New Kickfin Features that Make Tip Calculation a Breeze

Kickfin’s best-in-class tip calculation tool has some exciting new bells and whistles.

If you’re already using Kickfin’s tip pool calculator, then you know how much time and hassle you’re saving by automating everything. (And if you’re not? Head over to our tip pooling software page to see how it works!)

As we partner with more restaurants to bring their tip management into the future, we’re continuing to innovate our product so we can address their biggest pain points.

In this case, that means enhancing our tip pooling features so you can auto-calculate tip amounts even for the most complex or unique tip pool or share policies.

Check out a few of our latest features that will make tip calculations easier than ever.

New Release: Splitting Large Party Tips 

If your restaurant often hosts large parties, you know that the tip share can get confusing. Say one server is taking care of a party of 40 with a bartender assigned to only make drinks for that party. Meanwhile, the server has a few other two-top tables that are getting drinks from the main service bar. At the end of the night, how do you ensure that the large-party bartender gets their fair share of the tip out (without spending an hour on your phone calculator)? 

Kickfin can now automate that process for you, alleviating questions from your event bartender and saving time and effort on the part of your managers. 

Seamless Integrations 

Kickfin is partnering with your POS system to integrate seamlessly with your existing restaurant tech. Already, we’re serving Toast customers through our integration — and your POS just might be up next. 

Kickfin integration users get access to new product features first, like our new tip-out transparency tool. Your employees can log into their Kickfin accounts and see exactly how their tips have been split between team members, offering them full transparency into your tip policy in action.

Manager Tips 

We’re always listening to feedback to improve the Kickfin experience, and this one goes out to all of our restaurant partners who asked us to streamline the manager tip reallocation process.

>>Learn more about managers & tipping laws

In most cases, managers are not allowed to earn tips since they are salaried employees. But we all know that managers often step in and take care of tables to help servers get out of the weeds. Well-meaning guests will most likely leave a tip, not knowing that the manager technically can’t accept them — so where does that money go?

Kickfin now features a default pool, where tips “paid” to a manager are automatically redistributed to tipped staff based on your restaurant’s tip policy. 

Improved Labor Data Accuracy

We all know how easy it is for an employee to forget to clock out after a long shift. And sure, they aren’t going to get paid for a 16-hour overnight shift, but when payday comes around, those extra hours create a nightmare for your payroll team. 

With Kickfin, all employees are required to be clocked out in order to finalize payments — so you’ll catch the labor data mistake long before your payroll team has to sort it out. 

Even Better Security 

We’re committed to protecting you and your employees’ hard-earned money, so we’re adding an extra layer of security for certain transactions. You can now enable double approval of payments that meet certain conditions:

  • First payment for new employees
  • Employees getting their first payout in X number of days
  • Employees receiving more than X payouts in a 24-hour period. 

With these extra guardrails in place, you can always be sure that the right money is going to the right person. Reach out to our support team to configure your custom security measures.

Using Kickfin is a win-win for operators, managers, and employees alike. Restaurateurs save on cash delivery and labor costs, managers shave hours off their workload, and servers have the same instant payment that they’re used to — without the hassle and uncertainty of cash. 

Want to learn more about Kickfin? Let us show you the ropes with a demo

Kickfin Announces Integration with Toast 

You heard it here first: 2024 is the year of integrations. 

In an effort to make Kickfin even more user-friendly and adaptable for our partners, we’re working with restaurant tech leaders to integrate our tip management solution with their existing systems. 

First up — Toast! A trailblazer for cloud-based restaurant management technology, Toast is a favorite POS system for restaurants, food trucks, and bars. You probably know them best for being the first to create handheld POS devices, drastically changing the entire restaurant ecosystem. To make life easier for their customers, Toast partnered with Kickfin to create an integration that makes tip pooling, tip distribution, and calculation smoother. 

As restaurant tech innovators ourselves, this partnership is the perfect fit for Kickfin. 

Our goal at Kickfin is always to save time for managers, prevent loss for operators, and create more financial freedom for hospitality employees through pioneering technology that digitizes many of the analog processes that the restaurant industry is built on. 

As a member of the Toast Partner Ecosystem, we’ll be able to deliver our product to Toast customers and modernize their tip management systems with ease. Using technology that they’re already familiar with, Toast customers can reap the benefits of Kickfin with minimal ramp-up upon implementation.

“No two restaurants split tips the same way, but invariably, it takes too long and involves too much risk,”  said Justin Roberts, the co-CEO of Kickfin. “This integration allows for the utmost customization with a near-zero learning curve — truly the best of both worlds for restaurants that want to save time, reduce labor costs and make life easier for their team.”

And one of their partners is already enjoying the ROI with Kickfin. Bar Louie takes great pride in making tip distribution equitable for all of their employees, so they rely on a complex tip pooling system to ensure fair pay. Prior to using Kickfin, managers at each of their 60 locations spent 45 minutes at the end of every shift to make calculations and divvy out funds to all of their servers. Now, they’ve streamlined their tip-out process with Kickfin — and managers are doing the same work in less than a minute! That’s an annual average of 15,000 hours saved across their entire chain. 

>> Hear more Kickfin success stories

After implementing Kickfin, managers can spend their time on what matters most: delivering excellent customer service. That means more table touches, more support for your staff, and more time to focus on server training. 

With managers spending more time on the floor (instead of counting cash in the back), you’ll see better customer reviews, better service, and increased sales — all from digitizing your tip-outs with Kickfin.

We’re excited about our new partnership with Toast and the opportunity to make digital tipping a reality for their customers. For restaurants who aren’t using Toast, don’t worry! We look forward to providing similar integrations across the restaurant tech industry.  

