Is Your POS Ready For Black Friday?

The Link between POS Throughput and Sales

It’s Black Friday tomorrow! Now I know, Black Friday is the huge shopping day after Thanksgiving in the US (and seems to be gaining popularity here in Canada), but it’s so much more. That retailers and restaurant owners often don’t understand the greater importance of this day is more than a little surprising. Whether it is Canadian or Is Your POS Ready For Black Friday?American, the symbolism of Black Friday for retailers and restaurant owners needs to be clearly understood. In addition to being a big shopping day for brick and mortar stores and online retailers alike, Black Friday is the date that accountants say retailers stop being in the “red” for the year and begin making a profit – or are in the “black”. That retailers operate for 11 months of the year at a financial loss is a mind blowing concept that many people have a hard time coming to grips with.

Black is Good

Black Friday seems like such an ominous term. Too bad it can’t be Green Friday… it sounds nicer, and more like money… but we Canadians don’t have green money… Oh well. Black Friday it is and we should be glad for it. If nothing else it’s a date on the calendar which seems to give us permission to pull out the garland, play carols over the loudspeakers, and start those Christmas promotions rolling. It gets customers excited about the Christmas season, even if they’re not quite ready yet. So it’s a calendar date you should mark every year as an important reminder of your need for POS Readiness.

What is POS Readiness, you ask? Have you taken the required steps to review your POS and make any necessary improvements and do the proactive maintenance on your point of sale system to ensure your Christmas season hums along profitably? Let me put it another way: If your profit for the year is earned over the next 4 weeks, it means that customers are going to spend more money over the next 4 weeks than they have all year. Ideally, you want them to spend a lot of that cash with you. Are you ready to take advantage of it? Remember, failing to plan is planning to fail.

Do NOT Make Customers Wait

I can’t stand waiting to spend my money. In fact, I won’t. I have too much to do, too little time to do it, and zero tolerance for wasting time being made to wait for a retailer. If I walk into your store or restaurant and see a line-up I may turn around at the door. If I don’t turn around and end up in your checkout line, during my idle time waiting I start thinking about what is not being done while I’m waiting or what I have to do next. Make me wait too much longer, and if I don’t really need or want the item you’re selling me, or I think I can pick it up more conveniently somewhere else, I’m gone. This is death for a retailer. If I happen to find it at the next place easier, faster, and it’s cheaper or better, I’m probably gone forever. I’m not alone in this behavior.

A recent retail time survey done by Great Clips, a Hair Salon chain, recently determined that your customers are not willing to wait long either – 5-10 minutes or less is considered reasonable by 94% of respondents. Any longer than that and they think your business is poorly run, or worse, that you don’t care about their business. Long wait times was ranked 2nd by those surveyed as the thing that annoyed them most – it was a close second behind “rude staff” which was ranked number one.

Study Your Lines

Take an honest assessment of your lines – if you haven’t opened your retail store or restaurant yet, look at the lines in the stores of your peers, and by lines, I mean the line-ups at the point-of-sale terminals or cash registers. Are they long? Are they too long? Get a stopwatch out if you have to. Do customers have to wait longer than 5 minutes to spend their money with you? To solve this you need to take a good hard look at your point-of-sale system. Do you have enough POS terminals to serve your customers at the busiest times of your year? In my experience the answer is no. That’s because most retailers tend to say the same thing when investing in point-of-sale, “We’re not that busy Monday to Friday, we really just need it for Saturdays,” or my seasonal favorite, “We’re only open from this date to that date, we really don’t need it during the rest of the year.” If there was ever a formula for retail or hospitality failure, that most assuredly is it. Most people buy their cash registers for the first 11 months of the year – and they think they can coast on what’s “satisfactory” for the most crucial periods of sales. You can’t. Not if you want your business to thrive over the long-term and have a loyal customer following.

Let me put it another way. If you wanted to move a pile of something from the front of your store to the back of your store, would you get it there faster and easier if I gave you one wheelbarrow or two? Now think of your POS system – your cash register – as your financial wheelbarrow, and you need it to carry the money of your customers from their pocket to your pocket. It’s mission critical – you can’t do it effectively or efficiently without it.

