Not all foodservice operations are created equal. For some companies, high transaction volume, a large number of point-of-sale terminals, and complex orders necessitate a powerful POS with all the frills. HT talks to some of these power users to find out what they need to keep up and running. Appell Company has been supplying the Pasadena, California-based Parkway Grill with its POS support for nearly 20 years, so when the restaurant's legacy electronic cash register system began to fail last year, Appell suggested a full-blown point-of-sale solution. On Appell's recommendation, Parkway Grill's management team installed the MaitreÃƒ.Ã.¬Ã‹å"d system by Posera (maitredpos.com) that went live in March.
"Immediately a whole different world of control opened up for us," Parkway Grill manager Zack Ross says. "With the old system, we had to do all the number crunching by hand. Physical inventory counts were laid to waste because we couldn't program it into our POS." A huge asset of the system, according to Zach, is the open architecture design, allowing the system to be modified with a myriad of add-on software. "Being a restaurantÃƒ.Ã.¬"not a corporation or a chainÃƒ.Ã.¬"we have some very unique nuances here at Parkway that can only be handled by a unique system," Zach says.
So what exactly is so unique about Parkway Grill? For starters, a guest is never turned down for anything. "If we have a customer who requests something that's not on our menuÃƒ.Ã.¬"a particular food, wine, dessertÃƒ.Ã.¬Ã‚¦ even if they want their car washedÃƒ.Ã.¬"we're going to do it for them," Zach explains. "And we need to put everything that our guests could possibly want into this POS system." This includes a menu that runs the gamut of food including Pan-American, Asian, Italian, pasta, steaks and alternates for almost every dietary constraint.
MaitreÃƒ.Ã.¬Ã‹å"d allows servers to change menus on the fly and add items at a whim on any of the restaurant's five touch screen POS stations. The deep-editing features in the inventory system can track the most obscure items, even food that is not on the menu and is rarely ordered. "Let's just say somebody wants a hotdog," Zach says. "Well we don't serve hot dogs, but I can certainly program it into the system quickly and then be able to track it towards the end of the month. And I'll know exactly where all of our costs are going, because it's not being lumped into a miscellaneous categoryÃƒ.Ã.¬"it's being tracked as an individual item."
Parkway Grill was so impressed with the system that they are already upgrading to the latest edition, which is expected to give them additional inventory control, a time management tracking system, and upgraded reports and statistical information.
While building a no frills POS system on land might seem like a challenge, take the system out to sea and it really seems daunting. When Steiner Leisure was looking for a new POS system for its 100 sea-based spas, the company had three words in mindÃƒ.Ã.¬"near-zero maintenance. The company has used numerous spa/salon-style solutions in the brick and mortar environment, "but in the maritime environment there was nothing that gave us centralized management capabilities," says Allen Farenhem, Steiner Leisure. So Steiner Leisure turned to Partech (partech.com) for its rugged design and uptime storing. Key items handled by Steiner Leisure's POS environment include:
Ãƒ.Ã.¬Ã‚. resupply of both retail product and professional use products
Ãƒ.Ã.¬Ã‚. revenue tracking for commission-based employees
Ãƒ.Ã.¬Ã‚. maintaining revenue data for reporting purposes
Ãƒ.Ã.¬Ã‚. guest check in and check out
The actual system is fairly compact since it does not include a cash drawer. In this operating model everything is charged through the guest's ship folio thereby eliminating cash transactions. "The interface of the application is primarily a touch screen," Farenhem explains. "There is a keyboard and mouse, but they are largely for management functions. Ninety-five percent of transactions are entered by barcode scanner or through the touch screen."
What makes the system so sophisticated is its extensive use of wireless technology. Farenhem says that the spa has 802.11b and 802.11g solutions tethered together wirelessly. "Since we are a contract provider of services on a ship, we need to bring our own network services," Farenhem explains. "We use wireless because it's so much easier to set up. It was chosen largely because of the practicality of deployment. "
The company also has plans to upgrade to a handheld solution for initial reservation. "From a data management perspective, the most chaotic time on a cruise ship is the embarcation day when guests are boarding the ship there seems to be mad panic to make spa appointments," Farenhem says. "We need to make solutions to manage people during that peak time, and wireless handheld is something we are presently investigating tying into the system."
For a fully installed mobile POS solution, one needs look no further than the San Francisco Bay. The Simco Group's four food service operations at Pier 39 on the San Francisco Bay attract so much tourism on weekends that the restaurants are packed from open to close.
Over the years the company has stream-lined its operation to get the food out quicker and provide faster service. In fact, it got to the point where the restaurants had such a long guest queue that they could predict the exact sales volume they would do on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
While the financial outcome was positive, it left them with no way to increase profits without raising prices. That's when Bob Partrite, director of operations with the Simco Group turned to Menusoft's Digital Dining (digitaldining.com) Mobile Solution using Symbol (symbol.com) MC-50 handheld devices.