Want to see these results for yourself? Find out how to become a Kickfin integration partner or check out a demo of our platform.

Beat the Labor Shortage: How to Increase Tips and Keep Your Best Servers

In the midst of a (neverending?) labor shortage, restaurant operators are doing everything they can to encourage their best servers to stick around. 

A sure-fire way to keep your current employees happy? Help them earn more money. Of course, when margins are tight, that can be tricky —  which is where tips come in. Tipping allows employees to earn significantly more than what your revenue constraints might allow.

In fact, for many restaurant teams, particularly in the full-service segment, tips make up the majority of a server’s income. And if you practice any sort of tip pooling, then tips can increase take-home pay for other front-of-house and back-of-house employees, too.

While tip amounts are generally determined by the total bill and the quality of service a customer receives, there are things you can do to help your employees earn more tips. Here are a few ideas to try out at your restaurant.

1. Give them bigger sections

Your veteran servers can handle a lot more than you give them credit for. They probably want everything you throw at them, because more tables can generally mean more tip-making opportunities for them.

We get it: you don’t want customer service to slip. But you can trust your best servers to be honest about how much they can handle. If their answers vary, you can create different-sized sections where you reward top performers with more tables, while newbies get their feet wet with smaller sections.

2. Server training sessions

In the restaurant industry, you’re bound to get a lot of green serving staff. Give them the knowledge and tools they need to exceed customer expectations and operate with efficiency, so they can start earning more tips, faster.

If you don’t already have some kind of formalized training program in place, now’s the time to start. (For tips on onboarding new employees, check out our webinar here.) 

Of course, there are some basics they’ll need to learn — policies, standard operating procedures procedures, how to use your tech stack, etc. If they’re new to the industry, don’t make any assumptions: introduce them to every part of the restaurant. It’s important that they understand operations from front to back and how their success is tied to the success of the whole team.

Soft skills are equally important. Being able to engage with guests in a warm, professional manner can take the dining experience to the next level — and it compensates for slip-ups here and there while employees are still learning the ropes.

3. Teach the art of the upsell

In addition to the training they receive during onboarding, it’s never a bad idea to offer ongoing sessions for newer staff and seasoned pros alike. One focus area to consider: coaching your team on the art of the upsell. 

No, you don’t want your servers to turn into full-blown salespeople; but when it’s done in a way that’s focused on improving the guest experience, it has the added benefits of boosting tip amounts and increasing your restaurant sales, too. 

For example, hold a drink pairing class where your team learns what drinks to suggest for each order. Help them practice presenting daily specials in a way that’s appealing and easy-to-follow. Remind them not to miss an opportunity to suggest a starter and be smart about how they position the option for a dessert. (E.g.: They’re full from dinner? Offer that pie to-go!)

Not every server will have time for extra classes (school, family, and life can get pretty hectic), so make these classes optional. Your servers who can make it will thank you for providing them with flexibility and tools to increase tips, and your customers will notice and appreciate how knowledgeable your staff is. 

4. Run your kitchen efficiently

We all know that servers bear the brunt of frustrated, hangry customers. If guests are waiting and waiting for their food, they often blame the server (even if they’re not at fault) and deduct from their tips. Also, the longer a party sits waiting for their food to come out, the longer the server will have to wait to get their next table. 

Want your servers to earn more money? Address any back-of-house issues that might be impacting the customer experience. Hungry guests will be much happier when their food arrives quickly, and it’ll help your servers turn and turn more tables throughout the night. 

And keep in mind: For restaurants that include back-of-house employees in their tip pool, kitchen employees benefit from better tips, too — so help them understand how a rising tide lifts all boats.

5. Manage expectations at the host stand

Just like the kitchen, the host stand is completely out of the servers’ control — but it can seriously affect their tips. While you can’t really help going on a wait during a busy Saturday night dinner rush, you can train your hosts to tactfully manage guests’ expectations, so they aren’t fuming by the time their server comes to greet them. 

For one, hosts need to accurately predict wait times. There’s nothing worse than telling a customer that it’ll only be a 20-minute wait and then watching them sit squirming in your waiting area for 45 minutes. Consider taking advantage of restaurant tech that can help hosts manage the floor and the waitlist. 

It can also be confusing to guests if they’re on the waitlist, but they see empty tables. What they may not know is that you don’t have enough servers to cover all of the tables in the restaurant — so if that’s the case, consider asking your hosts to be proactive about explaining the situation.

Of course, when a party leaves and the table is ready to be cleaned, encourage your hosts to jump in and support busy bussers so that the next guests can be seated quickly.

6. Put your managers back on the floor 

When things go wrong, managers often swoop in to save the server’s tip. Managers are there to smooth over customer complaints and ensure a high-quality dining experience for every guest in your restaurant. But if they’re in the back office working for the entire shift, servers don’t get the support they need. 

Free up your managers’ shifts so they can spend more time touching tables, refilling drinks, and supporting the FOH staff. When managers can spend more time interacting with guests and helping servers who are in the weeds, guests enjoy their dining experiences more and are happier to leave a generous tip. 

(One idea to give your managers hours back in their day: Try out Kickfin’s instant cashless tipping software so your managers can spend less time counting out cash tips and crunching numbers, and more time connecting with customers and supporting your servers. Check out a demo today.)

7 Reasons Your General Manager Will Thank You for Digitizing Tip Payments

General managers have one of the toughest jobs in hospitality. They’re in the trenches with their team, day in and day out — but with the added responsibilities of hiring, training, purchasing, inventory management, maintaining guest satisfaction, ensuring adherence policies and standard operating procedures…the list goes on.

