All posts in POS System

How Bar Code Scanning Helps Your Retail Business

Most retailers today use UPC bar code merchandise scanning at the point of sale, and for receiving merchandise into inventory. Everyone from the large well known retail chain, to the small independent retailer uses the UPC bar codes as an essential part of their retail business operation.

Although UPC Bar Code usage is widespread, most retailers should be taking greater advantage of this technology as part of their inventory control solution. In POS management, bar code usage can greatly help the retailer increase sales, profitability, and operational efficiencies while improving customer service. Here are a few examples:

Faster customer check out time

Nothing is more frustrating to a customer than waiting in line while a cashier fumbles at the register looking up a price or department, or checks with their manager to see if an item is on sale. When scanning bar coded merchandise at the point of sale, merchandise information is controlled through software, making check out time much faster and accurate than manual entry or typing a SKU number. This provides better and faster customer service, while ensuring that merchandise is sold at the correct price.

When used with a good POS Inventory Control system, UPC bar code scanning can facilitate the handling of quantity price breaks automatically, or enable preferred pricing for customers who are part of store loyalty programs.

Pricing Control

Protecting your profit margins and selling your merchandise at the appropriate price point is vital for the success of any retail operation. Nothing erodes margins faster than ringing up merchandise at an incorrect price due to cashier error or price tag switching. Price changes and discounts can be implemented immediately, saving valuable time and handling costs.

Inventory Control

In a point of sale system when a bar code Scanner used with inventory control software, scanning bar coded merchandise as items are sold, returned and received ensures that on hand inventory levels are accurately adjusted. Scanners are extremely accurate compared to key entry, which helps maintain more accurate inventory levels.

By monitoring and tracking inventory levels, the retailer can make better informed decisions. Knowing which items are selling fast and need to be re-ordered prevents revenue loss due to out-of-stocks, or perhaps losing a valuable customer altogether because the competitor down the street always has their favorite item in stock. Valuable inventory capital can be released for more open-to-buy when the retailer can quickly identify their slower selling items, and reduce them for clearance.

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Gain Tighter Cost Control in Your Food Service Operation When Receiving Food and Beverage Items

In non-commercial Food Services operations, most Food Services Directors and Managers are responsible for an operating budget. Even if the purpose of the on-site employee cafe or coffee bar is to serve as a benefit or perk to employees, profitability of the operation is still measured, and the finance department wants to know if the operation is in the red, at break even, or in the black.

There are two ways to improve profitability: increase revenue or reduce operating costs. This article explores the reduction of food service operating costs through the use of tighter cost control in Food Services’ purchasing and receiving activities.

As part of inventory management, food and beverage items should be tracked in an inventory file or database, making it possible to monitor purchasing expenditures and to make informed purchasing decisions. Whether ordering inventory by purchase order or non-purchase order, it is vital to enter the received items into inventory accurately to maintain the integrity of on hand inventory count and cost. To ensure that items arrived exactly how they were ordered, verify the quantity and cost of all items being received against the invoice.

Most cafeterias and coffee bars have many inventory items, such as canned soda, bags of chips, and bottled water, which are always in stock and are then re-ordered when inventory levels reach a defined level. When receiving these items that already exist in inventory, compare the current cost to the previous cost. If the actual cost of the item is different that the cost at which you ordered or previously received it, then enter the new cost into the inventory system.

If the cost has increased, you have an informed decision to make; either absorb the price increase by continuing to sell the item at the current price, and thus accept a reduced profit margin on the item, or maintain your current profit margin, and offset the cost increase with a price increase. For example, if bottled water has been received in the past at a unit cost of $1.00 and is sold at a price of $1.35, then the profit margin is 25.93%. Should the unit cost increase to $1.10, you may decide to continue selling each bottle of water at the $1.35 price at a lower margin of 18.52%, or increase the price to $1.48 offset the cost increase. Either way, you have made an informed decision weighing profitability against what you believe customers are willing to pay for a particulate item.

Daily, monthly, and year to date receiving reports will show you all the items you have received on a selected day or month or during a date range. Use additional reports, such as end of day, stock status, inventory analysis, and sales history reports, to view sales and profitability performance by item, meal service, vendor, department, or user sort. These views give you the ability to manage profitability by department and thus offset low margin items with other higher margin items within the same department or category.