It’s one of the simplest principles in retail – the more POS you have, the more money you make. You will find that more POS terminals increase your non-Christmas sales too. Why? If you’re a restaurant your table turns happen faster due to the increased efficiency and redundancy, so your customers are more likely to come to you for breakfast, lunch, or before a movie time, when time is of the essence. Get them in and out quickly and they will return again and again. If you’re a retail store, triple-A+ personality types like myself are more likely to stop on the way home after work for that quick one or two item pick up, and if happily affected, are more likely to make it a routine. But if you make me late for work after lunch, or drag out what has already been a long day while I’m trying to knock something off my “Honey-Do” list, you’re never going to get me in your store again.

Cashiers! To Your Posts!

If a POS terminal is installed but there is no one there to man it, is it really there? If you do have enough POS terminals at your point of sale, please, PLEASE, man them with staff. There are few things more annoying to your customers than standing in line only to find that you have 5 POS stations but only two of them are open. If you doubt this fact consider your local bank, which is famous for having 7 teller wickets, but only two are open. Customers hate it. If you appropriately personnel your operation your customers will show their appreciation by spending more money in your store.

Every Business Has A “Black Friday”

I recognize that not everyone benefits from the wave of consumer insanity brought on by the Christmas season, but I would be willing to guess that nearly every retail operation has something similar to it. The Black Friday for a garden centre might be the Easter or Victoria Day weekend, depending where those dates fall and what the weather is like. Their “Christmas” season comes in the spring. They literally make it or break it during a short period of time between April and June.

So what’s your “Black Friday”? Put another way, what is the most important day or days of the year for your business? What about Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, or New Year’s Eve? For summer seasonal businesses it’s all about June to August, with their Black Fridays being the two or three coveted long weekends in between. The number of POS stations you have is directly linked to how you are able to cope with the increased sales volumes at those critical times. Your ability to cope with the increased traffic is directly linked to your image in the eyes and minds of your customers. Ultimately, what your customers think about you is the only thing that matters. Image is everything.

If you’re reading this today, it may be too late for Black Friday, maybe even too late for the Christmas season of 2012. But it’s never too late for a retail or restaurant manager to recognize this important customer service strategy. This lesson is universal for any retailer or restaurant; you just need to apply these principles to your busiest season and adjust appropriately. If you do, you and your customers will see a lot less red and your bottom line will be more likely in the black.

Grocery POS Catapults Vincenzo’s Into The Future

Italian Grocery Store Says Armagh A Perfect FitVincenzo_Grocery_POS_Checkout

With plans to more than triple in size in 2008, the Caccioppoli brothers knew they had to find a grocery POS system that could handle the growing needs of Vincenzo’s, the family’s bustling grocery business in Waterloo.

After looking at a number of systems and providers, they opted for Armagh and the Catapult grocery POS system – they haven’t looked back.

“We wanted a system that would be faster and more reliable than our previous system,” recalls Carmine Caccioppoli. “We also wanted something that would allow us to take advantage of new technologies. We looked at probably half a dozen different grocery POS systems, and the Catapult system was really in that niche that we were looking for.”

Armagh as a company, he adds, gave the brothers a sense of comfort that they would be well looked after. “Some of the other providers were very large, and we didn’t feel they would be as responsive as Armagh has proven to be over time.”

Carmine notes it was also important to find a system that would adapt to their unique style of food retailing. “We are the kind of store where people enjoy shopping, and as a result of that we sell a high volume of gift cards. The Catapult grocery POS system is really strong in this area.”

Another unique feature about Vincenzo’s is its partnership with local providers who deliver specialized products like seafood and fresh meats. “We needed a grocery POS system that would allow customers to pick up these products in the store from our partners, and pay for them along with everything else at the front end. Catapult does that seamlessly, and provides accurate reporting at the end of day so we can reimburse our partners for their sales.”

