Do QSR POS systems need to play catch-up?
Technology is taking the QSR sector on a dizzying ride into the future, demanding everything from the now commonplace web and smartphone restaurant apps to self-service kiosks and even robotic "helpers." In fact, Alexa and Amazon Echo are making the task of ordering food for delivery as easy as saying your selections aloud to have them delivered to your doorstep.
But now, I believe it's time for point-of-sale to catch up with point-of-ordering. In fact, QSRs that do this well will win hearts, minds and market share. But right now in my view, the sector is operating with something akin to "Star Trek" ordering, while the POS model is a relic.
Over the last several years, QSR operators have rallied to move beyond simple terminals to leading-edge ordering and payment channels. But, aside from the relatively recent advent of home delivery, we're still using point-of-sale models that are decades old. Just look through history and you'll see that things are pretty much the same today as they were 60 or 70 years ago. For instance, consider that the typical walk-up quick-serve counter begun at McDonald's led to long lines of customers first waiting to order and then waiting to retrieve their food. Sound familiar?
The drive-in restaurant that started with carhops on skates at your car window was later followed by the drive-thrus ushered in first in the 1940s, then soaring to new popularity in the 1970s. Again, sound familiar?
The changing face and lifestyles of customers today demands a revolution in point-of-sale and home delivery is just a start. After all the children of this generation of customers who order by phone or voice command will soon expect different types and levels of service and convenience.
You've undoubtedly seen industry trend reports on dining out, home delivery and the like. With customers' changing loyalties at the drop of a pizza, today's ‘possible' becomes tomorrow's expectation. We need to be ready to make POS anything the customer wants it to be and home delivery is just the beginning.
Get an edge on market share: Go boldly where no one has gone before
Let's throw off yesterday's pre-conceived ideas about store design and customer service for a moment. The counter with its monolithic terminal? Forget it for a moment. If you could design your customer interaction model from scratch, what would your restaurant look like?
Why even have a point-of-sale counter and terminal? Why not have a centrally located kitchen surrounded by serving stations or pick-up windows? Since such a store would no longer need that winding queue, you could turn the queue-up space into additional seating.
Or maybe give people the option to order from a tablet computer located right at their table. The interactive experience could provide opportunity for up-selling and even simultaneously report rewards points status to prompt more spending to reach the next rewards level.
The ordering tablet could provide a countdown and notify the customer when their order was ready for pickup. The same model could be used for orders placed via an app on the customer's smartphone.
Who will be POS's big bold thinkers
What about taking delivery to a whole new level? What if your kitchen could travel to a particular neighborhood or business district on wheels, serving walk-up customers or filling orders delivered to nearby homes and businesses by delivery drivers using electric cars or scooters?
This is an exciting and swiftly changing time for restaurant brands as they push forward to stay in front of customer expectations. But maybe you need to start smaller for capital investment or budgetary reasons. That does not mean you cannot still win loyalty based on differentiated experiences that occur with incremental changes.
The great thing is that today, we have the technology and the ability to boldly remake point-of-sale in a flexible way that allows restaurateurs to start as as small as needed for their brands. So, perhaps an operator adds mobile ordering and a drive-thru window dedicated to those orders and delivery service pickup. That might spur the kind of additional volume, sales and speedier service that boosts customer satisfaction and loyalty. There's ample proof from brands which have tried this model that it can work. And in this ultra-competitive industry today, tech leaders who stay informed and find courage will ultimately reap the rewards and POS is a place to start.
Christopher Sebes has spent his entire career in hospitality management and technology. He received a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management in England and managed hotels and restaurants on three continents including multi-unit restaurant operations in Europe and the US. He created the first Microsoft Windows point-of-sale company, Twenty20 Visual Systems, which he sold to Radiant Systems. He went on to become the CEO of Progressive Software before founding XPIENT in 2004. XPIENT was sold to Heartland Payments Systems in 2015, and he was tapped to become the President of Heartland Commerce, a major player in restaurant and retail management technology. Today Christopher is the President of Xenial Inc., formerly known as Heartland Commerce.