Streamlining the Point of Sale: New technologies help smooth the way for greater efficiencies in retail and food service

Published On
Jun 15, 2022

Today’s restaurants and stores are competing for consumers’ attention with highly convenient mobile ordering and online sales. Updating point of sale (POS) systems to help customers move smoothly through purchasing is a surprising opportunity for electrical contractors.

For brick-and-mortar retail operators, technology updates include wireless systems that demand data access. At the same time, new systems leveraging Bluetooth or radio frequency identification (RFID) offer ways to make the POS a flexible, mobile and self-service experience. One option for food service is self-pouring stations for beverages, which aim to keep patrons on-site and satisfied while the serving staff concentrates on other tasks.

Today, the POS is about more than just sales: it’s actually a point-of-service, said Amber Trendell, Oracle Food and Beverage’s director of strategy. That service can be delivered in myriad forms across the various industries. Since consumers want complete freedom in how they discover and decide what to eat and buy or where to venture next, the POS needs to meet these expectations. The challenge for operators in all of these service models is the volume and variety of data those options generate.

Electrical contractors hired directly by a retailer to perform cabling needs are an important part in ensuring a POS solution installation will support the business plan for current and future needs, Trendell said. Clear diagrams must detail where the POS hardware and peripherals will be located and need to include all power and internet requirements to ensure the system is set up exactly how a customer wants it.

“The location of power outlets and internet ports can be the difference between a clean, wireless-looking installation and a POS station that has cables showing and is not as appealing to the customer,” she said.

Evolving beyond the standard cash register

Most companies did not build their operating models to be digital or to provide omni-channel sales, with some purchases happening online.

“We have seen this evolution in retail over the last decade. Hotels have been grappling with digital-first competitors for several years,” Trendell said. Think Airbnb.

Now restaurants and retailers are evolving rapidly to deliver a seamless, efficient and consumer-driven journey.

Some key points are central to the POS systems. No matter the service model, a system today takes customer-facing data—online, in an app or through a third party—and feeds it through its operations software, allowing companies to use the POS information to inform real-time and long-term business strategy.

Today, retailers use their POS system data, for instance, to automate operations and inform back-office systems like enterprise resource planning, supply chain and human resources. The only way to do this efficiently is with an open API cloud strategy.

“This gives operators the flexibility to open new channels, test new concepts and deploy new initiatives swiftly,” Trendell said.

A company’s business model, size and operational complexity all affect the POS platform strategy. If a store is running a single location with one revenue center, an out-of-the-box solution that has online ordering, basic labor management, reporting and analytics is a great fit, Trendell said. For operators with numerous revenue centers—such as a bar and a dining room—it’s more important to have a platform that can manage multiple concepts.

Pour it yourself

For brands wanting to push the boundaries and customize POS solution, a best-in-class core platform provides that flexibility. For example, some restaurants are installing systems that let patrons pour their own drinks.

In this model, every pour is associated with a patron tab and billed upon leaving the location. When guests arrive, they share their driver’s license, which is scanned to check in and ensure they are over 21. They use an RFID badge built into a bracelet to connect with the drink tap hardware to start pouring drinks. The technology controls, measures and provides inventory for all pours by a patron, and cuts them off at their limit.

The primary motivator is labor cost, said Darren Nicholson, iPourIt’s vice president of sales and marketing. The iPourIt technology enables streamlined alcohol beverage service and reduced labor expenses, focusing labor on other areas of the operation. The secondary motivator for bars and restaurants is differentiation, he said, because the novelty alone attracts patrons to sample and pour themselves their drink of choice.

IPourIt integrates with a few larger POS platforms on the market, and that connection is dependent on the type of integration. The taps use power over ethernet, and all operational processes are designed to work without an internet connection. However, iPourIt does back up all data in the cloud, Nicholson said.

The self-serve tap wall requires proper beer-dispensing design, installation and maintenance to perform properly. In most cases, the operator contracts with the beer dispenser installer for their work, and contract with iPourIt for the self-pour enhancement.

With the cost and scarcity of labor increasing, systems such as self-pour technology are likely to be here to stay.

“People always compare self-pour technology to self-pump fuel stations, and as the technology continues to be adopted across a number of concept types, it will be considered a norm in the markets it’s designed to serve,” Nicholson said.

Future uses for POS

In the meantime, other examples of extended services can be as simple as customizing receipts for upsell or survey data capture. With the variety of data coming in and out of a POS platform, reporting and analytics can follow sales transactions.

“Out-of-the-box, store-level reporting is critical for day-to-day operations; seamless data flow from the POS to the back office is equally important for accounting, inventory and supply chain,” Trendell said.

For large enterprise operations, having all transaction and related data available through an application programming interface to create advanced analytics and data visualizations is another consideration.

From customer engagement to managing staff, to inventory and supply chain, a POS platform should be built for industry-specific use cases, where the team members will directly leverage the data.

In the future, POS systems will be doing much more than processing transactions. They will serve as a foundation of omni-channel growth, inventory management and customer engagement. Those selecting or upgrading a company’s POS should consider how flexible it is to integrate with different applications, such as marketing and loyalty additions, Trendell said.

Mobile POS is another trend in which special events, outdoor experiences and pop-up stores extend a store’s reach, so some companies are installing POS platforms with kiosk options. Operators need a solution that works without Wi-Fi or network connectivity. Oracle, for example, offers systems that can operate offline with information stored locally, and then when service is returned, it automatically synchronizes all transaction data through the cloud.

POS hardware and software go hand-in-hand. Antiquated and outdated registers and software come with increased risk of and vulnerability to cyberattacks and data breaches. So POS installations are going to be about flexibility and growth, going forward.

“One of the largest obstacles to navigate when running a business is ensuring the many disparate systems … can integrate with one another seamlessly,” Trendell said.

The volume and variety of data will continue to expand, and modern POS systems are key to managing transaction data.

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