Retail Customer Experience editor James Bickers recently attended the MICROS 2008 Users Conference. While there he sat down with Tom Moran, vice president of restaurant sales and strategies for MICROS, to discuss data security, the company's partner network and advice for operators in the current economic climate.
JB: Are the merchants you're dealing with taking data security seriously enough?
Tom Moran, MICROS' vice president of restaurant sales and strategies
TM: Yes, but it took a while. And that's not just MICROS, it's all vendors. It wasn't until there was more visibility to data breaches going on that people began to take it very seriously. Once they get levied their first fine, their eyes open. And if it happens in a franchise community, those folks are networked pretty tightly, so their eyes open even quicker.
JB: Tell me about the lifecycle of your products, and how that has evolved over time. How often do your customers replace their MICROS equipment?
TM: At a minimum, you're looking at five years, and support for those products for seven years over and beyond that. In this marketplace, you have to continue to deliver the same or more functionality, and at the same time do it at a lower cost.
The number (for replacement) is probably somewhere between five and seven, in the calculations of return on investment that most finance execs do. For that reason, many of the leases that we structure run for 60 months.
Of course, sometimes when you engineer well, the durability's there and people don't want to swap out.
JB: How many hardware and software partners do you currently work with, and how stringent is the process through which you consider adding a new one?
TM: There's a strategic alliance partnership, a business directory that we publish on our Web site and in hard copy. Those companies have to have wherewithal and staying power. The last thing we want to bring to our clients are extensibility options with a company that may not be around. We're a very conservatively managed corporation, and we like to do things the right way.
There are some emerging technologies that are pretty attractive out there. But we analyze it pretty closely from a business standpoint, from an engineering standpoint. We survey our steering committee. I'd say it's scrutinized pretty closely.
But, at the same time, we take a non-proprietary approach to technology. The days of locking people down are over, and you have to give them extensibility. For our software, there's an API in there, so that gives clients the ability to port out to payroll and accounting systems as necessary.
JB: From your perspective, what's the biggest challenge operators today are facing? What are they going to have to do differently in order to compete?
TM: The biggest challenge for the brands we service out there is making it through this economy. It's impacting the table service and fine dining more than quick service. QSR and fast casual continue to accelerate.
However, if you look at MICROS historically, during corrections in the economy, people still spend on technology. If they have CIOs with wherewithal, budgets are still there to invest in technology. I think it's harder with franchise brands. But right now, it's the economic conditions that are out there that pose the biggest challenge.