Thanks to cloud-based solutions, mobile ordering and payments, and myriad self-service options, kiosks, and drive-thru, restaurant point of sale (POS) systems now touch every aspect of the business — including frontline, kitchen, back office, and off-prem.
While the expansive role of POS in everything from basic payments to inventory, scheduling, and data strategy has been years in the making, its evolution kicked into high gear in 2020 in response to new guest expectations during the pandemic.
Perhaps one feature of POS became more vital than ever: The flexibility to adapt to new demands and expectations, to integrate seamlessly with new plug-ins, and to help facilitate a truly connected restaurant ecosystem.
Here, we will take a look at the importance of implementing a truly flexible POS, and what the future may hold.
Church’s Chicken's New POS Transforms Digital Operations
A truly flexible POS can transform operations, allowing restaurants to leverage off-prem and digital channels to enhance revenue. The days of the traditional countertop system have given way to dynamic solutions that manage everything from locations and employees to menus, pricing, data and analytics, and even third-party integrations.
When Church’s Chicken sought a new enterprise POS partner for its 1,000 U.S. locations, it chose Qu Beyond as part of an ongoing effort to transform its digital operations. “Moving our technology systems off legacy software to modern, API-first solutions will help us collect and use valuable data, improving our marketing and sales intelligence, and ultimately providing more personalized experiences to our guests,” said Dusty Profumo, EVP and Chief Financial Officer for Church’s Chicken in a statement. Church’s franchisees are gaining access to a unified POS that utilizes a single menu management system for on- and off-premise orders.
POS Insights From Amir Hudda, Chief Executive Officer, Qu Beyond
What are some of the benefits of connecting with restaurant customers via omnichannel?
Qu focuses on QSR and fast casual only, a true commerce platform for those kinds of restaurants. Ten years ago, you went to a restaurant and got served and off you went. Now, there are multiple channels — in-store, kiosk, hand-held, drive-thru, online ordering, mobile, catering, native and third-party delivery — a unified commerce platform is essential. Omnichannel Suite is a native out-of-the-box solution that gives operators choices: They can use our applications or the partners we integrate with (for example, UberEats and DoorDash). And we provide freedom of choice to partner with best-in-class providers for loyalty and back of house.
How can restaurants optimize e-commerce to maximize customer satisfaction and ROI?
We call it a unified commerce platform because it’s not just “e-commerce” anymore. More than half of restaurant revenue comes from the store and will for a while. Understanding the in-store experience is important — to look at it holistically as commerce. Yes, we can digitize the in-store experience, but also recognize that it is different from online. How do you co-brand/cross-brand and share information in real time with data at your fingertips? A good example is the virtual brand, which uses existing kitchens to create a new menu that can be turned on in six weeks. Our platform also allows for “multi-concept” in the same store (for instance, a soup & sandwich concept alongside smoothies).
Can you speak to the benefits of a platform that allows restaurants to pivot efficiently and adapt to evolving needs and expectations?
Brand loyalty and guest experience are critical to the ability to pivot and adapt. The experience of ordering from home or ordering in the store shouldn’t be different. A kiosk solution, for instance, can be turned on in the store, but it exists online. The experience of using the kiosk should be the same as ordering online or mobile. That is why we offer a single menu management platform across all order channels.
What are some critical considerations for restaurant operators regarding internal teams and their ability to connect with one another and deliver on — and exceed — guest expectations?
The “connected restaurant” is what we think about. But that means much more than just the technology: A big piece of it is the needs of staff. For example, when third-party delivery took off, it added a new tablet to your store, so now the store manager and employees have tablets on their counters instead of food. Those orders get printed from the tablet, then someone has to key in that order to the POS. Wouldn’t it be nice if those orders went right into the kitchen? Our system adjusts automatically to different prices for different third-party delivery partners, different sales tax depending on location. That’s how Qu thinks about this. We call it “dynamic stores” with “dynamic items.”
Flexibility Is Key
We always hope that HT’s annual POS Software Trends Report inspires and informs restaurant operators and solution providers. Well, our most recent edition, the 2021 POS Software Trends Report: Accelerating Innovation, inspired us as well. We noted that adding new functionality/features/modules to current POS software was a priority for 65% of operators, and that 25% of respondents plan to install POS software from a new vendor in 2021, up from 12% a year earlier. In addition, 50% plan to develop and/or deploy POS for use on a mobile device.
We interpret this data as an indication of the need for flexibility. A POS that can easily integrate new functionality, features, and modules is best positioned for the kind of pivoting our industry has come to accept as the new normal — including the installation of new software and development and deployment of mobile POS strategies.
Meltwich Pivots to Off-Prem Thanks to POS
Meltwich, a Toronto-based grilled cheese concept, achieved flexibility thanks to Givex's POS, which facilitates the streamlining of operations across nearly 20 locations. During the pandemic, as restaurants had to shut down in-person dining, Meltwich quickly pivoted operations to online ordering to meet the growing demand for off-prem. Meltwich was able to seamlessly integrate Givex’s POS system into its delivery platform of choice, ensuring uninterrupted service to guests. Meltwich has also been able to leverage insights obtained from its POS so that they can implement system-wide changes efficiently. As a result, Meltwich has maintained strong sales.
POS Insights From Graham Campbell, COO, Givex
What are some critical considerations for restaurants seeking to implement a new POS?
It’s important to look at the solution through a lens of your business needs and growth plans. Investing in a new point of sale comes with a cost and you want a solution that will grow with your business for the foreseeable future. The ideal candidate should be robust, flexible, integrated with other applications that you use today, open to adding more integrations and have great support. It is important that the solution inject operational efficiencies into your day to day activities, alleviating not adding duplication of efforts, being intuitive and easy to use for your staff and offering actionable insights for you to continue to refine your business operations.
