The point-of-sale has undergone something of an identity shift over the past several years, as hard-wired, all-in-one units are being replaced by a variety of mobile devices. For years, hospitality operators have been clamoring for industry-tailored, affordable solutions that allow them to bust lines and break tableside ordering barriers. In October, Motorola released a much-anticipated enterprise tablet for retail, with a design that’s inspired by sleek consumer devices. While it remains to be seen if hospitality operators will pay the price for an enterprise tablet (and in fact this year’s survey suggests that many have grown tired of waiting), the software community has been a bit ahead of the curve, developing a bevy of applications for use on both customer- and employee-facing consumer devices.
In its annual POS Software Trends report, Hospitality Technology takes a look at industry-wide innovation priorities for point-of-sale software. The editors talk to leading POS software developers to find out what enhancements they’ve made to their technologies this year, and what R&D they have planned for the year ahead. In 2011, many POS software developers focused on launching new options to help mobilize operators, connect them directly with their customers, and allow more visibility across the enterprise. Social media, cloud computing and mobile solutions dominated this year, and most vendors report these trends only growing stronger in 2012. Their input is covered in the “Vendor Innovations & Predictions” section.
In addition to vendor insight, HT is revealing the results of its POS Software Reader Survey. In it, we asked hospitality operators to tell us which POS innovations their companies are most interested in for the year ahead, and we asked about their 2012 POS purchasing plans.
POS Features in Demand
Hospitality operators were asked to tell us which POS platform innovations were of the most interest to their companies in 2012. Online ordering has seen a steady incline over the past two years: in 2010 it was chosen by 24.8% of readers and in 2011 was chosen by 28.5% of readers. This year’s poll shows a significant jump, as online ordering moves into the top spot with a 39.7% interest rating. Mobile phone-based POS applications (i.e., mobile ordering/mobile wallet) take a close second with 37.7% of readers choosing this as the most interesting innovation to their companies in 2012 (up from 31.4% last year). Enterprise wide/centralized POS software falls from the top spot in last year’s survey to a third-place ranking this year with a 36.6% interest rating (down from 41.7% in 2011, and 45.1% in 2010).
This year’s survey also suggests that hospitality operators may be growing tired of waiting for the vendor community to develop acceptable tableside ordering devices, and are considering mobile phone-based POS as an alternative. Tableside POS for ordering/payment comes in fourth place at 32.9%, down from a 39.2% interest rating in 2011, and 46.4 % in 2010 when it held the top spot.
POS Purchasing Plans
Hospitality operators were also asked to share their POS purchasing plans for the year ahead. When comparing 2012 purchasing plans to last year’s survey results, a trend emerges: more investment in the year ahead. This is positive news for industry, as it shows that purse strings have loosened for IT budgets. In fact, it’s also a full reversal of the results of this survey from one year ago when, across the board, hospitality operators reported far less POS investment plans.
The greatest number of operators (44.5%) plans to add new functionality and features to their current POS software in the year ahead. This is a marked increase from the 19.7% who reported plans to do so one year ago. Additionally, a third of operators (32.9%) plan to expand the installation base of the POS software they currently use (up from 17.8% one year ago). A new selection this year is the decision to develop and/or deploy a POS for use on a mobile device. With a 24% investment rating, this choice is tied for third place in our scale with those who report having no POS investment plans. PCI compliance will be the focus for 22.6% of survey respondents (up from 10.4% in 2011). Research and testing new POS solutions for possible future deployment will be the focus for 20.5% of hospitality operators. Rounding out the list are those who plan in install their POS on a wireless network, and those who will install POS software from a new vendor (both at 7.5%).
VENDOR INNOVATIONS & PREDICTIONS
2011 Advancements: Agilysys integrated the InfoGenesis POS system with CardSmith’s campus card transaction system for the higher education foodservice market, creating a 100-percent, Web-enabled meal plan and campus card processing solution. It supports clustered SQL server environments, features audit logging enhancements to provide details on users who make configuration changes, and a Settlement Portal Utility tracks payment settlement, as well as manually settling transactions not yet posted.
2012 Predictions & Plans: Cloud-based and mobile solutions will shape the POS market, driving business performance and influencing guest behavior. Agilysys is developing mobile POS applications for Android and iOS platforms for specific vertical markets, and is working on an intuitive Web-based and cloud-enabled POS solution. The back office application is being built in Ruby on Rails (RoR) and the terminal application in HTML5 in a Qt wrapper. Initially it will be targeted to the foodservice management market as a replacement for electronic cash registers.
