When it comes to sourcing out POS software for Linux, there's no question that hospitality operators have become more tech savvy in recent years. Not only are they more comfortable choosing Linux POS systems, but they're also demanding a bigger bang for their buck when it comes to their POS software choices. Thinking of upgrading your POS system? Here's what you should be looking for in 2009.
It doesn't seem so long ago that hospitality operators were excited to see Remanco Systems hit the marketplace. Does anyone out there still remember Remanco? You had a sleek looking keypad, a little black plastic "key" and a bible of PLU codes to memorize. You punched in your food and beverage orders, and miraculously, your beverage orders printed out at the bar while your food orders printed simultaneously in the kitchen. It was exciting, sleek, and revolutionary. In many restaurants, the terminal was small enough to rest comfortably next to the Pac-Man machine. Enough said.
The world of POS technology has come a long, long way since those early days. Today's hospitality operators are much more tech savvy than they've ever been, and the POS industry is slowly responding to this fact. The big players are still out there, such as MICROS and Squirrel, and it's indisputable that they've enjoyed a large share of the market for a number of years. But a growing number of smaller players have emerged in recent years, and the big guys could see their portion of the POS pie gobbled up as quickly as a starving Pac-Man on a rampage if they don't offer what today's hospitality operators are demanding. With this said, here's the top features you, as a hospitality operator running Linux in 2009, should be looking for once you've decided to invest in a new POS system.
The top two issues every hospitality-based business wants to get a handle on are food cost, and labor costs. Keep those things in check, and your chances of succeeding in such a competitive market are greatly increased. A modern POS system will help you get a handle on these profit killers by allowing managers access to important, easy to understand data on demand, and in real time. A POS system with state of the art data reporting capabilities will allow you to forecast business volumes, which gives managers the information they need to fine tune scheduling and avoid unnecessary labor costs. Time and attendance can be precisely monitored. Real time and instant access to data also allows managers to spot problems quickly and make snap decisions to address discrepancies in cash flow and adjust inventory levels. The POS system will pay for itself many times over if it can help you get a handle on these two issues alone.
Back Office Management & Integration
Having all your POS terminals linked together, combined with the ability to run reports, make menu and pricing changes on the fly, check inventory levels and consolidate payroll at one central location is crucial to running your business efficiently and profitably. A modern POS system will allow you to do this quickly and easily, all from the back office. Integration and back office management capability should be at the top of your shopping list.
Customer Relationship Management
Effective promotions can go a long way in boosting profits. Determining if your coupon or gift card program is working as it should, however, can be difficult. If your POS system can quickly help you evaluate which promotions are working and which ones aren't, you save time and money in spades. Having a POS system that can keep track of customer histories, their likes and dislikes, comments, etc. can give you valuable insight into what future promotions to put in effect, and which ones should bite the dust. Effective customer loyalty and points programs keep your customers coming back. When it comes to CRM, let your POS system do most of the thinking for you.
Wireless Mobile Computing & Hand Held Technology
Wireless point of sale systems are imperative for businesses that operate outside of traditional, brick and mortar locations. Venues such as ski resorts, theme parks or even stadiums can greatly benefit from a wireless point of sale system (think concession stands or private suites for instance). In a more traditional environment, such as a restaurant, the benefits of having wireless, at the table ordering capabilities through hand held units are many.
With wireless hand held units, serving staff save time by not having to line up to get access to the POS terminal, and therefore are much more productive. Since each order is transmitted instantly, at the table, serving staff are able to go quickly from one table to the next. Managers can reduce staffing levels by scheduling just a few skilled staff, give them larger sections, and make their primary focus greeting customers, taking orders and up-selling. Non-serving staff can then be hired (at significant payroll savings) to dispatch food and clean sections. When serving staff are able to remain on the floor, the result is a superior customer service experience for your patrons and increased sales for you through up-selling and faster table turns. Also, waste is cut down considerably, since placing orders at the table greatly reduces errors.
Another important feature with wireless hand held technology is that orders going into the kitchen are more evenly spaced, so you avoid overwhelming the kitchen with too many orders at once. This greatly increases the efficiency of kitchen staff and further decreases waste. Wireless hand held technology has been greatly refined in recent years, with increased battery life for hand held units and improved ease of use for staff. The time indeed has come to embrace wireless POS technology.
