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POS selection, customization a hot topic among restaurants

“POS in transition” was the subject of a recent Nation’s Restaurant News story, but beyond that report there’s been no shortage of point-of-sale technology activity.

For instance, McDonald’s is charting a POS course apart from Torex Retail Holdings Ltd., licensor of the NewPOS point-of-sale software used in several thousand of the chain’s 31,000-plus restaurants worldwide. The operator once held a stake in the tech startup that morphed into Torex, but divested of that interest in 2003.

“McDonald’s and Torex have a history of collaboration on restaurant ordering technology,” said Jack Creamer, McDonald’s Corp. vice president of information technology for restaurants. “The working relationship with Torex has evolved, and going forward McDonald’s and Torex will be developing the POS software independently to meet each company’s own unique needs.”

Torex said McDonald’s retains a license to use NewPOS worldwide and the vendor added that it would remain in a “consultative” relationship with the chain while pursuing additional quick-service industry business. Neither Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald’s nor Torex, of Dunstable, England, would disclose the financial terms of their new arrangement, or comment about who wanted to alter the relationship and why.

McDonald’s has credited NewPOS with helping to increase sales at test restaurants by boosting guest throughput via more efficient and accurate order processing.

What’s more, 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 would 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 hand-helds 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.

Speaking of handhelds, 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 markets.

“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,” he said.

Integration with point-of-sale systems by technologies for centralizing order processing also 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, suggestive selling opportunities, and support the possible redeployment of unit-level workers.

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