As customer demand for personalization grows, how does a robust loyalty program help restaurants deliver on expectations?
A robust loyalty program can be a game changer. Ideally, the solution will be able to enhance your customer experience by informing your staff of key information that will help improve guest experience while also offering tools to help your marketing team engage with key segments of your guests offering incentives to try new features, winning back less frequent customers, and rewarding your most loyal ones. At the end of the day that means the solution needs to have a great focus on data with solid reporting and be tightly integrated into your customer facing applications to reduce friction and deliver on guest expectations.
What role can gift cards play in the customer relationship and revenue?
Gift Cards can play many roles, on the one hand it is pretty much assumed that any business today should offer physical and digital gift cards, having these means customers that like your business can easily gift or receive your brands gift cards. In the past year and a half the use of Gift Cards as a form of Restaurant Bond allowed merchants to offer Gift Cards at a discounted rate in order to generate much needed revenue to stay afloat. Taking things even further, with the right provider, Gift Cards become your businesses currency, giving customers the ability to load funds onto their account pay when ordering online or in person and above all else it opens the door to further customer engagement.
For customers who value self service, how can kiosks integrate efficiently into POS? Can kiosks enhance restaurants’ ability to upsell?
Kiosks are going to play an increasingly important role in the future of restaurants given the labor challenges of today and increasing customer demand for flexibility and self-service options, kiosks service both these needs elegantly, if done right. Ideally, the kiosk should be an extension of your point of sale, delivering a similar experience to your customer as you offer Online, In-App or On-Premise. There is strong evidence to suggest that customers spend more when ordering from a kiosk. Research suggests more than half of QSR customers are more likely to choose an establishment that offers self-service kiosks, and McDonald’s estimates that customers spend about $1 more per order when using a kiosk. So, provided your menu is well designed with embedded upselling opportunities, a tightly integrated kiosk can be a great compliment to your business.
Open API Drives The Salad Station's Choice of POS
When The Salad Station selected the Revel Enterprise business platform earlier this year, as the fast-casual chain seeks regional growth, open API was one of the decisive factors, along with ease of setup and streamlining franchisee operations. Revel’s open API facilitates integration of partner technologies for customer engagement, marketing, loyalty, and more.
(Revel also received Hospitality Technology’s Industry Hero Award for debuting a new standalone online ordering solution that could be added to a restaurant’s ops -- regardless of POS solution, and also creating the Revel Relief Program for clients experiencing excessive hardship due to COVID-19.)
POS Insights From Chris Lybeer, Chief Strategy Officer, Revel Systems
What are the most important considerations for restaurant IT leaders when implementing a new POS?
The pandemic highlighted the importance of an agile and adaptable POS that can do much more than process orders on site. A modern POS must now be able to support omnichannel commerce, integrate with third-party delivery providers, and help businesses easily and accurately process off-premise orders on site.
Restaurant IT leaders should also consider a cloud-based POS solution designed to nimbly adapt to market changes and scale alongside businesses. Cloud solutions allow operators to make critical business decisions and updates from anywhere at any time.
How important is flexibility in a POS system (e.g., ability to integrate add-on software and communicate with other channels?
Flexibility is a critical characteristic of a modern POS platform. This was made abundantly clear when the pandemic struck and restaurants with legacy POS solutions were struggling to launch mission-critical add-ons, including online ordering and delivery management. A POS solution with an open API also offers an essential layer of flexibility—restaurants can customize their POS with best-of-breed solutions or custom integrations that meet their unique requirements.
What are some of the advantages of employing a POS-integrated tablet solution for restaurant operators? How does it meet customer needs? How does it help streamline restaurant operations?
A tablet-based solution means it’s easy to bring the POS to customers, helping operators meet customers where they are—including popup environments like food trucks and festivals—while improving the customer experience with faster total speed of service and a fluid ordering process. Equipping servers with mobile order takers helps improve order accuracy and reduces wait times by sending orders directly to the kitchen. Restaurants can also utilize mobile order takers for line busting—they help keep lines flowing and reduce the risk of losing a sale due to wait times. Also, tablet POS systems operate with intuitive user interfaces that employees are used to at home, which makes training exceptionally easy.
What are some of the advantages of employing a kiosk-based ordering system? Are there critical considerations for restaurants who want to install kiosks?
With the labor shortage facing restaurants, a record number of restaurants have reinforced their operations with self-service technology, such as kiosks. Kiosks empower customers to safely order and pay for their meals while increasing operational efficiency across the board. Successful self-service kiosk implementations often involve enhanced personalization and branding touchpoints throughout the ordering process, support for contactless payments and an integration with a loyalty program.
Critical Considerations for POS Security
As POS has expanded its role to touch every aspect of the restaurant, cybersecurity concerns have become top of mind. With that in mind, the Restaurant Technology Network (RTN) recently completed a seven-month-long collaborative workgroup, uniting restaurant operators and suppliers in a common mission: to uncover and document best practices for securing the point-of-sale.
“We wanted to make cybersecurity more accessible to the industry,” said workgroup member Tim Tang, Director, Enterprise Solutions for HughesON. “What do you do initially, versus how you grow your cybersecurity stack as your business grows. We’ve included things like third-party integration, privacy considerations, infrastructure from a managed SD-WAN perspective or WiFi. The emerging brands, as well as the more mature brands, can really get a lot out of it.”