The Evolution of POS
Guest article by Christopher Sebes, President of Heartland Commerce
The Point of Sale system is arguably the most important function in any single restaurant, other than the kitchen itself of course. It is the critical piece to completing any transaction, and has served as the business center in every restaurant dating back to the very first cash register. So it is no surprise to see rapid innovation happening in the POS industry, as restaurants leverage the latest technology to make their operations run more efficiently, increase speed of service and allow their staff to focus on guest service instead of troubleshooting technology failures.
The POS industry and the restaurants it serves have come a long way – but to appreciate how far we’ve come, let’s take a look back at the rise of the POS industry and how it came to be, perhaps, the most important operations decision a successful restaurant can make.
The traditional cash register held court on restaurant counters for decades. That is until the, 80’s arrived. The 1980s were the golden age for software. Moore’s law combined with new operating systems and programming languages unleashed a tidal wave of computing innovations. Many significant hospitality tasks for restaurants such as reservation systems, order systems, inventory, accounting, and billing began to see software automation. While the technology was a significant investment, the return on the investment was a “no brainer” and once companies embraced the new technology there was no turning back to paper.
But as with any technology, what was new becomes old and what was innovative soon has a spotlight focused on all its shortcomings. We find that today with legacy POS systems.
For example, installing legacy (client – server) POS in a new store requires a few weeks. A professional IT site survey would is conducted, Windows terminals are ordered and configured, a local network server is installed, computers are purchased and installed, the network is hardwired for the entire location and then there are three days of system training. For enterprises, they also require backend of servers and test environments to test everything and aggregate the information. This is a long and arduous process.
A technology becomes more accessible as computing costs plummeted. The mass adoption of Windows software expanded the market and brought in numerous and specialized software vendors. What was new and generalized now became specialized. Many companies felt compelled to ride this second wave and create “best of breed” solutions with several or even dozens of vendors, attempting to get separate systems to talk to and integrate with each other.
Software moved into the realm of bloated features which add little to no value and increased complexity that raise the cost of the collected mess. It reached its value apex and the slope for additional gain is just too steep. The problem was there were no great platforms that let customers use any hardware or any reporting solution all in a frictionless, affordable model.
We have now reached a point in which whole business models around software, software delivery and value creation are shifting both on a technology basis and philosophically. These are all great things for the consumers of technology as they can get better, more powerful technologies at continually decreasing costs. This is also a great thing for technology companies, but only if they incorporate new abilities and phase out older code bases.
We have the luxury of learnings from an industry that has evolved from pen and paper to clunky machinery to more modern Windows POS systems and now to flexible, easy to use cloud-based restaurant management platforms. There have been significant improvements that have increased restaurants’ abilities to drive profit – the North Star for the industry. While much will change over the next decade, I envision the next phase of POS to be an influential driver of the overall restaurant industry – integrating in savvy product features that cater to a guest’s needs and appeal to their desire for speed and convenience. The industry will evolve as POS companies continue to address the challenges that impede restaurants and help drive more efficient and profitable businesses – all the while creating happy and loyal guests, arguably a top priority for every restaurant out there. We are entering into an age when restaurants focus on food, brand and experience and not the technology that supports those critical missions.
Christopher Sebes, President of Heartland Commerce, a Global Payments Company. Xenial, a product of Heartland, is the industry’s first cloud-based, device-agnostic restaurant management platform, addresses the issues with today’s POS systems and brings the industry into the next phase. Mr. Sebes has spent his entire career in hospitality management and technology. He received a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management in England and managed hotels and restaurants on three continents including multi-unit restaurant operations in Europe and the U.S. He created the first Microsoft Windows point-of-sale company, Twenty20 Visual Systems, which he sold to Radiant Vision Systems. He went on to become the CEO of Progressive Software before founding XPIENT in 2004. XPIENT was sold to Heartland Payments Systems in 2015 and he was tapped to become the President of Heartland Commerce, a major player in restaurant and retail management technology.
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See the latest issue of the Pointofsale.com digital magazine – this month, we’re looking at hospitality (In this issue exclusive guest articles from Christopher Sebes – Heartland Commerce, John Giles – Future POS, Alex Barrotti – Touchbistro, Ohad Jehassi – Lavu, Mani Kulasooriya – CAKE and others! Plus, an interview with hospitality VARs Steve Kramer, James Cawdron and Scott Appel, and much more including a handful of free restaurant POS white papers. Download and save! )