RSPA & VSR Innovative Solution Award Winners Announced at RetailNOW
Author David Tansley said, "Don't confuse the art of the possible with the art of the profitable." That's something the winners of the 3rd Annual Innovative Solutions Awards clearly understand well, with projects that flex their creative muscles while satisfying their customers and driving their businesses forward.
The Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA) and VSR launched these awards in 2008. This past spring, we invited the channel community to submit a multi-vendor retail and/or hospitality technology solution that fell within one of the following categories: Credit/Processing, Fine/Family Dining, In-Store Customer Touch Points, ISV/VAR Collaboration, Quick-Service/Fast-Casual and Specialty Retail.
The judges ultimately selected one winner per category, as well as one overall winner that earned the "Best of the Best" prize. On behalf of our judging panel, and everyone at both RSPA and VSR, we'd like to congratulate the recipients of this year's awards, which were presented at the RSPA's RetailNow! Summer Convention and Expo during the show's Awards Banquet on July 27.
Credit Processing and Best of the Best
David Gosman |CEO |pcAmerica
Tasti D-Lite TastiRewards
Customer Loyalty Program Retailers and hospitality companies struggle with how to make their social networking marketing efforts pay. PCAmerica helped Tasti-D-Lite reach that elusive goal through what they say is the first-ever integration of a POS and loyalty solution with social media sites. Customers earn rewards by enabling links from their loyalty accounts to their social media sites, while Tasti-D-Lite generates awareness and also increased sales for its 60 locations.
Tasti-D-Lite came to pcAmerica looking for a more robust POS system and a loyalty solution to replace a punch card program that franchisees disliked. But as CEO David Gosman and his colleagues began asking questions about the business, Tasti-D-Lite's forward-thinking approach to social networking came to light. "They were doing a lot on social networks, and were one of the first to use Foursquare, but they were doing a lot manually," says Gosman. "We wondered, 'Is there a way to automate that?', our staff put our heads together to crack the code."
They did. Now, when a customer enrolls in Tasti-D-Lite's loyalty program via the pcAmerica-developed http://myTasti.com web portal, he or she can opt to connect that account to Twitter, Facebook and/or Foursquare. Whenever that customer uses the card in a Tasti-D-Lite location, Restaurant Pro Express and the Web portal automatically posts customizable, fun messages to that customer's social networks, such as "I just earned five TastiRewards points at Tasti-D-Lite," and a link to the site. The messages, promotions and coupons pushed out to the social media sites promote brand awareness and encourage visits from new customers. According to the company's research, on average their registered customers have 91 friends or followers and 50 percent are local contacts.
Enabling the solution is an enhanced version of pcAmerica's Restaurant Pro Express software integrated with a multi-site loyalty platform from Mercury Payment Systems. The loyalty card program is supported on the portal, where members can check balances, and a card registration form protects customer balances. The portal further-boosts customer loyalty by gathering birth dates and issuing free birthday rewards while and gathering valuable contact information so Tasti D-Lite can directly communicate with their customers.
Linking to the social media sites via APIs (application programming interface) "was not an easy thing," admits Gosman. "Putting all the pieces together was challenging. We put a lot of work and thought into this."
John Giles | President |Cutting Edge Solutions
Future POS FusionDigital Signage
Digital signage is hot. But getting digital signage into an independent restaurant is not so hot, at least for the restaurateurs who have to find a third-party service to work with to integrate digital signage into POS systems and most likely pay a monthly fee for content or management.
Future POS noted the hurdles, and decided to integrate digital signage right into its POS solution - for free. By having content management and support for digital signage or customer displays right there in the software, the door is open for independent restaurants to implement all types of promotion and compliance programs.
And by having something different to offer, Future POS reasoned, VARs could attract revenues even in an economic downturn. "This gives dealers the chance to insert themselves as something of a consultant," says John Giles, president of Cutting Edge Solutions. "They can say, 'I've seen 30 restaurants in your situation, and here is how they're promoting themselves'."
Future POS is looking to enhance another common use, promotions, by urging use of signs for things like interactive games and contests - for example, two groups in a bowling alley competing to earn the most points for purchases, with progress announced on signage. Content may include formats including .jpg, .gif, .png, .swf and .mpg4 . Flash .swf formats allows such applications as custom flash games and interfaces.