Aldelo Systems (www.aldelo.com)
2011 Advancements: Aldelo introduced two new product solutions: the XERA POS and Aldelo Enterprise Cloud. XERA is built on .NET and powered by SQL Server 2008 R2. It offers back office reporting, and integration with payment processing support and third-parties. Enterprise Cloud is Aldelo’s cloud-based management and reporting software, offering data storage, central data warehousing, offsite back up, consolidated reporting, loyalty tracking, franchisee store group reporting, automatic sync and accounting integration.
2012 Predictions & Plans: Restaurateurs will focus marketing dollars on products and promotions revealed by business data to be most profitable. Operators will be able to make faster decisions, speedy changes to menus and promotions, and will see tangible results from real-time data reporting. Aldelo will expand its offerings with XERA POS and Enterprise Cloud, and will provide a subscription-based model for XERA POS.
2011 Advancements: Apriva released its Automated Alarm Detection and Notification feature for Apriva Vend cashless vending customers to enable vending operators to monitor machine performance remotely. It provides instant notification if a malfunction or technical issue emerges, and operators can dispatch service personnel instantly, and get machines back online as quickly as possible. It’s available to Apriva Vend customers at no charge.
2012 Predictions & Plans: M-Commerce will gain significant traction in the next year and Apriva will release its new Apriva Wallet in early 2012. The Wallet will link merchants and consumers by integrating a number of M-commerce capabilities, including mobile marketing and advertising, transactions, loyalty programs, and location-based services. Fully secure, it will enable customers to store important documents, such as passports, driver licenses and insurance cards on their mobile devices, and will integrate with more than 45 payment processors and financial institutions.
ASI /Restaurant Manager (www.rmpos.com)
2011 Advancements: ASI/Restaurant Manager released a new version of the Write-On Handheld for tableside ordering and payment using an iPod Touch. It supports split check, real-time management alerts, the use of real-time inventory counters, and the new Linea-pro 4 MSR for tableside payment using an iPod. Also, the preferred vendor relationship with US Foods’ Resource Advantage program included a new data export functionality.
2012 Predictions & Plans: The convergence of restaurant applications and mobile devices will continue, along with capabilities such as tableside ordering and payment, customer self-service ordering and mobile management on smart phones. Concerns over credit card security will drive movement toward end-to-end (E2E) encryption and tokenization in POS systems, and cloud-based solutions will continue to gain steam. Restaurant Manager will release v18 with E2E encryption and tokenization; a new interface to Sundrop for mobile marketing and loyalty utilizing social media; and continued enhancements to the Write-On Handheld.
Granbury Restaurant Solutions (FireFly POS, DiamondTouch POS, Vital Link POS, www.granburys.com)
2011 Advancements: Granbury Restaurant Solutions introduced its fully integrated mobile ordering app to supplement online and point-of-sale ordering solutions. The company also introduced POS enhancements that give more precise feedback of order timing, and functionality to e-mail order confirmations to the customer.
2012 Predictions & Plans: As customers share more through social media, technology will give restaurant owners more ways to connect with customers, share their order activity with friends, and reward their loyalty. As consumers become more hands-on with the ordering process, Granbury Restaurant Solutions is introducing new ways to customize, recommend and streamline with actionable marketing data.
2011 Advancements: ISISPOS announced support for the Apple iPad, iPod touch and iPhone, allowing servers to take orders and process payments directly tableside. The company also released the iPhone mobile manager application for owners and managers to access all their operational and management functions using a 3G iPhone. It offers pairing suggestions with a wine selection mode, and a way to display daily specials with one button. Lastly, the company unveiled a new remote order system to replace a remote printer in favor of an iPad.
2012 Predictions & Plans: ISISPOS will integrate Twitter and Facebook into its total customer relationship management experience, as well as video void, online ordering and a version that can be installed to provide a customer the ability to order from their own device. Also, the company will offer smart reports and notification management.
Menusoft/Digital Dining (www.digitaldining.com)
2011 Advancements: Digital dining focused on the user interface, changing all graphic engines to sense the graphical processor and video capability of the system running its software in order to react automatically. It also added functionality to make ordering and paying easier, and worked to get its back office components into the cloud, including inventory, labor scheduling and reporting, so operators could access the data in real-time from anywhere they choose.
