Whether a full- or counter-service restaurant, a bar, or a nightclub, a restaurant point-of-sale (POS) system can help manage several parts of the business: taking orders, accepting payments, and back-office tasks like managing inventory and running sales reports. What features are most desirable for POS software? Donald Gasper surveys the landscape.

“Technology presents opportunities to transform food and beverage operations in ways that were previously unimaginable,” says Grahame Tate, Regional Vice President Hotels and Food & Beverage – Asia Pacific at Oracle. “Every facet of the hospitality industry, and food and beverage is no exception, is facing ever-escalating demands from consumers who want faster, better, individualised and hassle-free service.”

Tate points to two trends which are increasingly important – the move to the “cloud” and the switch to mobile.

Moving to the Cloud

Many IT experts say today’s on-premise operating model is unsustainable, considering its expenses associated with maintenance and integration efforts. Moving to cloud, with its promise of reduced IT complexity and accelerated innovations, will be essential to deliver exceptional service to consumers – and earn their loyalty.

“Responding to the challenges of the era of individualisation will be the greatest factor shaping our industry – and, we believe, lead to greater adoption of cloud-based technology,” Tate says.

Cloud-based platforms – such as Oracle Hospitality Simphony Cloud that fully integrates point of sale, back office and kitchen display systems – can address both sides of the business equation, by improving efficiency and minimising waste, to increase the bottom line, he says.

In addition, Oracle Hospitality Simphony Cloud provides guest engagement capabilities, standardised reporting, and advanced central management controls to increase operational efficiency. It can handle multi-property POS configurations consisting of thousands of workstations, and is still flexible enough to scale down to single property operations.

“As a cloud solution, the platform enables a whole new approach to the guest experience while reducing the cost and complexity of IT. Oracle Hospitality Simphony Cloud helps lower the onsite technology burden and total cost of ownership by eliminating the need for servers in each location. At the same time, the related costs of onsite software maintenance and technical support are greatly reduced, enabling resources to be deployed to other strategic initiatives.”

Oracle Hospitality Simphony Cloud’s multi-layered resilience model helps ensure that operations continue even when the internet is unavailable, enabling business to carry on as normal. The cloud also enables greater centralisation, providing a consistent guest and brand experience across locations, simplified reporting, and efficiency of updates. Additionally, the cloud offers food and beverage operators increased speed and agility, reducing time to market for new menu items, promotions, and innovations in payment and service.

Switching to mobile

Adding a mobile POS platform yields even more benefits, Tate says: It can accelerate service and table turns, boost staff productivity and improve one-on-one guest engagement. Its ability to access reporting and table management and link to kitchen display systems from anywhere, anytime, is priceless, because it enables managers to escape the back office and keep their eyes on service – helping mitigate potential challenges even before they occur. From a broader perspective, mobile POS also can enlarge the footprint of a food and beverage enterprise. For example, operators could extend service to patio areas or sidewalks, which not only better accommodates guests, but converts “dead space” into revenue opportunities.

Asked in a recent survey to identify the most important trend having an impact on POS software in 2017, one executive said the trend to “mobility and accessibility to sell outside the traditional four walls while not creating a need for duplicate entry into the POS” were the most important.

Verifone told the publisher of the POS Software Trends Report: “Brick and mortar stores that begin to offer check-out and in-store experiences that are equal to or better than those available online will have a major impact on POS software trends. This will happen as more customers become accustomed to sharing personal information with retailers, allowing them to create an engaging client experience where the customers can pay on their smartphones, at the counter or online.”

All businesses have been disrupted by the transformative power of the move to mobile. Some people describe it as the Ueber Effect, but others say it is just part of a natural shift in the practices and preferences of different generations.

This move to mobile is clear from the annual replies of restaurant operators in the United States to queries as to POS purchasing plans during the fourth quarter. In 2012, only 38 per cent of them said they were interested in mobile POS. For 2017, however, over half of operators (52 per cent) say that mobile POS capabilities will have a bearing on their next upgrade.

This upward trajectory reflects the growing preference of restaurant guests for ordering and making payments on their mobile devices. According to Hospitality Technology’s 2016 Customer Engagement Technology Study, 56 per cent of U.S. diners say that the ability to pay via mobile will influence their choice of restaurant. For take-away and delivery services this number increases to 66 per cent.