It takes the right skillset — and a lot of grit — to succeed as a GM. When you find a talented one, as an operator, it’s worth doing everything you can to keep them happy and make their life easier. 

Enter: digital tipping. For restaurants that move away from cash tip-outs and automate tip distribution, cash management becomes one less (tedious) task on your GM’s plate. That means they have hours back in their day for work that matters. (Or maybe — just maybe — they’ll get to head home at a slightly more reasonable hour.)

Here are 7 reasons why your GM will thank you for making the switch to digital tip distribution. 

1. Fewer bank runs 

Your general manager probably bears the burden of ensuring there’s enough cash in the safe to pay out tips after each shift. For a lot of GMs, that means running to the bank to withdraw thousands of dollars in cash on a weekly (or more frequent) basis. Your GMs will be more than happy to scratch that task off their to-do list so they can stay in the store and on the floor. 

2. Enhanced safety 

Running to and from the bank isn’t just a time suck: it’s also a major liability. Having that much cash on your person makes your GM a perfect target for theft. And the same goes for their team once they’ve received their tip-outs and are heading home in the wee hours of the morning. (And realistically, the more cash you have on hand, the more opportunity there is for internal theft and skimming.) Sending tips straight to their bank account is truly the best of both worlds: employees still get instant access to their earnings, right where they want it — and everyone is a whole lot safer. 

3. Less time counting (and recounting) cash

As long as you accept cash at your restaurant, your managers will have to deal with the daily task of counting down cash registers before and after every shift. But the vast majority of restaurant sales are credit card transactions. Given the inefficiencies (and risks) of cash management, there’s simply no reason to introduce cash into the equation in order to pay out those credit card tips. 

Digital tip-outs eliminates the need for your GMs to manually count out stacks of cash and rolls of quarters until they’re going cross-eyed — which saves time and greatly reduces the risk of human error.

4. Freedom to shine on the floor 

All of that time saved from bank runs and cash counting means your managers can spend more time on tasks that really matter. Sure, there will always be admin work to be done. But generally speaking, GMs aren’t in hospitality because they want to spend their days and nights heads down in the back office; it’s because they love to be on the floor managing their team, engaging with guests, and filling in gaps as needed. Finding ways to automate what you can — like tip distribution — gives them the freedom to do just that.

5. Minimal distractions (and drama)

Every time a server comes by the restaurant to pick up tips from the previous night, managers have to stop what they’re doing to open the safe, watch the server count the tips, and sign that they received them. Then they’ll try to return to the task at hand…only for another server to show up 15 minutes later. 

Some restaurants also struggle with tip disputes — i.e., employees claiming that they didn’t get what they were owed. Unfortunately, with cash tip-outs, there’s low visibility into payment history and a lot of room for error. Combined, those two things can create major trust issues for your team.

Cashless tip-out solutions mean tip payments happen instantly — not the next day or week — and they provide you with a digital paper trail, which cuts down on the distractions and drama that your GM has to deal with on a daily basis.

6. Easy reconciliation and reporting 

Your general manager wears a lot of hats — and for many restaurants, that includes some level of reporting or bookkeeping. Your cash tip-out system might include a lot of hand-written records, complicated spreadsheets…and heavy reliance on your bleary-eyed managers’ late-night math skills.

The right digital tipping solution will provide a much simpler and more accurate source of truth for tip payments, as well as robust reporting by shift, date, location, or individual employee. 

7. A smart recruiting play  

Your GM has been fighting on the front lines of the labor shortage, and they need new, creative ideas to bring in new servers. Digital tipping options could be the differentiator they need to bring in talented servers. As more restaurants embrace digital tipping, they’re finding that a lot of candidates — especially the Gen Zers — consider instant, direct-to-bank payouts a major work perk that’s rapidly becoming table stakes. 

Give your GM the tools they need to succeed

 A GM has to be good at juggling a lot of tasks in a fast-paced environment. That’s a non-negotiable. But when there’s an opportunity to make your operations run more efficiently and make your GM’s life easier? That’s a no-brainer. Eliminating the hassles of cash management makes a world of difference for the captain of your ship — so if you’re still doing tip-outs old-school, now’s the time to seek out the right digital tipping solution for your team.

Want to check out Kickfin’s digital tipping software? We’ll show you all of our general manager-friendly features in a 10-minute demo — schedule yours today!

Mythbusters: Questions and Misconceptions About Digital Tipping

The advancement of digital tipping technology has a whole host of benefits for your operations, your team, and your bottom line. 

But as every employer knows, any change to the payment process — even if it’s for the better! — can create uncertainty and concern among employees. That’s especially true in an industry like hospitality, where it’s not unusual for employees to live paycheck to paycheck. 

While digital tipping is quickly becoming table stakes for restaurants, it’s still a relatively new technology. So if you’re considering a digital tipping solution for your restaurant, your employees will likely have questions — and maybe even some misconceptions — about what instant, cashless tip-outs really mean for them.

Below are few of the myths we find ourselves regularly busting, as well as important information that can help your people rest assured that digital tipping is a simple, secure — and did we mention instant? — way to receive the tips they’ve worked so hard to earn.  

Does digital tipping affect servers’ tax liability? 

For some servers, one of the big perks of working in the restaurant industry is that cash tips can’t necessarily be tracked — so they may not report all of their tipped income. As digital tip-outs rise in popularity, many servers are concerned that this will mean more tip reporting and higher tax liability. 

But the thing is: it doesn’t. Even though your employees’ tips might be paid out in cash, that doesn’t mean income is unreported. If your restaurant is using a POS system where you input your credit card tips after each table closes out, that POS data is already being used to report your servers’ income and the IRS is taxing them on it — which is why your employees might receive $0 paychecks. In fact, the IRS is gearing up to rely solely on POS data for tax information. 

