Bob Shecterle

Mobile Guest Service: Managing the Mobile Technology Movement

What makes a dining experience memorable for guests? What makes it a lasting memory? Is it the same things that make your restaurant stand out?

Diners everywhere will very soon, if they don’t already, expect to connect instantly with their servers, regardless of the venue. As a result, most food-service venues today are adding mobile point-of-sale technology to help bridge the gap. Operators who have embraced mobile connections with their guests are not only elevating the experience – that is, connecting with guests on a personal level – but they also have the means to improve their competitive position, grow revenue and increase guest satisfaction.

As the philosopher Heraclitus said, “The only thing that is constant is change.” Making the change to add mobile point-of-sale technology is no small undertaking, but getting there doesn’t have to be grueling, and you don’t have to go it alone. In this issue we share the challenges and

successes of those who have already migrated to a technology that enables mobile guest connections and provide insights on how to make the change as painless and rewarding as possible. As more restaurant and food-service operators discover that their businesses must go mobile to meet expectations, there are some best practices and words of wisdom to be gleaned from those who have struggled, sweated, deliberated, cussed, laughed, celebrated and ultimately made a successful change without compromising guest service.

What makes a dining experience memorable for guests? What makes it a lasting memory? Is it the same things that make your restaurant stand out?
Diners everywhere will very soon, if they don’t already, expect to connect instantly with their servers, regardless of the venue. As a result, most food-service venues today are adding mobile point-of-sale technology to help bridge the gap. Operators who have embraced mobile connections with their guests are not only elevating the experience – that is, connecting with guests on a personal level – but they also have the means to improve their competitive position, grow revenue and increase guest satisfaction.

As the philosopher Heraclitus said, “The only thing that is constant is change.” Making the change to add mobile point-of-sale technology is no small undertaking, but getting there doesn’t have to be grueling, and you don’t have to go it alone. In this issue we share the challenges and successes of those who have already migrated to a technology that enables mobile guest connections and provide insights on how to make the change as painless and rewarding as possible. As more restaurant and food-service operators discover that their businesses must go mobile to meet expectations, there are some best practices and words of wisdom to be gleaned from those who have struggled, sweated, deliberated, cussed, laughed, celebrated and ultimately made a successful change without compromising guest service.

How You Know It’s Time to Embrace Mobility

You already know that adding a mobile point-of-sale solution will boost your competitive stance, increase your bottom line and improve guest satisfaction. You appreciate the inherent value of being able to meet the needs of more guests more rapidly, and to process more orders in the same amount of time. You’ve read about it and maybe even heard from colleagues and friends how well it works. Maybe you’ve also heard tales of the amount of work, and sometimes the downright frustration, with making such a change. But because you know the value is real, embracing mobile technology is just a matter of time. Take a look at the following areas to get started.

Peers. Assess what your peers have done or talk with them about what they are planning to do. You certainly don’t want to get left behind as a laggard. Keep in touch with those who have made changes to determine what they’re doing, works well for them, and how you might leverage their experience.

Guests. What is the guest feedback from the last 3-6 months? Is guest service beginning to slow or, worse yet, stall out during certain periods? Are you unable to effectively serve guests in certain areas across the property? Keep close tabs on these telltale signs that it may be time to add mobile point-of-sale technology.

Usability. How well does your current POS system operate? Is your system too difficult to use, or is it missing certain functionality that you, your staff, or perhaps your guests wish you had? With the choices we have in today’s hospitality technology market, there should be no obligation to settle for, or continue using, an underperforming POS.

Workflows. What results stand out, if any, after evaluating your current workflow for challenges and opportunities? Be sure to carefully evaluate all areas: restaurants, convention areas, casino floor, pool, clubs and dining outlets. Identify any areas that may be hindered by the current POS technology and service flow. Think of this in terms of opportunities for improved efficiency and the potential increase in number of transactions. This helps operators build the business case for change, and it may prove helpful for your business as well. Improved workflows should be the result of your assessment. It will contribute to future revenue potential and add sales opportunities that you may be missing otherwise.

Functionality. Are you managing certain POS functions separately? For example, if you can run reports only when you’re on-site, this causes all manner of headaches; ones that you simply shouldn’t have to endure. Managing important business functions or running reports from multiple locations is another telltale sign that your POS technology is underperforming. Finally, make sure any new mobile POS technology has a scalable architecture to support the additional layering of functionality as your business grows.

Opportunities. Mobile POS is well-suited for nearly all venues, not just where there is service staff today. It’s key to improving revenue and guest satisfaction where you currently aren’t offering bar or kitchen service. What common areas have you noticed guests working, reading, waiting – just hanging out? This is an untapped opportunity to improve guest connections in those underserved areas. But make no mistake, mobile POS offers the opportunity to increase orders and delivery speed for your existing service areas as well. For each area, start by identifying the total opportunity for business growth by estimating the guest flow and desired capacity using a definable and measurable objective.

