The new decade is upon us, which means it’s time to ditch things that no longer serve you. For many enterprise operators that may mean your current POS system.
In a recent study conducted by Qu, 40% of respondents from enterprise brands said they’re looking to switch POS systems in 2020, with another 33% saying they’re open to switching within the next 12-18 months.
Crafting an RFP for an enterprise POS upgrade is complicated, but don’t worry. We’ve compiled the best practices for you below and the 5 most important POS requirements you need to include in your RFP—to ensure a scalable solution well into the future.
5 POS Requirements & Key Questions to Ask
To forge a data-driven future that includes a more manageable and scalable tech stack for your enterprise restaurant, here are top requirements your RFP (and technology strategy) must cover:
1. OPEN API's
One of the most common questions we see is “Do you have an open API?”
This sounds like a great question, but it’s no longer good enough to simply have an Open API.
Today’s API’s need to be robust and simplify integrations to all partners, while lowering the cost and time required for future initiatives. Understanding that “not all APIs are created equal” is a cornerstone to asking more detailed questions about the API philosophy and approach the tech vendor embraces.
To fully understand the vendor’s API approach and true “openness” you’ll need to dig deeper to understand if the POS system has:
- API pricing and business model transparency
- Standard Terms and Service Level Agreements (SLAs) between your API partners
- Certification between business partners
- Frequent enhancement & extensibility
- Public facing, thorough API documentation
- Self-service signup capabilities
- Sandbox environment availability
The Restaurant Technology Network has adopted some key principles of an open API structure for our industry, these should be considered a guide. Following this guide will help make sure your POS system provider’s API’s will create the seamless ecosystem and integrations that truly open API’s should deliver on.
2. OMNI-CHANNEL MENU MANAGEMENT
Guests have changed the way they order food, and they have changed it for good. Most operators today have at least three, if not more, order channels and menus to manage, from web ordering to kiosk to third party delivery.
Unfortunately, legacy POS systems haven’t kept pace with the changing preferences of guests, which resulted in operators managing multiple menus, multiple items, and multiple data sets.
This exhaustive, often manual, process exists because your POS system lacks context.
As in contextual, dynamic items that feed from one central core. Dynamic items allow you to program one item across multiple order channels, day parts, promotions, pricing, imagery, and an almost unlimited array of contexts.
Your modern POS system has to have modern menu management structure, and we often see this important aspect overlooked in RFPs.
Additional questions you should be asking on your RFP to get past your menu management mayhem include:
- Where does the menu data reside?
- How many menus will I need to manage?
- How deeply does the POS integrate with third party menus?
- Are the integrations with partners bi-directional?
- How is your menu management logical structure built?
3. SINGLE-SOURCE OF DATA: OWNERSHIP & ACCESS
Data Data Data. You want your Data, and you want it NOW.
Restaurants are awash in data, but it’s fragmented and messy and nearly impossible to streamline for insights and action.
Even more so, like API’s, not all data is equal to all areas of your operation. Everyone in your organization needs different types of data to do their jobs, and the sources for that information comes from a variety of places.
Below are the major types of data you need to capture to help you make informed decisions across your organization.
- Personal Customer Data
- Operations Data
- Configuration Data
- Payment Data
- Transactional data
Most POS platforms provide for and integrate with multiple data sources, but the flows are one-directional or incomplete.
Multiple databases and menus mean multiple reports to reconcile. Customer data that lives across different platforms (loyalty, POS, online ordering) can’t be matched together for a holistic view of the guest.
Payment data and reporting is fragmented and takes weeks to reconcile at months end. The data disaster goes on.
When evaluating POS for an RFP it is CRITICAL that you ask:
- Where does the data originate?
- Is it ownable?
- Is it readily available?
- Is it unified across your tech stack into as few sources as possible?
4. HARDWARE & PRICING
No one LOVES spending money on technology, but everyone relies on it to operate their restaurants, facilitate orders, and most of all, accept payment! Typical legacy POS pricing models have created some serious PTSD on tech spending with high upfront costs AND expensive maintenance, upgrades, and support.
SaaS products have swung the pendulum so far in the other direction with high monthly costs or relying on processing tie ins to make up for the revenue they lose by “giving away” their software.
More often than not, pricing is the elephant in the room and no one wants to ask about it upfront on an RFP before you get through validating if the system will be right for you.
