Welcome back to our Q&A blog series, where we dive into real-world stories of full-service restaurants finding success with Squirrel POS. We were excited to have Heather Rhodes, CEO and Co-Owner of Hard Bean Brunch Co. Restaurant, join us to share her experience with Squirrel POS and how it has made an impact to the guest experience and their operations.
Restaurant Name: Hard Bean Brunch Co.
# of locations: 3 – Port Moody, Langley, Vancouver (Opening in 2024), British Columbia, Canada
# of seats: Port Moody (125 seats), Langley (185),
Annual Sales: ~$5M per year each location
How would you describe your restaurant to someone who’s never been there?
Hard Bean Brunch Co is like Cactus Club meets Cora’s – You can have pancakes for dinner, enjoy a delicious burger or sip on a cocktail. The idea for the concept came from my kids who always asked for breakfast for dinner. Unfortunately, Cora’s and other brunch places are not open after 3 pm. So, we decided to create a place that has great food for kids and parents, and also serves wine, beer, and cocktails. The name Hard Bean Brunch comes from the hard coffee drinks we serve. We have created a menu with a brunchy feel to it, like the Nacho Breakfast with eggs on top or the Pancake Taco for kids. Speaking of which, our kids actually helped design the kids’ menu, making it super fun.
Can you describe each location and how they are setup?
Our Port Moody location can accommodate around 100-125 guests with the patio open. We have about 40 tables in the restaurant and a great bar that can seat up to 15 people. The layout is open, allowing you to see everywhere in the restaurant. We have many booths that seat 5-6 people, making it a cozy area for families to enjoy. Our restaurant has various areas for hosting parties of up to 16 or even 20 people. We are flexible in accommodating groups of different sizes. Also, our Port Moody location has a lovely dog-friendly patio that is open all year round. It is covered halfway, but we keep it open in the full season as we have many dog lovers in Port Moody.
Our Willoughby location, once our patio is finalized and open, can seat around 185 guests. We have over 60 tables in Willoughby, along with 20 seats around the bar. Our restaurant has an open concept, but we also have a raised dining area that can seat up to 50 people. We can seat some larger seat group sizes with some of our tables, including booths that can hold up to 6-8 to 10 people. We noticed that during brunch, many people weren’t just going with four people but rather 6 or 8 people. Therefore, we wanted to accommodate bigger groups as well.
Can you describe your Squirrel POS setup, including the number of terminals and tablets you use?
At our Port Moody location, we have set up three terminals – one in the bar and two at the wall stations. One of the wall stations is located near the host stand for the convenience of ringing in Uber, Skips, and other similar items. In addition, we have five iPads available on-site in Port Moody for our staff to use.
Similarly, Willoughby also has 2-3 terminals – one in the bar and two on each wall. One of the wall terminals is located near the patio, while the other is situated at the host stand for ringing in Uber, Skips, and to-go orders. Additionally, Willoughby has eight iPads available on-site for mobility and tableside ordering.
What other restaurant technology are you using with Squirrel POS?
We use Tock for reservations and it has been great. Ready is our go-to for online orders that come into our system, as well as Uber and Skip. As for other systems, Margin Edge is our inventory management and recipe computer software. It’s really neat because it connects directly with our supplier, GFS, and syncs with Squirrel to provide us with daily sales reports that even show last year’s numbers. All of our GFS invoices go directly into the system and our managers don’t even need to enter them into our accounting system, saving us time.
Do you have any gift card or loyalty programs in place?
Currently, we use GiveX for our gift card sales. We are in discussions with Moneris about using their online gift cards. Our goal is to set up the online gift card system soon so that customers can buy gift cards from our website and load them into their digital wallets. These online gift cards can be used together with our physical gift cards from GiveX.
From an owner’s perspective, how has Squirrel POS made a difference in your restaurant’s operations?
I am really impressed with the customer service we receive from Squirrel. They always take care of any issues or requests we have in a timely manner. The organization of everything is top-notch and makes our job much easier. The recent upgrades they have made are fantastic and work really well. The iPads they provide for servers are also amazing. It helps us take orders and serve food and drinks much faster.
