Guest Column | March 7, 2019

Advice For Marketing IT Services & Solutions To The Hospitality Industry

A conversation with Crystal Barrineau, OrderCounter

Retail, Grocery, And Hospitality IT News For VARs — October 27, 2014

Crystal Barrineau is director of marketing at OrderCounter — a technology company that specializes in point of sale and cloud-hybrid solutions for restaurants — where she is in charge of managing design, brand, and content marketing, as well as developing integrated marketing communications plans for product launches and digital and mobile offerings. Crystal also works closely with the development team to design user interfaces for multiple product lines.

Crystal took time to talk with about the importance of on-site demos, marketing tactics that work in hospitality, and more. VARs take note: while OrderCounter may be a software provider, Crystal offers up some good nuggets VARs — particularly those in the POS world — should pay attention to.

Q: Meeting with a prospective customer face-to-face obviously requires more resources than online demos, so why are those on-site demos important?

Barrineau: We believe there are multiple reasons that an on-site demo makes the difference:

  • First, there is no replacement for a handshake and eye-to-eye contact with someone when you walk into their business and admire what they’ve built. In our experience, that cannot be accomplished over the phone.
  • Second, most people have a natural disposition toward not liking people who they only correspond with via email and phone. Meeting in person allows for that personal connection to be made, especially when you have an advanced product such as point of sale.
  • Lastly and most importantly, “Buy Local” is where the whole restaurant industry is at currently. Even national chains are trying to figure out how they can be the “Buy Local” choice. With this mentality pervasive in the restaurant space today, restauranteurs would have to go against the idea they market to their customers to dine with them in order to NOT buy local. This gives the person who is doing the face-to-face demonstration, especially if it’s a small company or local product, the upper hand as long as they can stay competitive in feature set and price. For example, if they are buying more local, they can be more local. A national franchise group may ask, “How do we appeal to the market we’re in?” By buying within the community they’re in, they mitigate their national-feel with a sense of locality because they are supporting their local economy.

Q: What marketing tactics work best for hospitality customers?OrderCounter

Barrineau: Some of the best ways to market software to the hospitality industry include: 1) Social media engagement in addition to sponsored social media ads and 2) references.

You want to create a marketing structure within the hospitality industry that gives you a ground-up appeal: Start with the bus boys, servers and chefs, then move on up to the managers, executive chefs and the executives. In the past, a top-down approach was used for presence. Social media in this industry allows the presence to form from the ground up. The key is to market ideas in social media that make the boots on the ground team members’ (front and back of house) lives easier and increase their pay.

Q: OrderCounter operates in many different spaces. What are some of the nuances with these different customer segments that makes it important to configure your software accordingly?

Barrineau: Every segment in the restaurant space has critical niche, needs, and features. The key is to focus on universal features that can be used to cross multiple verticals based on simple settings and setup. For example, how do you work with a Fine Dining liquor store? What do you do with a Fast Casual pizza shop? How do things work with a Quick Service hamburger delivery stand? These unique setups are becoming more and more common as restaurants attempt to differentiate and they need a system that supports simplicity of setup and configuration while supporting individual niche needs.

Most places would prefer not to have their appetizers coming out right when their main course is served. In a Fine Dining establishment, this is a particular faux pas as customers expect a higher level of attention to detail in a formal environment — after all, they are paying a higher premium for an elevated experience. Chefs need near-perfect execution in fine dining restaurants so that certain courses come out at the right time, therefore enhancing the customer’s experience. Is your point of sale software configured to offer a feature such as Menu Coursing technology to help address this need?

Q: OrderCounter offers both terminal-based and tablet-based solutions: Do you see any trends around customers’ purchasing habits for these different options?

Barrineau: There is an upward trend of restaurants being curious about mobile solutions so that they can be flexible. Terminals and tablets are two critical parts of one single product.

In our opinion, terminal-only based system is lacking if it’s unable to support tablet technology. A tablet-based system is, in even many more ways, further lacking for not supporting terminal technology. Making the argument that you only need terminal or that you only need tablet is similar to making the argument that you only need to be able to drive your car or you only need to be able to walk. Both serve completely different purposes. In most cases, both are required to be productive in society.

When tablets originally came out, it was perceived that they were a replacement for terminals which caused a rubber band effect, thus bringing everyone away from tablets back to terminals. Now we’re seeing the same trend continue to take effect with less experienced/new entrepreneurs in the restaurant industry, and we’re seeing the more experienced entrepreneurs experiment with the nuances between the combination of terminal and tablet technology combined to create a complete experience.

Q: What is your vision for OrderCounter, now and five years down the road?

Barrineau: Our vision for OrderCounter one year from now is to quadruple our emphasis on support training because we believe the future growth of this industry is going to be based on the quality of support resources available.

Five years from now we believe that point of sale will have evolved to complete system automation, replacing between 50 to 90 percent of employees working in the restaurant space. With a combination of robotics, BYOD (bring your own device) and kiosk technologies, OrderCounter plans to be in the forefront of this evolution.