Line-busting Wi-Fi Solution for Restaurants

By Naomi Graychase

June 24, 2005

Whether full-service or fast food, wireless systems like the new Reach POS could mean better customer service, which means more customers, and more tips.

Just when you thought Americans couldn't serve food any faster, a wireless POS (Point of Service) technology imported from Asia is poised to speed things up. The good news for waitstaff is that Reach POS from Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based Wireless Logix Group will (in theory) reduce the amount of walking they do in any given shift while allowing them to give more attention to more tables, thereby increasing tips and turnover.

Reach POS is the re-branded version of a PDA-based application that was developed nearly a decade ago in Asia, and is currently in use in more than 200 bars, restaurants and hotels in Asia. It was announced by Wireless Logix in May at the National Restaurant Association show in Chicago and is currently in its initial launch phase. A restaurant in south Florida is expected to be the first venue to use the product under its North American brand.

The Pocket PC-based application is targeted toward two different markets, the FSR (full-service restaurant) market, which provides full table service, and the QSR (quick service restaurant)—AKA fast food. By providing real time wireless communication between servers and the kitchen or bar, trips to a main server terminal are eliminated, which increases efficiency.

Kevin Coppolino, vice president for Business Development at Wireless Logix, says his company does not expect to displace the current leaders in the POS hospitality market, MICROS Systems and Aloha from Radiant Systems.

"The national brands are pretty much chosen," says Coppolino. "We're targeting the regional restaurant chains that have not adopted POS technology and are still relying on pen and pad. There are a fairly large number of restaurants that are out there, and we offer a very viable solution for local integrators and channel partners, which we are actively pursuing."

The icon-driven application is customized for each venue, and can operate in multiple languages to accommodate a multilingual staff. Colors, food codes, the depiction of the restaurant's menu, and the flow of the interface can all be determined by the owner. According to Coppolino, the learning curve is small.

"It's very simple," he says. "Pocket PCs are usually easy to train on. Within an hour, the servers could be taking orders."

Coppolino believes that the Reach POS architecture offers unique functionality that sets it apart from competitors.

"There are other wireless solutions," he says, "but this was completely designed from the ground up to be a wireless solution. It was designed specifically for the Pocket PC environment. It offers speed, flexibility, and prevents loss of information. If you disconnect—if you turn off the Pocket PC in the middle of an order, or if you drop the signal—as soon as you connect back again, you're up and running. We're running the client as a thick client, running on the PDA. Our competitors push the screen shot from the terminal to the client—it's a thin client, with no memory on the PDA—and that's a bad thing."

Reach POS will work with any Pocket PC model, but since restaurants and bars are a somewhat hostile environment where users are prone to drops, spills and other mishaps, Wireless Logix Group recommends that its clients choose the iPAQ from HP.

"It has a Plexiglas screen that goes up and protects it," says Coppolino.

In order for a venue to implement Reach POS, says Coppolino, "They need at least a desktop system running Windows XP or 2000, at least one touch-screen terminal, an 802.11 network, a cash drawer, and kitchen and invoice printers. Many times if people are upgrading, they usually have all this in place. It's very easy integration. With Reach POS running on the server, it gives the management full access to the back office function. They can view table status by waiter, by table, by menu items. They can get daily or hourly sales reports."

The uses for Reach POS are not limited to indoor venues. Reach POS can go as far as any Wi-Fi network, which means servers could take orders at street festivals, poolside, or in the stands at an auditorium. It's also not limited to food sales. It can be customized to include any sort of retail.

In the food service industry, of course, time is money.

"It's a standalone POS system," says Coppolino. "But for the QSR, it's the solution that fits a critical element in the industry—line-busting. Line-busting means taking orders on the customer side of the counter during peak hours, or servicing the customer in the drive thru lane to increase the efficiency. That's a big application right now—and curbside takeout. We're looking for small and medium-sized POS-enabled restaurants or chains to add a wireless component as a secondary component, which they can merge with the existing POS platform."

In terms of pricing, says Coppolino, his company's solution is competitive.

"Terminal-based solutions are heavy on the hardware and installation," he says. "Our software fee is much less than traditional POS. Our systems start around $1600 for the software, with one workstation license and one wireless PDA license, and then approximately $950 per PDA after that."

To folks in the hospitality business who haven't been willing to take the plunge into wireless, Coppolino says, "It's an affordable, paperless, POS system. For those that have always thought that wireless was too expensive, technology is coming into the restaurant sphere just as quickly as anywhere else."



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