As James Humble, sales director at Tevalis, puts it: “The point of sale no longer serves its purpose as just a traditional sales-data entry any more. It has been developed over time to now become a comprehensive tool, which enhances a business in many ways.
“With quick ordering functions, integrated payments and booking systems alongside bespoke functionalities and much more, hospitality teams can experience multiple benefits such as increased efficiency and customer satisfaction through faster speed of service. Alongside that, the back office on the point of sale has become so advanced that operators can control any aspect.
“Combined with a seamless integration with business-intelligence tools, the point of sale in itself has very much become an essential part of any hospitality led business and will continue to do so.”
There’s no doubt about it, EPoS needs to be constantly evolving to keep up with advances in technology and changes in consumer behaviour, so what are the key development areas for EPoS right now – and in the future?
With consumers increasingly using various different ordering services, payment apps and booking apps, it’s essential when choosing an EPoS provider that its systems can integrate seamlessly with such third-party services.
As Tom Weaver, chief executive of Flyt, says: “There are now a plethora of solutions ranging from booking to loyalty, payment to customer feedback. In all cases, these new services are immeasurably improved when they are integrated with the other systems in the operator’s business, particularly the PoS: integration smooths operations, improves the customer experience, and gives an operator better visibility of what their guests want and desire.”
KFC recently partnered with Flyt to enable home delivery by third-party providers. Delivery orders are now entered directly into KFC EPoS and kitchen via the Flyt platform. The integration improves the synchronisation of the arrival time of the courier, and reduces time and potential errors made by double entering incoming delivery orders.
Lee Leet of QSR Automations echoes Weaver’s view. “Operators should be looking to technology in all its forms, with an open, integrated EPoS at the heart of every restaurant’s digital ecosystem,” he says. “From the customer’s point of view, adding themselves to a waitlist, pre-ordering or using pay-at-table options which are app-based is a familiar concept and is expected by most. It elevates the customer experience yet requires minimal input from the operator, with limited training required for staff when integrated technology is installed.”
Tevalis’ EPoS solution integrates with more than 60 other services across all areas including payment systems, reservations and finance. “EPoS providers have been integrating their solutions for years as it offers operators a best-of-breed system, however the functionality that we get from these integrations becomes more innovative through continued development,” says Humble. “For example, automated synchronisation between our EPoS and the third party service ensures operators experience seamless usability without having to manage two systems separately.”
Oracle Hospitality has recently opened its platforms and given clients and third parties access to its APIs, believing that integration is essential for a good guest experience, as well as for data management and innovation,” says Tim Brown, senior sales director at Oracle. “The use of mobile devices for booking, ordering and payment offers so much opportunity to restaurant operators for recognising and serving
guests in new and more personalised ways.”
“However, if your data is sitting in different systems, with some PoS data in one place and data from a mobile app sitting in another, then those opportunities can never truly be realised. Integration also has an impact on innovation and a restaurant’s ability to respond to new ideas, whether it’s new payment services or customer interfaces.”
The use of handheld devices for taking orders is definitely on the up. Oracle Hospitality surveyed restaurant operators in 2017 and 89% said they were either using tablets or other handheld devices or were looking to do so in the near future.
Lightspeed’s Victor Davies is an advocate of the move to handheld. “Mobile management systems (mPOS) are becoming an integral part of the dining experience to ensure reliability of service, accuracy of orders and flexibility to split bills – all these things make handheld devices the most important tool for your waiting staff,” he says.
Zonal is also witnessing a big swing towards more handheld EPoS devices, with demand for its iServe product – which can be used on iPads – continuing to rise. “Table-side ordering and the technology has come a long way in recent years,” says Steven Rolfe, managing director at PointOne EPoS.
Handheld ordering is a key trend in EPoS
“Ten to 15 years ago it wasn’t all that simple to create reliable Wi-Fi networks at home, let alone within a busy restaurant business, but the tech has improved quickly and Wi-Fi is both cheaper and easier to implement. The tech has also improved in redundancy, for example our table-side tablet can operate offline when communications are down so that an order isn’t lost mid-processing.”
“Table service arena handheld devices is the next logical step. There will always be a place for static PoS though. We will see static PoS combined with tablets and even smartwatches,” says Tom Moore, head of products at iZettle.
Tevalis has also seen a shift from pen and paper ordering towards handheld technology solutions and in response has redeveloped its handheld ordering platform this year, meaning operators can now use it on any mobile device they wish.
