Why mobile point-of-sale systems are gaining ground

As mobile devices gain popularity across all of the hospitality industry with more applications and additional capabilities, mobile point-of-sale systems are playing a more prominent role in creating guest satisfaction.

The main drivers of this mobility revolution are centered on guest personalization, portability and easy access to a more connected, mobile network, said Jan Larsen, senior director of product management and strategy, POS technology for Agilysys. “These factors play a prominent role in mobile POS for hotel operators who want to increase guest service and satisfaction across their properties, especially in food-and-beverage environments,” he said.

Mobile POS is definitely growing, especially in the resort space, said Amanda Wisell, marketing manager at Springer-Miller Systems. It enables convenient service at nontraditional locations, such as cabanas on the beach and golf courses.

“Food-and-beverage is a core component of hospitality and guests are looking for the complete service experience when they’re at a hotel—whether that is a drink in the lounge or table service in the fine dining restaurant, or even picking up a snack from the to-go counter,” she said. “There’s that expectation that food-and-beverage is part of the hotel offering. Moving to mobile POS allows a hotel to extend its F&B offering.”

Mobile POS is essential in today’s marketplace because it addresses two of the most pressing challenges facing hoteliers: Escalating pressure to improve efficiency and unprecedented demands from consumers who expect faster, better, individualized and hassle-free service, said Peter Agel, global segment leader for hotels at Oracle Hospitality. “Mobile POS units untether hotel staff and free them from ordering stations, meaning they can cater to guests anytime, anywhere, to expedite service and increase sales,” he said.

Mobile POS devices have been shown to be more flexible, lower in cost and superior in terms of delivering exceptional guest service. “Businesses can sell anytime and anywhere with mobile POS, helping with line-busting by moving guests through the queue more quickly and driving increased revenue,” Larsen said.

This also provides the opportunity for servers to build relationships with customers and makes brand consultants out of cashiers. These brand consultants are conversationally taking orders and even upselling based on the conversation that’s taking place, ultimately differentiating the business from the competition, Larsen continued. “A cashless, even cardless transaction platform is rapidly becoming a force in the F&B POS marketplace,” he said. “The growing demand for portable, device-based sales and settlement transactions further illustrates this point.”

Wisell said that mobile POS systems also provide greater credit-card security as well. “Now that the industry is able to provide mobile [Europay, MasterCard and Visa] devices for the U.S. market, this will allow for greater security for cardholders as their card will not leave their sight,” she said.

From a broader operational perspective, mobile POS also can enlarge the footprint of a hotel’s food-and-beverage enterprise, Agel said. For example, operators could extend service to patio areas or poolside, which not only better accommodates guests, but converts “dead space” into revenue opportunities. Hotel staff also can use a tablet to pull up a complete wine list, with descriptions and reviews, to help guests make a better selection. Just as importantly, staff can send guests’ orders to the kitchen and bar even before leaving their table, ensuring speedy service.

What’s New in Nontraditional POS

Traditional client/server POS solutions are often associated with high capital-expenditure costs. These deployments are top-heavy with hardware, licensing and implementation outlays. The POS world is trending in the opposite direction with an operating expense model featuring lower upfront costs and less capital requirement, said Elizabeth Chidiac, POS product manager at Springer-Miller Systems.

“The evolution of the cloud-based POS solution is firmly behind the OpEx model, allowing business owners to move hardware off-premises, thus lowering device and onsite IT management fees,” she said. “Additionally, the newer POS solutions are often easier to train and deploy, thereby eliminating much of the cost and disruption associated with a traditional POS deployment.”

The use of tablet-based POS terminals also is helping to lower costs, she continued. Not only is the hardware cheaper but also the management of those devices is much less intensive than it is with the traditional POS terminals.

Oracle believes POS needs to undergo a metamorphosis to meet the demands of the service-driven world we now live in, Agel said. “What we need today is a centralized, integrated platform that allows hoteliers to bring together different aspects of their operation more fluidly,” he said. “POS would be a key component of such a platform, seamlessly exchanging data and transaction histories with hotel systems. What is no longer acceptable is having POS sit on an island in the hotel ecosystem.”

How POS integrations help hoteliers

Technology has allowed point-of-sale integration opportunities to grow immensely over the past 15 years. The days of flat-file exports and serial communications have been replaced by web-service connections and open APIs. These newer technologies allow developers to loosely couple disparate systems and drive functionality through the sharing of data.

Integrations are important because they essentially amplify the value and power of POS systems. They give hoteliers the opportunity to enhance guest service and increase revenue, Agel said. “Hoteliers are better catering to guests by enabling them to use mobile apps for easier, faster, in-room ordering,” he said.

Seamless interoperability between POS, property-management and even customer-relationship-management systems is very achievable, said Chidiac. “These integrations can support features such as guest-profile access, integrated package postings, loyalty and customer spending,” she said. “Current-day POS solutions are also integrating with marketing platforms, social media and reservation systems to drive top-line revenue and improve forecasting.”

Guests looking for a frictionless experience generally appreciate the convenience of not having to get their wallet out every time they make an on-property purchase or reservation, said Jim Walker, SVP of global revenue for Agilysys. “Guest self-service is another common integration consideration," he said. "Most guests these days expect to see some form of kiosk or mobile service anyway, and F&B kiosks are becoming a popular way to upsell purchases using suggestive selling without adding labor cost.”

Hoteliers should foremost consider integration between their POS system and property-management system. When the two systems from the same company are run at a hotel, the integration is more operationally beneficial than separate companies. The other advantage is that the business owner is then dealing with the same vendor and same support staff—one-stop shopping, Chidiac said.

Hoteliers with food-and-beverage point-of-sale systems should consider integration with reservation systems, which will help them to monitor their service and table turn times in the restaurants. Integration with catering/events systems will allow them to forecast sales more accurately and manage labor, rooms and equipment needed.

“As an industry, we’re just scratching the surface of additional possibilities for interacting with social media and consumer-phone applications to create targeted guest offers, for brand recognition, to solicit guest feedback and to take quicker action in the event of guest dissatisfaction,” Walker said.