Cloud-based point of sale and the roving restaurateur
Being in your business 24/7 simply isn’t good for you or your operation, so if you haven’t given cloud technology some serious thought, now’s the time.
Modern POS systems have a wide range of capabilities which can include inventory management, sales reporting, customer relationship management (CRM) and plenty more. Back in the day, each of these operations had to be considered in isolation, but thankfully, today’s POS systems allow business owners to manage them with one single platform.
Another modern day blessing for foodservice businesses is cloud technology. In a survey of 172 state and territory winners and finalists of the 2014 Telstra Business Awards, 77 percent of respondents said they use cloud computing to set up more flexible virtual offices and collaborate remotely. Operating in the cloud means business owners can store and access data and software over the internet rather than on the computer’s hard drive. Critical business information can be accessed anytime, anywhere with the added benefit of automatic system and software updates. Payroll, super and other rate updates are also automatically adjusted via cloud technology, and operators can gain valuable information about business trends, identifying top selling dishes, the most productive floor staff members and predicting cash flow – all at the touch of a button.
Jason Tait, owner of Sydney’s Sailors Thai restaurant (which earlier this week announced its impending closure), took over the business in 2011 and decided to switch from the existing ‘legacy’ system to a cloud-based one. He said that business owners tend to lag behind consumers when it comes to their willingness to embrace new technology.
“I think in our use of technology today … we take for granted that everything is online and in the cloud. Some people may still need to jump the hurdle [and realise] that their business apps can be that way as well. I think that a lot of people just suffer in silence. They have this idea that sitting in an office and logging in to a computer via a legacy system is something they just have to accept, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can have the same sort of flexibility and availability for your business that you have for your social or home life,” he said.
Revel launched in Australia in 2012
Like the majority of business owners who have embraced the cloud, Tait says the key benefit of his POS operation is the mobility it provides him with.
“I can sit at home with my laptop and have a look at how the night is going. I look at it several times a night just to know how things have gone, to see when we’re busy and when we’re not, which products are selling and which aren’t.
“With a legacy product, you’ve got to wait until you’re in the office the next day and look at a printed report. To me, that would feel very old fashioned,” he said.
Josh Franklin, general manager of Asia Pacific at Revel Systems, which launched in Australia in late 2012, said cloud-based POS systems allow foodservice operators to complete traditionally cumbersome processes with ease.
“Let’s imagine you have a chain of 20 cafes. You’re setting up your menu, potentially for all 20 cafes at once, but you don’t need to do it 20 times – you just need to do it once,” he told Hospitality. “Once you set up your menu, you can set the prices once, for all 20 locations or you can set a price for specific locations. So from a mobility perspective, the way that a lot of POS systems operate these days – even for the very large QSR chains – is by having to connect into every single site to change a price.
“With Revel, you just do it once, press save and then you can push those changes directly down to the iPads instore and it’s changed instantly. Because it’s cloud-based, you can be doing that on the train on the way home from work, provided you have the right user credentials. From a mobility perspective, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
POS systems that operate in the cloud, like Revel, also allow business owners to manage staffing and rosters in real time.
“Because you have the staff times loaded into the system, and you can also put pay rates in, you can – at any point – view how profitable a venue is. So imagine a bar on a Friday night, and it’s 1am and it usually stays open until 2am. The staff are wondering if they should stay open that last hour – you don’t even need to be in the venue to see whether or not it’s profitable,” Franklin said.
“The cloud allows you to do all of your staff maintenance, your menu set-up, and manage your purchase orders and restocking. The idea of having to go into work to do your work is no longer the case. You can do everything from a web browser, anywhere, and you have that full enterprise management suite through a web browser.”
Cloud-based POS provides increased mobility and access to business analytics, says Ben Pfisterer, Square’s Australian country manager.
A number of modern day POS systems allow for mobility instore, as well as offsite. Take, for example, Square, which offers Square Register – a free point of sale, cloud-based app that also provides business analytics and insights, and Square Reader – a small, white device that connects to the headphone jack of an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet and processes card payments.
