Choosing a POS provider can be hard work: Most restaurant operators painstakingly research their options before reaching a decision. But some, like Mike and Niko Frangos of Rascal House Pizza Café still wake up in the aftermath of an expensive technology purchase hooked up with the wrong partner.
“In 2003, we installed 11 new POS stations in our main store in downtown Cleveland,” says Mike Frangos, Rascal House president. “Then we installed another six stations in a second store. But we could never get the system working properly with our menu and pricing.”
Mike and his wife, Fouly, had opened their first Rascal House restaurant in 1980. Over the years, the concept had evolved into a strong brand, strategically positioned in the fast casual market. Their restaurants had specific operational needs that the POS they had chosen could not fully meet.
At the same time, the Frangos were poised to expand their restaurant concept through franchising. They needed a POS that could grow with them.
The expense of changing POS providers hurt, but they bit the bullet: “We made a strategic decision to retrofit all our stores with SpeedLine and to make the new POS mandatory for all locations,” Mike says.
Building a Brand with Broad Appeal
Remarkably, Mike and Fouly built their first thriving restaurant where two fast food giants had failed. In 1980, they took over a Dairy Queen and Burger King that were going out of business, right across the street from their State University. In the next few months, they transformed the fast food outlets into a popular pizza place.
Rascal House’s first customers were university students looking for a place to hang out and fill up. In fact, the restaurant was named tongue-in-cheek after “those rascals across the street.”
“The secret of my parents’ success was their exceptional attention to their customers,” says Niko Frangos, Mike and Fouly’s son and Rascal House vice-president. “They really valued being in the restaurant, working with the customers, and building relationships.”
Rascal House provided arcade games, tasty food and the right atmosphere for the university crowd. Two years after the restaurant opened, students at the University voted Rascal House the best off-campus eatery. The reputation of the restaurant grew among the larger community and Rascal House became famous throughout their State.
By popular demand, two more company restaurants opened in 1994 and 1995. And after 2000, three franchise stores joined the Rascal House family.
Over the years, the Rascal House menu has expanded from their signature pizzas to include wings, subs, salads, and pasta. To serve the business clientele in their area, the Frangos also developed an extensive line of catering dishes. “We’ve got the word ‘pizza’ in our name, but we’re not your standard pizzeria,” Niko says. "We’re not just a pizza store with other stuff added to the menu. We’re really four restaurants in one.”
“If you’re comparing us to dine-in restaurants, our competitive advantage is speed: We can prepare a large order very rapidly, and deliver a quality product. If you’re comparing us to other pizza places, we stand out with the quality of our products and the diversity of our menu,” he explains.
It is because of that diversity that Rascal House needs an uncommonly flexible POS solution. SpeedLine provides what their other POS could not: Powerful delivery features, configurable printer routes, and a deferred order system that enables Rascal House to streamline their large catering orders.
In pizza delivery, speed is essential. Orders must fly in and out the door. “SpeedLine’s menu layout at the order stations is fully customized and straightforward,” Niko says. “Our staff can ring up orders efficiently and accurately.”
“But above and beyond that, the delivery and dispatch functions of SpeedLine are very, very important to us. The system shows us which tickets are out and which ones are outstanding. It gives us the ability to better handle our deliveries and better manage the whole process.”
Rascal House integrates MapPoint with their SpeedLine system. “It’s very helpful, especially in the suburbs when we have new drivers,” Niko says. “They can map their routes and figure out where things are.”
Serving the Business Community — SpeedLine Supports Catering Success
SpeedLine also helps Rascal House streamline the prep process. The restaurants have multiple prep lines to accommodate their extensive menu. Thanks to flexible printer routes, different types of items can print to different kitchen printers.
But even more vital to their success is the ability to defer tickets, especially for large catering orders. “We do a lot of corporate and school lunches,” says Niko, “so the ability to defer tickets and keep them organized is essential. Every day, we may have 10 to 15 tickets that are deferred orders. They might be anywhere from $50 to $1000 in value, so we have to plan and prepare accordingly. SpeedLine helps us stay organized and on time.”