To learn more about what inventory control software can do for your cafe or coffee bar visit ARBA Retail Systems at or

Author:   Kathy de la Torre, ARBA Retail Systems


How to Make Global Changes to Your Inventory Items

In this article, we focus on making global changes to the items in your inventory. Global Changes is a feature that affects a group of inventory items, and allows changes to be made to a defined group of items rather than making changes to just to one inventory item at a time. This makes it easy to make changes or put a large block of items on sale, and simplifies an otherwise time-consuming task.

The ability to make changes to the price and cost of multiple items at one time can be especially useful and efficient when managing your inventory files. For example, let’s say one of your vendors increases cost across the board by a percentage or by a dollar amount. This is a perfect time to use Global Changes to make the cost increase to your defined group of inventory items, which in this case would be defined by a specific vendor. There are other scenarios where the use of global changes will save you time, such as when you need to make a change to the price, cost or margin of all the items meeting a set of selected criteria that you define.

Before you begin to utilize Global Changes, your inventory items should be set up by departments then broken down by User Sort for Global Changes to work effectively. The use of User Sort is strongly recommended when a department consists of several types of items. Take for example your jewelry department where you have necklaces, bracelets, watches, rings and earrings. Let’s say you want to put all bracelets on sale at 30% to clear out all bracelets in inventory, and make way for the new season styles arriving. Placing this group of inventory items on sale is fast and easy to do with Global Changes, if bracelets are set up as a User Sort under the Jewelry department. Another example is your holiday merchandise. You should have a user sort for every holiday you get merchandise in for. This way, it doesn’t matter which department the merchandise is in, because the criteria for Global Changes may be defined by the user sort. On November 1st, you’ll be able to easily put all Halloween merchandise on sale, even if that merchandise is in several different departments.

Accessories is another department that lends itself well to user sort with purses, scarves and wallets each set up as their own User Sort under the accessories department. Even your candy department can be broken down by bar candy, fancy candy, bagged candy and individual candy.

Let us know how you’re using Global Changes and User Sort in your shop or store, and how this feature has saved you time.

Author:  Kathy de la Torre, ARBA Retail Systems


Top Three Cafe Menu Trends

As we work with our corporate and hospital food service customers, we see menu trends in their Cafés and snack bars mirroring what’s trending in restaurants today. Many of the Cafés have added grills, pizza stations, grab ‘n go areas and in some cases even a sushi bar as part of their remodeling projects to provide a better dining experience for their employees and guests and attract a high guest count. To appeal to an even larger group of patrons and cater to savvy consumers, many Cafés are also offering menus with healthy and organic food, more diversity and local sourcing of raw ingredients.

Healthy and organic has become an important menu trend as Americans now have a higher awareness for healthy eating, and are more educated about their food choices. Consumers want to see menus that offer fresh produce, leaner protein options, and smaller desert portions. With a growing number of Americans diagnosed with type-two diabetes or heart disease, it has become greatly important to offer a menu balanced with food options which help manage these conditions. Flagging menu items as heart healthy or offering a discount on healthy menu items is a great way to promote healthy eating, while informing guests that you offer these options to them. Healthful food choices can range from leaner breakfast proteins like turkey bacon and turkey sausage to smaller desert portions offered at lunch and dinner. Catering to health conscious consumers doesn’t mean a hugely popular chicken fried steak or rich macaroni and cheese entre must be removed from the menu rotation completely. It’s just about offering a range of choices that caters to many needs.

Consumers are also looking for diversity in their dining experience, so a second trend emerging in Cafés is the availability of authentic dishes from various parts of the world. Taking another cue from commercial restaurants and fast serves, the Cafés menu often showcases cultural dishes from countries like Mexico, Argentina or Vietnam. The spices, herbs and raw ingredients for these dishes have become much more widely available than in past years, making it possible for chefs to create their own authentic versions or fusions in their food service operations.

The educated café patron is now aware of what’s in season, and which raw ingredients can be locally sourced. These consumers want to be informed of where their food came from, and may even expect to see nutritional and sourcing data. Not only does sourcing locally satisfy a growing culinary preference, but it’s often less costly and certainly a greener alternative.

Let us know what exciting new items you have added to your menus, and they performed in your Café.

Author:  Kathy de la Torre, ARBA Retail Systems


Payroll Deduction Policies for Your Employee Cafe or Coffee Bar

Payroll deductions are a highly popular cashless payment method which gives great convenience to employees. This program is particularly well suited for the busy health care worker with limited break time, who is running around the hospital without their wallet or purse, or the office worker who wants to get their lunch and return to their desk as quickly as possible. The ability to scan the badge carried to buy breakfast, lunch or snacks is viewed by staff members and workers as a convenient benefit. Payroll deductions are all about saving time, and moving employees through checkout faster so they spend less time in line and may return to work faster.