One early customer, a chain of 40 mall pretzel stands, uses the Future POS Fusion Digital Signage solution to put up-sell copy on customer displays. The chain gains the benefits of dynamic promotions for the cost of the display. "It's very cost-effective," Giles notes. Restaurants "can dip their foot in the pool without a $5K investment," and even use existing displays if they have them.
Giles is confident that those are just the tip of the iceberg in digital signage uses. The ISV operates a dealer forum where dealers share ideas and successes at their own clients. And the ability to offer digital signage functionality gratis as part of the POS solution, will benefit dealers and the ISV alike.
"We're more interested in winning market share than nickel and diming," says Giles. By incorporating free digital signing, "it shows we're not sitting idle during the economic turmoil. We continue to innovate and try new things that benefit customers."
In-Store CustomerTouch Points
Guy Penegar | Sales Director | Macro Integration Services | EZ Horseplay Kiosk
Colonial Downs, Virginia's only pari-mutuel horse racetrack, was looking to grow its business and extend its brand. But creating affordable satellite off-track locations is a difficult challenge for a sport that traditionally requires a lengthy racing form and manned betting booths. Colonial Downs wanted a self-service solution to help accelerate its business strategy and lower operating costs, and contacted NCR. The manufacturer referred the New Kent, Va., venue to Macro Integration Services, which was looking to increase its kiosk business.
"There really wasn't a standard kiosk" to meet their unique needs, says Guy Penegar, sales director for Macro Integration Services. Most notable was the need to quickly print data on 25- to 30-page racing forms for each user, and to issue, receive, and securely store 2,700 bills in separate cash acceptors and dispensers.
Macro Integration devoted two years to the custom development and regulatory approval process. The result includes an NCR 7407 Advantage kiosk custom and a kiosk cabinet co-developed with Meridian that can house a Zebra 8.5 thermal printer with a paper roll large enough to print 1,000 pages. Other hardware components include an MEI cash acceptor and an e-seek drivers license scanner for a user-friendly way to ensure verify bettor age, and, in the future, read credit cards.
EZ Horseplay Kiosk's software solution enables a patron to fund an account, place wagers and receive winnings. A patron simply walks up to the kiosk, inserts cash to fund the account with Colonial Downs and prints out the desired racing forms. The patron can then go to a separate self-service terminal to place bets and receive confirmations, then watch the races on separate displays from Elo. Winners collect their funds at the kiosk.
So far, 35 of the kiosks are deployed at private clubs throughout Virginia, where the presence of club staff also deters security violations. Colonial Downs - which earns its money on processing fees - has seen sales rise, with some locations particularly successful. "They're able to tap into locations where they can't provide horseracing betting today," says Penegar. Colonial Downs no longer has to make significant investments in hiring and training individuals to staff their operations in private clubs, has enhanced security by ensuring the identity of users and will reduce losses because of human error and/or theft.
Hunter Allen | President | POS2Go | Rockwells Express
The restaurateurs behind Rockwells wanted their new Express concept to be something different. They needed a POS system that was different, too. So they turned to POS2Go, a Nyack, N.Y., VAR, for help.
Rockwells' new concept was for a fast-casual chain built around fresh ingredients; for example, customers can order chicken or beef burgers with fresh ingredients mixed right into the patty. So Rockwells Express needed a POS system that could keep front counter and kitchen operations moving - despite theneed to present customers with a large number of ingredient options.
But POS2go didn't start with the restaurant owner's list of needs. Instead, Hunter Allen, the company's president, and his colleagues, began by considering customer and employee perspectives. What they learned led them to use Dinerware
POS, built with the .net framework and SQL database, as a platform to create a solution to meet the needs of Rockwells Express' customers, employees and owners. But POS2go didn't start with the restaurant owner's list of needs. Instead, Hunter Allen, the company's president, and his colleagues, began by considering customer and employee perspectives. What they learned led them to use Dinerware POS, built with the .net framework and SQL database, as a platform to create a solution to meet the needs of Rockwells Express' customers, employees and owners.
The solution includes:
Customer-to-Cashier Ordering: POS2go deployed 21-inch LCD screen customer displays that are updated in real time as items are added. Should a customer select an item featuring the fresh ingredients, they see images of available options to choose from, as well as up-sell and add-on items, resulting in an increase to the average ticket.
