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Point of Sale

In: Computers and Technology

Submitted By dynahog
Words 2281
Pages 10
Abstract
Today’s restaurants are competitive. Vying for every consumer dollar has gained notoriety as an art in technology. Point of Sale (POS) systems are becoming the norm in most modern successful businesses. Fast, efficient and accurate transactions equate to satisfied customers who return time and time again to patronize establishments who possess the ability to exploit those characteristics. Many have found that using a POS enables a business to do just that. Successful owners and managers of successful businesses embrace the changes that come with technology.

Modern technology has entered almost every aspect of our lives. From the way we do business, the entertainment we enjoy, even the food we eat. Almost gone are the days of servers yelling back to the chefs/cooks to make an order of “pigs in a blanket” (wrapped sausage) or an “eve with a lid” (apple pie). Also, an ever increasing number of restaurant owners and managers have come to the realization that computer technology has greatly reduced the required amount of time performing routine tasks such as inventory, resupply, menu analysis, bottom line profits, payroll, and the list goes on. The focus of this paper is centered on technology in the hospitality industry, specifically, the restaurant business. This paper will address the type of systems available to the restaurateur and his or her employees. I will go into detail of how these systems enhance the business of running a restaurant successfully. First, key features of some of the more widely used systems.
Point of Sales systems (POS) come in a variety of configurations with a multitude of companies that sell and maintain hardware, software, or a combination of both. Some software options may come as open source allowing the client the ability to tailor the system to their specific needs. Software options vary as much as the amount of hardware available for implementation. A software package should be one that is easily upgradeable and expandable (Hilton 2013). When new technologies emerge, scrapping an entire system to add on a new device would be inefficient and expensive. At the lower end of the spectrum, a small simple system might only serve as a cash register. The more involved systems can get quite complex, involving every aspect of the operations of the store. Typically, a computer is set up as the server. This computer is usually located in a back office and used by management to make changes to their operations, run reports, and create employee schedules, etc. This computer also houses the software required to run the Point of Sale system. The system can be hard wired or wireless. The system can operate in the clouds as well. This is a beneficial feature especially for chain restaurants so that all the data from each location can be accessed from anywhere. Even if operating only one location, cloud computing could be advantageous for data backup safeguarding or even for a service contractor of the hardware and/or software to perform maintenance or troubleshooting if a problem arises. This configuration will also provide for software updates instantly for the single restaurant or multiple restaurants simultaneously. Cloud computing for this purpose, in most instances, will be cost efficient insomuch as only one contract for multiple locations would be required. Additional terminals (POS stations) throughout the store for access by servers and managers should be strategically located for ease of operations. The number of these terminals would depend largely on the size of the operation, both square footage and number of employees requiring access. If the establishment has a bar area, a dedicated terminal is usually located in that area as well. A magnetic strip reader for credit card transactions, a heavy duty cash drawer, and a receipt printer should be located at the terminals where such transactions take place. Some terminals come integrated with those peripherals. A relatively new option is the employment of mobile devices for servers to take orders at the table. The orders are then transmitted to the kitchen in real time. Another peripheral option seen more and more today, especially in successful establishments, is the paging system. If patrons cannot be immediately seated, a wireless pager can alert them when their table is ready and the Host or Hostess can seat them. These pagers typically have blinking lights and a vibrating feature. The kitchens are equipped with either printers or display screens or both. Again, depending on the size of the kitchen and the configuration of the preparers will determine the number of printers. Usually, the expediter will have a printer located on the server pick up side and another printer is located on the preparations side accessed by the lead cook or executive chef. If, for instance, the pastry chef is located in a separate part of the kitchen, he or she may have a dedicated printer or display screen. The printers in the kitchen should be impact printers (dot matrix). Thermal printing devices should not be utilized in the kitchen. The paper, when exposed to the kitchen environment, will turn black and become illegible. Oil, grease, and heat will affect it in this manner (Hebert 2013). Special label printers can also be integrated into a POS. These printers can extract data from the data base such as customer addresses for delivery, barcodes or mailers for advertisements. A back-up battery power supply is highly encouraged. One with at least 20 minutes of power to complete transactions in case of power failure will enable staff to ensure existing customers are processed. Now that you get the idea of what goes into a Point of Sale system in the restaurant industry, I will tie it all together by explaining what the impacts are of different aspects of the system.