So how does your company or health care facility protect itself from employees who may leave the company or facility with an unpaid payroll deduction balance? The most common method is to set a payroll deduction limit, which works very much like a revolving credit account. The difference of course is that deductions are to be taken from future paychecks, rather than making payments on a billing cycle. This limit is usually determined by weighing what is a reasonable amount for an employee to spend per pay period combined with how much the company or hospital could afford to lose if an employee leaves and the remaining balance is not deducted before the final paycheck is issued. Cafés and coffee bars will often arrive at the spending limit by estimating the maximum realistic amount of food and beverage purchases an employee could potentially make during the pay period. Other facilities operate their café or coffee bar purely as a benefit and convenience to their employees with a goal of breaking even on costs, and therefore elect not to enforce a limit. They find that the goodwill and benefit the café provides their employees is of primary importance, and far outweighs any potential risk.

Finally, some human resource departments require their employees to complete an enrollment form to sign up for the program, with language specifying responsibility for any outstanding payroll deduction balances should employment end. Usually, this serves to discourage employees from running up a high balance that their final paycheck cannot cover. Signature lines on register receipts for payroll deduction transactions also helps enforce payment, however keep in mind that this will add time to the transaction.

Has your company or hospital implemented a Payroll Deduction Program? If so, please share your experience with the program.

Author:  Kathy de la Torre, ARBA Retail Systems


Theft in your Foodservices operation

Theft is an unfortunate problem that every retail operation deals with, and your café or coffee bar is no exception. In this week’s Blog, we identify the creative and not-so-creative ways customers and employees can steal from you, and take a look at how to prevent or minimize it happening in your operation.

Who is stealing?

Theft comes in many forms. It can be the cashier who doesn’t ring up all the items a friend or colleague has on their tray at the checkout line, or gives an “unauthorized” discount to a coworker. It may be an employee boldly stealing cash out of the register till when they think no one is watching or will notice, or a customer casually walking out the door with unpaid food or beverage items. Whether the intent is to do a friend a favor, a feeling of entitlement or deliberate malice, the financial impact is the same because theft hurts the bottom line of your foodservices operation. Even if you are operating your Café or Coffee Bar as a convenience to your employees, operating costs are still measured and theft is a huge cost.

How do you identify employee theft?

It’s really important to have security measures in place in your operation to identify any problem areas. Your Point of Sale system should be tracking all sales, and allow you to use either shift or transaction security on your registers. The ability to reconcile each cash drawer by cashier is particularly needed in foodservices operations. Always review your system variance reports for discrepancies, and look for patterns in frequent cash shortages to see they map to when a particular employee works. Frequent cash overages may also be a sign of stealing, resulting when an employee stealing cash from the register “light rings” too much to cover for the amount taken. Also look for a high number of “no sale” or “void” transactions during anyone’s shift, as this is a potential red flag for theft activity. To learn about POS solutions for Corporate Dining visit us at or POS solutions for Hospital Food Services at .

The scenario that’s a lot more difficult to identify is when cashier are giving “freebies” to their friends, and not all sales or all items are being rung up at the cash register. Security surveillance helps to control this problem, and serves as a deterrent to theft when employees see surveillance in place. There are many ways to see what is transpiring on the floor, even when you can’t be out there. Be sure to review your sales reports for emerging patterns. Do the average sales of a particular cashier fall below the average sales of other cashiers during the same meal periods and the same days? Is there a higher amount of discounts given during the times a particular cashier is working? These indicate signs of possible employee theft. Find out more about POS solutions at

What can you do to prevent or reduce customer theft?

It’s a good idea to train you staff what to look for, and be alert to out of the ordinary customer behavior. Positioning the cash registers in such a way that it’s just not possible to exit the café without paying for food and beverage items is a huge deterrent. Many facilities have installed mirrors and surveillance cameras, and position the most tempting items in a place where taking them is more difficult.

Reduce Cash Management

The Cafes and coffee bars that offer cashless payment options such as employee payroll deductions and credit cards minimize the amount of cash that their staff handles, and as a result experience less cash overages and shortages. Payroll deductions and credit cards are simpler to manage from an accounting standpoint, and their use certainly reduces the amount of cash overages or shortages. To learn more about payroll deductions, visit

Have you had the unfortunate experience of theft in your foodservices operation? Share your story about how you discovered and dealt with this all-too-common problem.


