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Leading Analyst on 2008 POS Trends

Advances in the POS market continue at lightning pace, in all aspects ranging from systems with robust workforce applications to hardware with low to no environmental impact. Lee Holman, lead retail analyst for IHL Group (Franklin, Tenn.) shares with HT his predictions for POS trends that will continue to have an impact on the foodservice industry over the coming year. 
Holman predicts that retail-hardened products will continue to be attractive to operators for their ability to stand up to grease, spillage and other abuse. These hardened technologies will not necessarily come at the expense of environmentally sound technologies, however.

"One of the things we heard over and over from the major manufacturers at a conference this year was their emphasis on 'green' issues," he notes. "There is a lifecycle associated with POS hardware and peripherals, so the manufacturing process has 'green' issues attached to it, such as where the raw materials come from."

Also on IHL's watch-list are enhanced customer relationship management (CRM) applications. In an upscale restaurant, for example, some POS systems allow the valet to communicate with the hostess, notifying her that Dr. and Mrs. Smith have just pulled up. "The hostess can then communicate with the bar and the restaurant, so when Dr. and Mrs. Smith enter, they are led to their favorite table and their favorite drinks are already being prepared," Holman explains.

Continuing with the trend to improve customer service, new payment options are being explored by name operators. "One thing we are seeing is more wireless, especially in terms of pay at the table technology, which helps to prevent credit card skimming," says Holman, also noting that although pay-at-table implementations are few, interest on both the operator and the consumer side is high.

Also gaining in popularity are systems that can integrate both the foodservice side of the business and any retail outlets the restaurant may have. Such functionality is of particular benefit to outfits such as Cracker Barrel, Hard Rock Cafe, and Starbucks, which are both restaurant and retail establishments.

With an eye to workforce, there continues to be an emphasis on Windows-based systems, which help alleviate the impact of high turnover rates that historically plague the foodservice industry. "Almost everyone is familiar with Windows, because they have it on their PCs at home," Holman states.

Some of the functionality being built into new POS software includes workforce management (WFM) applications such as labor scheduling and time/attendance. "This is the result of demand from the employers, partly because of turnover issues," explains Holman. That is, more employers are interested in what they can do to make it easier and more convenient for employees to schedule themselves. There are also some biometrics involved in the time/attendance applications. "As with the wireless applications, there isn't a huge foothold with WFM, but interest is growing."

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