Versatility, mobility and loyalty: those are the themes of this new edition of Aloha Update from NFS Technology
Versatility in the way Aloha handles so many aspects of point of sale, from fine dining to fast food, taking in the traditional coffee shop experience on the way.
Mobility in the way today’s generation of waiters are using the latest hand-held devices for taking orders and relaying them wirelessly to the kitchen.
Loyalty in the way Aloha’s loyalty card system is generating new customers and keeping them coming back for more.
We live in a changing world where technology is becoming increasingly more acceptable even in the intimacy of a fine dining restaurant. The challenge for restauranteurs, however, is how to use the latest technology to enhance the customer experience without it becoming intrusive.
Restaurant owners report that customers today are growing more comfortable with having their orders taken electronically. Diners see the benefits of accuracy, speed of service, speed of delivery and the avoidance of error. At the same time, the restauranteur sees the opportunities for upselling.
Today’s waiter, using a hand-held device tableside, can offer so much more than if he or she were using a paper-based system.
Example: A diner asks for a dish that includes chilli, but asks if he can have a little extra, not green chilli because he doesn’t like that, extra red chilli please. The waiter can make amendments as detailed as that on his hand-held device and relay it straight to the kitchen. The diner is served his dish just the way he likes it. The result – one satisfied customer.
Mobility came of age for Aloha with the introduction of the TIM (Time is Money) app for the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad. It released its restriction to Windows-based hardware, making the solution truly mobile. But it also presented its own challenges.
For some, the iPod Touch was not robust enough for the hospitality market. Others felt that the iPod and iPhone were too small, while the iPad was too large for the purpose. Problems with wi-fi also presented themselves with so much conflicting traffic in a restaurant from diners browsing and emailing as they ate.
The introduction of the iPad Mini from Apple – 23% thinner, 53% lighter, and with a 7.9inch screen – has addressed the size problem for some. But for others, there’s now a new player in town…
Fully integrated with Aloha, the Orderman Sol is a hand-held device that has been developed specifically for the hospitality industry. It offers a brilliant colour display, a graphical user interface and a dual processor system for outstanding reliability and performance.
With a similar user interface to that of the iPod Touch, the Sol is robust, intuitive, easy to learn, easy to use, and it uses the RF frequency in place of wi-fi. In this way it prevents interference between waiter and kitchen from diners using their own wi-fi devices in the vicinity.
Orderman Sol utilises the most advanced display technology available on the market with a 4.3-inch display offering sharp colours and vivid contrasts, readable under any conditions. The freely configurable touch screen makes it easy to enter orders at a touch.
A second model, the Sol +, offers the added advantage of a Bluetooth interface, a belt printer connector and ordercard option.
Orderman do not sell the Sol products direct to end users, preferring to work through business partners. The devices are available now from NFS. Watch for more details in future editions of Aloha Update.
Mobile technology in a restaurant does not begin and end with the way staff use it to improve service. Technology is there too in the hands of the customers and, in the wrong hands, it can be to the detriment of the restaurant.
With so many of us connected 24/7, social media drives our experiences of life into the public domain. If a customer has a complaint against food or service, a quick tweet will tell all his or her followers on Twitter. In no time at all, the restaurant has been maligned – whether fairly or unfairly – and the customer has disappeared before the restauranteur has the opportunity to reconcile the issue.
To address that, Aloha now has a social media component which monitors tweets. If anything in a tweet is seen to have a negative impact on a particular client, a timely alert is sent to the relevant staff.
In this way, if a customer has a problem with his or her dining experience and decides to tweet about it, the restauranteur has the chance to learn about the problem and put it right on the spot before any lasting damage might be done.
The versatility of Aloha makes it the ideal EPOS solution for all types of restaurant. Here’s how just two different types of establishment are putting it to work.
Quilon: Where Technology and Fine Dining Go Hand In Hand
Quilon is London’s only Michelin starred South Indian restaurant, priding itself on creating experimental Indian dishes, complemented by fine speciality beers and an exceptional wine list that has won the Wine Spectator’s prestigious Award of Excellence. The restaurant has retained its Michelin Star five years running.
