Guide to a Successful POS Implementation by Joel Bragen
Hospitality point of sale systems have been fertile ground for new development.
As core functionality has stabilized, vendors have begun to turn their
attention to the huge potential for marketing, management and control
applications engendered by the vast amount of data that POS systems capture.
While the potential benefits of these new applications are promising,
they place greater demands on hotel staff to learn, operate, and implement
effectively. These demands translate to additional costs that may not
be apparent during the system evaluation and budgeting process. If these
costs are not anticipated and planned for, the added functionality purchased
may not be utilized or worse yet, may end up costing more in employee
turnover and unhappy guests.
Every time a transaction is performed on a POS terminal, useful data
is entered into or generated by the system. This data can include details
relating to date and time, employee, guest, table and seat location,
items ordered, transaction amounts, and check settlement. The systems
compile and manipulate this data, but it is your employees who must accurately
enter it, and employees who must accurately interpret and act on the
output results in order for the system to be effective. These are significant
soft costs that are not usually the focal point when shopping for a new
system. They include learning, programming, maintaining, reporting and
using reported information to modify policy, process or behavior. Though
largely incremental, they add up to substantial time.
POS add-on modules fall into four general categories. Time demands for
each are outlined as follows:
Timekeeping and Labor Management
As a POS application, timekeeping is probably a net time saver, but the
burden of maintenance and troubleshooting is likely to shift from what
is normally an accounting or security role to F&B outlet management.
Labor management pertains to scheduling based on historical demand
and peak hour analysis. This is a relatively new type of application
to the F&B world and as such will require substantial time to learn
and maintain. The burden falls on the shoulders of F&B managers.
Purchasing and Inventory Management
This is potentially the most time and labor intensive of all the POS
add-on applications. Depending on the size of your operation, it could
require a full time role to corroborate and reconcile a perpetual inventory
and coordinate results with the purchasing process. This application
is usually best suited for properties with a substantial F&B operation
where the application’s benefits outweigh the additional labor
Reservations and Table Management
Potentially a net time saver if replacing a manual or stand-alone system,
this application requires restaurant hosts to understand interactions
and limitations when used together with third party tools such as OpenTable.
It can provide benefits to guests that should be considered along with
the incremental overhead demands.
CRM/Guest History and Loyalty Programs
These applications, while prevalent in rooms divisions, are just beginning
to make inroads into food and beverage. While the bulk processing of
point accumulations and redemptions occurs behind the scenes, reporting
and decision support processes can be complex since the results of
the program must be analyzed and interpreted to determine its effectiveness
and return. Traditionally coordinated by marketing staff and deployed
through direct mail or front desk agents, POS loyalty programs can
be deployed through F&B outlet staff where the one-on-one interaction
with guests can be very effective. The caveat here is that every minute
a server spends explaining a points program to a diner, is a minute
taken away from another guest.
The following ideas can help you plan a successful POS implementation:
- During the planning stages, identify the roles required to
operate, maintain and act on the information produced by the add-on
applications. Consult with department managers whose staff will be
affected by changes in responsibilities. These can include marketing,
accounting, purchasing and inventory, F&B control and of course
F&B outlet staff.
- Be aware of the incremental time and skill demands
placed on line employees when deploying new systems. As the industry
continues to leverage technology in the name of productivity gains
and streamlining, they are the ones called upon to assimilate the new
equipment and new procedures into their day and yet maintain a cheerful
face to the guest.
- Understand and expect that over the lifetime of
your POS, in achieving full utilization of its features, you will spend
far more in soft costs than you’ll have spent for the hardware
- Negotiate with the vendor for refresher courses for training,
or stagger classes so new material can be absorbed over a period of
time, not just in the week prior to go-live. This is especially important
in a new property when staff is in turmoil to meet deadlines and prepare
for opening day. Training classes are frequently the first thing to
get bumped from the priority list. It’s better to focus on core functionality
at the beginning. Then, as operations and personnel stabilize, bring
trainers back to institute POS marketing and control modules. These
negotiations should occur during the RFP/bidding process.
About Joel Bragen – Hospitality Systems Consultant
Joel Bragen is a veteran hospitality systems consultant with over seventeen
years’ experience in systems management and operations. He has
served as advisor, implementer, strategist and project manager to a wide
range of organizations across a variety of market segments: real estate
developers, hotels, and conference centers. Mr. Bragen’s high-caliber
clientele has included Millennium Partners, Doral Hotels and Resorts,
Dolce International and Benchmark Hospitality. Client properties have
included Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, Hyatt, Omni and various independent
A seasoned project manager, Mr. Bragen plays a central role in his clients’ technology
conversion and upgrade projects. His extensive background in startup
and conversion environments has enabled him to manage, with diplomacy,
multiple, disparate project teams – often where contractor and
vendor agendas are not aligned.
Mr. Bragen’s expertise encompasses all on- and off-site high-tech
systems and services including: property management and telecommunications
systems, peripherals and carriers, point of sale, facilities management,
sales and catering systems, and guest amenity systems such as in-room
entertainment and high speed internet.
A graduate of the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration,
Mr. Bragen has held Microsoft Certified Professional and Microsoft Certified
Product Specialist certifications and has worked as a Certified Technical
Trainer with Executrain. He resides in New York State.