Get In Touch With Restaurant POS
Greg Byrd's Peak Systems Group sells a little bit of everything, but following his recent success with restaurant touch screens, he'd like to be selling a whole lot more POS (point of sale) technology.
Peak Systems Group (Longmont, CO) is a VAR that sells and services all things computing, from PCs and software to AS/400 servers. The company is a supplier of back office support products to NPC International, the world's largest Pizza Hut franchisee. Given their past relationship, when NPC found itself looking for a POS (point of sale) hardware upgrade in its stores, NPC MIS (management information systems) Director Frank Covvey gave Peak Systems President Greg Byrd an opportunity to fill the need. Byrd's focus quickly turned from servers to POS when NPC asked him to supply close to 1,000 stores in 26 states with touch screen monitors.
Peak Systems installed standard 12-inch Microtouch capacitive screens at Pizza Hut. The monitors worked well, but it quickly became clear that the rigors of the restaurant environment were taking a toll on the base of the unit. Microtouch suggested that Pixelink, a division of Richardson Electronics (LaFox, IL) might be able to build a custom base to meet Pizza Hut's specifications. Peak Systems and Pixelink worked closely to develop the new base, which was completed and installed in a matter of weeks.
A Good Word
At a trade show in March 2000, Covvey was chatting with Rick Smith, MIS director for a trendy, full-service restaurant with 44 locations throughout the United States called The Cheesecake Factory. Smith was interested in implementing touch screens at his restaurant, and he asked Covvey about Pizza Hut's installation. Covvey suggested he give Peak Systems a call. Smith did, and Byrd jumped at the opportunity to add another big-name restaurant to his portfolio.
Byrd once again turned to Pixelink first to help him develop a rugged, yet eye-pleasing base for the screen. But this time it was the screen itself, not the base, that suffered abuse. The Cheesecake Factory had chosen a resistive touch screen, but found that the screen was not holding up to long fingernails, pencils, and other items that employees were using as a stylus. The restaurant was switched to capacitive screens with touch pens, which were mounted to the screen housing with a strain relief cord to prevent detachment, theft, and loss. "The mistake we made was going with the resistive screens in the beginning," said Byrd. "We rolled out a lot of monitors, and they had to be replaced because they couldn't handle the toughness of the installation."
Winning the account with The Cheesecake Factory wasn't a given. "They were looking at us and the VAR who sells them software," said Byrd. "I think we got the account because we jumped on it and got a solution rolling in a matter of days." Reacting to specific customer concerns helped. "They didn't want something they'd have to play around with all the time," said Byrd. So Pixelink added a five-year overnight replacement warranty to satisfy Smith's service requirements.
The Cheesecake Factory chose to purchase its Dell CPUs and Epson printers, which rounded out the POS station, through Peak Systems as well. "We shipped it all to The Cheesecake Factory's corporate headquarters. They preloaded the software, tested everything, made sure it would stay up and running, and got them out to the stores in about two weeks," Byrd said. Each of the 44 stores now has between three and five stations, at about $4,500 per station.
Growth Will Require Change
Cheesecakes and pizza...does it get any better than that? Byrd hopes so. He estimates that POS equipment makes up 15% to 20% of his sales right now, but while he wants to maintain his diversity, he'd like that percentage to mushroom. "I wouldn't mind seeing 50% of our business coming from POS system sales," he said. But in order to do that, he admits that his offerings will need to expand, too.
"We know the manufacturers, we know the equipment, we've got a good grasp on the market and what it takes to win. The hurdle is software," Byrd said. For the moment, the company doesn't sell or service any POS software programs. "Our current POS customers have their own technical people, their own help desk, and they want to deal with software issues themselves. Some potential customers don't want to deal with those issues - they want us to," Byrd said. A higher profit margin in software sales than in hardware provides him incentive as well. "As we move deeper into this market, we need to take on the software challenge if we want to grow," he said. Now that Byrd has tasted POS success, he'll do whatever it takes to taste it again.Questions about this article? E-mail the author at MattP@corrypub.com.