Healthy Café Menu Choices and Measuring Their Sales Success

Café dining patrons have a growing expectation to find healthful food and beverage choices on the menu.  Whether managing diabetes or a heart condition through diet, or just being more conscientious of healthy eating practices, guests are now better informed about nutritional value and take into account how each meal or snack choice will fit into their overall nutritional goals.

As a result of this consumer awareness and growing demand, virtually every Café has a selection of healthy menu items in each service of their menu rotation.  These healthy choices don’t necessarily replace popular menu favorites like Chicken Fried Steak, Pizza, or Macaroni and Cheese, but instead provide a range of healthy alternatives to café guests.  Whether the guest selects a grilled chicken salad labeled as heart healthy, or decides to indulge in a grilled cheese sandwich with fries, the choice is left up to the guest.

So how do you measure the performance of healthy menu items, and determine which ones should remain in rotation, and which ones should be replaced with more appealing choices?  Although the long line out the door whenever the Sushi Chef prepares fresh California Rolls at lunchtime is the only clue you will need to measure the popularity of the Sushi Bar, other items will require a review of historical sales data to evaluate their performance.

To track healthy meal sales, all menu items within the inventory file of the Café’s POS System should be added to an appropriate department, and then sorted further into a sub department or sub category.  Label one of your sub departments “Healthy” to track healthy sales.  For example, an egg white omelet could be added to the breakfast department, then further sorted into the sub department of Healthy.  A turkey and vegetable wrap may be added to the lunch department, then added to the sub department Healthy.  As a result of this categorization, both the egg white omelet and the turkey wrap will appear in the “Healthy” sub department, which will make tracking and comparing their historical sales information an easy process.  Depending upon your POS system’s reporting abilities, an alternative approach is to create a Healthy Department, then create sub departments of breakfast, lunch, etc. and then create reports using the Healthy Department as a sorting method.  With either approach, sales history reporting is available to track the Café’s Healthy item sales.

Menu Items identified in historical sales reports as not selling well may either be replaced with other items , or could be discounted to increase interest and incent better sales performance.  The sale history data will show if the marketing is working on not working.

Tell us about the success of your Healthy menu selections, and what has helped promote their sales.


Physical Inventory Best Practices

Every retail operation is required to do physical inventory at least once a year. Many stores even elect to do physical inventory multiple times throughout the year, or count select departments or items on a regular basis. Whatever your timing may be, here are a few best practices to follow to help ensure success.

Although most stores have invested in POS inventory control software with physical inventory features and hardware scanning devices, the process still requires people to perform the counting of the on hand items. People perform their best when they understand why the task they are to perform is important. Be sure to explain to everyone who will be participating in physical inventory why having an accurate on hand count of each item is needed. It may also be most productive to divide the counting by departments, and assign individuals to specific departments to count. This enables the counting of multiple departments in parallel, and should help move the entire process along faster. Be sure to schedule the event well in advance so everyone is available for the big event.

Inventory represents a current asset the store expects to sell within one year, however the reasons for doing physical inventory are not limited to just tax or accounting purposes. An accurate on hand count ensures that buying decisions are based on accurate data. Wrong on hand quantities lead to misinformed buying decisions, which negatively impact your retail business. Order recommendations or buying reports can only be accurate if on hand quantities are correct and costly buying mistakes can be avoided. The goal of any retail operation is to strike an optimum balance of inventory so that excess dollars are not tied up unnecessarily, yet sales are not lost due to out of stock merchandise. Getting this balancing act correct certainly begins with an accurate count.

Retailers not only need to effectively manage their inventory, but also purchase inventory that will result in the greatest profitability for the store. It’s a highly recommended practice to perform counts of high volume and high value items on a regular basis. High volume items are particularly vulnerable to error due to the high number of transactions. It’s much easier to identify an inaccuracy in inventory if the discrepancy is caught within 30 or 60 days, rather than combing through months of data to reconcile an item which was last counted a year ago.

One final best practice is to run an inventory report before and after conducting inventory to get an accurate idea of the value of the inventory you were supposed to have vs. what you actually have.

For more information about using Inventory control software with a physical inventory feature, call us at 866-889-3093 or contact us  ARBA Retail Systems is a leading provider of POS Inventory Control solutions and is headquartered in Naperville, IL.