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Evaluate, Embrace and Own Your POS System

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June 01, 2001
Point of Sale
Andrew Sichynsky - asichynsky@postec.com

© 2001 Hospitality Upgrade. No reproduction or transmission without written permission.

Having been both on the user and vendor side of this business, I am still amazed to see what drives decisions to choose one system over another and how it is implemented.

Having been in this business for quite some time, I have seen many changes in POS systems throughout the past three decades. The 1970s were known as the electronic revolution years where systems were transitioning from mechanical to electronic. The 1980s were the POS evolution years when systems became much more than electronic cash registers. Highlighted by enhancements such as peer-to-peer communication, processor-based systems, touchscreens, bar coded guest checks, to name a few, all within an environment that was extremely proprietary in nature, both from a hardware and software point of view. (I think a lot of manufacturers would call these the good ol’ years.) The 1990s were the open system substitution years when end users demanded open system platforms such as PCs and Windows to replace the proprietary nature of both hardware and software previously used, yet maintaining the rich feature set already developed. And now the 2000s may become known either as the Internet solution or delusion years. With POS ASPs springing up faster than the weeds on my lawn this spring, only time will tell.

Having been both on the user and vendor side of this business, I am still amazed to see what drives decisions to choose one system over another and how it is implemented. In the past, now or in the future, the following points have always held true.

1. When evaluating competitive POS systems don’t get hung up on any one feature or function. You can spend an eternity comparing feature to feature and may give up more important considerations such as superior service or installation professionalism. What good is that great feature to you when your system goes down and you cannot get timely support from a well-trained individual?
2. Research the vendor. In many cases the vendor may be made up of several different organizations or companies such as a manufacturer and the local distributor. Don’t always assume if the system you are considering is good or well known, that the organization you are buying from is of the same caliber. In today’s marketplace many of the POS solutions are made up of different software and hardware manufacturers. There are very few manufacturers out there that offer both hardware and software together as one solution. This may or may not be a good thing. Your individual situation will dictate that.

3. Review the history of the vendor. Have you ever heard, “nothing like looking at the past to predict the future?” Generally, manufacturers and local distributors with several years under their belts will have the staying power to weather a bad economy and will be there to support you through the years of ownership. Just because a particular product has been available in your local marketplace for some time does not mean the same distributor has been selling and servicing it.
4. Leading-edge technology. Sometimes better known as bleeding-edge technology. The bleeding can come from your operation or the vendors. Salespeople eager to get your business will show you a new product or a new software version to peak your interest. There is nothing wrong with making a decision based on this, but don’t be the first on your block to install it. Install the current release and live with the shortcomings until that feature has been in the field for at least three to six months. The amount of inconvenience that will cause you is minuscule compared to the frustrations you may encounter with the system not working at all. Many times the end user forgets that they agreed to be a beta site the moment something goes wrong.

5. Prepare for the install. This is probably the most important thing you can do to insure a smooth installation and to get what you paid for. Preparation encompasses many things such as the gathering of accurate data, conveying your expectations, scheduling the appropriate amount of time for training (even if this is a new opening) and most importantly, site preparation.

6. Site preparation. I can probably write a whole article on this one. I have seen so much time and money spent on other things in a restaurant—bars made of fine woods and marbles, impeccably installed lighting, furniture, artwork, fixtures and more. Yet the most critical influence on the reliability and success of a POS installation is totally ignored. Make sure you get a site preparation guide from your salesperson. Many times they are reluctant to give you one since this adds to the cost of a system. Most of today’s systems all use the same communication technology requiring category five cabling or CAT 5. CAT 5 is not only a specification of what type of cable to use but also how the cable is installed and terminated in the building. There are some POS distributors and electricians out there that make it “no big deal” to install this cable. If they cannot certify the installation to conform to CAT 5 specifications, you are headed for trouble. This is one area you do not want to skimp on. Deal only with those companies (usually not POS vendors) that have the training and equipment to perform this installation correctly. Electrical environment and physical location is just as important. Make sure there is enough room for cables, printers, cash drawers and more, and use common sense. If your building is new then providing the proper electrical environment should be easy. If it is an existing building, there are power-conditioning products out there today that with a good building ground will make the site acceptable to most POS vendor specifications.

7. Take ownership of the install. Don’t rely only on the vendor for a successful installation. Your peers and especially your subordinates will key off of your participation and interest in making things happen. Your POS vendor is not there to train how to take orders and manage the dining experience. If you don’t care how things go neither will your assistants or servers.

8. Use the system as a new way to look at your operating methodology and reporting requirements. So many times I have seen users try to force the system to do things exactly as in the past, or provide reports exactly as what they were used to. I am not advocating totally shaking things up here, but take the time to learn the system. You might be surprised to see that there may be improvements by doing things a little differently providing better results and more meaningful information.

9. Use the system to its fullest. After things have settled down from the initial install, look at the manuals and online documentation. Ask other users. You may be surprised to find that you are using only the tip of the iceberg. There are so many users out there still using these systems as basic cash registers.

10. Make and spend the time to train. I briefly touched on this earlier. POS vendors are not giving you an unlimited amount of time for training and go-live supervision. Realize that the heat of a new opening, or the busyness of an existing operation does not give you an excuse from spending the appropriate time to make yourself sufficient as an end user or key operator. If you can’t afford the time then delegate someone that can and is interested in taking on new responsibilities. Provide a single point of contact for your POS installation team.

I hope these points help to make the most out of a very important commitment of time and money. Technology changes and improves, but these basics are here to stay.

Andrew Sichynsky is director of sales & marketing for Postec, Inc./POSWarehouse.com. He can be reached at asichynsky@postec.com or (800) 783-9413 ext. 123.

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