Vincenzos_Italian_Grocery_Store_Front_Waterloo_OntarioCarmine notes that his brother Tony appreciates Catapult’s ability to provide fast and detailed reporting on any aspect of sales within the store. “It lets him know, for instance, what is working and what is not. He also uses it to help motivate employees to promote sales.”

From humble beginnings operating out of the family home more than 40 years ago, Carmine says his family is pleased to be serving the needs of children and grandchildren of original customers.

To download the pdf version of this onsite report click here.

About Armagh, The POS Specialists

Armagh has been serving the grocery POS industry in Canada since 1979, delivering solutions for a range of operators, from single-unit small businesses to multi-unit national chains. We are specialists in touch screen and scanning point of sale (POS) systems for both restaurants and retail stores, cash registers, scales, liquor inventory control systems, and grocery label and wrapping equipment.

With 30+ years POS industry experience
the sales staff at Armagh provides experienced consultants in point-of-purchase management, customer service efficiency, process automation, and restaurant order management.

Armagh’s award winning Catapult Grocery POS Software is best-in-class, and Armagh is a Certified Toshiba POS Partner.

iPad POS Adds Spice to Thai Restaurant

Gift cards, frequent dining and iPad POS functionality now on the menu

Siam Dish Digital Dining iPad POSWhen Ti Wisesputi launched an expansion of his Siam Dish restaurant concept, his authentic Thai cuisine will be served up via Digital Dining. When Ti discovered that he could that same software as an iPad POS system anywhere in his restaurant, he was delighted.

The POS system he purchased from Armagh for the opening of a second location in Hamilton last year has all the features he was seeking, plus many he didn’t even know existed. “Armagh showed me how they could put the restaurant POS system on an iPad, and we can use it anywhere in the restaurant – upstairs, and even outside on the patio when we open that,” says Ti.

“It’s like a portable handheld unit only much better, because it has all the capabilities of an iPad. We can load the whole menu on there, and we can even have pictures to show the customers what each item looks like.”

Ti says he has been impressed by both the power of the system, and the service support he receives from the Armagh team. “The support is phenomenal. If I call, they answer right away and deal with the issue immediately.”

He and his partner first met the Armagh team at a tradeshow three years ago. “I was very impressed by what the software could do. It had a lot of features that we couldn’t find in other POS systems. When we decided to open our second restaurant in Hamilton, I remembered that and went to talk to them.”

Siam Dish Thai RestaurantWhat really impressed him was the Gift Card and frequent dining functions, as well as the ‘fingerprint’ log-in process for employees. “You can put any dollar amount on the Gift card, and it is reloadable so you don’t have to issue a new card when the gift amount has been redeemed,” says Ti.

The frequent dining function, he notes, is something that can set the Siam Dish apart from its competitors. “The system tracks and shows you how much a customer spends in the restaurant,” says Ti, adding that it can be set up to automatically reward customers when they reach certain spending levels.

His system includes two POS stations – one on the ground floor as well as one in the second-floor dining area, where they use a mobile iPad POS.

Siam Dish has enjoyed success at both its Burlington and new Hamilton location because of the focus on fresh, says Ti. Everything in the restaurant is prepared from scratch, using recipes from his mother-in-law. “It is truly authentic Thai, we make all our own sauces and curries. Nothing comes out of a can. And we buy as much local food as we can.”

To download the pdf version of this onsite report click here.

About Armagh, The POS Specialists

Armagh has been serving the restaurant POS industry in Canada since 1979, delivering solutions for a range of operators, from single-unit small businesses to multi-unit national chains. We are specialists in touch screen and iPad POS systems for restaurants.

With 30+ years POS industry experience
the sales staff at Armagh provides experienced consultants in point-of-purchase management, customer service efficiency, process automation, and restaurant order management.

Armagh’s award winning Digital Dining iPad POS Software for restaurants is best-in-class, and Armagh is a Certified Toshiba POS Partner.

