Integrated POS Tames Cincinnati Zoo Growth Challenges

Modern zoos operations like the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden have become multi-faceted entertainment destinations where visitors can view animals from around the world, enjoy rides and attractions, attend lectures and special seasonal events, and experience a variety of eating and shopping opportunities. To optimize the efficiency of its growing and increasingly complex facility, the Cincinnati Zoo recently selected ParTech’s PAR point-of-sale (POS) technology as the linchpin of an integrated ticketing, retail and foodservice solution. The comprehensive new solution has enabled the Zoo to manage increased visitor attendance while boost per capita visitor spending by approximately 25 percent. 
Ranked among the world’s top zoos, the award-winning Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden features more than 500 animal and 3000 plant species and hosts more than one million visitors, annually. Its various operations previously ran on different hardware and software platforms, making it impossible to cross-promote or analyze the business across its various segments. As attendance grew and operations became more complex, the Zoo needed a new, integrated system that would enable it to track visitor preferences and purchase trends, implement cross promotions and seasonable operational adjustments, increase guest convenience and loyalty, and optimize sales and profitability while making more guest-centric decisions. 
When standardization pays off
The Zoo’s food and retail partner, Service Systems Associates (SSA), created a solution that features Gateway Galaxy transactional software running on PAR EverServ 6000 terminals along with BrightStar Partners’ implementation of IBM Cognos business intelligence software for real-time reporting, analytics and event notification.
The Zoo had first used PAR hardware in 2008 to replace PC-based cash registers for its ticketing operations. Based on that success, the Zoo chose to standardize on the latest PAR EverServ 6000 terminals for the launch of its integrated system upgrade. The Zoo added seven PAR EverServ 6000 terminals in July 2010 for its retail operations, 18 more in October for its foodservice locations, and another seven PAR EverServ units by year’s end in its ride and theater areas. According to John Lucas, the Zoo’s director of park operations, the Zoo wanted to launch its system upgrade with POS terminals that had ultra-durable, shock- and spill-resistant casings so they could be located anywhere in the park. The Zoo also wanted a solution with minimal cabling to reduce clutter and accidental failures, and a power-efficient architecture so they could cut energy costs while enhancing reliability.
“We chose PAR’s EverServ POS terminals for many reasons, including their proven reliability and efficiency, rugged design, convenient touch-screen display and sleek appearance,” says John Lucas, the Zoo’s director of park operations. “The PAR EverServ terminals’ ease of use and Gateway’s efficient software have enabled our staff to increase foodservice line speeds by 20 percent, which has made it easier for us to introduce key new food concepts, serve more visitors, and handle substantially higher transaction volumes. The terminals have operated flawlessly through major Zoo events including an October Halloween 2010 promotion that boosted average daily attendance approximately 30 percent across three consecutive weekends.”
The PAR EverServ 6000 terminals provide the necessary flexibility, scalability, durability and performance to operate in a wide range of environments, from retail stores to restaurants and any other hospitality format. Having a single, unified ticketing, retail and foodservice IT infrastructure throughout the Zoo simplifies staff training since employees only need to learn one system, with one highly intuitive touchscreen interface. The PAR EverServ terminals also run significantly faster than older POS equipment, enabling the staff to take orders and process credit cards more quickly. 
“The speed and reliability of the PAR terminals has been absolutely stellar, which is critical for an operation like ours whose POS systems get extremely heavy usage nine to twelve hours each day, in locations that are vulnerable to spills and inclement weather,” says Lucas. “The terminals combine everything we need including an integrated card swipe, high-quality touch-screen display, and a rugged yet aesthetically pleasing design.”
Promoting growth
The Zoo’s new, unified solution has enabled it to support growing attendance and new visitor offerings. It also has been used to create ticketing, food and retail cross promotions that have significantly increased per capita spending. In the first eight days after the new system was deployed, spending had already increased from $1.74 to $2.85 per visitor in just the retail operations.
Additionally, the Zoo now has a more comprehensive picture of park sales and attendance, which has improved operational decision-making. In one example, management received a request to close a retail shop whose business was slow. The data showed, however, that the shop delivered consistently delivered significantly higher sales in the afternoons, so the decision was made to keep the shop open. As the trend continues, the Zoo has the potential to realize thousands of dollars in annual sales that would not have been realized had it executed its original decision to close the shop.
With its new, integrated system in place, the Cincinnati Zoo is well positioned to continue its mission of creating adventure, conveying knowledge, conserving nature and serving the community. Its POS platform can support new capabilities such as RAID real-time storage-time backup, biometric fingerprint and iButton security sign in, and expanded I/O and wireless connectivity. The new system will enable the Zoo to support ongoing growth while streamlining reporting and ensuring fast, easy access to all sales and attendance data. It will also enable the Zoo to improve its operational efficiency and maximize revenue opportunities while providing the information it needs to enhance its ongoing relationship with its valued guests.
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