To the point

Regardless of your business model, there’s an ideal point of sale (POS) system to help you save time, manage staff, and market specials and coupons, as well as ensure safe transactions for your business and customers. Whether you’re acquiring your first POS, expanding your business or simply shopping for an upgrade, the fi rst step is assessing your business model. “Write down your requirements, make a spreadsheet and request a formal proposal,” suggests Alan Hayman, founder of Hayman Consulting Group, a Potomac, Maryland-based firm that specializes in hospitality technology consulting. “You want to ensure that potential vendors are responding to a specific set of requirements.” 

As Hayman points out, your transaction types will determine what POS software you’ll need to best serve customers. Common types include: counter transactions (pay first or pay after), server or precheck transactions, bar tabs, phonein, delivery, drive-thru, curbside, handheld/tableside ordering, online ordering and catering. “While you may not utilize all of these options, you should consider what you might want to offer within the next two years,” Hayman explains.

 

Menus and Specials

Your menu, specials and coupons are also important considerations. The pizza business—prone to add-ons, split orders, special deals, coupons and delivery to name a few, presents requirements your POS vendor should be familiar with, so ask for features specifically designed for pizzerias. For operators, the software must work well with the nature of the business and can even help manage staff. “Pizza menus can be very challenging for POS systems that have not been designed for them,” Hayman says. “You should ask your vendor to demo your most complicated transactions to make sure the software is a good fit.” 

Danielle Burger, owner of Wally’s Pizza & Subs (ilovewallyspizza.com) in Carson City, Nevada, experiences daily frustrations with her POS, inherited from her family’s non restaurant business. In addition to having trouble splitting orders, the system doesn’t organize toppings alphabetically, and setting up coupon buttons can be time consuming. “I would have chosen a more pizza-centric system,” she says. “We need a product that is simple to use at the front and back of the house, easily does half orders, shows product price and makes modifying an item simple.”

On the other hand, Doug Brandt, owner of Pie Hole Pizza Joint (pieholepizzajoint.com) in Chicago, is an example of an operator who has found a system that provides exactly what his mostly by-the-slice business needs for day-today operations. He even volunteers to do beta testing for his provider. “When I bought Pie Hole, the previous owners had no POS—just a legal pad and a bank bag as a register system,” he says. “Our POS is on 24/7, and we use it for everything. We purchased a premium package that includes online ordering, scheduling, caller ID and a time clock; it can’t be beat.” When it comes to programming coupon buttons, Hayman suggests you provide your vendor with a list. “Combo discounts and buy-one-get-one-free deals can be more difficult than percentage-off or dollar-off deals,” he says. “Make sure you present all of your deal offers to your vendor before making a purchase.”

Online Ease

In the digital age, online ordering is quickly becoming a must for operators, and the gaps between online ordering companies, your website and POS providers are growing smaller. For immediate, user-friendly online transactions, many POS services are integrated with third-party online ordering
providers. This prevents employees from having to manually enter online sales—perhaps delivered by fax or email—as they would enter phone and in-store orders. “The point of distinction is where an online order goes once it’s made,” says Barry Brownhill, president of Arrow POS+ in Carmel, Indiana. “For companies that are integrated, the sales automatically come into the POS as an active order.” 

While integrated online ordering reduces a step, it often adds a monthly bill. However, some POS providers offer a more integrated solution with an in-house online ordering provider; this can result in savings if a large portion of your sales come from online orders. “Many providers charge you a monthly fee, then keep 3% of the credit card transactions,” says Mario Molaro, vice president of BankCard POS, in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. “When you’re paying your credit card processor up to 2% per order, you’re losing 5% of a transaction after you pay the host.”

In addition to streamlining online ordering, this integration often helps ensure accurate website menu alterations. Whenever a price change occurs or you add or remove an item, the website and online sale will automatically reflect the correct price. “This way, the operator doesn’t have to call a customer and explain the change and why it hasn’t been updated online,” Molaro says. “If a customer places an order, then gets a call 10 minutes later saying the pizzeria doesn’t offer something anymore, the sale is usually cancelled.”

Secure Transactions

Your pizzeria has an obligation for maintaining security when it comes to POS records and credit card information, and an unsecured POS system can mean long-term consequences for operators and customers. The Trustwave Global Security Report 2011 found that the majority of POS breaches in 2010 were aimed at the foodservice industry. A recent study by Visa showed that 85% of payment data breaches occur with small merchants. For example, last April, a Mountain Mike’s Pizza (mountainmikes.com) location in Martell, California, discovered its POS had been hacked and used in a credit card theft ring that left many of the store’s customers (from a seven-month span) vulnerable to identity theft. According to James Cummings, director of project management and compliance for Sage Payment Solutions, the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Security Standards Council requires merchants to use PCI-compliant software; merchants who do not comply could face fines of up to $250,000 for security breaches. Compliance levels, which vary depending on a business’ volume of transactions, must be checked annually to maintain this certification. “There’s a need to ensure that security-minded implementation occurs,” he explains. “If the POS collects, transmits, processes or stores credit card data, merchants should confirm that their system is certified. The PCI standards ensure that everyone touching credit card information meets a minimum defined security to protect data.” 

While purchasing a PCI-compliant system can keep hackers from your customers’ personal information, outsiders may not pose the biggest threat to merchants. “A lot of money has been spent trying to keep the bad guys out,” says Brian Anderson, chief marketing officer of BeyondTrust, in Carlsbad, California. “What we’ve found, and what research says, is that the biggest impact on security breaches comes from the insider—good people can do bad things, accidentally or on purpose.” 

Jonathan Jesse, BeyondTrust’s vice president of program management, recommends operators look into software that can monitor user activity and implement an access-control policy. “Don’t simply grant root access; delegate this privilege when needed—such as when fixing a changed ticket,” he says. “Any customer information that is private needs to be controlled effectively, either through encryption, access control or privileged-activity reconciliation.” 

Providing a clear concept for your POS provider, and conducting the extensive research, can make for longterm satisfaction and even savings for your pizzeria—and the technology is rapidly evolving. “One of the latest opportunities is the ability to add integrated marketing solutions to certain POS systems,” Hayman says. “Closedloop marketing can track results though POS and can incorporate email, loyalty, reservations and social media. You can even use your POS to track the order history of individual customers.” However, more important than being an early adopter is understanding your near-future business goals. That was the case for the owners of Mackenzie River Pizza (mackenzieriverpizza.com), a 14-unit chain based in Whitefish, Montana, who realized last year that the time to change POS systems had arrived due to their evolving vision for the brand. “We needed to have something more consistent as we grew,” says Erica Coffman, director of marketing. “For years, we’d been a pizzeria with a delivery concept, but we’ve moved more into the family-casual market. We needed a product that could help lead us in the right direction.”

Andrew Abernathy is PMQ’s associate editor.