Just like before, if a customer leaves a cash tip, it’s on the employee to claim it, but credit card tips have been (and always will be) reported to the IRS. 

Do employees need to download an app? 

If your employees are anything like us, they have no storage to spare on their smartphone. So when you announce the rollout of a digital tipping solution at your restaurant, you might get some eyerolls: Does this mean there’s another app they have to download, and another account they have to manage on a regular basis? 

Short answer: nope. It depends on the solution, of course, but a software like Kickfin doesn’t require an app download. 

In fact, employees can sign up for Kickfin in 30 seconds — without having to download anything. You simply send out an invite to each employee, they click the link, and they sign up through their browser in seconds. 

That means your staff get instant tip payouts, and they don’t have to delete a million photos to free up space for yet another app. Win-win!

Do digital tipping solutions require employees to use a paycard?

Here again, not all digital tipping solutions digitize tips the same way. 

Yes, some solutions require employees to use a paycard. The problem with paycards is that employees might get hit with unexpected fees when they want to use their card or transfer money to their bank account. (And those bank transfers can take up to 3-5 days!)

Kickfin’s solution bypasses paycards and sends tip earnings directly to their bank accounts — which is where most employees prefer. Funds are instantly accessible the moment employees are tipped out (including nights, weekends and bank holidays), so your people don’t have to deal with the paycard wait times if rent is due or they have bills to pay. 

Does Kickfin store servers’ banking information? 

Hackers and identity thieves are constantly taking advantage of weak security thresholds (or worse: accidental data leaks). So it’s not surprising that your employees might hesitate to share personal or financial information with a new vendor. 

With a solution like Kickfin that sends tip earnings straight to your employees’ bank accounts, it’s fair to assume their banking information is saved within Kickfin and could be compromised.

But that’s actually not how it works. 

In addition to being 100% PCI compliant, Kickfin tokenizes your employees’ financial information. Without getting into the weeds, the bottom line is that their financial information is safe from bad actors, period.

What about personal information? 

Constant spam calls and emails are driving everyone nuts, so your employees may be concerned about entering their phone number and email address into yet another database that could be sold to telemarketers, spammers, and even scammers. 

We get it: Kickfin will never sell your employees’ personal information. We value your trust too much. And if an employee opts out of Kickfin or moves on to a new job, they can easily delete their account.

Can unbanked employees use Kickfin? 

Kickfin connects to 100% of all 10,000+ banks for instant, cashless tip-outs. But what about hospitality employees who are unbanked?

Realistically, some workers aren’t old enough to have a bank account; some might be undocumented; and some people simply choose not to use a bank.

If your unbanked employees are worried about how they’ll get paid with a direct-to-bank tipping solution, make sure you’re selecting a software that gives them options. For example: With Kickfin, employees can simply opt out of instant payouts and receive their tips via payroll. It doesn’t add any administrative complexity for your team, and it ensures they’re still getting access to the tips they’ve earned.

Still have a burning question about digital tipping? We’re here to help. Schedule some time with us today and we’ll get you the answers you’re looking for! 

Hot Tips & Takes: Balancing Tech and Culture w/ Wil Brawley of Schedulefly

How can tech work within an employee-first restaurant culture? Ask Wil Brawley. 

As co-owner and co-founder of Schedulefly, Wil Brawley recognizes the value tech can deliver to restaurants — but he’s also realistic about its limitations. Schedulefly is a simple scheduling and communications tool for restaurants. 

Through his Restaurant Owners Uncorked podcast, Wil keeps his finger on the pulse of the restaurant industry, and he’s keenly aware of how tech can both improve and disrupt the employee experience. We sat down with Wil for some real talk on the upsides and downsides of restaurant tech and how restaurant owners can innovate without taking away from an authentic, human-centered culture. 

How important is the employee culture at a restaurant? Can it affect sales and daily operations? 

I’ve done over 450 episodes of our podcast, Restaurant Owners Uncorked, and worked on two books featuring successful restaurant owners, so I’ve probably interviewed close to a thousand restaurant owners in the past 15 years. 

If there’s one common thread across all those with long-lasting success, it’s culture. That culture might vary from place to place, but it is always centered on caring deeply about the people that work in your restaurants. The employees tend to come first, creating a culture that’s about nurturing and loving the people that work in the restaurant.

When your employees are well taken care of, they treat their customers well too, and then the investors do well, too. That’s been my observation.

How do you define a positive employee culture? What are the steps owners need to take to create that culture? 

For a long time, restaurant culture has been: “If you aren’t willing to work seven days in a row, then we don’t want you here. We want people that are going to show up and bust their ass.” And that’s changed for the better, for everybody. It’s leading to less burnout. It’s leading to less negative behavior outside of work. Substance abuse has been a big issue, and the industry is going through a conversation about mental health and substance abuse.

Yesterday, I interviewed someone for the podcast who started her first restaurant in Denver a couple of years ago. She’s worked in restaurants for 15 years and has worked in places where she actually worked 13 days in a row. Obviously that restaurant doesn’t have a great culture. You’d never have somebody work 13 days in a row if your employees came first. 

She learned from that, and now at her own restaurant, she never schedules anyone for more than four days in a week because she cares very deeply about the mental health and the well-being and the work-life balance of her employees. She knows that if she gives them what they need, then everything else is going to fall into place.

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“When you’re on day 12 of 13 days in a row, are you going to represent that restaurant and that brand well? Of course you’re not. On the flip side, an employee who feels their needs are being met and their work-life balance is respected will actually enjoy what they do and pass on that good, memorable experience to customers.”