Important Considerations for Selecting Mobile POS Technology

The emerging guest culture is typified by the extensive use of mobile technologies, high connectivity and contactless transactions. And it’s having a profound effect on the way people make their purchasing and dining decisions. It’s important for operators to understand this fundamental guest expectation when taking into account the many other components that go into securing a reliable, mobile point-of-sale solution.

Security. When considering whether a new mobile POS system will protect your data, think of your data in two different categories: cardholder data – sensitive payment information used by your guests; and business data – data about your employees, guests and overall business performance. In today’s world of headline-making data breaches, it’s important to ensure both the business data and guest data cannot be accessed and misused. How well does the system protect your data today? Does the new mobile POS technology come with greater protection?

Advocates. It’s no surprise that any significant undertaking often requires the strong support of your leadership. Your management team should not just agree to the addition of mobility, they should be actively engaged contributors to the implementation project.

Staff involvement is just as essential. Plan to involve staff during testing, and certainly during your pilot. Your front-line staff often will have insights you may not otherwise anticipate. Ask for their ideas and listen to their concerns. They will bring potential pitfalls to the forefront and help you identify any inefficiencies. Engage them at regular intervals and seek their continuous feedback. When combined with leadership support, you will have a complete advocacy team for a seamless implementation of your new mobile POS technology.

Partner. Engage with technology partners that understand your industry and business. Every day, restaurants are adopting mobile solutions to improve their operations. Even if you’re feeling a little out of your element when it comes to mobile POS, your partner should have a track record of success. And finally, seek a partner technology that integrates with your other industry apps. Things to consider are inventory and procurement, property management, secure payments, gift cards, marketing and loyalty and casino management to name just a few.

How to Make Your Mobile POS Movement Work Well

You’ve decided to move to a mobile POS technology. That’s an important first step. Securing advocates, a partner and the technology are next. But how do you manage the overall change?Well, your new partner should be able to do some of the heavy lifting, but if you’ve followed the preceding insights gleaned from others, the addition of mobile POS should be a much less bumpy ride. Here are some final insights on how to make the movement more seamless.

Ongoing staff training is crucial for continued success. The sooner they’re involved, the sooner you’ll see improved guest service and bottom line performance. Build a culture of accountability by empowering service staff with mobile tools. Enable them to take charge in their roles and to ask for precisely what they need to be more effective using the new mobile POS.

Connectivity considerations are important. Do you plan to use wireless or cellular? Which model will work best for you? Evaluate the range and bandwidth of both options in every location where you hope to implement mobile technology. Expect to reevaluate this data at different times of day – during peak and off-peak times – when testing. Determine whether additional Wi-Fi coverage is necessary to receive timely software updates and to perform as required, regardless of the location of the devices. It’s important to assess usability, as well as software and hardware performance during your highest volume times to anticipate potential challenges, such as device interference or other unexpected events.

Hardware and power performance are just as critical as the software functionality. Consider the storage and charging needs for mobile POS tablets. Plan to have dedicated locations for secure storage. It should be a place that is convenient to swap out tablets or batteries if needed during shifts. Ensure this location also has enough power to charge all tablets when they’re in storage.

Environmental considerations include tolerances to heat, cold and drops. For use in pool areas, consider hardware that is resistant to pool splashes or drink spills. Consider hardware that limits glare when used in sunny exterior locations.

Whether you’re choosing a replacement for an aging system, or selecting something that will supplement an existing system, it’s not an easy decision considering the impact that POS has on daily operations and guest engagement. However, there comes a time when a choice must be made, and that choice is critical to the success of the business. As more restaurant and food-service operators discover that their businesses must add support for mobility to address emerging guest expectations, these best practices are proven to help manage the movement to mobile point-of-sale technology.

With more than 25 years of experience in enterprise solution marketing and strategy, Bob Shecterle has engineered the product design, go to market approaches and product launches of some of the industry’s most notable solutions from vendors including Oracle, PeopleSoft and SAP/Ariba. As Director of Marketing at Agilysys since January of 2015, he is responsible for helping drive sales pipeline growth, promoting brand visibility and thought leadership, designing innovative go to marketing strategies and campaigns, and building new sales and marketing processes and infrastructure. Prior to joining Agilysys, Mr. Shecterle was CEO at Lighthouse Software Strategies, a strategic marketing services organization focused on helping high tech B2B solution providers achieve their revenue growth objectives. In addition, he served as Vice President of Solutions Marketing at SAP/Ariba, and as a Vice President of Marketing and Strategy at PeopleSoft. Contact Bob.