Identifying Finished Products: With so many customized items, employees needed a way to track what's what. POS2go installed Epson ReStick printers to generate individual sticky-backed production tickets for each item, providing identification to both the staff and customers. Since logos are on the tickets, Rockwells was able to order plain versus costly custom-printed food bags.
Self-Service Kiosks: POS2go installed two kiosks running a variant of Dinerware's Dishcloud on-line ordering solution optimized for a self-service touch screen. The kiosks proved very popular with local New York University students even when there is no wait for a cashier, enabling Rockwells to reduce cashier staffing levels.
Integrated On-Line Ordering: Dishcloud also enables web-based ordering, with on-line orders passed directly into the POS System and sent to production printers without any staff involvement. Updates to POS are automatically reflected on the website.
"One of the things that makes the solution as successful as it is was because we did some good work on identifying the average customer based on being right by New York University," says Allen. "You have to take a broader solution perspective and understand external things."
Steve Greenwood | Vice President | Magstar | 2D Age Verification Solution
Retailers such as liquor, grocery and convenience stores that sell age-regulated merchandise including alcohol, cigarettes or gambling products must verify the age of the purchaser, or face stiff penalties. But current methods are rife with problems: IDs can be fake, and the store associate must calculate ages correctly, detect fraudulent credentials and remember different age restrictions for different items.
The folks at Magstar spotted a solution in the introduction of 2-D scanners into the marketplace.
"Most driver's licenses in Canada and the U.S. have 2-D barcodes," says Steve Greenwood, VP at Magstar. Scanning these reveals the driver's age, and unlike human-readable text, 2-D barcodes are difficult to fake. "It's easier to have POS verify against the product being sold."
Magstar introduced 2D Age Verification into its retail ERP solution for SMBs, Magstar Total POS, now installed at several retailers including one of the largest liquor retailers in New Jersey. Magstar recommends that retailers deploying Total POS use Honeywell's Genesis 7580 scanner with Easy DL, an area-imaging scanner that includes a software plug-in to parse the data encoded in 1D, 2D and PDF symbols; different states format DL data differently and the software captures only permitted data.
While age verification was a driving force behind the use of 2-D scanning, Magstar also saw the potential to use driver's license data for customer relationship management. "You can capture the customer's info and be sure you have the right spelling and address automatically loaded into the CRM," says Greenwood. "The driver's license essentially then becomes the loyalty card."
Rick Orr | CEO & Founder | ATX Innovation | TabbedOut
Danny Vaughan | General Manager | Future POS Texas |TabbedOut
TabbedOut software bowed in 2010, but it got its start back in 2002 when Rick Orr, CEO and co-founder of ATX Innovation, was out to lunch and waited nearly an hour for a server to bring the check. Orr knew there had to be a solution. In the ensuing years, he noted a number of staff-facing hardware solutions designed to speed payments at the table, but all came with some overhead for the restaurant.\
Then smartphones became more common, and Orr knew he had found his platform. He and co-founder Jeff Kalikstein launched ATX Innovation in June 2009 and launched his application seven months later in 40 venues in Texas.
TabbedOut is a free mobile application for the iPhone and Android platforms that allows a patron to open, view and pay bar or restaurant tabs directly from a smart phone. The solution integrates directly with POS software to ensure that TabbedOut does not change the merchant's settlement process. By removing the bill pay process, TabbedOut allows restaurants and bars to increase table turns and serve more drinks. Patrons gain control over the payment process and protect themselves from skimming by storing card numbers securely in their phones.
Orr first met with the CEO of Future POS at the RSPA RetailNOW Show in 2009 to discuss the concept and connect with an ISV partner with a strong network of VARs. "They have a national presence with regional resellers, who have the ability to address customer demand," says Orr. Future POS referred ATX to Future POS Texas, a VAR that helped ATX develop and fine-tune the application.
Future POS Texas brought deep domain expertise to the table, helping ATX then devise a way to integrate the application seamlessly with POS software and processors, in exchange for residuals.
"They were really good to work with, and very good communicators," says Danny Vaughn, general manager of Future POS Texas. "I think the TabbedOut application is going to take off really well," says the VAR, which installed the first TabbedOut pilot. "This will help us win business."