varley, adding that the upgrade was needed because the old solution lacked flexibility. “”They’re responsive to either perceived deficiencies or required customization.

“”It’s a replacement of an existing system. So for inventory management we don’t expect traditional ROI in terms of better food costs, necessarily. We still hope to get some, but we already had an effective inventory management system in place.””

Logan added that features in the new solution such as increased accuracy of orders, notification of labour costs and notification of food costs contribute to the overall ROI.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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