What Is POS Menu Decay, And How You Can Avoid It?

Written by Todd L. Michaud
August 19th, 2010

Franchisee Columnist Todd Michaud has spent the last 16 years trying to fight IT issues, with the last six years focused on franchisee IT issues. He is currently responsible for IT at Focus Brands (Cinnabon, Carvel, Schlotzsky’s and Moe’s Southwestern Grill).

At one time, changing a button on a cash register involved Wite-Out and a pen. Today, it’s one of the most complex of the processes that I manage on a day-to-day basis. This “simple” little thing requires people from supply chain, operations, marketing, research and development and, of course, IT to make it happen correctly.

A poor decision now can easily mean the difference between “easy to maintain” and “get me the hell out of here” within a few short months. The key is to think through the long-term impacts carefully before making a short-term decision.

First, consider the operational flow of the cashier. How does the cashier interact with the customer, and how can the register’s menu and button layout be done in a way to make that interaction as simple and efficient as possible? What screens will the button appear on? What will its size and color be? Will there be an image?

Second, consider how the business will want to view the data created when the button is pushed. In my world of QSR, the result can mean a few different things, such as determining if the item will be sold standalone and/or as part of a combo. Do you need to show the number sold in both combos and al la carte? Do the modifiers to the item need to be tracked separately? (For example: Do I need to track how many Homewrecker Burritos were sold on flour tortillas versus those on whole grain tortillas? What about burritos that add jalapenos versus those that don’t?) Knowing how you want to use the data is very important.

Third, consider the inventory and supply chain side of the business. In the QSR space, an item sold is likely made up of several different inventory pieces. For example, a ham sandwich could be made up of “two slices of wheat bread, 5 ounces of ham, one slice of cheese and 1 ounce of mayonnaise.” The back office needs to deplete the inventory of items sold, so pressing the “Ham Sandwich” button must reduce all the components from the restaurant’s inventory. That means most buttons on the POS need a recipe associated with them.

Some restaurants also have to think about routing. After the order is placed, it is sent to a video screen or a printer, where someone else views it and prepares the food. The way a POS routes orders can play a big role in how items are set up. (For example: If the order is sent to a video screen with each button push, what do you do when the customer changes his bread choice to wheat at the end of the order, after the cook has already put mayo on a slice of white?)

It gets really fun when you start to think about promotions. They might be national promotions or something done at a single store. The first challenge is that most marketing teams or operators want to track the success of each promotion, so reusing keys is typically a no-no. Second, some promotions are close but not quite the same. (For example: “Kids Eat Free Tuesday” is different than “Kids Eat Free Wednesday.”)


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