When the restaurant was refurbished back in March, it was decided to take the mobility route for tableside ordering, coupling Aloha with Partner Tech’s EM-220 hand-held terminal for tableside orders.
Quilon’s Executive Chef and Director of Operations Sriram Aylur admits that, in some ways, it was a risk. “The Quilon is characterised by a colonial-style air of timeless elegance,” he says. “It was important that the technology did not get in the way of our customers’ fine dining experience.”
“Maybe five years ago it would have been different. Diners might have felt a restaurant such as ours should employ waiters who took orders in the traditional way with a pen and paper. But today, customers are more familiar with technology and, in fact, are just as likely to be using their own smart phones in the restaurant.”
“The important thing for us is that the technology does not get in the way of the fine dining experience we offer. It must be subtle and not come between the customer and the waiter.”
At Quilon, the ease of use of the mobile technology means its operation becomes second nature to waiters who can consequently give their full attention to customers. For the restaurant staff, it has proved to be a winner. Waiters and kitchen staff are all comfortable with the system, which has proved very easy to learn and use.
“In the past, when a waiter took a written order, it was open to mistakes,” says Sriram. “A misunderstanding between the waiter and the kitchen might have resulted in having to take the order twice. That wasted time, affected customer satisfaction and ultimately impacted on revenue.”
“The way we work now, waiters take orders quickly and accurately, then send them straight through to the kitchen, eliminating the chance of error. Interaction between waiter and diner is never affected.”
“It’s a win-win situation for both customers and restaurant staff.”
Coffee Bamber: Loyalty Is the Key to Success
It’s a brave man who launches a privately-owned, independent coffee shop in an area surrounded by the likes of Costa, Caffè Nero and Starbucks. But that’s what John Wheeler did and, six years on, business is good.
John puts the secret of his success down to a mixture of quality service from polite and courteous staff, his own blend of fair trade coffee – and the versatility of a revenue generating loyalty card system that’s part of his Aloha point of sale software.
Before opening Coffee Bamber in Darlington’s Cornmill Shopping Centre, John ran a hotel, where he used roomMaster property management software from NFS Technology. So, when he needed a sophisticated point of sale system for his newly-opened coffee shop, he turned again to NFS, who demonstrated and then installed Aloha.
“Day to day, Aloha Quickservice covers every aspect of our point of sale needs and simplifies operations for staff, putting everything at their fingertips on a touch screen,” says John.
“Behind the scenes, it’s ideal for me. I don’t go into the shop every day, but from my home office I can connect to the system remotely, to keep myself up to date and see how business is moving in real time. I can also update new product details and pricing remotely, whilst using Aloha for stock control means our waste is down to one per cent.”
But, for John it’s the way Aloha handles his loyalty card system that has proved to be a winner for generating new customers and keeping them coming back for more.
“We started offering loyalty cards from day one,” says John. “We operate two types. One is a reward card that gives points on what customers buy. This has been tremendously successful, with around 7,000 customers using the cards.”
“The other card is a preferential one for senior citizens. When they hand their card over, they get their normal points, but they also automatically get 10% discount. It saves the trouble or embarrassment of customers having to tell staff that they are senior citizens when they order.”
“For both cards, customers can use their points at any time against partial payment of as little as 40p, right across our full range of products.”
“This is the biggest advantage to the business. Customers are really insistent on getting their points. Once a customer has a card they just keep coming back. And, of course, we can monitor that in the system.”
The importance of loyalty cards to Coffee Bamber was ably demonstrated when their EPOS system went down on a Saturday morning. Staff recorded points manually for addition to accounts, but it was clear that customers didn’t entirely trust that, and were likely to start drifting away. A call to NFS solved the problem fast.
“NFS technologists found another machine for us that had been used for demos,” says John. “They programmed it and sent it to us. In no time we were up and running again. Without NFS’ assistance in finding an EPOS that our cash flow could meet, we would have been in a lot of trouble.”
- How are you using Aloha?
- How can your experiences help other users?
- How can the experience of others help you?
- What would you like to know more about?
- Do you have any useful hints and tips on the use of Aloha?
Let us have your feedback, and we’ll feature your stories and comments in future issues of Aloha Update.