MURTEC Insights: POS in the Cloud

At the recent Multi-Unit Restaurant Technology Forum (MURTEC), a group of industry executives discussed the migration of point-of-service to the cloud (POSC).  This gathering was comprised of the head of IT for a European table service restaurant chain, the director of IT for a Midwest casual dining restaurant, the VP of infrastructure for a nationwide pizza chain, and the technology manager for a West Coast pizza chain.
The conversation began with the group members marveling that it wasn’t that long ago that the most advanced technology in the industry involved using punch cards at the main office or a 150-pound counter-top cash register at the restaurant. Modern POS concerns often center around wireless interference between the microwaves in the kitchen and the handheld devices in the front of the restaurant, or how well social networking efforts are being utilized by customers who carry around $400 cell phones that have more capabilities than the SAT/NAV systems used by Navy SEALs.
Participants were asked what future adoption plans they had for POSC. Currently, none of these particular players were planning on implementing it within the next couple of years. The general consensus was that within certain parameters, POSC was something that would be viable down the road, but it didn’t strike them as being “ready for prime time” just yet, at least insofar as their current operations were concerned.
Security questions linger
Security remains a hot button concern in terms of POSC and the discussion on security took up a majority of the time. Concerns were raised about physical security, e-security, and privacy. The participants were unsure of whether retailers/restaurateurs or third-party data services stand a better chance of securing data.
At an absolute minimum, the POS and the payment solutions need to be on separate networks. Summing up, security is a prime concern for these professionals, and they each realize that there is no silver bullet in adopting POSC.
Uncertain costs raise red flags
Lower up-front costs are often touted as being on the “pro” side of the POSC discussion. The idea of getting a “POSC bill” each month like a water bill is attractive to some extent. But the concern these participants expressed was in the lack of definition readily available for the on-going costs.
Defining technology with an uncertain maturity level
The panel expressed concern that there still exists a fair amount of uncertainty in the definition of what POSC truly looks like. They agreed that as time passes, and more clarity is brought to bear, that more peace of mind may be found with POSC. That said, none of them were willing, at that moment, to be guinea pigs for advancing the technology.

All in the timing
The potential for seconds being added to response times is a concern for restaurateurs, whether it causes a backup at a single restaurant or enterprise-wide. These professionals asserted that if POSC became a part of their enterprise, that a backup plan (typically a resume/resync function in the POS) would need to be firmly in place in the event of a system outage beyond their control.
The discussion came to a conclusion with a mention about the coming conversion to EMV/Chip & PIN in the U.S. One participant’s comment summed up the group’s overall consensus, “It’s about time!”

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