What do your staff, particularly the servers, appreciate most about Squirrel POS?
It’s mainly the iPad and how quickly they can use it. The bills look really nice, clean, and well-organized when printed. We have never faced any issues like lagging or computer shutdowns which some staff have experienced with previous POS systems. Squirrel POS has been very reliable in that sense.
When servers are handling larger groups, is there anything that they see as an advantage using the tablet versus terminal-based ordering?
It’s quicker because when we split up parties for ordering, we send in four seats at a time in order not to maximize the build size for the kitchen. Once they get an order for 4 people, they can send that in right away, and someone can grab their drinks for them and bring them to the table while they’re getting the rest of the orders – versus writing everything down and going back to the terminal. You may get distracted on the way back to the terminal. The iPads help keep the pace going to the table much faster, and everyone can work as a team better.
Do you run a lot of promotions, and how often do you change the menu on a day-to-day basis?
We offer daily drink specials that run every day and include a variety of cocktails and beer specials that are set up in our system. Our happy hour, which we call Brunchy hour, takes place from 3pm to 6pm and again from 9pm until closing time. We also update our feature sheets seasonally with new drinks and cocktails that fit the season. For instance, we’ll have a fall feature sheet with new drinks that fit the season, and then we’ll switch over to something more wintery for the winter season. Similarly, we update our feature sheets for spring and summer as well. We typically switch out our feature sheets every 3 and a half months, and we update them on Squirrel.
In what ways has Squirrel POS impacted the guest experience?
Guests can get in and out much faster. Real-time versus server time is always something different. When a guest says, “I’ve been waiting for my food for 15 minutes”, in a server’s mind 15 minutes goes by in a second because they’re so busy. As soon as you take that order, time is ticking, not thinking that you have to go back to the terminal and enter it. What if you have to answer the phone on the way back to the terminal? If you’re using an iPad, you’re getting those orders right away. The iPads also helps servers enhance the guest experience by utilizing pop-ups that come up to suggest Add-on items. It pops up on the iPad right away, so they don’t forget when they’re doing those orders.
What kind of performance metrics or KPIs do you track to make sure the team is working smoothly?
Once a guest places an order, an expediter stamps the order to track the food and build time. The management team ensures that all menu items are prepared and served within the time standards that are set. The same standard is followed for the bar as well. Each table is monitored to ensure that the time standards are met – 30 seconds for a greet and 1 minute for a drink at the bar. The bartenders are given 3 minutes to prepare and serve a drink to the customers. In the kitchen, the maximum build time for any item is set at 10 minutes. If an item is taking longer, the kitchen staff is informed so that they can take necessary actions to expedite it. Batch billing is avoided by ensuring that servers do not ring in multiple orders at once. Using iPads helps servers to place the order right away and then move to the next table for conversation.
What other reports do you rely on a daily basis?
We refer to our daily sales report to keep track of sales and write them down in our log for the day. We also use this report to calculate our labor for the day based on the day’s sales. For this, we use the breakdown that we print off on Squirrel. In the back end, we always use the hourly sales for tracking and keep them up for the next year or so. We put them in a binder and refer to them as the next year comes to understand why a particular day was busy during a certain hour. We write notes on those reports from the prior year, such as a party of 20 that day, to have an idea of what’s happening. We use a lot of these reports and also check how many items we’re selling. In case of a foodborne illness issue, it’s always helpful to go back and check which item it was and how many were sold that day.
Would you recommend Squirrel POS to fellow restaurant owners, and if so, what would you tell them?
I have recommended it a few times. I’ve said that it’s clean, it’s easy. Squirrel is tried and trusted. You (Squirrel) have been around long enough and know what you’re doing. Customer service is amazing. Everyone I worked with has been a lifesaver. What matters most to me is the service a company provides, not just the product. If you trust in the service, then you know the product is going to be good and that always happens with Squirrel.