Knowing The Rules

Gift Card Laws In Ontario

Gift cards are the gifts that keep on giving, or at least they are for retail stores and restaurants. But there are rules for gift cards in Canada. Provinces across the country have legislated what retailers and restaurant owners can and can’t do, and merchants need to understand what they are. The rules have been in place since the Consumer Protection Act was changed on October 1st of 2007, but I regularly see my clients incorrectly apply the law to their programs, or ignore the law altogether. On the other hand I get a lot of questions about the gift card regulations from people trying to follow them but aren’t sure how to get the right information, so if you haven’t learned what they are, you may want to read further and become informed – it’s better late than never.

Activation Fees

Prior to the legislation it was quite common for “Activation Fees” to be charged by store owners on gift certificates and gift cards, the logic being that they were providing a “service” to the customer in creating and offering the gift card. Logically, you can understand the point of view of the merchant; after all, the drug store will charge you at least 5 or 6 bucks for a birthday card to stick it in, why not charge a modest fee to cover the cost of the plastic gift card, envelope, and the significant cost of the purchase and maintenance of the gift card technology? The Ontario government doesn’t see it that way though, and prohibits any activation fees on gift cards.

There is one notable exception in the case of shopping malls (rather than individual retailers). Shopping malls may charge an activation fee of no more than $1.50. The reason for this exception is perhaps that shopping malls that sell gift cards redeemable at any merchant tenant within the mall will not be the direct beneficiary of that gift card purchase, so the $1.50 fee is to compensate the mall for the trouble and cost of issuing the card. This seems to me to be an inconsistent position for the government to take. If the government won’t allow retailers to levy a fee, thereby expecting the retailer to take on the cost of the gift card program, it seems to me that the retailers of the shopping mall should shoulder the same burden. But, it’s government legislation after all, and government doesn’t need to make sense or be consistent.

Dormancy Fees

Some retailers and restaurant owners want to levy a gift card “dormancy fee” for unused balances on gift cards that haven’t been used for a specified period of time. According to Ontario gift card legislation, dormancy fees are banned. That means you can’t impose a fee, penalty, or charge on unused card balances and have it reduce the card down to zero over time. The logic of most merchants for doing so was to solve two problems – reasonably imposed dormancy fees eventually eliminated forgotten or lost cards from the merchant’s gift card database; dormancy fees also contributed to the merchant’s cost of maintaining the technology that housed the gift card “liability” over extended periods of time – conceivably customers could hold onto gift cards for years. The Ontario government has decided that concern is immaterial; merchants are not allowed to charge dormancy fees.

Once again, there is an exception for shopping malls. They must maintain the gift card values that they sell for a minimum of 15 months. Consumers may request an extension of an additional three months by requesting it from the mall during the 15th month after they purchased the card. After that, the mall is allowed to charge a “dormancy fee” on the 19th month and monthly thereafter on unused balances of no more than $2.50 a month.

Fees That Are Permitted

Not all fees pertaining to gift cards are banned. Merchants may charge a fee to customize a gift card. What this is exactly I’m not certain, but it’s written sufficiently vague so as to allow merchants some wiggle room with regard to shipping fees for cards ordered online or over the phone, fancy envelopes and packaging to put gift cards in, and other related materials or services.

Fees may also be charged to replace a gift card. Most gift card policies include (or should include) some sort of statement referring to replacement. Many merchants simply state that they will not replace a card that is lost or stolen. If you do allow for a replacement policy, and I think you should consider it for customer service purposes, Ontario legislation allows for the merchant to charge a fee to replace the card.

Expiry Dates

As of October 1st, 2007, no expiry dates are allowed on gift cards. That includes any expiry dates for cards that are unused for any period of time. This is problematic for most merchants, because it means that they must maintain a gift card database (which is a liability to the merchant) for an unspecified amount of time. This can be inconvenient and costly to the merchant. The Ontario government does not appear to be sympathetic to that argument.

Gift Card Policy

Your gift card policy, exclusions, limitations, and replacements, for example, must be clearly defined. I recommend that you print it on the back of the card or the promotional material used to sell and deliver the card. If your gift card policy exceeds the available printing space on the card, you can direct the customer to a page on your website that is designed to clearly outline your gift card policy.

