K-12 Cafeterias Need The Right VAR Touch (Screen)
A VAR earns a $70,000 touch screen install contract by providing an affordable, nonintegrated POS (point of sale) solution.
Finding out your customers’ business challenges and financial constraints are the first steps to being a true value-added reseller. And, sometimes the value you provide entails coming up with a solution outside your normal lineup. This was the case with software developer Data Futures, Inc. when it discovered the Athens City (AL) Schools district was looking for a way to centralize its cafeteria food reporting to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). “The school needed to be in full compliance with the USDA’s meal requirements in order to receive the maximum financial assistance,” says Doug Boals, VP of sales and marketing at Data Futures. The USDA puts out approved food menus that schools use to make their food buying decisions with local vendors and to ensure their menus meet the agency’s health standards, which is necessary for meal reimbursements.
The government pays a percentage of each public school student’s meal, and in certain low-income family situations, it covers the entire cost of the meal. The Athens City Schools were using cash drawers and handwritten notes to track their menus and students who qualified for reduced or free lunches. While attending a foodservice director’s meeting, the Athens City Schools director was told by a respected peer about Data Futures and its cafeteria software called LunchBox. “The director’s peer told her we were one of only two software solutions in the state that had all of the state reports up-to-date last year,” says Gina Warren, account representative — LunchBox, Data Futures. “Shortly after the meeting, the director called our office, and we scheduled a demonstration.”
Sell The Value Of A Nonintegrated POS Workstation
Data Futures demonstrated an integrated touch screen solution running its LunchBox program. “The customer liked the product but told us the price was higher than what it was willing to spend,” says Boals. Data Futures contacted one of its distributors, Agilysys, and was put in touch with an HP sales rep. “Our distributor put together a bundled touch screen POS solution that included an HP RP5000 workstation, plus a cash drawer, OS, network card, and 15-inch Trilogy T3-15B1U touch screen monitor for about 40% less than our integrated POS workstation,” says Boals. Data Futures contacted the Athens City Schools director and was back in the running. The software developer explained to the director some of the pluses and minuses of using a nonintegrated system. “In environments such as restaurants where every square foot of space counts, the more compact, integrated POS workstations are usually preferred,” says Boals. “But, in a K-12 cafeteria environment, the benefits of a less expensive, nonintegrated POS workstation outweigh integrated POS workstations. It is often easier to troubleshoot a nonintegrated POS workstation, minimizing downtime. For example, if the touch screen is ever damaged, the customer can attach a regular monitor and mouse to the workstation while the touch screen is being repaired.”
The Athens City Schools purchased 10 HP POS workstations for 7 of its school cafeterias. Data Futures spent one month installing the POS equipment, integrating the front end touch screen with the school district’s SQL database, and training cashiers how to operate the system. Overall, the system brought in $70,000 in sales revenue for Data Futures, and since that first nonintegrated POS workstation install in 2005, it now has more than 100 such installs planned for 2006.