MURTEC INSIGHTS: Future-Proofing the POS

By Ross Gilbertson, VP/IT, Caribou Coffee Company | April 22, 2013

At the recent MURTEC (Multi-Unit Restaurant Technology Conference) held March 13-15 at Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, a group of restaurant executives gathered to engage in compelling sessions and take advantage of top-notch networking opportunities. During the popular “topic table luncheon” one of the subjects discussed was “Maximize your POS Investment: Strategies for Extending the Life of Point-of-Sale Technology,” sponsored by Spartan Computer Services. The table was moderated Ross Gilbertson, VP of IT, Caribou Coffee Company.
 
The POS is more than just a necessity in day-to-day business, now it has become the nerve center for many restaurants. With functions ranging from taking and processing orders to capturing guest information, the point of sale is a vital component to any restaurant and often the key to a successful, well-run enterprise. POS systems can also be costly investments and therefore prolonging the lifespan of these systems is of utmost concern to today’s restaurant operators and IT professionals. The following questions and answers were gleaned from the topic table discussion that was rounded out by executives from Hungry Howie’s, Apple American Group, Logan’s Roadhouse, Boston Pizza International, and Belgravia Group Australia.
 
What type of POS equipment do you use now? 
Operators at the table utilize a variety of hardware, including IBM, NCR, Squirrel, HP and white box units averaging five to six-years-old. Hardware is replaced when absolutely necessary through gradual refresh as terminals break down.
 
What do you consider the useful life of a terminal? 
Most franchisees want to continue to run things until they just can’t run them anymore before purchasing new hardware. Franchisees prefer to figure out whatever they can do to save money, but may buy new if they feel a repair is going to be too expensive.
 
What other factors do you consider? 
Upgrades can save costs over purchasing new. Upgrades are done when faster processing speeds, new software, or additional hard drive space is required. Often corporate offices will mandate upgrades, but franchisees prefer not to go through the expense. 
 
What do you do when the manufacturer’s warranty runs out? 
Some manufacturers offer extended warranties, but these can become very expensive as the equipment ages. Operators often use local or national service companies. Service companies who offer hybrid maintenance plans with a lower-cost advanced exchange option help to reduce maintenance costs and eliminate the need for operators to stock inventory or maintaining parts. 
 
What about software upgrades? Do you try to stay current? 
Most operators try to hold off as long as possible; however, sometimes they must upgrade to stay current. An example is staying current for PCI compliance issues. 
 
Can you change your payment method or vendor to stay compliant? 
PCI compliance issues can be difficult, as there are really no defined or set rules. This makes it a challenge for corporate offices and franchisees to really determine what is needed.
 
Have you ever completed a cost analysis on the effects of POS downtime?
Not really, downtime is very difficult to quantify. Generally there is a “back up” or redundancy process to ensure stores are never completely down. 
 
Does the look of your POS equipment ever affect your decision to upgrade?
Cost and function trump form. The look of the POS may be important in quick service where the customer is right in front of the terminal, but other than that, “look” is low on the priority list. 
 
Do you see plans to utilize tablets in your business? 
From an IT perspective, there are many things to consider before implementing tablets in a business, such as wireless requirements, PCI compliance, and current system integration. Therefore, the implementation of tablets will likely be slow.
 
When thinking about extending the life of your terminals, do you turn your terminals off each evening? 
Terminals generally stay powered on for tasks such as daily polling, except in potential bad weather or expectation of sudden loss of power (such as construction). Stores can experience a power surge and/or outage that will take the equipment out. Risk management at the corporate offices gives the stores instructions on what to do in the event of bad weather.
 
What type of training do you offer your stores on POS care? 
This type of training is rare, done perhaps twice per year. POS care is very low on a store manager’s list. Their main focus is food safety and food recipes, so POS care is often overlooked. 

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