With happy customers returning to the restaurant for reliably excellent service, the restaurant thrives and therefore so do owners and investors. 

How can tech be a positive part of your culture? And how can it cause tension? 

It’s quite a balance. There are 300+ restaurant tech companies out there right now, Schedulefly being one of them. People who use our platform tend to manage their folks and their behavior more through engagement and culture than by leaning on technology. What you’re really looking for is technology that will improve on the culture, not enforce it. 

Here’s a specific example. When you schedule someone for 10 am, they’re supposed to be there at 10 am, but you start seeing people clocking in five or 10 minutes early — which costs you money. You’ve created this schedule with a specific budget in mind, and when multiple people add just a few extra minutes a day, it runs through your budget much faster than you planned. 

You have two options to deal with the problem. One is to simply implement tech that systematically prevents people from clocking in early. The other, which I recommend, is building a culture where you can communicate openly with employees. You set the expectation, explain why it’s important, and create trust that everyone will do their part. 

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There’s nothing wrong with using tech, but it creates a different type of culture where you expect tools to influence behavior versus communication. “

You run into similar situations with Schedulefly. If someone offers up a shift and another employee wants it, the manager has to make a decision: is that the right person to pick up that shift?

If it’s not the right person, they’re not going to allow that trade, and then they’ll need to talk to the person to say, “I appreciate that you’re trying to pick up this shift. This is a prime shift and we need one of our veteran servers to pick that shift up. You aren’t quite ready to handle that yet.” It creates an opportunity for engagement. Again, that’s part of a culture of engagement and trust. 

Yeah, it’s easier to use technology than to have these interactions, but to have a robust, thriving, healthy culture, you have to communicate. We really encourage people to use technology where it helps, but it can’t replace engagement and human interaction. 

Do you find that it’s harder to build this culture in larger chain restaurants?

Communication isn’t just for smaller restaurants with only one or two locations. Some people believe that as you grow, you have to become more “corporate” and use lots of technology, but you find that the culture becomes less friendly, less human-oriented. People who loved working there when it was fun and authentic will probably leave for the place down the street that can provide that.  

Big Red F in Boulder, Colorado has 800 employees across over 16 locations, and to this day, culture is king there. They really figured out culture at scale, so it’s definitely possible. They’ve been a customer of ours for 14 of our 16 years at Schedulefly, so I’ve studied them for a long time. They certainly have one of the best cultures I’ve come across. It’s been interesting to see them grow this much without losing their truly authentic, employee-focused culture. 

What should restaurant owners take into consideration when exploring new technology options? 

Some people want a comprehensive, one-size-fits-all solution that manages everything, and there’s certainly a place for that, but I think sometimes you wind up spending as much time managing the technology as you are managing your people. And that’s just a question you have to ask: Which is more important?

You definitely want to consider implementation. Is this something that takes a lot of training and focus, or is it easy-to-use, point-and-click to get started?

Support is another big one that I think may get overlooked sometimes. This tech company may have a great slick software, but do they have great support to back it up? Because your employees have questions, and you’re going to have questions.There will always be problems, like small glitches, so you should find out if the tech company you’re interested in is known for outstanding customer service. 

Finally, you need to marry the need with the priority and timing. We see people sign up for a 30-day free trial of Schedulefly, never use it, and then start the trial again six months later — only to not use it again. Eventually, they do implement and move forward. Talking to people over the years about this, I found that it’s a matter of just prioritizing. Running a restaurant, you’ve always got a long list of things you have to manage, so you have to be able to prioritize and hit the most important one first. So, be realistic about your own time management and top priorities before trying to implement new tech. 

Any final words of wisdom for restaurant owners making decisions about their tech stack? 

With 300+ restaurant tech platforms out there right now, every one of them is hoping to earn your business. It must be overwhelming to sift through all that noise to find the tools that you need.

Start with a focus on employees and trying to give them what they need and deserve to be successful — and again, you want to balance that with not bringing so many tools that there’s no engagement and management. 

As you prioritize which problems you need to resolve within your business, I always encourage people to remember good old-fashioned word of mouth. Call people you know in the industry and find out what they’re using. Ask if it’s solving their problems and if it’s backed by phenomenal customer service. 

And if you’re talking to a salesperson, ask them for a list of their customers in your area and start talking to them. That’s probably one of the most efficient ways to figure out what if a tool will be useful and will contribute to your success in the long run.

Learn more about Schedulefly or catch the latest episode of ROU.

How to Enable Tipping at Quick Service Restaurants Without Alienating Your Customers

Unless you’ve completely sworn off social media at the moment — and if that’s the case, no one would blame you! — you’ve probably heard some chatter around the new tipping model at Starbucks.

Long story short: Everyone has an opinion. 

Some customers (and employees) feel that they’re being put in an awkward position because a tip isn’t warranted when there’s minimal guest-employee interaction. But others are grateful for the opportunity to give a small show of thanks for stretched-thin service providers. Plus, those tips can make a meaningful impact on employees’ take-home pay. 

We’d venture to guess that this little firestorm isn’t just about Starbucks, but part of a much more layered conversation about tipping practices in general: how they’ve evolved in our digital age, and especially how they’re being embraced (or not…) by quick-service restaurants.

Real talk: Here at Kickfin, it’s no secret that we’re a pro-tipping team. We believe whole-heartedly that service industry employees make the world go round, and that tipping often increases their earning potential far beyond what revenue constraints would allow their employers to pay them. And of course, tipping can benefit employers, too.

But we can’t forget about the guest experience. Ultimately, tipping is voluntary and should always, always be at the discretion of the customer. 