Loyalty Cards

Ontario gift card legislation does not apply to loyalty cards, so if you have a customer loyalty program that allows customers to generate points that can be redeemed as cash value at the point of sale in exchange for products or services, legally the merchant may charge fees and allow them to expire as they see fit. The legislation also does not apply to cards that have federal jurisdiction such as prepaid phone cards. Cards, certificates, vouchers, or coupons that provide a specific product or service, such as one massage at a spa, are also not covered under the legislation.

Fines And Penalties

Some retail and restaurant owners will choose to ignore the gift card rules or feign ignorance of them, and they do so at their own peril. In Ontario, fines for non-compliance with gift card and consumer protection legislation ranges from $50,000 and/or two years in prison for the individual and the corporation can be fined up to $250,000. Fines are similar for the rest of Canada.

Integrity Matters

There is no question that the benefits of gift cards are significant for merchant and customer alike, but retailers and restaurant owners need to be aware of the rules and regulations that apply to gift cards and make sure that their own gift card programs are not contrary to the law in their province or territory. Merchants not only risk fines and penalties for non-compliance but they also face a consequence far worse – the potential damage of their own goodwill and credibility in the eyes of their customers.

For more information about Ontario gift card rules visit:

How To Setup A Great Loyalty Program

Loyalty ProgramIn It To Win It!

If you’re in the retail or restaurant business and you’re not paying close attention to loyalty programs, you should be. It’s hard these days not to – they’re everywhere. For example, it was no surprise to me that 86% of Canadians are members of at least 1 loyalty program. The average Canadian is a member of 4 programs and the average Canadian household is a member of 9 or more programs. Folks are collecting box tops, trading cards, stamps, points, and buying memberships anywhere they can, and they have been conditioned to do so by the chains that nationalize their programs.

To my amazement, independent retailers and restaurants in Canada are not doing loyalty programs, much to their own detriment. Loyalty increases the frequency of existing customers and improves retention of new customers. Running a WagJag or posting a coupon in the local paper is much more expensive than marketing to your existing customers, and this has been mathematically proven over and over again. Unless you are deliberately trying to attract new customers so that you can capture them in your loyalty program, save your money and invest it in your own loyalty offering.

Whatever promotion you offer, it should be intended to do four things:

  1. Drive more customers into your business
  2. Increase profits and revenue
  3. Increase stock rotation and preferably slow moving higher margin stock
  4. And provide you with customer data to remarket or analyze down the road.

In my career here at Armagh, I have seen hundreds of promotions offered by my customers. Many of them, unfortunately, do not do what they were intend to do, so here’s a few things that I have learned along the way that might help you to customize your own loyalty program for your retail store or restaurant.

Look Before You Leap

Consider your point of sale system and include your service provider in the discussion. I have seen retail store and restaurant owners have meetings and print marketing materials and send out email blasts only to find out that the loyalty program they have dreamed up isn’t possible with the POS system they currently own. This usually leads to self-inflicted strained relations with their POS system provider and is completely avoidable by simply doing some homework first. Whatever you plan to do, it must be compatible with your POS system, as the POS system is absolutely critical in the tracking of whatever program you launch. If your POS system doesn’t have a points or loyalty program, or there is no compromise available between what you want to run vs. what is available in your system – you need to change POS systems. If you’re a new business owner and you haven’t selected your POS system yet, you should consider Catapult for retail or Digital Dining for restaurant. Both systems we offer have loyalty programs that are very detailed and easy to use, and even if you don’t select one from Armagh, you should use them as a benchmark for whatever system you ultimately choose.

What’s In A Name?

It must have a catchy name. I know. It’s cosmetic, and that’s unlike me, but it really matters what you call it. Remember, if you market the loyalty program effectively to your customers you’ll eventually have thousands of members and the program will be around for decades. You really need something that your store can be proud of and your customers can easily remember so they can pass on to other customers by word of mouth.

