Few things go together better than beer and baseball. That’s a great thing for Ari Strauss, who owns and operates Sluggers, a sports bar (and more) just steps away from historic Wrigley Field. Strauss runs Sluggers alongside his two older brothers, and between the three of them, there's always one of them on the floor, replacing a keg, grabbing a broom, or tapping in orders. In a neighborhood where new hotels, fast food chains, and entertainment options keep popping up like spring flowers, Sluggers is uniquely family-owned—and after 35 years of business, it has staying power. 

Reporting helps owner-operator Ari Strauss keep labor costs in check at Sluggers Chicago.

There’s nothing wrong with a corporately owned bar, but that’s not Sluggers. The downstairs boasts two full bars, a kitchen, and enough TVs to make a Best Buy jealous. But while downstairs Sluggers embodies the platonic ideal of the sports bar, it’s the upstairs that makes the place unique and keeps generations of Chicagoans (and out-of-towners) coming back. There are batting cages—and yes, you can bring your beer—and arcade games. Air hockey. A dueling piano bar. It’s where boredom goes to die. 

Between abundant activities and Sluggers’ proximity to Wrigley Field, foot traffic has never been an issue between late March to September (or, once every 100 years, early November). For baseball fans, there are two seasons: baseball and winter. The same is true for Sluggers, where seasonality calls for two distinct sets of operational needs. 

To accommodate the summer crowds, Strauss set up a kitchen window where guests can walk up, order a slice, and pay. “Having a station inside the kitchen is not ideal. It’s hectic. It’s hot,” says Strauss. “The handheld POS gives us the option and has allowed us to continue the luxury of easy ordering for our customers.” 

Handheld pos system at Sluggers Chicago
With a handheld POS system, Sluggers servers can handle the booming patio with no problem.

Before Sluggers switched to a bar POS system, booming guest traffic meant ballooning close-outs. Each server would have to spend hours manually tabulating orders and sifting through receipts. It meant the risk of a calculation error, or worse: papercuts. Now, bartenders and servers can process card and cash payments faster, increasing the speed of service and shrinking close-out. “SpotOn has definitely made it easier for us to hold our staff accountable,” says Strauss. “They have their own reports. Closing with SpotOn is way easier.”

During the other half of the year, Strauss faces a different set of challenges. Quiet months give the Sluggers team a much-needed chance to recuperate. But it also means Strauss needs to dial in his labor and food costs to accommodate slower sales. Where they used to follow a rhythm in the winter and summer seasons, using gut instinct to sufficiently handle the volume, now Strauss can use reporting from the POS to optimize staffing and ordering. 

“You want to optimize your staff’s opportunity to make money every day. If you overstaff, you’re wearing tips thin. You want to find the middle ground of operating efficiently while allowing your bartenders and servers to make money as well.” – Ari Strauss, Owner, Sluggers

With restaurant scheduling software, Strauss can create data-informed schedules based on past sales (in less time, too). It has been a win for the Sluggers staff, who can trade shifts and get approval all through the employee app. On the operator side, switching from pen-and-paper has helped Strauss minimize overtime costs and cut the laborious task of payroll in half. 

Server uses bar pos system at Sluggers Chicago
Server close-outs have decreased thanks to the new bar POS system.

Detailed reporting also helps Strauss have more informed conversations with his vendors. When it comes to selling beer, everyone is on the same team. An accessible PMIX report tells Strauss which beers are selling and which aren’t and helps him make critical decisions on which beers get the prime real estate of Sluggers’ draft handles.

Wrigleyville in April is an optimistic place. While the homestands are cold, the heartbreak and disappointment associated with being the doormat of the National League haven't yet set in. But after 35 years in business, the Strauss family has seen the good times and the bad and will keep serving beer and revving up batting cages during both. 

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