• Directions to the future

    Tags: POS

There will come a day -- in the not too distant future, according to Jim Kargman -- when pizza delivery drivers won't get their directions from the giant map hanging over the dispatch station. Global position satellite (GPS) receivers, the same technology aboard many luxury cars today, will give drivers audible directions to their destinations.

"We've actually got a prototype of that in the works right now," said Kargman, president of National Systems Corporation (NSC), a POS manufacturer in Chicago. "Drivers won't need maps anymore ... but it's not something we'll see soon."

Until such a techno-time arrives, the map on the wall will remain the standard key to the city's streets. But a growing number of operators are beginning to utilize maps generated by their POS systems.

At the dispatch station, drivers can print out not only road maps, but turn-by-turn directions to their destinations. The software also allows operators to add detailed information to the database, such as "avoid construction detour on Elm," or "deliver to back door to avoid dog."

"The bottom line on (electronic) mapping is it gives drivers a better handle on how to get where they're going," said Tom Bronson, president and CEO of Rockland Technology Group in Lewisville, Texas. For an extra $400 per terminal, Rockland adds Microsoft's MapPoint software to its DiamondTouch system. "It's a real benefit when you hire new drivers who don't know the delivery area yet. That way they can get directions without having to worry about carrying their Mapsco."

Norwich, Vt.-based Maponics blends old and new technologies by making customized maps and e-mailing them as PDF files to its pizzeria clients. For around $150 each, Maponics develops a detailed map of an operation's delivery radius, and if the operator requests them, postal delivery routes to assist with marketing efforts are added.

"Many of our clients in the pizza industry either don't have a robust POS system or they've opted to not subscribe to that (mapping) feature," said Darrin Clement, president of Maponics. Using operator-supplied customer information, such as who purchases, what, how much and how often, the Maponics product "can supplement the customer information a lot people get from their POS. But it works just as well for a shop that doesn't have a POS."

For an additional $250 per terminal, NSC integrates MapPoint into its TMS/Quik Order POS system. Kargman said he's a fan of the software's gee-whiz capabilities to speed drivers to their destination, but he admits it's not useful on every delivery run.

The map screen in NSC's TMS/Quik Order POS system.

"I have a suspicion that it's not going to be used in situations where a driver is doing one delivery," said Kargman. "But if he's got three pies all going to different places, brother he's really going to need some routing.

"And if he can get back to the store five minutes early because of that, they've got customers who are going to get 30-minute service."

Updates are necessary

While Bronson likes mapping software, he said its one glaring shortcoming is the amount of time it takes to get street information updates -- up to a year in the case of MapPoint.

Rockland beta-tested a real-time update Internet-based mapping service, but it pulled the plug on the project after finding too few pizza shops had high-speed Net access.

"Getting a solid, up-to-date database is a problem, but the same thing goes with wall maps," Bronson said. "If your shop's in a growing area where there's a lot of development going on, you'd have to get a new wall map every couple of months. Making sure all the new streets are on it is a problem."

Clement said Maponics' wall maps can be updated as often as operators see fit, though changes cost money. He said his field reps suggest operators update their maps -- with street changes and marketing and postal carrier route information -- quarterly to control costs.

"We think that frequency strikes the right balance between price and performance," Clement said.

Operators have an even less-expensive option, he added: laminate printed copies of their maps and write any changes on the plastic with markers.

"If there's a construction zone they need to avoid, they can write it on there and wipe it off when it's finished," he said. "Changes to an area don't really happen so fast that you need to change your map all the time."

Maps are necessary evils, regardless of whether they're high- or low-tech, Kargman said. Therefore, the question every operator has to ask is which map type is worth the cost.

"There's no question that having a visual printout of a map is a comfort to a driver," Kargman said. "But how much faster is it going to make the delivery? A few seconds, a few minutes? It all depends on how it's used."

Rockland's DiamondTouch POS terminal.

He stressed that seconds do add up to minutes over the long haul of a busy Friday night, and that that does make a difference in customer service. But in the end, a driver's memory and street smarts add up much more quickly.

"There are those occasional orders that you need detailed directions for, but if a driver doesn't know the area after about a month, you might need a new driver," said Bronson. "Even with MapPoint, you've got to wait about 60 seconds for the printout. Seconds add up to minutes, and minutes are money in the pizza industry. You've really got to look at whether it helps all that much."

Using maps for more than direction sources, everyone interviewed said, is where newer maps are much improved over older maps. The ability to take customer purchasing and demographic data and apply it to the map gives pizzeria operators an advantage enjoyed by few other businesses.

Troy, N.Y.-based MapInfo specializes in combining geographic and demographic data from midsize chains and creating detailed marketing and expansion reports for pizza companies. For $1,000 per copy, its proprietary MapInfo Professional software package guides operators well past the next delivery.

"The most prevalent user is the one who says, 'I've got this information and now I want to use it to grow," said Jon Winslow, CRM market director for the firm. "These operators come to the point where they want to understand where their customers are, what they buy ... as much as they can about them."

Operators with POS systems can transfer their sales data to the MapInfo Professional program and generate reports that recognize, track and graph trends. The company also will take that data and apply it to detailed, fee-based studies that help operators with future growth plans. The cost of some studies, Winslow added, can run more than $100,000.

"It can be used for operational planning and marketing purposes," said Winslow. "Our software can help you see where you're delivering to, and then help you get a sense by your information as to whether you've reached limits and capabilities of that one store. An operator can look at this map and think, 'Maybe I need another outlet right here.' It's a powerful tool."

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