Waffle House Inc. has shaved its transaction times by 79 percent with a new point-of-sale system that it finished installing in February at its 1,400 company-owned restaurants.
As more restaurant brands seek ways to speed up the customer experience, Norcross, Ga.-based Waffle House found the new POS reduced times at its cash registers from between 14 and 15 seconds to an average of three seconds per transaction, said Pat Warner, the company’s vice president of culture, in a recent interview.
“The speed on both sides of the counter has been a big win for us,” said Warner, recalling that the 60-year-old family-dining Waffle House brand only began accepting credit cards in 2006. Before that, all Waffle House units had been cash-only.
“We had wanted to make sure credit cards were going to stay around,” Warner said with a laugh.
The company’s 450 franchised units are now in the process of upgrading to the NCR Silver POS tablet-based solution, which Warner said is replacing two-device cash register and Verifone credit card readers.
The goal of the POS upgrade was on improving customer-associate interaction, without taking away from Waffle House’s friendly service culture, Warner said.
“When people come to Waffle House, they want to see a bit of show with the waitress calling out the order and the cooks calling the orders back,” Warner said, but patrons were seeking a more frictionless pay-at-the-counter experience.
“We noticed that was taking a little more time for our customers when they cashed out,” Warner said of the Waffle House’s pay-at-register format. “We’d seen that the time at the cash register seemed to be going on and on. So we started looking for solutions that would enhance the experience but not take away from the Waffle House experience.”
The payment and credit card approval are now done in one step, rather than the two-step process of the past.
The new POS, which features a small touchscreen and is based on a customized Android closed system, also offers ample reporting features, such as shift sales and other dates, Warner said.
“The old solution had almost zero reporting,” Warner said. “Now we’re getting some data. We’re still seeing what we want to get from this. We’re looking into what this will allow us to capture from our customers and get data on the transactions. It also helps managers close out on their shifts.”
The compact Waffle House units also saved on counter-top real estate, putting the register and card reader into one device, Warner said.
The company created both written and visual training materials before deployment, and training has gone smoothly, he noted.
“It’s very intuitive,” Warner said. “Our associates picked up very quickly. We provided some training, but a lot of them picked it up so easily they didn’t even look at the training.”
As the October deadline for POS acceptance of EMV chipped cards nears, Warner said NCR is prepared to add that level of security. Currently, he added, Waffle House does not store data and that is kept secure with a third party.
Waffle House has been exploring the use of technology in other ways.
Recently the company partnered with Atlanta-based Roadie Inc. to create an app-driven Uber-style delivery network in which restaurant guests ferry packages in exchange for free waffles.
For the fiscal year ended May 2014, the Nation’s Restaurant News Top 100 ranked Waffle House No. 46 in U.S. systemwide foodservice sales. The annual survey estimated the brand booked $1.044 billion in sales, up from $1.007 billion in the prior year.
Warner said Waffle House has been pleased with its ability to make transactions faster.
“One of the biggest successes for us is getting back to the experience of Waffle House,” said Warner. “I don’t think customers notice it too much other than the speed at the cash register.”