Goals and Challenges: The Inside Scoop on this IT Specialist’s POS Upgrade

According to An Introduction to Hotel Systems: Fundamentals & Glossary produced by the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA), buying individual IT systems from specialist vendors can help you achieve the best level of functionality for each area of your specific operation — but you may have to accept any resultant interface limitations.

The good news: With business intelligence still evolving, an upgrade might spare you such limitations. While HFTP and our stakeholders have often written and spoken about why and how we should all be investing in data and business intelligence, we wanted to see those ideas in action on the ground level.

Getting Started: Introducing the Case Study

When HFTP member Steve Ladha offered to share his ongoing experience of upgrading his property’s point of sale (POS) system with our research center, we jumped at the chance to take a more personal look behind the scenes of this crucial aspect of system integration. Lucky for all of us, Ladha has a penchant for writing elegant system evaluations and was generous enough to share the details with his peers through HFTP.

Ladha is the IT support specialist and network administrator at a boutique hotel in Toronto’s historic West End. In recent years, the property owners have started to expand their event space, dining, and retail offerings. While the changes brought on by the new system will be a strong boost to their current performance, it will only be sustainable if they invest in IT systems that can produce elegant, personalized reports that can help the business grow in years to come. Ladha knows that the property’s plans for expansion would only increase the pressure on food and beverage (F&B).

When his hotel’s standing supplier announced that they would be phasing out the current POS in favor of a new system, Ladha took it as an opportunity to assess the existing inefficiencies that the upgrade would leave unchanged.

What Was the Problem?

It has been a long road of planning and preparation — one that began in 2017 and is still underway. In part because of his prior work managing accounts payable, he has approached this project with a particular focus on keeping reports consistent and up to date. From his perspective, “daily and weekly reports are crucial to seeing how effectively the restaurant is operating and are the single most effective measures of management’s ability to operate the restaurant.”

The issue is not that the hotel’s current POS cannot put out daily report — all POS systems can. At its root, the problem is that business intelligence has to go further than simply providing information to inform management decisions. It must also take time-consuming legwork out of making that information actionable.

Although the rewards of smart data are virtually limitless, tapping into it takes time, patience and a lot of foresight. Nevertheless, with the wealth and accessibility of business intelligence available today, a robust, integrated POS is an attainable and imperative goal for any hospitality business.

The POS upgrade is part of a bigger picture. Within the last ten years, Ladha has initiated numerous system overhauls to replace obsolete technology. His projects typically have the same bottom line: By streamlining operations and introducing reliable automation on the back-end, employees can focus on driving up immediate guest satisfaction. From the accounting department to the kitchen, employees are better equipped to invest their skills in the tasks that require human interaction and decision-making while rapid-response, integrated data is whirring away behind the scenes.

What Can You Learn from Ladha’s Journey?

If you want higher returns from your F&B offerings, it may be time to upgrade your POS. To start, take a page from Ladha’s notes for an idea of the considerations you need to identify:

  • Provide employees a more user-friendly interface for order entry and running payments, thus reducing errors and keeping better track of specific data points. Compile real statistics about the installed information system in question — Get to know the people working every end of the business and listen to the issues they face (if there are any) with the existing system.
  • Offer management a more intuitive and customizable set of reports and analysis tools for F&B, ultimately reducing the amount of adjustments and error corrections that would typically need to be done by the staff accountant before analysis can take place. Not all of the POS options on the market offer flexibility in your reporting — in other words, the reports they can produce are “canned.” Some suppliers will charge extra for access to customized reports.
  • Acquire the ability to add new outlets without too many complications. This hotel is still in the process of conceptualizing potential outlets to introduce in the future such as the planned bar, takeout offerings and folding banquets. Looking to expand your offerings but waiting until you have the IT to back it? With the sophisticated systems available today, you do not necessarily have to postpone an upgrade until those developments are underway.
  • Enhance the ability to integrate the POS with the accounting and purchasing system. When outlining system requirements, it is just as important to weed out the bells and whistles that are not necessary for success. If your PMS and POS systems operate on completely different platforms, you will need to ensure that they can communicate with each other. However, Ladha found that they did not need it to happen in real time. Since management currently spends hours of work cleaning up the data before uploading between the two systems, streamlining that process will make it easier to complete daily uploads.

What Is the Biggest Takeaway?

If you work in the lodging industry, you know your business has to keep running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. With the never-ending marathon of daily operations, it is no wonder that the prospect of any system-wide technology overhaul makes property managers shudder.

Look to the silver lining. Now that we are accustomed to the quantity of information easily available to us, the frontier is to automate the integration of data from multiple information systems that would otherwise require long hours of people-power — That is the difference between an abundance of data and smart data.

What Should You Do Next?

To learn more about harnessing the power of data and business intelligence, check out HFTP’s many available resources, including these HFTP ProLinks archived webinars:

Getting started with HFTP ProLinks webinars is as easy as 1-2-3:

  1. Log onto the HFTP website.
  2. Register for the webinar of your choice.
  3. Once you have registered for a ProLinks Webinar through HFTP, it’s time to view it! Go to your HFTP Classroom and log in with your HFTP.org email and password to begin streaming.

Bianca Lopez is research associate for the HFTP Americas Research Center. She can be reached at +1 (512) 220-4038 or by email at bianca.lopez@hftp.org.

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About the Author: Bianca Lopez