Since every brand has different objectives, you also have different buying models. The pricing models your provider offers should align with your overall budget, vision, and resources for support. Depending on what your objective is, consider some of the following questions:
- Do they offer a full Solution-as-a-Service model? This is great for operators who want to take upfront hardware costs and ongoing hardware maintenance out of the picture. Different than your traditional leases, this model typically offers full coverage of your system from head to toe (or terminal to cash drawer) plus a refresh every few years, so you always have the latest and greatest with MINIMAL internal resources to manage. Plus, this model offers a consistent monthly spend that makes it easier to budget, balance, and forecast. (Small incremental commitments add up, so SaaS pricing can be misleading – Buyer Beware!)
- Do they offer a transactional pricing model? Multiple order channels are important, but they can also be EXPENSIVE. Once you start adding up your in-store POS, Kiosk, Online Ordering, Third Party providers (direct, middleware, non-integrated), your spend starts to get pretty hefty. But your revenue streams from these products don’t often match the monthly cost. If 10% of your revenue comes through kiosk, shouldn’t it comprise 10% of your spend? Transactional models charge per transaction, and ensures that the benefits of your technology are directly equal to the costs.
- Do they offer MULTIPLE hardware choices? What operating systems will the software run on? And do you have the choice of using the hardware that you want? The days of being forced into expensive, proprietary hardware or limiting OS choices don’t make sense in a modern tech stack, and your POS provider should be in the business of solving problems, not creating them with hardware that takes too much time and resources to maintain.
5. SCALABILITY & EXTENSIBILITY
If going through the process of developing an RFP seems like a hard workout, then implementing a new POS is like running a marathon. Uphill and barefoot, in the snow.
You don’t want to do that more than once, and pretty much everyone in your organization, from CEO to store managers, can agree that change is a grueling process.
When evaluating POS, the decisions you make should be for the long term, but we often see that the questions asked are a little short-sighted. While providing a comprehensive list of features and functionalities you need now is important, it’s even more important to ask what the design philosophy and vision is for your provider. You don’t know what you don’t know, and our industry changes almost daily, so FUTURE-PROOFING your investment is critical.
Some things to consider asking:
- Architectural Approach: Does your system have a modern Micro-Services architecture? Many legacy providers build on their original, monolithic code base, making development complex, fragile, and limited. A micro-services approach breaks down aspects of code so that they are decentralized, independently deployable, and autonomously developed. In short, releasing a fix for a modifier issue shouldn’t break your cash drawers, a ridiculous and totally true example.
- Continuous & Rapid Deployment: How is your software deployed and updated? Legacy systems still rely on manual installations and updates, which can be messy, but most POS is now able to deploy from the cloud. However, the methods and processes by which this happens varies and isn’t always ideal either. Using modern technology like Docker (not Docker’s, those are the pants your dad wears) and containers is the best way to ensure agile, stable, and scalable deployments. Learn more about “Containers” here and how they make for faster deployments.
- Data Philosophy: How is your data organized, stored and retrieved? Using modern formats like a Mongo (no SQL) database enables elastic scaling, flexible data models, agile sprints, and efficient, scaled out architecture. Separating out your live (transactional, employee, etc) data from your historical data through engines like elastic search gives you quick, powerful data without compromising everyday database usage. If data is the foundation of your business analytics, then the right tools to manage that data are critical and can mean the difference between reactive and proactive measures in your organization. Proactivity= Profitability!
- Technology & Product Roadmap: What is your Roadmap? What products are you developing and why? Even if you aren’t in the market for certain products or features, it’s really important to understand the vision and strategy behind your provider’s development. Modern POS companies should be looking to the future, not trying to mimic existing products in the marketplace or solve for problems that might not be there five years from now. Take UI as an example, voice ordering is on the horizon, and as it’s intrinsically tied to order channels it should be a native product. More so, it’s not always about WHAT products they have integrated with, but HOW you integrate with them. As technology changes, design strategy needs to be agile and ready for new innovation. Bottom line is, asking questions about the future not only helps you make a long term decision, it gives you confidence that the company you are doing business with is poised to meet your needs, now and always.
Designing an RFP that’s aligned with your brand strategy, asking the right questions, and being diligent about knowing your POS provider’s vision can help make the arduous process of changing your technology easier.
The points above are important, but don’t forget to bring in all the right stakeholders to assess your brand, operational, financial, and labor needs to have a balanced view of your buying decision. It’s a new decade and a great time to evaluate a new POS, and with technology moving at light speed, making a future-friendly choice will ensure you’re poised for success in 2020, and beyond!