Modern electronic point of sale systems not only manage stock and sales, but also help hospitality businesses drive revenues. Ross Bentley explains how to harness your hardware
When it comes to analysing the latest developments in the world of electronic point of sale (EPoS) we must look separately at what's happening to the hardware and then the data that EPoS systems capture.
In the hardware environment, hand-held EPoS machines are increasingly prevalent, enabling staff to take orders and payments at the table or while guests are queuing.
According to Richard Dorf, managing director of EPoS provider PXtech, this trend is likely to lead to the till point being placed in less conventional positions around restaurants and bars, and the ability for diners to order and pay directly from their tables.
On the data side, there is a move towards operators making more use of the information taken. "This gives operators much greater operational control and visibility in areas such as fraud, food costs and sales trends," says Dorf, who has seen the price of EPoS technology come down to the point where the latest functionality can be accessed by small and medium-sized businesses as well as large corporate hospitality operations.
With more information at their fingertips, operators are increasingly using EPoS data to drive promotions and customer loyalty programmes, according to Tim Van den Branden, managing director of Partner Tech UK.
He adds that EPoS is also being used as an effective digital signage platform. "Adding a second customer-facing display gives businesses the opportunity to promote special offers and encourage customers to extend their purchase or make return visits through active on-screen marketing at the point of check-in, check-out or ordering," he says.
Opinion A versatile technology
Shrinking margins and stiff competition for customers mean hotels and restaurants are demanding greater returns from their technology spend, and no more so than from their investment in EPoS. Manufacturers and software developers are responding with systems that not only manage stock and sales, but also help hospitality businesses drive revenues.
Adding reservations, membership and loyalty software can transform an EPoS system into a powerful marketing tool and help hotels and restaurants build more profitable relationships with their customers. By scanning loyalty cards at each transaction managers can identify regular high-spend customers and create promotions that encourage them to return.
Linking loyalty data with an EPoS-hosted reservation system can provide another layer of marketing intelligence so managers can prioritise tier-one customers and actively market to them.
The growth in portable EPoS systems is helping busy hospitality businesses improve service, ease front-of-house congestion and maximise sales. Hand-held terminals allow restaurant and bar staff to take orders at the table before transmitting them by high-speed Wi-Fi to a fixed PoS station and the bar or kitchen for preparation.
Staff can spend more time on the floor, responding quickly to additional drink and food requests and exploiting opportunities to upsell. Portable units can store details of dishes, from ingredients to farm suppliers, so staff can quickly advise customers with allergies, dislikes or an interest in the origins of their food and make appropriate wine or side order suggestions.
Tim Van den Branden, managing director, Partner Tech UK
New point of sale technology
Go mobile EPoS and cashless payments specialist Uniware has launched a front-of-house EPoS mobile app, which will operate with new-generation technology including the iTouch, iPad and tablets.
The app allows staff to take customers' orders at their table and links wirelessly with the main EPoS system to update the sales data and management database with the new order details.
Uniware's managing director Mike Brand says: "When you consider that investing in a new terminal could be four times as costly as investing in an iPod or iPad, it makes sense to harness the mobile technology that is readily available."
Worldwide business intelligence for Subway The Subway sandwich chain this month signed a global deal with IT provider PXtech which will enable franchisees to analyse the sales data from EPoS across its 35,000 stores.
PXtech managing director Richard Dorf says: "One of the crucial success factors for growing franchises is brand consistency and having a clear view of the detailed business performance data from each store. PXportal affords vendors online access to real-time data from their EPoS systems spread over multiple sites, which will give them opportunities to drive sales, detect anomalies and eliminate wastage."
Improved marketing for IRC The Individual Restaurant Company (IRC) has adopted an EPoS solution that combines sales and stock management with membership and loyalty software, which is helping it improve its marketing activities and drive revenues from special offers.
Designed by QuadraNet Systems and using Partner Tech UK's PT-6910 terminals, the system is in operation in several IRC venues, including its busy Piccolino restaurant in Exchange Square, London, which serves more than 200 diners an hour at peak times.
Restaurant managers can use data stored on the EPoS system to analyse which promotions generate most profits. Comparing this with membership and booking information lets the company see exactly which customers are attracted by each promotion and hone their marketing messages to encourage more repeat visits.
The Westbury links EPoS to Facebook The Westbury hotel in Mayfair, London, has linked its EPoS system to its Facebook page, so diners can make restaurant reservations through the social networking site.
Visitors to the Facebook page can use an application that allows them to book tables at either the Gallery or Artisan restaurants at the Westbury. The booking is sent through to the EPoS system after which Westbury staff can call the person back and take bank card details.
Details of the booking remain on the user's own Facebook page, allowing friends to add comments and thus creating additional marketing potential for the Westbury.
Strand Palace hotel gets real-time reporting through EPoS The Strand Palace in London recently installed an EPoS system across the hotel - including restaurants, bars and conference facilities - that gives staff detailed transaction tracking, reporting and guest loyalty capabilities.
The InfoGenesis system produced by hospitality IT provider Agilysys also opens up future options for integrated chip and PIN, mobile PoS, handhelds and iPads, and integrated dining management and reservations.
The system's centralised database pulls together food and beverage functions, enabling total management of dining and bar operations. Real-time access to information helps food and beverage managers provide more efficient service and reduce potential losses. Additional features of the InfoGenesis PoS solution include real-time reporting capabilities, packages and prix fixe menus, signature capture, multi-language capability and advanced sorting, filtering and grouping options.
How to get the most from your EPoS system
â- Is the set-up of your EPoS going to help staff up-sell? You can set screens up to prompt staff to ask guests if they would like a drink or special menu option.
â- Use your EPoS to track product usage and wastage to prevent food costs escalating.
â- EPoS is your platform for finding out what is going on in the business. Make sure you can access its analysis and reports in real-time.
â- Set up your EPoS in a way that enables you to manage fraud. Close down the ability to price override and set up alerts for suspicious behaviour. Link it back to your surveillance system.
Richard Dorf, managing director, PXtech