Handheld Computers Allow For Efficient Service in Theme Restaurant
Chunky's Cinema Pub saves $15,000
by installing a POS system with handheld computers.
Chunky's Cinema Pub, a theme restaurant chain in New England, has earned approximately $15,000 thanks to an automated point of sale (POS) system featuring handheld computers. It's grown from one to three stores since 1996.
Chunky's combines sit-down dining with a night at the movies in a unique and efficient dining experience. Customers are seated at tables in Chunky's cinemas, in driver or passenger seats from new Lincoln Town Cars - including armrests and reclining capability. Seating starts one hour before each movie, so servers have a relatively small window of time to take orders before the lights go out and the movie starts. Guests order from a pub-style menu, including beer and wine, and are able to order throughout the movie as well.
When owner Jim Nagel opened his first Chunky's in 1996, servers took orders using duplicate guest checks. Copies were given to cooks to fill the order and checks were totaled manually by the servers. Nagel knew he needed to find a better way to serve his customers, but he wasn't sure what type of solution his business needed since it wasn't a typical restaurant.
Choosing A VAR
Nagel picked up the phone book and found CCR Data Systems, Inc., a Concord, NH VAR providing integrated retail system solutions. "I had a long discussion with Jim about what his restaurant needed for a solution," says Bob Arnold, CCR hospitality systems consultant. Arnold has three decades of experience in the restaurant business, which helped him analyze Chunky's. He determined the restaurant was losing sales with its manual system because servers were not charging customers correct amounts for their orders.
Another problem, according to Arnold, was a loss in sales because servers weren't taking orders during the movies. "They were hesitant to return to tables for follow-up orders once movies started," explains Arnold. "The servers would get additional orders and have to total the guest check again. On top of that, it was awkward for them to take orders in the dark with a pen and pad of paper."
"Chunky's didn't look at any other solutions providers," says Arnold. "The restaurant had confidence in CCR because of our previous experience in the restaurant business and the type of solution our company could supply. I surveyed the restaurant to determine where it was losing revenues."
"The restaurant was losing money because servers were rushed to total guest checks manually since all diners left when the movie was over. Servers had to get the checks to the tables quickly, cash customers out, and clean up before the next show started," Arnold explained.
"Handheld POS systems met Chunky's needs. Chunky's would have had accurate order taking and printed guest checks if they went with a stationary system. But, the wait staff needed to facilitate order-taking in the dark when the movies started. Since servers only had a short window of opportunity, they would have had to run back and forth to do their jobs. Handheld computers were a perfect fit for the job."
Finding The Perfect Solution
CCR installed a solution from Micros Systems, Inc. The package includes 10 handheld computers designed by Global Data Granite Communications, an FM base station, a UNIX server, and a touch screen terminal/cash drawer. It also includes a thermal check printer and a dot-matrix printer in the kitchen and the MICROS 8700 application software, which does the communication and processing. The integrated solution was designed to track Chunky's cash management, historical reporting and operational reporting.
The handheld computers have touch screen capability on a transflective display with an auto-sensing backlight. This lets servers enter orders at the table in real time with the handhelds - even in the dark while the movie is playing. The handhelds have allowed for increased efficiency because orders are taken and food is delivered faster. For example, while servers are at tables taking orders, they can enter the drink order and send it to 'runners.'
The runners assemble the drink orders and take them to the table while servers are finishing taking orders for food. Servers only have a short window of time to wait on customers, so they want to get orders out as soon as possible to allow time to check back with tables before the movie starts. The system cost about $35,000 for hardware and software.
CCR spent about four days on installation and training at the first restaurant, says Arnold, once the program was designed and ready to be installed. "In the movie business, it's important to keep track of the number of tickets sold, as well as any special pricing, like matinees or kids' prices," explains Arnold. "Chunky's needs special keystrokes to be able to get reports at the end of the day related to these special prices."
This customization for ticket sales proved to be the most challenging aspect of the installation for CCR. Chunky's needed further tracking and accountability based on the movie being seen and the time of day the movie was running - whether it was a matinee or a Saturday. This helped Chunky's track what showings and menu items were the most popular.
Restaurant owner, Nagel, has been very happy with the solution because of increased sales and customer satisfaction. "Right away, Chunky's had improved its customer satisfaction," says Arnold. The POS system has allowed Chunky's to expand to a total of three stores in New England, with 175 employees and $4.2 million in revenues. When Arnold sat down with Nagel, conservative figures showed savings of $15,000 a year with the new POS system.
"The system eliminates human error by totaling guest checks," he explains, "and, it forces the servers to charge for drinks or menu items added to the bill after the initial order. It has also greatly improved serving times and check accuracy. Chunky's has satisfied customers, and that brings in more business."