After implementing a few units at one restaurant, he realized that the servers that where using the handhelds where turning tables over seven minutes faster than the other servers. He instantly ordered more. According to Partrite, since purchasing the handheld POS solution the company has increased volume on busy days by $3,000 per restaurant or 10 percent over all.
With the mobile system customers can have their credit cards swiped at the table and never have their cards leave their sight. Servers can turn over more tables translating to additional profit and tips, and by replacing some of the conventional terminals with Symbol MC-50 handhelds there is less congestion on the floor.
There is a wireless access point in the middle of the restaurant that is linked to the master computer providing a portal between the handhelds and the back-office applications. Each section of the restaurant has a remote printer that each handheld is linked to, so that the servers don't have to leave their sections.
Wireless flexibility and functionality was also important to Tishman Hotels when it installed the Hospitality Solutions International Profit Series POS software (hsi-solutions.com) for its Swan Hotel and Dolphin Hotel, both in Orlando, Florida, located within Disney World.
The two hotels will use 42 Micros Eclipse terminals, 20 Dell terminals, 9 wireless tablet PCs, and kitchen display systems to power the Profit Series POS application at its 19 foodservice outlets.
"HSI's ability to define comp codes in the POS system allows us to replace our manual system," explains Phillip Stoy, controller of both the Swan and Dolphin Hotels. "Installing HSI's Profit Series POS enables us to take advantage of new functionality and interfaces that were not available in our previous system."
In fact, nearly all point of sale "power users" look for that kind of flexibility in their POS software. Rather than be tied down to a legacy solution that limits their ability to deliver high-quality service, these users focus less on cutting edge features than the system's ability to allow them to improve the quality and delivery of guest services. That kind of flexibility ultimately drives better service, which in turn creates happier customers. "I think the direction of our systems at all our businesses are heading towards a handheld solution, which enables the servers to be on the floor, interacting with guests, and getting the food to the guests quicker," The Simco Group's Partrite concludes. "That's the name of the game. Getting people their food, and getting it to them quickly, because they're hungry.'
Acquisitions drive pos software companies
Point of sale software companies are continuing to flex their collective muscles with new acquisitions. Within the last month, InfoGenesis, Radiant Systems and ParTech have all announced significant acquisitions. if nothing else, these moves provide clear indication that the POS software industry is very much alive and competitive.
Perhaps the biggest acquisition in terms of the size of the two companies was Radiant Systems' purchase of MenuLink Computer Solutions. With more than 9,000 restaurant sites across more than 280 restaurant chains, MenuLink is one of the largest providers of back-office software to the restaurant and foodservice industries. The acquisition is expected to close early fourth quarter of 2005 subject to standard closing conditions and adjustments and Radiant expects the acquisition to be accretive to earnings in 2006.
"MenuLink's Ron Whitaker and Terri Williams agreed to join the Radiant community because we share a common vision of helping restaurant operators' better serve guests and increase profits," explains Andy Heyman, president of the Radiant hospitality division. "This combination enables us to accelerate our ability to do just that."
"With complementary products and markets, we're combining expertise and management of both MenuLink and Radiant to accelerate the delivery of unmatched restaurant solutions," adds Whitaker, president and CEO of MenuLink. "We will also benefit from the strength of Radiant's global service infrastructure and key differentiators such as fully-integrated enterprise reporting, gift cards and loyalty."
Another move promises to reshape the POS software market in a different manner. In August, ParTech announced that it had signed a letter of intent to acquire rival POS software company PixelPoint Technologies. The closing of the transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected in the third quarter of 2005.
With over 5,000 installations in full-service restaurants, PixelPoint's WebPOS and PocketPOS offerings will compliment ParTech's 80,000 plus installation base. software products are reliable, flexible and easy to use.
"This acquisition is a great match for PAR Technology," insists John W. Sammon, PAR Chairman and CEO. "Over the past 18 months we have been focused on expanding our reach into new hospitality markets for PAR with new product offerings that allow us to leverage our existing infrastructure. This acquisition gives us access to hospitality markets and geographical areas PAR has not yet penetrated, and also provides an opportunity to offer PixelPoint clients additional PAR products and support services that will supplement the PixelPoint product lines. "We look forward to continuing to support PixelPoint customers through PAR's service network," says Sammon.
A strategic move
In an effort to drive its Guest Experience Management (GEMTM) strategy, InfoGenesis announced it will acquire Princeton-based e-Touch, a provider of self service web and kiosk food ordering as well as cashless payment solutions. e-Touch applications improve guest experience by giving customers access to food ordering services, faster service, enhanced nutritional information, and more convenient ways to pay for their order.
"e-Touch is the perfect complement to our point-of-sale solution, reinforces our position as the leader in food and beverage POS, and represents an important step in realizing our vision of Guest Experience Management," comments Terry Cunningham, CEO of InfoGenesis. "The addition of e-Touch technology to our product line distances InfoGenesis from our competitors and broadens the solutions we offer to our customers."
What do you think of these or other industry moves? Let us know. Send an email to [email protected]