In order for a Point of Sale system to be effective, first it must be easy to use. Owners, managers and staff should not have to spend an excessive amount of time operating the system or trying to figure out how to accomplish the tasks at hand. The amount of time servers spend taking orders, entering orders and processing payments should be minimal. Training new employees on the system should not be daunting. Most systems use a graphic interface and newly hired staff members are brought up to speed quickly . This frees up time to attend to the diners and thus making their experience as pleasurable as possible, multiplying the chances of a repeat visit and keeping the customer base healthy. Not only time is improved but also accuracy. Getting the orders right reduces waste. Usually when something in the kitchen is prepared and it’s not what the diner ordered, the meal or item is “comped” or thrown away and the correct order is prepared. Less food wasted, less money wasted. The efficient manner in which these tasks are performed also will enable diners to rotate out more often and therefore puts more “butts in the seats” which in turn will increase revenues. Data bases on some systems keep track of customers and can alert staff when repeat customers have returned. Again, keeping the customers coming back and telling their friends about their dining experience is always good business practice. Manager’s and business owner’s time is valuable too. Tasks such as inventory and reorder are done with ease with a good POS system. Ordering only what is needed for food preparation also reduces waste. The system will keep track of what ingredients have been consumed and report generators can produce and order invoice. In some cases, suppliers can be directly contacted by the POS automatically for restock thus saving time and effort. Decision makers can also tell through this system what is selling well and what is not. By determining this, items can be eliminated from the menu or investigated further to determine if mistakes are being made by kitchen staff or advertisement of certain items is warranted. Menu items and prices are updated in the system by just a few keystrokes. Payroll is easily calculated using the POS as well. Managers can determine by generated reports when and what type employees are needed at certain times by predicting volume. The employees can see their schedule in the system by the terminals they access. “Clocking in” and “clocking out” functions can be done at their terminal by either swiping their employee card or entering their personal code. Personnel who show up late for work are flagged. Employee performance can also be determined by examining the data contained in the system. High or low money makers can be identified and be rewarded or corrected whichever is appropriate. Communications with staff through a POS system is possible. Email accounts or an announcement page within the system can be easily integrated. Faster, accurate communication saves time and is another effective management tool. Server table assignments, schedules, and other staff communications take place without the need for bulletin boards or other unattractive and ineffective modes. Food costs, payroll, facility costs all go through the system. Managers can easily determine what should be charged for each item on their menu. Undercharging for items is a common mistake many restaurants make which certainly affects bottom line profits. A properly configured POS system can help managers and owners not make this mistake.
In an interview with Kat Cavaliere, Manager of O’Conner’s Irish Pub and Grill in Navarre, Florida, conducted 18 February, 2013, she stated that she loves her POS. She had been serving in a management capacity for the last 12 years and has worked in places with and without some sort of POS at her disposal. They operate a system using Radiant hardware and Aloha software. The system is maintained by a contractor and they are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is a terminal at the bar with a cash drawer and a receipt printer. Another terminal is in the back part of the dining area also with a receipt printer. The credit card readers were not part of the monitors but were separately connected to the system. There are two printers in the kitchen. One printer for the expediter and one for the head chef. These are the impact dot matrix type printers. The Host/Hostess area did not have any POS technology. Although the system is wireless, they currently do not use any handheld input devices. She says that she hopes to get some in the future. She said the biggest advantage the system has over the old conventional methods is math. Mrs. Cavaliere said that many of her employees over the years simply had a hard time adding totals on a bill and rendering incorrect change. With a POS system, math is computed automatically and accurately. Accurate amounts tendered and change due exponentially increased when a POS is employed. Another advantage, she says, is flexibility. She is able to make better decisions based on the data collected by the system and make changes easily. Changes to menus, prices, employee schedules, etc. are all done with ease. She uses the system to restock the bar. She is able to tell if staff is over pouring or if certain items are being undercharged. O’Conner’s also uses the system to keep track of non-food items such as napkins, toilet paper, to-go boxes and the like. The head chef is in charge of keeping track of food stuffs and ordering. I asked her what considerations were taken when deciding what system to implement. She laughed and said money. The system was already in place from the previous owner of the restaurant and they were not going to change it. Learning the system when they opened was not difficult for most of the employees. The servers and bar staff easily learned how to use it. New employees are trained incrementally but she assured me this was not a long process. She, on the other hand, took a little more time to learn the ins and outs of the system. Generating reports and learning all the features of the system has been a learn as you go type training. She told me that to this day, she still learns something new about the system and that they still don’t utilize all of its features.
So, as you can see, technology has made it to dinner. From the earlier days of manual transactions causing errant menu orders and incorrect change to the modern fast, efficient and accurate transactions today using up-to-date computer technologies a vast improvement in goods and services is apparent. Faster turn time at tables and sound management decisions based on accurate data has exponentially increased revenues for restaurateurs and provides for an agile competitive edge. Wasted time and food wastes money in the restaurant business. The Point of Sale system, when properly utilized, promises to help keep those pigs in the blanket competitive.

Joel Hilton (2013). Top Ten Reviews: Find the Best Point of Sale System. Retrieved from http://pos-systems-review.toptenreviews.com/
Louis Hebert (2013). Star Micronics America: Choosing A Thermal Or Dot Matrix Printer Depends On Individual Application Requirements. Retrieved from http://www.retailsolutionsonline.com/doc.mvc/Choosing-A-Thermal-Or-Dot-Matrix-Printer-Depe-0001#sthash.8CQ4ZEgn.dpuf
Savannah Morning News (2011). Business in Savannah: Savannah Restaurants Now Using Popular Point of Sale Technology. Retrieved from Hunt Library http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.libproxy.db.erau.edu/docview/885253001#start
James Slaton (1996). New Orleans City Business: Point-of-sale systems help restaurants track the trends. Retrieved from Hunt Library http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.libproxy.db.erau.edu/docview/209553864#start
James O’Brien (2010). McGraw Hill: Introduction to Information Systems 15th Edition
Kat Cavaliere (2013, 18 Feb). Personal Interview

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