After attending my first virtual conference of the year recently, I realized how much I missed in-person events. But what I also missed at the event was important, authentic discussion about how restaurant operators have been bombarded, once again, with every sort of new tech toy available.
As I watched session after session focused on cool, trendy technologies, I couldn’t help but wonder why almost nobody was talking about how all these systems could work together to improve operator efficiency and create a phenomenal guest experience. Because that’s exactly what’s been missing for a decade now—because systems are duct-taped together with legacy POS in the middle—creating inefficiencies and broken experiences.
Is Your POS the Red-Headed Step Child?
Unsurprisingly, POS has taken a back seat to all the newer, shinier, pandemic-friendly tools like mobile apps, curbside, SMS, online ordering & third-party delivery, food lockers, temperature readers, drive thru optimization, AI and voice, robots in the kitchen …. the list goes on and on.
And for all the right reasons, because operators need to embrace digital like never before, open up as many channels as possible to drive revenue (guest orders) and safe, contactless experiences.
But I’m worried that once again we’re going to sell (or give away) lots of technology at the expense of bolstering the operator and guest experience. And bolstering (protecting & improving) both the operator and guest experience must start with a solid core foundation upon which to build, update, add, and subtract technologies as things evolve.
The trend of late seems to be to marginalize POS by spending a lot of money building new tech around it, then spending even more money bolting it all together. The legacy POS stays stagnant; and the experience is mediocre at best. Ask yourself: Is our POS an enabler or an inhibitor to our digital strategy?
Building on Sand
A shaky foundation built on sand looks like this:
Operators get too busy and distracted adding all the new digital ordering channels, contactless solutions, and other pandemic-friendly tools—and forget that if these solutions don’t work well with your core foundational transaction engine (the POS) and other vital technologies in your stack—the guest & operator experience will continue to suffer long-term.
In 6-12 months, are operators going to realize that their experience is still terribly fragmented because it was built upon a shaky foundation? Will data silos proliferate, making data management and single view of the guest even more elusive? What about business efficiencies and centralized menu management?
I see it all looming, if we don’t do the right thing for operator’s improved efficiency (bottom line profitability) and guest convenience (that ‘frictionless’ experience everyone touts but few deliver on).
The bottom line: If restaurant brands adopt a bunch of new technology through the pandemic and then plan to bolt it on to legacy, non-cloud based POS (a sandy foundation)— the result is going to be very disappointing.
Because the large majority of enterprise restaurant chains are still operating on legacy POS platforms sporting client/server architecture with 30-year old monolithic code! These dated monstrosities were not built to run in the cloud or in the modern age with modern APIs.
So what used to be the key central hub of the restaurant business and its sole transaction engine up until March 2020, the in-store POS, is still there taking orders. And if it’s a legacy POS— which 60-75% of the enterprise market uses—then it’s going to have brittle APIs and integrations to those fancy modern tech widgets. Think: the leaning tower of Pisa, with lots of duct tape!
At the event there was very little conversation about the digital-first solutions that are already available and have been built to unify the food experience. Qu’s POS is one of those and there are others.
Building on Stone
If you’re reading this, your restaurant brand has likely weathered the COVID storm fairly well. So now what? Are you starting to feel the ripple effects of new digital tools that you can’t quite get your hands around?
Let’s shift our focus to balancing nimble tech adoption with long-term success.
Imagine this … What if your core enterprise foundation was DIGITAL? And your digital ordering hubs and new tech toys all connected to it, providing one consistent flow and data set from a single menu structure?
Qu built a digital-first POS before the pandemic was even a log in our eye. The solid foundation consists of:
- Modern and open cloud architecture using a micro-services approach
- API-first philosophy and direct third-party integrations
- One menu management structure with dynamic menu items and stores
- One database with integrated code and a common core processing engine
- Centralized reporting & management for the full ordering ecosystem
We took the time to modernize the entire code, structure, and foundation that drives restaurant operations with the assumption that digital would one day be the primary order channel (not a cash box). The second assumption is that in-store POS is no longer the center of the universe, but just one more order type in an omni-channel universe.
Our goal through it all was to simplify and unify the unwieldy enterprise tech stack most operators struggle with day in and out—while improving the guest experience.
So, let’s all do the right thing and focus on what’s best for the restaurant operator and the guest not just in the short-term, but also in the near and long term. Because the pandemic will pass and we all know that in 6-12 months, things will be different. But serving the guest with the best experience will always be #1, followed very closely by improving operator efficiencies and bottom lines.