SpeedLine’s complete deferred order system makes it easy for Rascal House to set different “ready” and “print at” times, print separate reminders, and even print a deferred order production report that they can use for purchasing and prep planning.
With the right system in place to process catering orders, Rascal House can focus on what really matters: Professional service and impeccable presentation.
“We understand the needs of our business clientele,” Niko says. “When someone is organizing a lunch for 40 people in suit and tie, they’re looking to put a spread together that will both please the eye and the taste buds. We design our platters with a special emphasis on presentation. Our menu provides diversity: We offer pizza, wraps, sandwiches and even salad lunch boxes. Our salads don’t come in an aluminum metal container topped with cardboard and drenched in salad dressing. We prepare appealing platters that look and taste good.”
Online Ordering Boosts Sales
This focus on making the customer’s experience enjoyable from beginning to end led Rascal House to offer online ordering on their corporate Web site.
Online ordering at Rascal House yields ticket averages nearly 40% higher than their call-in orders. “Since many of our customers are in offices and business environments, we wanted to give them an opportunity to take advantage of this platform,” Niko says. “We’ve seen a steady increase in the number of online orders. Every week, the number of people ordering online continues to grow.”
Online ordering at Rascal House yields ticket averages nearly 40 percent higher than their call-in orders. “People have a better opportunity to look at our menu, think about it, and make a decision about what they want to eat without being rushed,” Niko says. “That translates into bigger orders.”
Rascal House has recently integrated their online ordering site with SpeedLine, through SpeedLine Connect. “Tickets used to print separately on a fax machine and we had to enter them manually into the POS,” Niko explains. “The fact that they now go automatically into SpeedLine makes the whole process simpler and smoother. We eliminate one possible hiccup along the way. It’s one less thing that can go wrong!”
Relationship Marketing — Targeting Email & Direct Mail Promotions
With the growth of online ordering, Rascal House is extending its focus on customer service to cyberspace. “It is becoming more and more of a priority to start a conversation with our customers online,” Niko says. “We’ve always been interested in knowing more about our customers and these online tools open up new avenues for us.” With the information gathered on their site, Rascal House can plan special email campaigns that will zero in on customers' food preferences.
This is a new twist on an established strategy: The chain is already using the information in their SpeedLine customer database to send direct mail pieces to their customers. After a recent renovation in their downtown location, for example, they planned a mailing to invite people to drop by and see their new look. They’ve also recently joined SpeedMail, SpeedLine’s turnkey marketing program that provides weekly, automated mailings to targeted customer groups.
“We use the information in our SpeedLine database to build relationships with our customers,” Niko says. “We’re not into constantly bombarding people with coupons and offers. But we like to be able to stay in touch to say thank you for their orders, or to send a special promotion, or to let them know what goes on in our stores.”
“The fact that we can see who our customers are and know the last time they ordered is obviously very valuable,” Niko says. “The ability that SpeedLine gives us to market directly to them is very powerful.”
An Investment in the Future
The focus on answering customers’ needs and cultivating relationships has spelled success for Rascal House. With an effective online ordering Web site, full-fledged catering capabilities, and a strong casual cuisine menu, the chain is a mature business with good growth potential: “We’ve opened a couple of stores in the last few years,” Niko says, “and we’re looking at a few more locations. But we don’t want to grow for the sake of growing. We’re taking our time to find the right people. We want to make sure that as we grow, our stores are successful.”
The Frangos do not regret the difficult decision they made in 2003 to replace their brand-new but inadequate POS with a new solution from SpeedLine. “It was an investment in the future of our franchises,” Mike says.
“There is no doubt that our SpeedLine system has allowed us to grow.” Niko adds. “It has given us more control over many areas of our business. It has helped us manage our labor hours, our product mix, our deliveries, our marketing and more.”
“We’ve been pleased with our relationship with SpeedLine: The company is responsive to our needs and they update the system regularly. We’ve seen the integrity behind the people at SpeedLine. We know they’re in it with us for the long haul.”