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HungerRush Interviews Jen Zeuner & Anne Keller of the Hot Tomato Cafe & Pizzeria

How long have you been in the food service industry, Jen & Anne?
We opened the Hot Tomato in June of 2005 with no real food service experience. Anne, growing up in the Seattle area, worked in coffee shops as a teenager and Jen, growing up in NJ, worked in pizzerias. But neither of us had much experience in the real world of food.

Was there a particular issue that led you to choosing an all-in-one POS system like HungerRush?
Not a particular issue, we knew in order to keep up with the growth of our business we needed a system that was user friendly and capable of providing us with the information that we needed.

Businesswise, do you feel that modern technology, specifically an all-in-one solution such as HungerRush, is mandatory in today’s highly competitive restaurant industry?
Absolutely! When we think back to how much time we lost hand writing tickets and creating our own Excel files to track things, it’s just silly. The backside of things is sooo much easier. With HungerRush, we are able to make changes and updates on our own and in real time when we need to. Also, having the ability to access our sales and reports via our phone or computer without having to be in the restaurant really saves a ton of time.

Do you believe that a POS system has a direct impact on a customer’s experience?
Yes, definitely, especially when you have a line out the door for hours at a time! The guest knows that even though that line may be long, our time at the register is pretty quick! It’s great to have a POS system that is efficient and accurate – not only for the guest, but for the staff as well.

How do you feel that HungerRush has added to your brand?
Having a reliable POS system allows us to give our guests a faster and more accurate register experience. Food and beer are getting to the guests faster now and we have fewer mistakes. This fits in with our customer service ethos and people know that we are on top of it. Once they give us their order they can sit back, relax and enjoy the experience!

Had you used a POS system prior to HungerRush, and if so, what can you tell us about the experience?
We did use a different POS for quite some time. Some things were good but other aspects were really difficult. The software would crash a lot and it never failed that it would be when we were super busy. The reporting was extremely difficult to export, so even though it was there we couldn’t really use it.

What was the biggest frustration with your previous POS company? What directive led you to research another point of sale solution?
The crashing was the most difficult thing, as guests just want to place an order and get their food, not hear us tell them that our system crashed. Finally, after hearing it wouldn’t crash any more (which it did), we started researching other POS systems.

When referencing “ease of use” how does HungerRush compare to your previous system? Do you have a particular example on this difference?
The training aspect is much easier than before. New employees seem to pick it up with a lot less training time. As far as the backside of things, there are a ton of options and the more we use it, the more things we seem to find!

How does HungerRush assist in speeding up operations?
The caller ID feature really speeds our phone orders up and allows us to give more attention to the guests that are in our establishment.

How much faster do you think operations have sped up for your store since installing HungerRush?
Our phone order process probably takes a minute or two off the initial call as it pulls up the existing customer with the caller ID feature.

When selecting a POS company, technology should be part of your initiative. This is commonly forgotten as many POS software options were designed on technology platforms that originated over 20 years ago. How would you compare the technology that HungerRush has to your previous POS provider?
I don’t think many of us think about the technology aspect until we see what we don’t have. There are many things that have helped with our growth and the technology that is now offered is what has helped us with this growth. Initial POS training is much easier than ever with HungerRush, and new employees can really pick up the register aspect quickly, which allows us to spend more time on other aspects of their training. Being able to remote into our system or use an app on our phones to check sales – it’s just mind blowing!

When changing POS providers, it is very important to have your entire staff adopt this change. How did your staff react and accept the new HungerRush POS System?
The staff was really excited about the ease of use. We had one day in which everyone came in for about an hour after we had our initial training. We opened the next day and everyone was pretty solid. At first I think they were skeptical but after a bit of time they were all really happy!

If you were to name the best features within HungerRush, what would they be? How do each of these features compare to Speedline?
The caller ID is a great feature and every restaurant should invest in that feature, as it makes phone orders much faster. Also the pre-authorized card feature is great for guests that want to keep a tab open. We no longer have to hold credit cards behind the counter nor have people leave without paying! This is a huge bonus!!!! We didn’t have either of those options with our former POS provider.

In terms of training staff on the point of sale system, how would you compare HungerRush to your previous provider?
Training the front of the house has been really easy in comparison. The back office/mgr training has been really easy. Our previous POS was really difficult to change items and pricing and create coupons and such. HungerRush is super easy when it comes to that stuff, especially because it is not stuff that you do often. Any of our mgrs can jump in on the office side of things and handle pretty much anything.

What has been the most rewarding part of your journey thus far with Hot Tomato?
The most rewarding part for us has been being told by many of our guests how the HT is their home away from home and that they support us because of the culture that we have created, the positive experience we give them and how much we are involved with our community. We never dreamed we would take the Hot Tomato to this level and it’s been an incredibly inspiring journey.

Being as successful as you are, what advice would you give to other owner/operators out there like yourself?
From the beginning we knew that it was going take more than just a good pizza to get people to support us. Our vision was to give our community what they wanted. We knew we needed to give mind blowing customer service, invest in a great staff and our community, and produce good food with good ingredients or we we’re going to be like everyone else. For us, this has been a great recipe for success and along the way we have been able to make it fun and inspiring! We also realized that with the growth of our business over the years, we had to invest in technology as well. Most of us just want to make the pizza or come up with that amazing dish and we forget how important it is to have the time and the information to run the business. We have saved so much time and energy with the advances in technology. Time that we get to spend being outdoors, riding our bikes and enjoying life!