2012 Predictions & Plans: The Apple iPod, iPhone and iPad will continue to change the industry. Digital Dining will release individualized PCI encrypted /tokenized solutions for all the various processors, as well as a headless XML interfaces for frequency, gift cards and social media.
2011 Advancements: MICROS expanded and released several customer engagement and business operations products including: online ordering for the take-out customer; the MICROS POS iPad Ordering App; MICROS mymenu, which is the digital menu, table-side ordering and marketing tool for the iPad and Android devices; mobile mymicros.net, which allows users to access the business intelligence portal from a smartphone; pay-at-the-table solutions through partnerships with Tabbedout and VeriFone; novel displays though MICROS digital signage and menu boards; and the MICROS Protégé customer display system, which ensures order accuracy and opportunities for marketing and upselling.
2012 Predictions & Plans: Restaurants will continue expanding beyond the reach of the walls of their business, bringing the customer and the restaurateur even closer together. MICROS will offer new innovations to its cloud-based Simphony Restaurant Operating Platform, which allows for standardization across a small chain or large enterprise via SOA.
2011 Advancements: In July 2011, Microsoft announced the availability of Windows Embedded POSReady 7, providing businesses enhanced transaction processing and the ability to engage customers with eye-catching graphics. The interface supports multi-gesture touch and context aware applications.
2012 Predictions & Plans: Microsoft has a vision for the emergence of “intelligent systems,” resulting in tangible, real-time benefits. The combination of network connectivity, coupled with anytime, anywhere access to executable data, transformed embedded systems into intelligent systems. Microsoft will continue delivering innovative solutions to help retail and hospitality organizations attract and retain customers, improve profitability and accelerate growth.
NCR/Radiant Systems (www.radiantsystems.com)
2011 Advancements: Radiant Systems, now part of NCR Corp., released Aloha Kitchen, which includes durable kitchen hardware and software. Used in both table-service and quick-service environments, it enables enhanced organization of items, controlled timing using quote time calculators, and remote configuration of multiple locations at one time. It can support a high volume of orders and includes reporting.
2012 Predictions & Plans: There will be a continued convergence of cloud-based, mobile and social technologies. Restaurants will be leveraging mobile devices to be more productive, profitable and stay connected, and consumers will have the opportunity to transact from any platform. Also, social media, including location-based services, will enable restaurants to better drive consumer engagement. These trends will depend on back-end capabilities of software and data in the cloud. The majority of Radiant’s applications utilize cloud-based technology, and the company is developing mobile and social solutions for use with its existing platforms for early 2012.
ParTech Inc. (PAR, www.partech.com)
2011 Advancements: PAR released PAR EverServ QSR, built on SOA and designed as an enterprise platform with an open architecture. It features new order-taking functionality, including extensive modifier, combo and conversational ordering capabilities, suggestive selling tools and integrated marketing/order confirmation displays.
2012 Predictions & Plans: The restaurant industry will see continued adoption of mobile and cloud technology at an accelerated pace. Restaurant operators will move beyond the trial of software applications designed for tablets to more broad use of the technology throughout their operations, and will seek to tap into applications that leverage consumers’ mobile devices, such as customer ordering, social media, loyalty and location proximity promotions. PAR will launch several updates to existing products in 2012, and will redesign its EverServ SureCheck food safety and task management solution for an improved graphical user interface and enhanced features.
PC America (www.pcamerica.com)
2011 Advancements: PC America released Restaurant Pro Express Mobile to integrate with an Apple iPod touch or iPhone. It also synchronizes in real time so servers can place orders tableside and then view open tabs and make changes at the POS station. Also new is the OnCloud Web Portal, an Internet-based system allowing operators to perform several back office tasks from any computer with Internet access.
2012 Predictions & Plans: Mobility usage has been on the rise in the hospitality industry, and will be a key technology to 2012 growth. Tableside ordering and payment will also become more readily available. PC America will also focus on allowing operators to engage with customers on a more personal level with individually tailored messaging and personalized promotions
2011 Advancements: Changes in order taking functionalities were released to make the Maitre’D end users experience more streamlined, and additional information for the managers using new and improved projection tools were added to the back office. The new Enterprise solution, Maitre’D 8 e-Global was completely redesigned. This web-based, SaaS application is scalable, can be used by single locations or large chains, and is designed to work in different environments, such as virtualization or cloud computing.
