"POS in Transition" — That's the headline over our featured story this month, and the information included in that piece helps paint a picture of operators' evolving use of point-of-sale technology. But there are other POS news bits that as well might have fit.
For instance ...
Pilot tests of a new handheld POS system soon will begin at Seasons 52. That's Orlando, Fla.-based Darden Restaurant's seven-unit chain of contemporary dinnerhouses offering fresh foods created with healthful nutrition metrics in mind. Patti Reilly White, Darden's senior vice president and chief information officer, said those tests will involve her company's hybrid POS application known as Darden's Application for Service & Hospitality, or DASH.
DASH has its foundation in the SIVA code that has been absorbed and put to new use by ParTech Inc., but it has been modified extensively by Darden for its purposes, Reilly White explained. She added, "Our plans are to have Seasons completely implemented with DASH by the end of our fiscal year" in May.
Seasons 52 helped put the use of handhelds in upscale restaurants in the spotlight more than four years ago when the company began fielding Symbol Technologies terminals running Aloha POS software over Microsoft's PocketPC operating system. Ameranth Wireless Inc. provided integration software and development help.
Handhelds round two ...
Accelerating service is a primary motivation for the use of mobile POS by Specialty's Inc. of San Francisco, parent of the 20-unit Specialty's Cafe & Bakery chain with stores in the Bay Area and Seattle market.
"We use them as line busters," Specialty's co-founder Craig Saxton said of his company's deployment at most restaurants of handhelds running Posera's Maitre'D POS software. "It is simply a more expedient way for us to get orders to the kitchen so that the whole customer transaction process can be sped up."
Integration with point-of-sale systems by technologies for centralizing order processing has played a large role in the tests and deployment of remote call centers for multiple restaurants in recent years. Tom Scott, director of information systems for 65-unit Happy Joe's Pizza & Ice Cream Parlor Inc. of Bettendorf, Iowa, said his chain will test a remote call center once the vendors involved have worked out POS integration challenges.
Scott, a SpeedLine Solutions POS system user at many stores, said he would consider call center strategies that use interactive voice recognition technologies, such as those from the iPIE Solutions division of Interactions Corp., as well as, or instead of, live operators. The goal is to improve order accuracy and suggestive selling opportunities, as well as support the possible redeployment of unit-level workers, because "if an order is wrong in any way, it is wrong all the way," the IT pro concluded.
Anyone who thinks the typical IT manager does not greatly appreciate the strides made by POS vendors to support centralized administrative functions, such as the ability to push down new menu prices to multiple stores, need only have a chat with Scott of Happy Joe's. "You can do about anything other than push the 'On' button" from headquarters now, he quipped.
Would you believe...?
"Continued lack of workforce loyalty, lower overall quality of the labor pool and 'commodity nature' of the workforce will result in restaurateurs looking to have more employee-oriented applications, such as training, labor scheduling and time-and-attendance functions, built into the POS," said Lee Holman. He's the lead retail analyst for research house and consultancy IHL Group of Franklin, Tenn., and I recently asked him about POS system configuration trends his organization might have detected.
Holman said a greater number of upscale operations soon may see incorporated into their POS systems advanced customer relationship management applications that, for example, provide front-of-the-house staff with an incoming guest's preference for table location or cocktail. That information might be pulled from local or chainwide databases and displayed on host-station terminals or sent to handheld devices as a result of the parking valet's simply inquiry as to the guest's name, which the car sitter could phone in or enter via handheld or ruggedized outdoor terminal, he indicated.