Landmark Overhauls Management ToolsBy Joseph C. Panettieri | Posted 2004-05-10 Email Print
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Buffalo Brewpub sees rapid ROI with IBM hardware and Aloha point-of-sale software.
When working at a landmark restaurant, change is sometimes not as welcome as the customers. But in the case of the Buffalo Brewpub, in Williamsville, N.Y., it was just what the IT manager ordered.
The pub had been using the same proprietary restaurant management system for 10 years. Generally speaking, the system was akin to running Windows 3.1 in stand-alone mode rather than Windows XP in a network setting.
For Keith Morgan, general manager and controller of the restaurant, the time had come to upgrade. Eager to jump ahead of the technology curve but just as eager to get it right, Morgan clocked more than 100 hours evaluating restaurant management systems from Action Systems Inc., Menusoft Systems Corp., Micros Systems Inc., PixelPoint Technologies and POSitouch.
But Morgan knew he couldn't pull off a major systems upgrade alone. For help in procurement and deployment, Morgan turned to solutions provider Systems Technology Group Inc., of Orchard Park, N.Y, which partners with developers of hospitality software.
For example, STG works closely with Agilysys Inc. (the distributor formerly known as Pioneer-Standard Electronics), of Atlanta, to recommend, sell and design hospitality systems.
Agilysys also knows its way around a restaurant. The distributor last year acquired Kyrus Corp., a Taylors, S.C., solutions provider that ranked among IBM's top POS hardware resellers.
With the stars aligning, Morgan zeroed in on IBM hardware and POS software from Aloha Technologies, a division of Radiant Systems Inc., of Alpharetta, Ga.
"I chose the Aloha system based on what the software had to offer," said Morgan. "And by standardizing on IBM equipment, I knew my hardware would be around for years to come."
For its part, STG won Morgan's confidence because the solutions provider allowed him to be involved in the system's programming and setup.
"Keith [Morgan] is an educated buyer who understands what he wants and how to use software to drive business profitability," said STG President Gary Kielich. "After we examined his business processes, we recommended a POS solution that can grow and adapt with his business."
More than 50,000 restaurant systems are currently running Aloha's software. STG ordered the new restaurant management system for Buffalo Brewpub in mid-October last year. The IBM POS hardware and Aloha software arrived in late November, and STG configured the system to run in time for Buffalo Brewpub's target date of Dec. 1.
"STG's technicians worked closely with me to get the proper menu setup and dining room layouts arranged," said Morgan. "We were able to test the system and train our staff without skipping a beat."
Next page: Rapid ROI.
Five months after the system's deployment in December, Morgan has seen a rapid ROI (return on investment).
Indeed, the new system allows the restaurant's staff to change menu items very quickly, while Morgan gains improved sales and payroll reporting capabilities. An Internet-driven credit card approval system has improved service within the restaurant.
All told, Morgan estimates the system will deliver an ROI of roughly $12,000 to $15,000 per year.
"I think the system will pay for itself very quickly," said Morgan. "There are fewer billing errors, and the system includes prompts that encourage our staff to upsell items.
"In my 35 years in the restaurant business," he added, "I have gone from the pen and pad to a good point-of-sale system with [STG] to what I now feel is the Cadillac of the POS industry."
Clearly, Morgan was in the driver's seat from the very first moment he met STG sales representatives.
"Keith [Morgan] made this a very successful implementation because he took personal interest and responsibility for the system to perform as required," said STG's Kielich. "He fit the 'ideal client' profile."
What's next on Buffalo Brewpub's technology menu? The answers may lie at STG, where combined gift and loyalty card functionality can strengthen a restaurant's repeat business among deep-pocketed customers.
STG is also pushing the addition of video systems in kitchens to replace its dot-matrix impact printers, which are common in table-service restaurants.
"The video systems have certainly caught our attention," said Morgan. "Since our new system is [extensible], our options seem limitless."
Joseph C. Panettieri (email@example.com) has covered Silicon Valley since 1992. He most recently served as editorial director of New York Institute of Technology.
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