It Must Be Well Planned

They call them loyalty plans for a reason – they’re planned. Once you have a great loyalty program name, you need to carefully organize the details of the program. You can’t do this willy-nilly. If you need some professional paid help with this, get it, and I can’t stress this enough. You need a program brochure outlining the details of the plan so that your staff can easily educate themselves and hand out to customers asking questions about the program. You need a sign up form asking for the customers information so that your staff doesn’t unnecessarily tie up POS terminals with data entry. You need a customer card or key-tag so that customers can be easily recalled at the POS and their purchases and redemptions can be tracked with ease. You need to determine the percentage return on your loyalty plan and how your customers will realize that reward.

Keep It Simple Stupid

Remember who will sell this program – your staff. Make it too complicated and they won’t even try. Even if you sell the loyalty program yourself, remember who you want to join the program – your customer. Make it too complicated and they won’t try either. You should also actively try to avoid program contradictions with other marketing initiatives. It’s not a good program if it causes you to get into arguments with your customers over whether or not you’ll include one thing or another in your loyalty program. Make the reward calculation simple – it should be a points or dollar percentage return based on purchases, and your POS system should track it automatically. Beware of anything you have to mail, count, track, or redeem manually – it is unlikely that any plan you create that has an intense labour requirement on the part of you or your staff will be successful. Any promise you make that is not fulfilled is worse than making no promise at all. In other words, if you promise a customer you will mail him a gift certificate if his purchases reach a certain level and you fail to follow through because it’s too much work or you don’t have time to do it, your loyalty program will be contrary to your goals.

Quid Pro Quo

Don’t be afraid to ask for some information in return for a decent loyalty program and make sure your staff are trained on how to ask for it politely. Ask for their name, address, postal code, telephone number, cell phone number. Also ask for their birthday and anniversary if appropriate. The information that you gather when people join will be invaluable for tracking sales preferences, remarketing to your client base, keeping your customers informed about new products and services, and monitoring for fraudulent use of the program.

Make sure your sign up form has a question about receiving a newsletter or information from your company. Make sure your brochure has a sincere statement about privacy that you intend to follow and be honest about how you intend to use their information.

Make Your Loyalty Program Worthwhile

Customers are better informed today than ever before. Using Google, they can easily look up other competing loyalty programs online and determine which ones are the best , and they will not be easily fooled by a loyalty points scheme that promises much and delivers little. On the other hand you don’t need to give away the store either. Shopper’s Optimum program gives back $1.70 for every $100 spent – that’s 1.7%. Canada’s most famous program – Canadian Tire Money – gives back 50 cents for every $100 spent, which works out to a 0.5%. It doesn’t seem like much until you consider how many programs boost their programs for customers by offering double and triple points to encourage customers to buy slow moving but higher margin products. A triple points item on Shopper’s Optimum pays the customer at a rate of 5.1%. On the flipside, they will encourage redemption when they need cash flow and stock rotation by offering double and triple redemption days at strategically slow periods during the year. Theoretically a Shopper’s Optimum customer purchasing a triple points item and redeeming on a triple points day can be paid back at a whopping rate of 15.3%!

It’s An Investment

If you take nothing else away from this article, remember this:

You are investing in your customer. This is not the same as a cost. Investments pay a return on your money and you can measure it. One of the most common mistakes that I see when people set up their customer loyalty program is the assumption that they will lose money on their regular customers – there is a fallacy that says “they would buy anyway”. Unless your store is in a prison and your customers are prisoners, this is an incredibly foolish assumption. Even if you’re the only game in town your customers still have lots of options. They can make their purchases online; they can go one or two towns over. Worse yet, they can decide to stay home. There’s a difference between liking your brand and being loyal to your brand. Customers that like your brand buy from you. Customers that are loyal to your brand recommend you to others and buy from you.

Two more things to consider – the relative cost vs. the relative redemption. At a rate of 1.7%, in order for your customer to get $20.00 worth of value they have to spend $ 1,174.47! And let’s compare this to other promotions you may have run in the past. For example, a restaurant might offer a two for one coupon. That’s a discount of 50% plus the advertising cost of running the coupon in the magazine or newspaper! WagJag and Groupon deals are even more expensive. By investing in a loyalty program you take your advertising dollars, give them directly to your customer, and then they take those advertising dollars and spend them in your store. By running the program yourself you eliminate the middleman and can offer more value to your customer for the same or less money.

