If "cash is king" during tough economic times, then the technology used to process cash becomes more important than ever.
A good electronic point of sale (EPoS) system is at the heart of any successful hospitality business and the technology is evolving rapidly.
Operators considering a new EPoS system need to think carefully about business objectives and ask specific questions, according to Mike Brand, chief executive of EPoS and cashless payment provider Uniware.
"You need to ask yourself what are the outcomes you are after and how can the Epos systems you are looking at match those outcomes?" he says. "Rather than just asking what a particular system can do."
Dave Chunilal, director of EPoS provider Nisyst, says hospitality operators should look at providers that can cater for growth and provide head office and warehousing software.
"This way, if your business does expand you won't have the burden of having to find a new provider to support you in terms of software and support," he says. "It's also important to ensure that the EPoS system offers you key reporting modules as standard, but allows you to purchase additional modules at a later date if required."
Evaluating the type of software the manufacturer creates is another important, yet overlooked area, according to Chunilal. Some software manufacturers create software that will only run on certain types of hardware, which may prove costly in terms of maintenance in the long run, as hardware will become more difficult to replace, he warns.
"Try to find a provider that can cater for a variety of EPoS hardware," Chuninal says. "Therefore, if your printer breaks and has been discontinued, you'll at least have the option of replacing it with a more up-to-date model. Remember, the quality of the software should be your first concern - evaluate this first before looking at what hardware is on offer."
Looking ahead, development of mobile payment systems have to be the ones to watch out for, whether it's the introduction of payment apps on mobiles and iPads, or the "wave and pay" functionality on the next generation of mobile phones, predicts Brand.
The main phone operators are thought to be on the verge of introducing Near-Field Communication (NFC) technology which automatically links to financial account information, enabling users to "wave and pay" simply by placing their mobile phone or iPad near to a contactless reader.
"At the moment, the phone operators are looking at enabling users to make payments of up to £15. Particularly if it goes beyond the £15 limit, it will have massive potential within the hospitality sector," says Brand.
"Anybody who doubts this happening only has to look at the Orange/Barclaycard intention to roll-out its contactless payment technology on mobile phones this summer, with retail outlets such as EAT and Little Chef already lined up with the relevant ‘reader technology' to facilitate this."
Three key benefits of EPoS systems
1 Improves cash and stock management and extra security
In the current economic climate, businesses need to do everything they can to maintain their cash flow and a good electronic point of sale (EPoS) system will help them to do this by keeping accurate stock control data thereby ensuring that they do not overstock.
2 Saves time and money, increases transaction speed and improves the quality and accuracy of service
It will also improve business efficiency and productivity and reduce fraud. Used correctly it will also help the business to build intelligence, compare performance and grow profits.
3 Allows an operation to make informed business decisions
The data that it stores in relation to information on patterns and details of what sells best and when is invaluable to businesses. It helps them to maximise their sales by making any adjustments necessary based on the real life data gathered. In addition, an EPoS system can be used very successfully to track the success of any special promotions.
Source: Carl Harris, director, EPoS provider Gardiff
Five areas to focus on when rolling out EPoS systems
Staffing Employees are the "make or break" element. The best electronic point of sale (EPoS) system in the world will never achieve its goals unless staff members understand its business objective, are made to feel they are part of the decision-making process and are adequately trained.
Processes and procedures Evaluate your business processes and procedures before implementing your new EPoS system. Make sure employees understand the changes the system will bring to their jobs and involve all teams whose processes and procedures will be affected by a more sophisticated system.
An EPoS system should achieve more than its primary purpose of improving the point-of-sale or point-of-service. It should also enhance your current business processes, making them more streamlined and efficient.
Logistics and equipment Although it may seem obvious that logistics and equipment must be carefully considered before an EPoS roll-out, businesses sometimes fail to plan adequately. Consider the location of new EPoS hardware. Is there sufficient space? Are power points appropriately sited? Is networking in place to enable terminals to remain online constantly, delivering real-time information that is vital for the business? Will terminals be hardwired or use a Wi-Fi network?
Customer flow EPoS location is critical to maximising customer flow. Terminals are often poorly placed, especially in quick service environments, such as train stations and stadia.
Consider the process from the consumer's viewpoint: What will they purchase in terms of food and beverage? How they will serve themselves? Where will they pick up "extras", such as mustard and ketchup? Make sure signage is adequate and clear and directs consumers in the most convenient and efficient flow.
Future needs Regard your new EPoS system as a long-term investment, and look beyond your immediate requirements. It is important to build "future-proofing" into your selection, considering your EPoS needs in one, five and even 10 years.
Source: Tina Stehle, senior vice-president and general manager, Agilysys Hospitality Solutions Group
Improving customer service at Satay
Satay, a pan-Asian restaurant and bar in Brixton, south London, shifted its emphasis from drink to food recently but found it was suffering from poor customer service due to its ageing till systems.
General manager Mark Robinson, says: "We used to suffer inexcusable queues at the old till as our staff waited in turn to input their orders. We needed a fast, user-friendly system in order to improve our overall efficiency."
Satay looked at a number of systems and companies but chose a system from supplier Gardiff for two reasons, says Robinson. "Firstly, I was impressed with the bespoke system that it put forward and secondly, consultation with other Gardiff customers revealed an excellent record of customer support, an area where previous suppliers had let us down badly."
To overcome the issues Satay faced, Gardiff rolled out its touchscreen system with integrated Wi-Fi hand-held ordering terminals. The touchscreen software allows the operator to offer flexibility on pricing, special offers and mix ‘n' match promotions at different times of the day and on different days of the week. Satay was also able to design the layout of the screens exactly how it wanted them.
The mobile hand-held ordering terminals have transformed the restaurant operation. On busy nights Satay is now able to turn over tables three times, enabling the 60-seat restaurant to fully maximise its profits.
Serving staff are now always on the restaurant floor and with orders immediately being sent to the relevant printers, the whole operation is far more streamlined. The overall effect is faster table service and improved customer experience.
Satay has achieved a 6% rise in profits since the introduction of the electronic point of sale system.