On any given day, American restaurants generate between $1.5 and $1.6 billion in revenue at 945,000 nationwide locations, according to the National Restaurant Association. A pivotal ingredient in processing the $580 billion produced annually by this industry is expert synergy between kitchen and table.
Managing a bustling kitchen supported by properly equipped staff can be a daunting challenge. A reliable POS system is essential, but not just any system will do. The fast-paced restaurant environment places a heavy demand on equipment. And for that reason, component durability and software connectivity throughout the entire chain of command are vital to the mix.
After architecting and building a successful restaurant POS solution for First Data Corp., Kurtis Kammerer ventured off to form Merchant Implementation Services. As a partner and Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for MIS, Kammerer's objective has been to develop a bundled POS solution that would cater to small and midsize restaurants and bars, which are underserved markets in his opinion.
"We felt like the days of just walking in with a swipe terminal, especially in the restaurant industry, were slipping away," said Kammerer. "A lot of agents realized this, and typically what they did was to partner with the local VAR. But, of course, all they could get was a referral fee, and they really didn't have any control in that situation as to how the merchant might be treated or how the process would work."
For Kammerer, the system not only had to be affordable, but it needed to automate the functions involved in daily operations, which would allow busy restaurateurs and bar owners to focus more attention on the profitable side of turning tables. The company's flagship product, its MIS POS system, was launched during the 2010 Electronic Transactions Association Meeting & Expo.
According to Kammerer, primary targets for the system include fine dining establishments, quick service restaurants, coffee shops, bars and nightclubs. "A lot of software doesn't do pizza, or if they do, they're strictly for pizza and that's it," he said, adding that the software that's bundled with the MIS POS system features a strong component for pizza restaurants.
While hardware and software constitute core components, peripherals and services also play prominently in the MIS POS solution. For example, MIS noted that the system features full surge protection, essential in an environment where use of industrial-grade equipment is known to cause electrical surges. The system is hard-wired to enhance continuity and diminish security risks, and its single form factor unit saves space by housing the central processing unit in the touch-screen monitor itself.
The MIS POS bundled package includes:
Prior to shipping, MIS bench tests each system. "Everything is color-coded and ready to go," Kammerer said. "So things like anti-virus, surge protection, the preconfigured router and - probably the biggest thing for our ISOs and agents - preconfigured credit card processing with basically the processor of their choice. I say 'basically' because Aldelo [software] is certified direct, without the need for another gateway, to use the TSYS, Global and First Data platforms."
In addressing security issues, Kammerer said, "Aldelo has their PA DSS certification, which allows the merchant to be PCI compliant. We always tell merchants, PCI compliance is their issue, PA DSS is our issue. So, does our software meet the requirements to allow them to be PCI compliant? They need to do things the right way. All we can do is to provide a system that meets all the Visa and MasterCard requirements."
According to Kammerer, the system's intuitive software allows restaurant and bar managers to maintain and manipulate menu items. A manager can set pricing for a happy-hour or daily special, and once an offer has expired, the system automatically reverts to the item's original pricing.
Kammerer noted that handwritten tickets are a thing of the past because all orders are entered on a touch-screen monitor. "You just touch," he said. "They're touching hamburger, no pickle, extra cheese, this and that. They're adding the drinks for however many people they have, and then they're hitting a button to send that order back to the kitchen."
Kammerer said fine dining establishments appreciate the timing feature, which allows wait staff to submit individual course selections to the chef with a timing mark indicating when preparation should begin. Timing can either be programmed to occur at set intervals or entered manually as patrons complete each course.
One source of revenue loss for restaurants is the inadvertent giving away of free products. With the MIS system, when a customer requests an extra item, the software can tabulate the cost of the extra item. "If a customer asks for extra cheese, for example, the server can respond, 'We can add extra cheese. It's a 25 cent add-on,'" he said. The software also assists managers with tracking inventory levels so reorders can be timed accordingly.
Splitting ticket costs among patrons can be time consuming for restaurants, Kammerer said. "If you're on a busy Friday or Saturday night, and you've reduced a 4- or 5-minute operation of splitting a ticket down to 10 seconds [which the MIS system does automatically], and you perform that operation 20 times or so over the course of an evening, now we're talking about another table turn, and that's a real value to a merchant."
Kammerer noted that the end-of-shift settlement feature can also save time, particularly for restaurants where the employees act as cashiers, turning over money owed to the restaurant at the end of each shift. The software keeps a running total of amounts collected during an employee's shift and provides a printout at the end. With the time clock feature, employees can either enter a PIN or customized swipe card, which can be ordered through MIS.
Reflecting upon MIS' partnership with Aldelo LP, Kammerer said, "We have the only version that has the credit card interface screen locked. Once somebody sells the merchant, not only is this a very sticky product and merchant for that agent - because of the fact that you now have something in there that is basically running their business - but it's extra sticky because somebody else can't just walk in and say, 'I'll put my new merchant ID and terminal ID in and save you 10 basis points.'"
To help increase the sales conversion rate, MIS offers live, online product demonstrations to prospective merchants. A merchant level salesperson (MLS) can lead the call with the merchant, either in person or on the phone, and MIS is there to provide answers to questions, Kammerer said.
The MIS POS system can also be branded. "We can put their logo on the software page and we can put it on the hardware," Kammerer said, "So now you have your own system. ... You walk in and the merchant says, 'I need something more than just a card swipe. I'm looking for a whole system.' Now you can say, 'Got something for you.'"
As an experienced MIS POS reseller, Gary Matherne, Chief Executive Officer at Bankcard Processing International LLC, said, "My experience with the POS industry for this type of merchant is that it costs less and it's a lot easier to support. Three years with unlimited support and warranty is huge. It helped us get a few merchants that we wouldn't have gotten. We haven't had any down time for any of the merchants yet, and that's been a big plus."
MIS offers two wholesale pricing models to ISOs and MLSs. Both include 24/7 merchant support and MIS' Advanced Overnight Warranty Replacement program. "With us you call in and say, 'My kitchen printer broke,'" Kammerer said. "It shows up on your doorstep the next morning. We walk you through plugging it in. Restaurants need things up and running quickly. That's how we operate."
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