Sell! Sell Sell!

Your goal should be that 100% of your customers become a member of your loyalty program – period. To do this you need to sell the heck out of it and to do that you need to get your team on board. There shouldn’t be a single customer that comes to your cash register that doesn’t get asked at least once if you are a member and would like to join. When new customer boarding on the program begins to lag, offer an incentive plan to your service staff to board customers on the plan. Pay them 50 cents for every customer that joins during their shift.

Your customers will have questions, so you should have a simple brochure that explains the loyalty program in detail and has a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) list. Your staff should be well acquainted with the details in case they are asked a question.

You must be dedicated to the long term success of the plan. You can’t run it for a week and complain that the program isn’t working. You have to use it as a long term strategy for increased sales and ultimately increased profits.

Signs Of Success

Say it out loud with me… “Redemptions are good.” A loyalty program that is never redeemed is not a successful loyalty plan. The best loyalty programs have a high rate of redemption. Remember, we want to build long-term loyalty – not run a flash-in-the-pan promotion. For the loyalty program to work, customers need to perceive value for their time and effort to participate. You should also by now have a database of information that you can now market directly to.

Review and Measure Your Loyalty Program

Ultimately, you need to sit down and look at the data, confirm if the program is working. You’ll need to get some reports out of your system such as total sales vs. total redemptions, and evaluate the return on your investment. You may not be 100% successful at first try and therefore may need to make some adjustments to get it right. Eventually, your loyalty program will begin to pay off. By then it’s on auto-pilot and you can turn your marketing attention to other things, like getting even more customers.


In Search of Goldilocks’ Handheld POS

Handheld POSNot too big, not too small… just right.

The latest electronic device in the mainstream is the tablet computer – and they have definitely gone mainstream with literally hundreds of sizes, shapes, brands and Operating systems, to suit just about any user. If you own a tablet, then you already know they are not a replacement for everything – they are terrible computer replacements and if you’re trying to buy a tablet to replace your desktop or laptop you’ll probably be disappointed. What they are great for is specific tasks or things you want to do. Some of them are great entertainment devices, and casual web surfing on them is fun. There are thousands of handy apps to keep you occupied or provide you with very specific information or perform specific (read: limited) functions.

This doesn’t mean they won’t be computer replacements in the future. I think the tablet format will eventually replace the computer, and the stock prices of the major PC manufacturers certainly reflect that assessment. But until the tablet and handheld industry figures out what customers are looking for and addresses their product shortcomings, there will still be challenges. One of those challenges is the actual size of the tablet’s form factor, despite what you may have heard, size does matter. Especially to the “Goldilocks” restaurant owner looking for the perfect wireless handheld POS tablet solution.

A couple of weeks ago I was reading the blog, part of the Mobile Nations group of websites, and stumbled upon an article where they speculated two things: 1. “If” Apple will release a 7” tablet, fondly known at the moment as the iPad Mini, and 2. “Why” would Apple offer a 7-inch iPad, in seemingly direct competition with the iPad 2 & 3 and priced around $200? To read the full article written by Rene Ritchie, go to:

Ritchie is usually pretty thorough, but in this case I think he misses an important client segment which is extremely important for Apple if they wish to continue growing their market share in a seemingly already saturated market – Business. He barely mentions the business user, but I think the 7” tablet is uniquely suited to the business category, for example the restaurant looking for a device as a restaurant handheld POS terminal, for example Ipad handheld POS, and here’s why.

4” Is Too Small

When Handheld POS terminals were new to the POS market, and we were installing devices like the Symbol MC50 wireless handheld, the number one objection we received from restaurants was, “they’re nice, but they’re too small. It’s hard to see the screen and touch the buttons. The servers would prefer to just go and use a POS terminal.” When the 4.4” x 2.32” iPod weighing in at 3.56 ounces hit the scene, the POS industry rushed to show off POS software running on them. The touch sensitivity was dramatically better, we didn’t need to use a stylus anymore, and the user experience was greatly improved. Still however, we had the same complaint from new and existing clients alike, “It’s handy, but it’s too small.”

