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Sonic team helps operators reap benefits of new POS system

Sophisticated platform already reducing costs for some operators

Sonic Corp. has dedicated a three-member team to help operators at company-owned and franchised drive-ins better use the tools in its sophisticated new point-of-sale system to reduce costs. 

The Oklahoma City-based quick-service chain introduced a new point-of-sale platform three years ago, and now has the update in about 77 percent of its 3,500 restaurants. A year ago, the company formed a team to help operators at corporate-owned units, and in September rolled the project out to franchisees as well. 

Sonic’s Margin Improvement Management initiative serves as sort of point-of-sale SWAT team to help unit operators better use the POS system, especially to maintain tight inventory and reduce the costs of supplies and staff, the company said.

Matt Schein. Photo: Sonic

The new POS system offers many more reports than in the past, said Matt Schein, Sonic’s vice president of operations and leader of the Margin Improvement Management team

“There are so many reports and so much information, the first time you open it it can be overwhelming,” Schein told Nation’s Restaurant News. “We can come in and clear out all the clutter and help the operators find the top 10 things they can look at. That can be refreshing.”

The Margin Improvement Management team helps unit-level managers access tools that will help them drive sales and sales profitability, manage profit-and-loss statements and deploy technology to better organize inventory, among other functions.

“We put together this team that went in and analyzed the numbers on the back end,” Schein said. “We saw some real success.”

For example, since September the team-consulted drive-ins have seen a 0.8-percent improvement in total food and paper costs, Schein said. 

Paul Raynor, a Nashville, Tenn.-based Sonic franchisee with 30 units in Tennessee and Alabama, said, “It’s a slow process, because there is so much you can learn.” 

Paul Raynor. Photo: Sonic 

According to Schein, the team’s approach to unit training is two-fold.

The two-day onsite training consists of one day working with managers from 10 to 12 drive-ins to look at back-office tools in the point-of-sale system, examining information such as actual versus ideal food costs and loss prevention, he said.

“On the second day, several drive-ins are chosen and the MIM team managers will stand at workstations with the operating partners,” Schein said.

“That can be very motivational,” he continued. “A lot of these mangers get bonuses based on profits, so they can learn to improve that.”

Raynor said unit-level manager development continues after the initial two-day training.

“We have had a lot of follow-up calls and webinar-type things since December, when the ball got rolling for us,” he said.

For Raynor’s operators, the training focused initially on voids and cancellations in the point-of-sale system and in the reports.

“We dove pretty deep into that,” he said. “We learned there are various ways in the system that a void actually shows up. They showed us how they went in and looked at a voided ticket and how exactly, whether it had been rung up properly.”

The new POS system, based on a Micros Oracle platform, replaced one that was more than 30 years old, so the changes were dramatic, Raynor added. 

“In the training process, we noted some stores were losing voids the way they shouldn’t,” he said. “We really can read the reports. The managers were really excited about it.”

The Sonic team, with one member for each of the company’s Eastern, Central and Western divisions, has trained in 300 franchised drive-ins since September, Schein said. The initiative is deployed in restaurant groups that have had the new point-of-sale system in place for at least 60 to 90 days.

The MIM team project continues to evolve, Schein said.

“Once a week, the MIM team gets on a call together and continues to improve the process,” he said. “Our franchisees are talking with one another. It’s building momentum. We’re talking about a Level Two MIM. We want to continue to evolve and improve how we use the tools within the drive-in.”

Inventory and its management were in the first level. The loss-prevention piece of the tool kit has also had a lot of impact, he said. The training is looking both at top-line sales and bottom-line profit.

The levels of additional training are made possible by the new technology, he added. 

“We kind of went from a rotary phone to a smartphone overnight,” Schein said. “There’s still tons of opportunity for us.”

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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