The future is here, with point of sale systems that offer the latest in digital technology and social networking
Loyalty systems that let you keep in touch with customers via Twitter and Facebook. Smart phone applications that let customers order coffee in advance, so their brew’s ready when they arrive. Or how about self-service ordering where customers simply swipe a card and their food’s delivered.
This may all sound like stuff of the future, but it’s very much here and on offer for the restaurant and catering industry. Point of sale (POS) systems have come a long way from the touch-screen cash register. There are now integrated systems to link every facet of the business, hand-held devices to streamline ordering and bill-paying, and a range of marketing software systems to help boost customer and business networks.
The benefits, in cost and efficiency savings, can be vast, but initial set-ups can be costly, so it pays to do the research to find a system to suit the size and nature of your business.
The biggest shift in point of sale systems for the restaurant and catering industry is to integrated systems. Instead of a collection of devices and software working independently, integrated systems run the lot together, from accounting and marketing systems, to hand-held ordering devices linked to billing and stock-ordering systems. The obvious benefits are cost and time efficiencies, which all have a big impact on the business’s bottom line.
“A lot of people come from a place where it’s a single point of sale terminal for processing sales, but the next leap is to a system that’s integrated into all your business needs,” says Alexander Cooke, product manager with Fedelta Point of Sale. Along with avoiding time-consuming practices like having to double-enter data and results into different systems, integrated systems reveal an extensive range of information about how a business is running and performing.
“Reporting on sales is just a small part of the picture,” says Cooke. “If you’ve got information on what staff are costing, to the minute, you can see if, for example, you’re not profitable between 10 and 11am because you’ve got too many staff on. Business intelligence like this lets you make informed decisions.”
Hand-held ordering devices have been around for years, but the latest versions are more user-friendly, robust and offer even better connectivity with other integrated systems.
“We estimate you can save up to 30 per cent on floor staff with the latest hand-held devices and software,” says Mark Calabro, sales manager with Ordermate. “There are less people double-handling the order and it means staff can more efficiently get orders through.”
New media connections
One of the most exciting new developments in POS systems is with new marketing software systems that lets a business connect with a wider customer base more easily and cheaply.
“The hottest thing for us at the moment is the marketing side of new systems,” says Mark Calabro, of Ordermate. “The integration of social media tools like Twitter and Facebook in the automated software means the owner or manager can go into, say, a Twitter button and post a message so everyone following the business can see it.”
That contrasts with existing systems where a bar or restaurant might have a database of customers’ email or mobile contacts, and could send out an SMS to alert them to a special or promotion, say, a Friday night drinks special.
“But it would cost a few hundred dollars at least and can be quite a messy process,” Calabro says. “Now with Twitter, it’s just a matter of punching the message out on the main screen, it costs nothing as you’re already online. It’s a real business tool.”
Loyalty and marketing-based software can bring big savings and profits to a business.
“A simple software module can give the same effect as a dedicated marketing person, which some of the bigger restaurants employ,” says Alex Cooke, of Fedelta.
Another new technology to benefit some restaurants and cafes are smart phone applications that link customers with the business. “We’ve looked at things like iPhone applications for coffee ordering,” says Guy Wrethman, of Sorento Systems. “There are two ways they can be used. Either you’re within a certain proximity of the venue and you receive an SMS on a special or something, but these have to be permission based. Or, the customer is, say, on the train, and can place an order using their phone, tell them they’re 20 minutes away, and have some sort of account to pay in advance.”
Even more futuristic is the concept of self-service ordering in some takeaway venues, but the reality is here.
“We’ve been approached to look at self-service kiosk-type systems, where you place your order, swipe your card and wait for the order to be handed over,” says Wrethman. “They’ve been used in Japan for a lot of years, so it does exist.”
The right system
For most businesses, the cost of setting up a new system is a major issue, along with working out what type of system might best suit the business. Smaller businesses obviously don’t need the level of integration a larger business might.
Hand-held ordering systems and integrated accounting and stocktaking systems, for example, are a must for bigger, high-turnover venues.
“They’re great for city venues, say, where there’s a lot of traffic during lunch hour and you want the orders to go through fast,” says Mark Calabro, from Ordermate.
“Even small cafes with a single POS system and a small turnover can have all their customers registered on the system, and it can help you understand how people are spending their money,” says Calabro. When considering the investment in new technology and systems, look at the potential cost and efficiency savings. Also, consider the cost-effective option of leasing new systems. “No one would purchase these systems if there wasn’t a strong return on investment,” says Alex Cooke, of Fedelta. “Integrated systems can pay themselves off within months.” ⎮