Would you be surprised to learn that one of the earliest cash registers was invented by a licensee almost 140 years ago, following the American Civil War? James Ritty, who owned a saloon bar in Dayton, Ohio, was looking for a way to stop staff pilfering his profits. He and colleague John Birch created the Ritty Model I in 1879 – inspired by a tool that counted the revolutions of the propeller on steamships.
The earliest cash registers, which had a bell that rang when the total key was pushed, were basically adding machines – a far cry from the all-singing, all-dancing EPoS (Electronic Point of Sale) systems we use today.
Some of them are so sophisticated they could all but pull a pint or flambé a steak but one thing is certain, they have revolutionised the way the licensed trade operates – boosting efficiency, improving time management and enabling owners to drill down into the nuts and bolts of their business.
Paul Steven, of ACR Epos Systems Ltd, says the cash register business has changed dramatically in the last five years, with a move to increasingly sophisticated, integrated computerised systems.
Paul, who is a director of the firm his grandfather, Arthur, started 40 years ago, tells DRAM, “The days of engineers working on circuit boards are gone, it’s all computerised now. We still get customers talking about their till system – but they are not tills anymore, they are PCs and there are new ideas and new features coming out all the time.
“Some folk capitalise on these features – things like stock control for example. The systems can tell them what they’ve sold, when they’ve sold it, how much they’ve got left – their full stock system can be done on it. They can see what’s selling well and if something isn’t they can see that straight away and get it off the menu. We also have time attendance modules on our systems so instead of having a separate clocking in/clocking off machine it’s all done on the EPoS now.”
Paul says the key things customers ask about currently are hand-held EPoS terminals, the integration of card terminals with EPoS and loyalty systems – and he sees major advantages in all three of these. One of his biggest clients is Costley & Costley in Ayrshire who have invested heavily in EPoS and mobile PoS over the last few years. Paul says they found that using the hand-held devices made service quicker by around four and a half minutes per table – without losing anything to customer service.
Paul explains, “The fact is that staff can still be interacting with the customer at their table while the orders are being processed – so they’re enjoying a bit of banter while drinks are being made up at the bar, or the chefs are starting to process the food order. You need less staff and it’s far more accurate – the chef isn’t trying to decipher scribbles in the kitchen, there’s not paper floating about the bar or restaurant area getting lost. That’s where I see the biggest market change just now.
“The full integration of credit card terminals to the EPOS is another area. This has been around for a long time but it’s getting a lot slicker and we can integrate the terminal with EPOS now so that when the customer pays at their table the bill is finalised on the till at the same time. It is good for security and stops user misconduct because it’s all integrated.” He adds, “Loyalty cards are popular – they encourage customers to come back and when people sign up for one it enables the owner of the business to capture vital data which can be used for marketing purposes.”
Paul, who works with everyone from licensees running a small pub on the high street to major companies, says the key thing to look for when choosing your EPoS supplier is back-up – because like anything, a system can sometimes fail – and it never happens at a good time.
He adds, “We’ve been around for 40 years, we’ve seen it, we’ve tried it, we know the trade and we know what customers are looking for. As much as EPoS systems are reliable, you still need a good back-up service. If a system goes down on a Friday night for example, that could be a disaster because people really do run their businesses around them. We offer seven-day cover so when customers buy from us they are buying a service as well as a product and they have that reassurance.”
Another firm supplying EPoS hardware and software, including Back-Office, mobile apps and kitchen video display systems, to the hospitality industry is Maitre’D. They provide a full service from installation, through database building to training for waiting staff and managers.
Lesley Corr, European Sales Director of Maitre’D, explains, “Our system is modular which means it grows as your business grows. If a customer is looking for a simple solution we have a base product that we can give them but we also offer modules such as inventory management, time and attendance for their labour management and loyalty programmes, so there are a number of different things that you can expand in the future.”
She adds, “We teach managers how to use the Back-Office system so that they can change things like prices and menus themselves and we also work with different third party integrators on things like credit card payments and so on so that we can give clients the complete solution.”
The Back-Office system can produce over 200 reports – including detailed sales analysis of things like what type of food and drink has been sold at what times of the day, while the inventory module plays a vital role in stock management and waste reduction.
Lesley adds, “The reporting facility means you can really drill down into your business to see how much revenue you have done for certain days and you can flag particular days and look at the reasons why sales were up or down – is there a festival going on, was the weather bad, for example?”
Maitre’D works with clients from small independent pubs right up to major hotel and restaurant chains, including Holiday Inn and Di Maggio’s, with prices starting at around £2,500 for a basic single POS package. Looking ahead, Lesley says that mobile ordering through Tablets is very big and will continue to grow through the course of this year.
Tevalis, who supply EPoS systems to all sectors of the hospitality, leisure and gaming industries, have also developed a range of packages to boost profits via things like improved stock management, mobile smart phone reporting tools, mobile loyalty programmes, Tablet hand-held ordering and self-ordering kiosk solutions.
Marketer Samantha Weller says that the reporting package is one of the most popular with their clients – because of the admin time it reduces. No more manual data input or trying to make sense of spreadsheets when the information is now available at the touch of a few buttons. Centralised Manager, a package which allows clients to manage multiple sites from one location and is also available on mobile phones, is popular too.
Samantha explains, “We sell software that is completely bespoke and tailored to the client, so the client’s needs always come first. It’s about helping them to get the best out of what they are paying for basically.”
Tevalis have a range of clients from Michelin-starred restaurants to independent operators and costs for one terminal start at around £1,000. Clearly EPoS has come a long way in just a few years – and the technology is constantly evolving.
All the signs are that the humble order pad and pencil are slowly being consigned to history and, with so many tailor-made solutions available now, can anyone afford to be left behind?