Tevalis has also developed new connection technology – called “restful service” – which enables orders to be processed offline in the handheld device with no database connection required to the master terminal. “It has intentionally been designed to be light and extremely fast, now handling any connection loss created by Wi-Fi areas, and using very-low-data traffic for increased reliability,” says Tevalis’ Humble.
Not long ago the self-service kiosk was the preserve of burger chain McDonald’s but now the DIY solution is being seen in a growing number of QSR venues, and it looks like a trend that is set to continue. PointOne has been installing self-service kiosks in salad bar chain Tossed over the past two years and the company’s Stephen Rolfe believes this is just the start. “EPoS continues to evolve with a focus on self-service and customer engagement,” he says. “So customer-facing kiosks like those we have implemented with Tossed will become more prominent.
“McDonalds set the benchmark for what was possible in this space and the sector will adopt this tech more over the coming years.” Tevalis installed its first self-service system in Love’s Fresh Pasta in London in 2014 and has since rolled it out to chicken fast-food brand Sticky Sisters, and restaurants and meeting rooms within 29 Village Hotels across the UK.
“In the beginning we consulted with the team at Love’s Fresh Pasta and really evaluated the requirements of self-service in the industry, from a detailed functionality and features perspective,” says Humble. “Now, we pride ourselves on delivering a unique and very bespoke self-service kiosk system to each operation that requires it.”
Tevalis offers a range of 7in to 10in tablets which can sit on stands, 15in screens on tables or mounted into walls, and standalone kiosks. "The software puts full ordering into the customers’ hands, with selected features and functionalities that increase up-sell opportunities throughout the customer’s ordering journey, without feeling any ‘pressure’ from servers asking,” adds Humble.
Loyalty and CRM
Oracle Hospitality’s most recent report discovered a perception gap between restaurant operators and restaurant customers, with most operators believing that loyalty offers are almost always relevant to their guests, while 27% of consumers said that loyalty offers are rarely relevant.
Technology offers huge scope for operators to improve the relevance of loyalty offers: the increased use of mobile for booking, ordering, and paying allows behaviour to be tracked and data gathered, and clever analysis enables operators to predict and respond to customers’ needs.
As Brown of Oracle says: “By serving up intelligent suggestions based on demographic and/or behavioural data at the PoS terminal, self-service kiosk, or guest-facing mobile device, operators can increase order values and really drive up sales and profitability.”
Technology offers huge scope for operators to improve the relevance of loyalty offers
Zonal’s Aztec system converts all the information about a venue’s customers into one single view, providing operators with a huge amount of insight. “Having a single customer view means bringing together all the data, such as demographics, booking history, basket data and purchasing preferences into one single record,” says Zonal sales and marketing director Clive Consterdine. “This rich data enables operators to pinpoint where their customers are on their journey, so they can target them more effectively with timely, relevant messages that add value.”
The big picture
So what technological advances will we be embracing over the next decade – and how will this shape the EPoS system of the future? “We are now entering a time in the hospitality industry shaped by the use of technology that puts the customer in the driving seat,” believes Lightspeed’s Davies. “From social media and loyalty programs to bookings, staff, menu and floorplan management, it’s impossible to compete and stay up-to-date on industry trends without technology.
“EPoS will become widely regarded as the single most important business tool and mobile and self-service tools will be at the forefront of this renaissance.”
49% of consumers said that being recognised without the use of a loyalty card would make their experience better
Oracle's Brown says guest expectations will remain a key driver for PoS development, with consumers increasingly using mobile devices to book restaurants, order and pay for food. “In our Restaurant 2025 report, 49% of consumers said that being recognised without the use of a loyalty card would make their experience better, so there is clearly a demand for more personalisation and that will drive the evolution of PoS services and devices,” he adds.
Zonal also believes that mobile technology will continue to drive the advancement of PoS solutions, especially given that, in under two years, the number of consumers who use mobile devices to speed up payment has increased from 2.4 million to 3.1 million (source: GO Technology).
“Looking to the future, there is no doubt that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will influence the hospitality sector as consumers become increasingly familiar with in-home devices such as Alexa, Apple HomePod and Google Home that use chatbot technology to replicate human voices,” says Consterdine.
“This technology will have an impact on the industry, with AI taking bookings and orders virtually, helping to create seamless 24/7 customer service. So, the question is not how but when AI will move from the ‘in home’ to ‘out of home’ leisure experience. That is down to the industry and how quickly it is prepared to adopt AI technology.”