2012 Predictions & Plans: Integration with social media is a trend that continues to grow in the hospitality industry. Mobility will also continue as a hot topic and “thin computers” will make a comeback in 2012. Posera will launch the second phase of the project started this year to integrate its POS with partners, and is in discussion with hardware manufacturers who are planning to introduce new devices.
SilverWare POS (www.silverwarepos.com)
2011 Advancements: SilverWare POS released AVRIO Web Cam Surveillance to simultaneously record video of staff and screen capture at the POS. It also captures staff sign in/out, voids, discounts, transfers and all functions requiring a manager’s approval to control internal shrink. Details are viewable locally and via the Web through the SilverWare POS Enterprise Reporting System, which features the option to click and view video.
2012 Predictions & Plans: SilverWare’s SQL Server-Based AVIRO POS Solution will be available on Windows 8 tablet PC’s, as the new Windows 8 operating system displays super fast boot times and optimized performance.
Speedline Solutions (www.speedlinesolutions.com)
2011 Advancements: SpeedLine released new flexibility to its SpeedlinePOS, ensuring scalable, cost-effective rollouts and upgrades. Rather than asking restaurant clients to adapt to the POS, SpeedLine allows them to tailor menu design, configuration, and integrations for the right fit. For example, chains can set up and report on promotions in their own way with the new auto-applied coupons, rewards and options for packaged deal tracking. Other new features give head offices more audit control and insight into store performance and comparisons. Corporate can access ticket-level food cost detail for analysis, and user-defined menu tags let marketing teams create custom sales mix reports.
2012 Predictions & Plans: New technology, particularly in web and mobility, is driving change in the restaurant industry. In 2011, restaurant chain clients talked more about ways to operate and upgrade systems cost-effectively. Speedline will announce new solutions in 2012 to help them leverage and scale new technology seamlessly.
Squirrel Systems (www.squirrelsystems.com)
2011 Advancements: Squirrel Systems launched Version 7.0 with new functionality to improve business operations. Features include a communications center so managers can send messages to staff through the POS, and enhanced tip management to save time and reduce data entry errors. The company also introduced Squirrel Mobility, a suite of mobile point-of-sale solutions available on Apple, Android and Windows devices to provide flexibility and increase efficiency.
2012 Predictions & Plans: Mobile solutions will continue to be a trend and operators will use mobile devices in creative ways to connect with their customers and increase productivity. Mobility will also be used to engage with customers through loyalty and awards programs on their mobile devices, without relying on plastic cards. Squirrel Systems plans innovations in pay-at-the-table with PCI compliance, and cloud-based applications for operators who want the ability to download and run programs via a software-as-a-service model.
Wand Corp. (www.wandcorp.com)
2011 Advancements: Wand introduced Dual Land Drive Thru with twice the volume capacity, allowing orders to be seamlessly expedited from the gallery. The company’s Order Gallery offers an improved method to recall orders from the queue, showing status, detail amount due and speed of service time, and orders can be visually recalled to break-in and make changes. Also, Shared Tray Order allows multiple registers to take tray orders for the same group, which can split between multiple registers and tendered on any one. Lastly, Partial Authorization is now available for any customer using select processing platforms.
2012 Predictions & Plans: One area of focus for 2012 is the integration of traditionally disconnected systems into one holistic, easy to use restaurant management system, sharing configurations, data, analytics and more. Additionally, the increased use of closed circuit video feeds, social media and POS digital customer engagement technologies promise to change the role technology plays in aggressive organizations.
2011 Advancements: XPIENT fully integrated with Beanstalk Loyalty to provide an end-to-end loyalty platform with a campaign engine that can analyze transactions in real-time to provide personal and meaningful conversations with customers, as well as interact with their social media profile. Phase 1 of XPIENT's new cloud-based POS solution was completed, as was the development for the first release of NEBO (an enterprise back office suite).
2012 Predictions & Plans: Mobile ordering and payment are likely to be front and center in 2012, together with the concurrent implementation of loyalty solutions that can generate meaningful top-line revenue growth. As cloud-based POS becomes a reality, mainstream operators will begin to evaluate its real benefits. A new entry-level POS solution, XPIENT XPRESS, will launch at the end of Q1, and will provide an easy-to-configure, simple-to-operate, fully featured solution for smaller quick service and fast casual operators.