The obvious advantage to this technology is that it allows staff to more effectively manage busy periods, preventing queues and streamlining the dining experience.
“You can have it as a fixed POS tablet at the counter, and then when a queue comes up staff can walk down it and take orders. If it gets even busier there’s the ability to go to tables to take orders but to also settle orders and take payments. It provides a lot of flexibility,” said Ben Pfisterer, Square’s Australian country manager.
“You can have multiple accounts; you can have multiple sites; you can have a single site with five roaming POS apps on tablets so people can be taking orders from different areas within the site. Every person working the floor can have a Reader in their pocket or on their device.”
The Commonwealth Bank's Albert device
A similar service is offered by the Commonwealth Bank which recently partnered with cloud-based POS provider, Kounta, allowing CommBank’s EFTPOS tablet, Albert, to integrate a range of business, payment and POS processes on a single mobile device.
Businesses using Kounta on Albert can accept payments, manage tables, take customer orders, split bills and update inventory levels at the same time, from one device. It also integrates with customer loyalty, accounting, inventory, rostering and payroll applications.
Claire Roberts, executive general manager, Local Business Banking, Commonwealth Bank said “Practically, it means staff can be interacting with customers in a more efficient and personable way because they don’t need to be using multiple systems or devices.”
Nick Cloete, Kounta founder, agrees, adding that the hospitality industry is seeing a new generation of businesses using cloud-based POS technology to manage their stores more efficiently.
“As it stands, existing legacy POS systems limit the movement of retail and hospitality staff. They have to complete orders and payments at static computer and EFTPOS payment stations – a system that's now extremely outdated and not suited to the modern customer.”
Many operators that have refrained from joining the cloud have done so because they don’t want to be reliant on a stable, continuous internet connection. But there’s no need for such concerns, Pfisterer said.
“Obviously if you’re fully connected to WiFi you get the most powerful system working, but you can run the Register system offline, so if you have to do it that way, you can. You can also tether it to your phone if need be, so you’ve always got back up. It definitely helps to have reliable WiFi but we haven’t built a system that is 100 percent contingent on that.”
The very nature of the Revel System means that foodservice operators can put their fears about the cloud’s reliance to rest, Franklin said.
“One of the fundamental differences between Revel and other systems on the market – especially other cloud- and tablet-based systems, is that Revel is a true hybrid between a locally installed program and a cloud-based back-end. So what that means is that everything that needs to happen in order for a transaction or an order to go through to a kitchen, or bar, or barista, happens locally, without the need for an internet connection. After the transaction is completed, then it synchronises with the cloud. So you have the robustness of a fully, locally installed system with all of the benefits of the cloud.
“People who are fearful of moving to a cloud-based solution in a high demand environment don’t need to worry about that using Revel because of the fact that it has that true robust nature as a core part of its design.”
Both Franklin and Pfisterer agree that the best is yet to come when it comes to cloud-computing functionality in Australia’s foodservice scene.
“Cloud POS is, I think, only just starting. You see a lot of the really recent caf and hospitality outlets opening up and probably the vast majority are now leaning towards the cloud because of the simplicity, the cost and the reliability. It’s continuing to grow and being able to have that whole integration from inventory to POS to sales to tracking and then to close an order or keep a tab going, that’s absolutely new and a really exciting feature that people like,” Pfisterer said.
It comes as no surprise that the advent of the iPad turned POS systems on their head, and according to Franklin, hospitality businesses have been on a sharp learning curve ever since, considerably improving their efficiency and transparency.
“The iPad was first released in 2010 and it took a year or two for people to start to think about how they can do things differently,” he said. “Now only six years on, we wouldn’t think about doing some of the things that we do on an iPad or smartphone in the old way that we used to do it. I think that people just have an expectation now that you can do anything from the palm of your hand, anywhere you are.”