Payment security is crucial in today's marketplace. With the incidence of fraud and identity theft reaching epidemic proportions, safeguarding the safety of your client's credit card data is vital. The PCI Security Standards Council is an open global forum for the ongoing development, enhancement, storage, dissemination and implementation of security standards for account data protection. Is your POS system secure and PCI compliant? If it's not, it needs to be.
Self Service Technology
Self-service technology has created quite a buzz in recent years. Having moved beyond kiosks, self serve options give restaurateurs' the ability to delegate the food ordering process to customers themselves. Touch screen terminals are now intuitive and easy to use, and offer add on/up sell items items instantaneously, which boosts average check totals. The traditional "Server" is replaced by food runners, or counter staff, who can also do quality checks. Even the payment process can be taken care of by the customer, allowing for quicker table turns and increased cover counts.
Self-service technology may not be appealing for patrons looking for a fine dining experience, but it certainly is attractive for those who operate fast food or quick serve/casual dining establishments. Remanco certainly didn't offer all these features!
Enterprise & Multi Unit Capability
For those who operate large and multi-venue operations, choosing the right POS system has never been easy. Due to logistics and a host of other obstacles, businesses with multiple locations were forced to be creative in how they coordinated the collection of cash and data. Businesses such as these require enterprise wide systems that offer features such as client recognition capabilities, hospitality and retail sales, gift card processing, quick and easy debit and credit options, and more. They also require a system that can get around cabling and network issues, and preserve precious data in case of a system or network failure. If your company fits in this category, a reliable and flexible enterprise POS solution is a must.
With the above list in mind, one might think that it would be challenging to find a POS system that offers all of the above and more, never mind finding one with the capability of running on Linux as well. One POS system, however, consistently stands out and is without peer in the POS industry. Volante POS Systems, of Toronto and Hong Kong, is a state of the art, modern and flexible POS system. Volante has seamlessly embraced all the above features and more. It's also fully PCI compliant.
Volante first appeared on the scene in 1993, and because it has been developed entirely in Java, it's cross platform compatible, meaning it will run seamlessly on Linux, Unix and Windows. Linux POS solutions are very attractive to many businesses these days, since Linux allows business owners to cut costs by saving on Windows licensing fees, and is easy to use.
Volante also utilizes peer-to-peer technology, which allows each terminal to be connected, yet operate independently, without being reliant on a main server. Volante's unique implementation ensures that your business will continue to run smoothly in the event of a terminal or server failure. In other words, if your system crashes, your POS terminal still operates without losing any data or interrupting service. Any restaurant manager with some time under their belt has experienced the horror of a system crash during a peak service period. Needless to say, they would understand the importance of this feature.
Another item of note about Volante is that it's a good fit for many different types of hospitality operations, having been successfully installed in such venues as restaurants, hotels, stadiums, race tracks, ski resorts, outdoor sales areas (patios), casinos and theme parks. Its multi location capability makes it a full enterprise POS solution. For more information on Volante's many features, visit their website at www.volantesystems.com.
In a self service perspective, Volante Systems has recently announced a partnership with uWink, a new interactive restaurant and entertainment concept from Nolan Bushnell, of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese fame.
The two companies have partnered to offer the "uV Hospitality Solution", an end-to-end self-order, self-pay and at-the-table digital entertainment delivery solution, which was pioneered and proven in uWink's prototype interactive restaurant in Woodland Hills, California.
The "uV Hospitality Solution" is a seamless integration of uWink's innovative touch screen user interface software and micro-transaction game credit and redemption system with Volante's point of sale and back office enterprise system. At the uWink restaurant in Woodland Hills, customers self-order and self-pay for food, drink and digital media, including short form video games (uWink offers a library of 70+ casual and social single-player and multiplayer games) all from tabletop touch screen terminals located at each seat. This technology is really the new wave of self-service technology, and was recently awarded Best Technology Innovation from Hospitality Technology magazine.
With the above shopping list in hand, hospitality operators currently enjoying the advantages that Linux offers should feel even more prepared when looking to upgrade their current POS system. If the POS software you're looking at doesn't offer the features mentioned above, move on. In today's economic times, you can barely afford not to. However, if worse comes to worse, you could always sell that Pac-Man machine.
Vice President, Operations
Volante POS Systems
1188 Martin Grove Road
416.522.1825 ( Direct )