While QSRs are wise to keep pace with the times and digitize their tip jars: read on for a few best practices that will ensure your guests embrace the change (no pun intended…) and continue to think of tipping as an option, not a requirement.

But first: Is “Guilt Tipping” Real? 

It happens every day: You place your order at the counter, the cashier turns the iPad around, and you’ve got to choose to leave a 20, 25 or 30% tip for the staff. (It seems like those percentages just keep climbing, right?)

Does a 30-second interaction necessitate a tip? Maybe, maybe not — but you find yourself frantically hitting a button because you don’t want to be the jerk who didn’t leave a tip. 

There’s a name for that: guilt tipping. No one wants to short-change a service industry worker, and many of us even see tipping as some kind of barometer for morality. 

Since tipping has expanded into new areas, there isn’t really a set custom for the “appropriate” amount to tip. Is it 20%, like you would at an FSR? Is it less? This uncertainty often leads people to panic-click on the most reasonable option on the screen out of guilt. Whether real or imagined, feelings of guilt around tipping can lead to major backlash from customers — and displaced anger at employees. 

How to make QSR tips work for everyone

The truth is, most employees enjoy the wage boost that tips provide, and customers want to reward good service, even when they don’t have cash on hand. However, the benefits of credit card tips can be overshadowed by the awkward social customs around tipping. That’s why enabling credit card tips requires a bit of finesse. 

Here are a few suggestions for enabling tipping without offending customers. 

1. Change tip amounts 

Rather than prompting customers to tip based on percentage, think of your credit card tips as a digital tip jar. Make the tip suggestions similar to what people would toss into a tip jar — like 75 cents, a dollar, or even just rounding up to the next dollar. Customers won’t feel the whiplash of their coffee order suddenly costing $3 more than it used to, but they still get the option to reward baristas for good service. 

2. Avoid verbal tipping prompts

Nothing is more awkward – for employees and customers alike – than asking for a tip out loud. Employees don’t want to pressure their customers into leaving a tip, and no one wants to confidently say “no” in front of a line of people. Some customers may also feel uncomfortable stating how much they’d like to leave — as if they’re announcing how “good” of a person they are.

Instead, keep the tip prompts as private as possible. Include the prompts on the POS or credit card reader so your customers can silently decide on their tip amount. 

3. Make it clear that tipping is optional 

In the United States, most customers at FSRs are aware that servers rely on tips to supplement their take-home pay — and that they should tip appropriately for their service. But at a QSR, the lines get a little blurry. Is leaving a tip now an expectation (or even a requirement) for counter service? 

Take the pressure off the customer, and leave no questions unanswered. Make it apparent that employees are paid hourly and that tips are just an optional bonus to their income, not their bread and butter. 

You can also include language in your tip prompts that explicitly reminds customers that tips are optional. That way when the iPad swivels around to the customer, they know it’s not a moral question but rather just an extra thank-you to their regular barista. 

Take digital tipping to the next level 

Of course, now that you’re accepting more credit card tips, you’ll need an easy way to distribute them to staff. And we’ve got a few ideas. With Kickfin, you can instantly transfer tips straight to your employees’ bank accounts — meaning no cash runs and more financial freedom for employees. Request a demo of Kickfin today to learn more.

FSTEC Panel Recap: Why Top Tier Brands Are Switching To Digital Tip-Outs

Last month, Kickfin sponsored FSTEC, a premier industry event in Texas, where co-founder Justin Hassan had the chance to moderate a panel of executives from top-tier franchises. He sat down with:

Panelists discussed the “hidden” costs of a traditional tip program — and how revamping their approach to tipping has improved recruiting and retention, cut labor costs, streamlined accounting, and reduced theft, human error, and compliance issues. If you missed it, scroll down for a quick breakdown of key takeaways.

Tipping Is Here To Stay

Compensation is more important than ever, especially in a tight labor market. Most hospitality workers have come to expect and enjoy the benefits of being tipped out in cash on a nearly daily basis. Tips not only help employees pay their bills, they keep your labor costs down as well. With the added tip revenue, tipped service employees’ earnings increase to $25 an hour, on average—a far cry from the $7.25 per hour national minimum wage. Can you afford to pay your employees the equivalent of what they make in tips? If not, tips may be the only way to find and retain skilled service workers.

Cash and the tip-out dilemma

Most customers are paying with credit cards or digitally—leaving restaurants without adequate cash to tip out employees at the end of each shift. Even with this roadblock, 90% of restaurants are still tipping out with cash.

But tipping out with cash comes with a host of hidden costs: 

  • Weekly or daily bank runs
  • Expensive cash deliveries
  • Risk of theft, skimming, and human error
  • Tedious cash counting & distribution
  • Labor costs (waiting on the clock)
  • Rounding up to the nearest dollar 
  • Complicated reconciliation and reporting 

Tipping Transformation

These days, higher earnings from tips aren’t enough to keep your best employees around. Naturally, workers want more control over their pay—and when they receive it.

According to a recent survey of service workers: 

  • 83% want instant access to their pay after every shift 
  • 80% prefer funds to go straight to their bank accounts
  • 81% are more likely to choose an employer that offers on-demand pay

3 Steps To Reinventing Your Tipping Program

Restaurants should aim to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to digital tipping—or you risk losing your best employees. As you revamp your traditional tip processes, follow these steps to ensure a smooth transition.  

  1. Talk To Your Employees

Present your employees with better options than cash-only tips, including instant digital tips, tip-out cards, and payroll tips. By putting the choice in their hands, you’re empowering employees to control their financial future. Most importantly, be sure to explain why this change is good for both employees and the business as a whole.

