How does a growing restaurant chain open new sites, while maintaining the food quality for which you are famous? And how do you do all of that while keeping costs under control?
That was the challenge that Margaritas Mexican Restaurant faced. Founded in 1984, Margaritas has maintained an uncompromising commitment to providing quality meals prepared fresh daily and exceptional guest service. According to President Hugo Marin, that driving principle has led to a thriving business – not to mention a fun way for the Margaritas team to make a living.
With a food and drink menu filled with tasty Mexican-inspired favorites such as steak fajitas and handmade guacamole, Margaritas quickly grew to be a local favorite. Today, Margaritas boasts a portfolio of 27 locations throughout Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maine, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. But that is not the end. With substantial plans for expansion in the coming years, Margaritas knew it was vital to turn to technology to improve operating efficiency, reduce costs and drive innovation across its expanding portfolio.
Challenges & Solution
For Margaritas, known for its progressive adoption of technology, assembling a complete IT solution to keep up with the growth of the business was fundamental. Previously using another point-of-sale provider, Margaritas moved to Oracle Hospitality in June of 2012. As new locations were opening, the company stepped back to determine how they could streamline operations and better control costs. They consequently decided that improving kitchen operations was part of the answer.
Margaritas decided to implement the Kitchen Display solution that was available as part of their Oracle Hospitality POS solution, and forgo the “stone age” method of using paper tickets. The restaurant found the single-platform solution highly attractive and deemed KDS as essential to enhance visibility in the kitchen, enabling reorganization of the line for optimal execution. With intuitive, graphical displays that can be mounted in kitchens or prep areas, KDS keeps vital information flowing in real time throughout the enterprise. Among other tasks, it can integrate orders, track kitchen performance and page staff.
KDS’ most important contribution to the cost-saving equation is strengthening execution on the front end. It achieves such improvement in a variety of ways:
• Enhances line operation and organization for greater efficiency
When Marin discusses the benefits of KDS, it’s difficult for him to complete a sentence without using the word “visibility.” In nearly every aspect, KDS delivers improved visibility to kitchen operations, helping quickly identify pain points that can derail meal preparation. Such insight not only enables process improvement, but facilitates reorganization of the line.
“In certain instances, we redesigned the line based on what we were seeing,” Marin said. “We were able to understand where the inefficiencies were, and we were able to re-route dishes from one station to another. It’s allowed us to minimize comps and improve ticket times.”
He added: “But improving ticket times wasn’t the purpose of wanting to put in KDS. We don’t manage tickets times; We manage execution of the food and make sure that hot food is hot and cold food is cold, and that it goes out at the right time and it looks the way it’s supposed to look. That’s what we’ve been able to focus on with KDS.”
• Provides multiple workers with simultaneous visibility to tickets
As opposed to handling a paper ticket, which can only be viewed by one employee at a time, KDS enables simultaneous visibility. That advantage means staff are better informed in a timely fashion and can anticipate next steps, according to Jack Nugent, Margaritas IT manager. Such visibility is particularly helpful when addressing large tickets. For example, one expediter can be assigned to just prepare for that large ticket, helping coordinate and orchestrate so a single item doesn’t delay the entire table.
• Increases correct delivery of meals to guests
KDS enhances organization of meal deliveries by seat numbers.
“Our expediter can bring all of our guests’ food out to the table at the same time, and they all get brought to the correct seat,” said Jenna Cote, Margaritas Senior Analyst. “KDS has really helped eliminate or reduce the amount of errors we have with food going to incorrect tables.”
• Accelerates training of new employees
KDS plays a critical role in the training of new employees by allowing them to quickly become familiar with and execute kitchen processes. By making KDS a required system for franchisees, Margaritas also helps establish and maintain brand consistency across all locations.
“Executing our menu is not easy,” Marin said. “Having our managers and line cooks come up to speed at a quicker pace is critical for us, and KDS helps us with that.”
• Enhances guest experience by helping address problems proactively
As Marin says, “Hiccups will always occur in the kitchen.” But with KDS, brewing problems or potential delays can be spotted early – enabling staff to take preemptive measures.
“In the past, managers did not have visibility to what was going on with each particular ticket and what stations were possibly getting bogged down on the line,” Marin said. “Now, we can really focus on our guest – being proactive and taking care of them when a ticket is running long or there is an issue in the kitchen.”
• Reduces cost for hardware and related supplies
Prior to the KDS installation, Margaritas relied on a paper-ticket system. The switch has eliminated dependence on fragile hardware and produced bonus savings, said Nugent, the IT manager.
“When you think about it, those kitchen printers are in a pretty hostile environment and they break a lot,” he said. “And we don’t have to buy ink or paper, which doesn’t seem like much but when you add that up over the course of a year – that’s a lot of money.”