restaurant-posWhen it comes to their restaurant operations, hoteliers often speak of innovation in terms of putting new signature dishes on the menu. But where the biggest innovation is happening today, arguably, is less on the menu and more in the technology that is driving increased efficiency and effectiveness across all parts of the food and beverage services industry.

According to The 2016 Smart Decision Guide to Restaurant Management and POS Systems (now available for complimentary download), a growing number of hoteliers are deploying next-generation restaurant management and POS systems. These systems are having a profound impact on business operations, guest satisfaction, revenue growth and overall profitability across multiple parts of the hotel property.

With restaurant POS systems accounting for the largest portion of the budget for restaurant IT investments, the providers of these solutions are vying for the attention of prospective buyers, including hotel and resort operators. As it happens, some of the leading POS solution providers are also leading providers of hotel property management systems (PMS). These solution providers have a distinct advantage over restaurant-only vendors in that they are able to serve hotels with fully integrated technology capabilities.

As part of their research, evaluation and selection process, prospective buyers need to be able to ask the right questions of solution providers so as to be able to rule out some options while narrowing down others. These questions are bound to vary depending on the restaurant sizes and categories at a given lodging property, as well as the hotelier or restaurant manager’s strategic priorities.

An operator who wishes to migrate one or more of the hotel’s eating establishments to tableside service capabilities will likely have more questions about those features than ones who decide to use centralized order and payment processing terminals. Similarly, an operator who manages multiple restaurants across multiple hotel properties may be more interested in multi-property features and remote access to, say, menu and table layout functions.

Some questions are bound to be equally applicable across nearly all hotel restaurants. Following are just some of the broader questions that prospective buyers may wish to explore with POS solution providers.

What type of customer support is offered? Are there any extra costs? How quickly will questions be answered and problems be resolved?

Hotel restaurant operators should have clear expectations when it comes to customer support and problem resolution as well as the training that may be needed to get restaurant servers and other staff up to speed on the new solution. According to the research (click here to access), more than three-quarters (73%) of restaurant operators agree that adequate user training ranks as a key success factor.

Does the solution provider (or a certified subcontractor) offer an online or, better yet, in-person training program? Is it equipped to offer online troubleshooting and diagnostic techniques should technical issues arise? Are local, in-person service and support services on hand should there be an issue that can’t be handled remotely?

Knowing that problems will get resolved fully, and in a timely manner, is critical for a food and beverage services organization that needs to run with minimal interruption and in which even a 30-second lag in payment processing may be enough to erode the guest experience.

What is the POS solution provider’s track record for stability and reliability?

A solution provider’s reputation and record of customer satisfaction are important. Nobody wants to implement a POS system that falls short of expectations due to known shortcomings in stability, reliability or promised benefits.

While the solution provider need not have been in business for decades — most of the tablet-based POS players are relatively new entrants — it should nonetheless have a sizable roster of customers that can attest to the reliability and performance of the solution.

For hotel operators, it may make sense to implement restaurant technologies from a hospitality vendor that also provides hotel property management solutions. This will help ensure optimal functionality, given the unique needs of hotel restaurants, including easy data integration with the PMS (especially if the vendor is one and the same).

Does the POS solution offer flexibility in functionality, including data access and performance reporting?

The degree of visibility offered by next-generation restaurant POS systems is unprecedented. Such visibility offers a whole new level of management control. To take advantage, however, restaurant operators may have certain software configuration and customization needs that must first be implemented. As such, they may want to confirm that any solution providers under consideration can meet these needs and preferences.

With respect to employee scheduling, for example, some managers may prefer to modify or create their own templates of work periods, if that option were to exist with a particular solution. Or, as another example, they may have a certain way of wanting to input menu modifiers.

Most systems come equipped with a large number — in some cases, dozens — of standard dashboards and reports around operational and financial areas like sales and revenue, labor and inventory control that should meet most operators’ day-to-day performance management and analysis needs.

That said, not all POS data queries and reporting requirements can necessarily be anticipated in advance or be addressed with out-of-the-box dashboards. For that reason, buyers would be well advised to find out to what extent customized reporting is possible and, also, what is involved in the process of filtering and sorting data according to a specified set of parameters.

About the author

Jeff ZabinJeff Zabin is Research Director at Starfleet Research, which benchmarks best practices in hospitality technology. Recent titles include The 2016 Smart Decision Guide to Hotel Property Management Systems, The 2016 Smart Decision Guide to Hospitality Revenue Management and The 2016 Smart Decision Guide to Restaurant Management and POS Systems. A globally-recognized market research executive, Zabin’s bestselling business books on data-driven marketing improvement have been translated into more than a dozen languages. His has also written hundreds of popular benchmark reports and articles in leading trade publications across multiple industry sectors, including hospitality.