10” Is Too Big

When 10” tablets like the Apple iPad and Toshiba Thrive were released to market, we geeks in the POS industry were elated. Finally! A wireless handheld device we could use as a mobile POS that was large enough to satisfy people with the worst eyesight and the fattest fingers! Off we went to the first demonstration, and proudly pulled it out of our briefcase. People were in awe of our 1.44 pounds and all 9.5 inches of Appley Goodness. When the newness wore off, they said, “That’s sexy, but you know, it’s way too big. When the server is done taking the order, where the hell will she put it?”

7” Is Just Right

When Apple releases the iPad Mini, I expect there will be a boom in Apple products once again. Except it won’t be for the entertainment segment – who wants to watch Netflix or surf the web on a 7” screen when you can do it on a 10” screen? It won’t be teens – they would far rather own an iPod or a mobile phone to listen to music, play games, and communicate to Facebook, Twitter, BBM, and email. I think the 7” tablet will be largely preferred by the cost-conscious and size sensitive business segment – and I think you’ll see the first visible usage out in restaurants as handheld POS devices, like POS for the ipad, for tableside order taking service.

Large enough to see and use comfortably but small enough to carry around and store in a restaurant server’s change pouch, a 7” tablet is just right for the restaurant looking to deploy wireless handheld POS so they can take advantage of the efficiencies of tableside service.

What if Apple Doesn’t Release a 7” Tablet?

Don’t forget that Apple releasing a 7” iPad Mini is still purely speculation – albeit educated speculation based on Apple’s manufacturing partners reporting their own manufacturing numbers. And based on Bloomberg’s reporting on those numbers Apple is manufacturing “something” new and it looks like a 7” tablet. But, hey, if they don’t, it’s Apple’s loss. As a restaurant owner you should not wait, you should simply select a 7” Android or Windows tablet you like and deploy that. The benefits of deploying wireless handheld POS in your restaurant far outweigh the drawbacks of not using Apple.

Don’t Wait Until The Bears Return to Your Restaurant

People have a habit of waiting too long to use technology. Experience is the best teacher, and with technology the spoils go to the people who get in on the ground floor. So when people ask me, “How long should we wait for the right tablet?” Don’t wait at all! Do not forego the benefits and ROI from deploying wireless handheld POS in your restaurant! The profit increase from deploying tableside service will more than pay for you to upgrade or switch to 7” iPad tablets! Don’t forget we’re talking about a tablet that will come out priced around 200 bucks. That’s porridge… er… I mean, peanuts. If you do decide to wait, Apple will probably release the tablet in October, but if they don’t release it by Christmas – stop waiting. You’re losing too much money by holding up the single most important innovation in the history of restaurants. There are plenty of great 7” tablets out there with great features and accessories, such as the Toshiba Excite 7.7”, Google Nexus 7”,  and the Samsung Galaxy Tab to name just a few.

Don’t forget how the story of Goldilock’s ends. Those restaurants that wait too long to upgrade will end up getting eaten – by their competitors.

* UPDATE – Tuesday, October 23: As predicted the iPad Mini has been announced by Apple and pre-orders are starting on October 26th. The Wi-Fi version will ship on November 2nd, and the cellular version 2 weeks later. Apple calls it the iPad just concentrated, but the specs are closer to the iPod touch 5 or iPad 2, with an Apple A5 processor, optional LTE 4G and DC-HSPA networking, a new Lightning connector, and the recently released iOS6 operating system.

We’re eagerly waiting for our shipment of iPad Minis because we know that as soon as we receive them our Digital Dining Restaurant POS handheld software will already work on it! When you receive your iPad Mini, let us know what you think of it!

*UPDATE – Saturday, November 3: We have received the iPad Mini and we already have Digital Dining POS setup on it! Setup a demonstration with one of our sales professionals today. In the meantime, check out our Youtube video to see how great it is!