  1. Revisit Tipping Laws

Laws vary from state to state and country to country, so you’ll need to be up-to-date and flexible when it comes to your tip structure. It’s especially important to read up on tip-pooling laws, as new litigation has been popping up frequently. With compliance in mind, seek a solution that helps you stay above board by placing guard rails around your tip program. 

  1. Choose a Vendor

Before you can implement a new tip program, you’ll need to choose a vendor. Look for a partner that has a robust customer service department to help you smooth over any bumps in the road and help you train staff. Ultimately, this relationship should help you build your business and hire new employees, while helping your employees reach even greater financial success.

Interested in simplifying your tip-out process? Request a demo to see how Kickfin works.

 

7 Hotel Technology Trends You’ll See This Year

There’s still a long road ahead when it comes to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic for the hospitality industry—but leaning into tech could ease the transition. The good news? Travel demand is higher than ever, and 50% of hospitality industry leaders predict that hotels will see pre-pandemic levels of revenue in 2023. 

As hotels begin to welcome more guests again, there’s a new wave of technological innovation taking place that’s worth watching. Here are the top seven technology trends we’re looking forward to seeing in hotels in 2023:

1. Automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Automation and AI can now be integrated into nearly every area of hotel operations, from virtual chatbots on booking pages to automated wake-up calls for guests and optimized staffing scheduling based on current hotel occupancy. Three out of 4 hoteliers consider automation to be one of the most important elements of recovery for the hospitality industry, according to ReviewPro.

While it’s unlikely we’ll see robots behind the front desk anytime soon, more and more consumers are opting for automated options like streamlined or contactless check-in, which allows for keyless entry, or using internet-connected wearables that function as keys and charge cards, such as the MagicBands used by Walt Disney World properties.

2. Smart Hotel Rooms

Adding internet-connected devices into hotel rooms isn’t brand new, but it’s now become a must-have for many hotel guests. They expect more control over the heating and cooling system, lights, lock, and window shade systems — ideally in one centralized location or controlled via mobile app — as well as additional safety measures like panic buttons. 

Another amenity on the rise is voice-controlled entertainment like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home options, which provide personalized recommendations and allow guests to bring their favorite television shows, music, and movies with them when they travel. All of this adds up to a “smart” hotel room designed to help guests relax and feel at home.

3. Harnessing the Power of Data

Guests have been holding off on vacation plans for over two years now—so they expect the experience of a lifetime. Of course, you’re also hoping to create a memorable experience for your guests, but the stakes are much higher than just a bad review. In fact, one survey found that brands dedicated to improving customer experience were ten times more resilient during the pandemic

But how can you get to know each of your thousands of guests? To deliver each guest their personalized dream vacation, you’ll need to collect and use personalized data. Now more than ever, guests are comfortable with inputting a great deal of information online through tipping platforms and hotel apps. Thanks to all of this first-party data, hotels can then build guest personas, predict guests’ wants and needs, and create an individualized experience for each guest—no matter how large their customer base is.  

4. Mobile First

97% of Americans own some kind of mobile device, and travelers are now accustomed to accessing amenities and bookings directly from their mobile device. Whether that’s contactless check-in through your mobile app, making restaurant reservations at your resort, or adding on spa packages, you need to increasingly think about how to connect your in-person amenities with mobile access. 

5. A New Kind of Business Center

The way people work has dramatically changed in the last few years, as more companies offer remote-friendly or hybrid office models. 59% of American workers say they now have some flexibility to work from home, according to the Pew Research Center. Increasingly, that’s less tied to their home address and more likely to mean “work from anywhere,” including your hotel. 

That means business and leisure travelers alike bring their laptops with them — and a traditional business center with a few PCs is not going to be an amenity that’s useful. Instead, hotels should consider adding remote work perks, like discounts on multi-week or “workation” stays, staycation packages and rates for workers to get a different perspective in their home city, faster wifi, and more dynamic public spaces designed for remote work.

6. Digital Tipping

While digital tipping has been available for years in other sectors through cash apps like Venmo or PayPal, it’s only just being adopted in the hotel industry. More and more, we’re going to see cashless tipping options available through automated texts, mobile apps, or by placing QR codes in key areas of the property, such as in hotel rooms for housekeeping, at the bar for bartenders, or attached to employee name cards.

With so few Americans carrying cash these days — 3 in 10 Americans say they make no purchases with cash in a given week — digital tipping not only makes it easier for you to track and manage tipping across multiple areas of your property (check-in, housekeeping, pool, restaurant/bar, and so on) but also gives your employees a much-needed boost in earnings. And we all know that happier staff translates to employee retention — and to a happier guest experience.

7. Instant Payments

But what your hotel staff really wants is to have their tips paid out instantly — not for the next payroll, and not on the next business day. According to a recent PYMNTS.com survey, 83% of workers want access to earnings after every shift, and 80% prefer those funds get automatically streamed to their bank accounts.

Kickfin makes it easy to enable cashless tipping for your property, giving you the option to distribute tips to your team in real-time, directly to employees’ existing cards or bank accounts after every shift. See Kickfin in action.

[Video] How Industry Partners are Using Technology to Make Brewery Owners’ Lives Easier w/ CBP

The craft brewing industry is tight-knit, and the community relies on each other for best practices, vendor recommendations, and camaraderie—especially on social media. Thanks to groups like Craft Brew Professionals (CBP), brewery owners can connect to share successes, rant, or ask honest questions about how to better run their businesses.

