Keys To Capturing The Independent Restaurant Market
A POS VAR says there are advantages to selling to smaller, independent restaurants. With a small staff and a large territory of small-sized businesses as potential customers, this VAR is putting his restaurant experience to use in point of sale.
Southern California POS VAR Richard Barsh gears his business to smaller, independent restaurants, rather than to big national chains. Even though he has 10 years of restaurant experience, Barsh does not compete for national accounts. One reason is that he prefers to sell and service POS systems in the Los Angeles/Orange County/San Diego area. Another reason is that, with six employees, managing a large account would spread Barsh's manpower too thin. "My mission is to design and sell open architecture POS systems to the smaller restaurant owners," says Barsh.
"I can help these restaurant owners as their businesses grow and expand," says Barsh. He adds that it's not uncommon for a single restaurant location to quickly become six or seven locations within his area.
Barsh started his company, FasTouch POS Systems, two years ago. Prior to that, Barsh worked as an account representative for a POS software development company. He also has worked as a restaurant manager. Barsh also admits to a colorful past, having spent several years in the entertainment and film industries. FasTouch has grown past Barsh's expectations. He is considering opening an office in Las Vegas next year to be closer to his expanding customer base.
Experience Provides Selling Edge
Barsh says his restaurant experience gives him an edge selling in the hospitality market. He also credits the skill and experience of his system designer, Glenn Chitjian. Chitjian has over 40 years of restaurant experience, having owned and worked in diners as well as fine dining restaurants. "There is no substitution for restaurant experience. You have to understand what restaurant owners need to run their business. You also have to understand how restaurants operate," says Barsh. VARs working in this market, particularly those without restaurant experience, need to keep these two things in mind, he says.
Restaurant Do's And Don'ts
Barsh has tips on how VARs can be more successful in the hospitality market.
- Stress the business control factor – "Many smaller business owners fear computers. The thought of putting a POS system on their counter disturbs them," says Barsh. To overcome this "fear factor," Barsh says stress the positive attributes of the system. "Show the restaurant owners how the system can help them control their business," says Barsh. For example, a POS system tracks items sold and at what price. "Employees can't charge $2 for a $20 bottle of wine by mistake," explains Barsh.
- Stress improved service - A good POS system will also free up the waitstaff to better service customers. "The staff isn't running back and forth sending orders to the kitchen. The orders are coming through a kitchen printer," says Barsh. Instead, the waitstaff can provide drink refills and wait on more customers. "Better service increases the amount of the check, which in turn usually drives up tips for the waitstaff," says Barsh.
Listen closely – "The biggest mistake you can make with restaurant owners is to go in and try to sell them something," says Barsh. Instead, he says, take the time to listen to the owners talk about the restaurant. "They will tell you their plans and goals, as well as their problems," says Barsh, who often stops by just to chat with owners. He says these visits often result in referrals. "Restaurant owners are a close group. You have to be good to everybody," says Barsh.
Barsh also recommends visiting restaurants (potential customers) to eat and observe how the business operates. "This can give you an advantage when you formally call on the owner. You'll have an idea of what that owner may need," explains Barsh.
- Don't assume anything - One lesson Barsh quickly learned was not to assume that a restaurant, even a successful one, has a good POS system. Barsh cites the example of one restaurant, which specializes in desserts. "It did great business. But, I was referred to them. It turns out they had been looking for a new system for some time. The system they were using was simply outdated," says Barsh. Other restaurants, hoping to be as successful, had purchased the same outdated POS system. "Cold call on even the most successful restaurants. You never know when they'll be ready to make a switch," advises Barsh.
- Don't call at the wrong time – "Don't expect a restaurant owner to see you at lunchtime," says Barsh. Respect the restaurants' busy times (namely lunch and dinner) and busy days (Thursday through Sunday). Barsh brings demo systems to restaurant owners just about any time of the day or night. "I've been out at 6:00 a.m. and late into the night after a restaurant has closed," says Barsh. Selling and servicing this market means adjusting your schedule around that of most restaurants. "It's definitely not a 9 to 5 job," notes Barsh.
Solving Service Issues
Restaurant owners, especially those who have used a POS system in the past, will ask about service. Barsh encourages potential customers to visit his installed sites and to ask questions. "They don't want to feel as though you're selling them a bill of goods. They want to be sure that if their system fails at dinnertime, you'll be there," says Barsh. Smaller, independent restaurants with only one or two POS terminals can't wait several hours or days for new equipment or service. "It's not uncommon for customers to simply walk out of a restaurant when a system fails and the checks can't be printed," says Barsh. He keeps his van stocked with replacement components and supplies, such as receipt paper. With a smaller, regional sales area, a FasTouch employee is never more than two hours away from a site.
Barsh solves most service calls via phone or modem. "Most of the calls I receive are for minor details. I don't charge my customers for telling them the red light on the printer means you're out of paper," he says.
New Technology Will Mean New Business
Barsh is optimistic that FasTouch will continue to grow. "Eventually, I'll run out of new customers. The equipment I sell has a good, five-year lifespan. The market for replacements and upgrades will be there," says Barsh. The smaller, independent restaurant owners are also moving into frequent dining programs and adding technology, such as bar coding, in their operations. Barsh, for example, has added a line of digital video remote surveillance systems. He offers these systems in addition to POS systems to hospitality and retail customers. "New innovations in software and hardware help extend my relationships with customers," says Barsh.