The Private Club Point of Sale Difference
Written by Tom Howard, Regional Vice President for Technology Training Associates
The advantages of implementing a point of sale system are well known and generally accepted throughout the hospitality industry. The plethora of point of sale systems currently available has become, at least on the surface, fairly homogenous with regards to features. One would be hard pressed to find a system that does not utilize Windows or Touch screen technology. Likewise, bells and whistles like drag and drop menu programming, custom color scheme, automatic menu changes, select item re-ordering and the like are generally available in any system worthy of consideration.
As a club management professional, what then, are the features you should be looking for? In addition to standard tasks like recording an accurate transaction, remotely printing an order to the kitchen and tracking sales history, a Club relies on its point of sale system for many other critical functions. Clubs have unique specific requirements of their system including personalized information, integration with other systems and extensive customization needs. Below are some questions that will help you to evaluate which system is right for your club.
Does the system maintain personal profile information on each family member?
A club, in order to succeed, must provide to its members an experience that exceeds that of at a similar public establishment. Obviously, one way to do this is to offer a superior tangible product. Another way to increase member value is to offer a higher level of service. The right point of sale system will allow you to deliver a level of service virtually impossible to achieve in a public domain.
A good club system will allow management to keep pertinent information about a member’s likes and dislikes at the staff’s fingertips. Information such as favorite type of wine, food allergies, birthday or preferred sleeve of golf balls will allow you to customize the service experience for each individual member. Spouses and dependents should have a separate record so that their unique preferences are known when they are visiting the club. A picture of each member should be available to assist staff in learning names and ensuring the appropriate member account is charged. Another feature that will really set you apart is the ability to customize standard menus to an individual’s preference.
Is the system fully integrated to the General Ledger, Accounts Receivable Banquet and Catering and Inventory systems? Does the point of sale post sales data directly to the General Ledger? If not, how reliable is the interface into your existing accounting package? If a problem occurs, you will want to be assured that the company you call will take responsibility and correct it instead of pointing the finger at the other application provider. Information should flow seamlessly between systems with no manual process involved.
In addition to tendering transactions to the traditional cash and credit cards, a club usually must run a house charge account for each of its member families. If a system is unable to accomplish this in an efficient manner, member service and the bottom line will suffer. An electronic record of each transaction should be retained and should be searchable by date and member name? Member disputes of charges are common; your system should deliver the disputed ticket to your desktop in real time without rummaging through a file of hard checks.
At many clubs, banquets make up a majority of the food and beverage revenue. At some, profits from banquet events offset losses in member dining areas. Clubs are involved in both member events and nonmember banquets. A banquet and catering system should help you to maximize occupancy of available rooms and avoiding costly mistakes associated with overbooking. It is important when evaluating point of sale software to ensure banquet and catering is available. The banquet and catering package should be fully integrated into the point of sale to avoid maintaining separate databases for sales items and members. Integration to the general ledger should allow direct posting of payments. A good banquet package will also have the ability to register members for an event and maintain a prioritized waiting list.
Items need to be removed from Inventory as they are sold. A good club system will maintain a perpetual inventory system with a full record of each member’s purchases. It should be very easy to retrieve a full detail of a lost receipt to facilitate returned items and provide “club level” service.
Is the system flexible enough to meet your specific needs? Most clubs operate a minimum one food and beverage and one retail outlet. A good club point of sale should have the flexibility to function throughout multiple sales areas and be proficient for both food and beverage as well as retail operations. If you are required to purchase separate systems for food and beverage and retail, you can be sure you will be paying additional licensing, support and training fees. One system with the flexibility to serve both a food and beverage and a retail outlet will offer additional advantages through simplified system administration and cross training among club staff.
The design of the menus needs to offer maximum flexibility in a club. Some clubs may accept credit cards while others do not. Some clubs may have dual pricing structures for members and non-members. Other clubs may desire to utilize bar code technology in their retail outlets. All of these needs require a system to offer maximum flexibility to function efficiently in a club environment.
While there are far too many additional customization needs for clubs to list in their entirety, some of the most important ones are summarized here. Access to Credit Book detail and Food and Beverage minimums at the point of sale may be important to your operation. The ability to quickly and efficiently split checks to different member accounts is normally necessary in the club setting where the “no separate checks” policy that is so prevalent in the public restaurant is simply unacceptable. Other popular club features include the ability to quickly change sales areas, review past order history by member and enter custom messages to the kitchen.
Does the product come backed with industry leading support?
Finally, in selecting any management system, never underestimate the value of a proven professional training group and responsive competent support staff. It does not matter how great a system you have if you do not know how to use it. Choose a company that focuses and excels at implementation and training. Most systems will show well in a demo and many are satisfactory when they are functioning properly. The real test comes when a problem occurs, which unfortunately will happen. Keep in mind that even the best software in the world still fails from time to time. Investing the time and to research a company’s track record supporting their product will pay huge dividends. Independent surveys are available to assist you in this process. In addition, speaking directly to current and previous customers who have had first hand experience with the vendor service and support are invaluable.