CBP also opens the dialogue for suppliers, tech companies and other industry leaders to discuss important topics facing breweries. Kickfin co-founder Justin Roberts joined the Craft Brew Professionals Panel to get into all things tech—and why the craft brew industry is still quite analog. The panel included CBP Host Andrew Copolon, PK Agriwal of Beer30, Dan Hornbrook of BrewLogix, Ian Purcell of BarTrack, and Ian McHarg of Country Malt Group

Brewery visitors are seeking new experiences and digital capabilities. 

Much like other service-oriented businesses, brewery owners are noticing that customers want a lot more out of their visit than an extra-hoppy IPA. Dan’s work with BrewLogix gives him lots of insight into brewery customers’ expectations.

According to Dan, “People are looking for more than just products; they’re looking for experiences.” He went on to explain how his website, BreweryDB, helps beer consumers find the right brewery for every occasion. “If you’re searching for a date night with live music or you want to make sure they have a kid-friendly menu, you can look that up and use filters to take a dive deep into the breweries before visiting.”

Part of the brewery experience is also talking to knowledgeable bartenders. Believe it or not, tech can improve your bartenders’ performance and average check size. Justin noted, “One unique evolution that we’ve seen around digital tipping is that it’s finally putting valuable data in the hands of the operator to then empower staff. They’re all there to make money and have fun, but why not show those employees the true reward of giving great service through tip transparency?” 

Andrew added, “One of my favorite metrics is tip percentage because if Dan’s behind the bar and he’s consistently getting tipped 16% but Justin’s getting 26%, Justin’s obviously engaging at a higher level.”

“Customers are looking for a higher pace of knowledge at a brewery compared to a craft beer bar, so how can breweries leverage that?” asked Andrew. “It’s about educating staff on the product so they can talk about it more effectively. In the end, hopefully they’re getting more tips and ringing in more beers. Technology really can give staff a bigger arsenal to get more tips and add more money to their pockets.”

Customers are mainly paying with cards or digitally these days and will soon expect digital capabilities with nearly every service experience, including at breweries. CBP’s Andrew Copolan asked Justin if he expects cash to be phased out in the near future.

“There will always be people that literally want to remain unbanked and pay in cash,” said Justin. “However, more people are on Zelle than ever before, and most younger people are paying digitally. People aren’t even writing checks to pay their bills anymore. As we inch toward over 98% of transactions being cashless in the next five years, I would assume that basically everything would be digital.“

Breweries are behind the learning curve. 

Beer is one of the oldest industries in the world. For centuries, brewers have been refining their crafts and inventing new processes and types of beer. In such an old-world industry, it may not be surprising that technological innovation is lacking. 

“I noticed when I went to breweries that used popular software systems, they would still have a binder full of paper logs, whiteboards, and spreadsheets,” said PK. “I quickly realized that there wasn’t an industry standard when it came to brewery data tracking.”

Dan agreed, “People are still shaking kegs to find out what’s inside of them, which is pretty wild that that’s still the standard practice to know how much beer is left in a keg. We have a great product that helps solve that and saw the opportunity to get some real-time data to people’s hands.”

To drive home the point, Ian from CMG added, “People put bulk malt into silos, and to check the levels, they knock on the silo with a rock or a stick. We thought, why not put automatic sensors in there to tell us when it’s time to place a new order. Or, what if we created an app where customers get prompted to order the same product they ordered last year. Again, we just want to make people’s lives easier.”

Customer feedback is a goldmine.

The panelists all shared their appreciation for customer feedback and how it shapes their business decisions. PK said, “I always tell our clients not to worry about hurting my feelings, I need to know what they hate the most about what we’re doing because that feedback is actually gold to us. It allows us to grow as a company and identify where we can improve ourselves.”

Feedback also empowers them to take a closer look at which services and features really wow their customers so they can improve even further. Dan explained, “It’s really cool to have those moments of realignment and choose to put more time and effort into building out a feature that customers really want. As leaders of our organizations, we have to be humble enough to do things not because we think it’s right but because it’s what the customer wants. It’s not easy, but ultimately, that will guide you in the right direction.”

Of course, tech-minded companies are using social media to get real, honest feedback from their consumers, which they can turn into improved products and features. “Thanks to groups like CBP, everybody can be very vocal about what’s causing them headaches,” said Ian (CMG). “Social media, for all of its challenges, has offered a platform where we can hear what the most people need and why, and that allows folks like us to try and meet those needs. It’s fantastic just to follow the pulse of the industry based on people’s comments, questions, and sometimes even rants in CBP because you learn so much.”

Measuring success.

What does success look like for brewery-tech companies? For most of the panelists, success is becoming a real partner with their customers and providing valuable data. As Andrew put it, “You’re there to be an engaged partner, holding their hand through it. You don’t want to just dump a bunch of data on them; you want to teach them to use that data and really help implement data-informed decision making.”

Dan also hoped for data to drive growth, adding, “Our goal is to deliver data in a way that helps make a business decision that will help them grow. We want it to be data customers can trust, and data that they can use to better prepare staff. Really, we want to empower them to grow their business, so if we see our partners growing, then we’re doing our job right.” 

For Justin, success comes in many forms. Not only does he aim to quickly convince operators of Kickfin’s value, he also hopes to better the lives of the tipped employees. “We are always focused on a 24-hour ROI,” he said. “If we can’t show that digitizing the cash tip-out process is going to save you time, money, and a whole bunch of accounting nightmares within 24 hours, then we’ve lost our seat at the table … Kickfin offers employees a way to live more financially-sound lives by sending that digital money to their bank of choice as soon as their shifts end.”

We were honored to connect with other service-industry leaders who want to help breweries harness the power of tech and data to ultimately strengthen their businesses. To watch the full conversation, click here.