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Compass Raises its POS-ibilities

Compass Raises its POS-ibilities

Emphasis on technology applications signals a new focus on adding value to the checkout process.

Recent deals inked by Compass Group with MasterCard and Visa, and with wellness communications firm Nutricate, Inc., signal an increased concentration on adding value to the point-of-sale process by the company.

The credit card deals provide for Compass to install ViVOtech 4500M contactless readers at its café checkouts that can accept Visa's PayWave and MasterCard's PayPass systems. Both allow users to pay by waving or tapping their cards on the reader rather than swiping. The transaction completes in a few seconds, with no signature required if the total is under $25.

Nutricate's POS product puts individualized nutrition data about the food purchased on the checkout receipt. It provides Compass with a high-profile wellness solution that also enables the quick deployment of targeted promotions tied to healthful eating. The core of the application is a programmed printer that dispenses the receipt with the nutritional information; it can also include a coupon for a wellness-related item to encourage repeat business.

PayWave and PayPass are next-generation credit card technologies that eliminate physical swiping but otherwise involve traditional transactions: the purchase is billed to the card account and the usual protections apply. The main advantage is speed, reportedly only a couple seconds per transaction, or less than half the average time for a traditional credit card transaction and a small fraction of the time for a cash transaction.

“Our on-site cafeterias typically handle large groups of people at lunchtime, and our operators need the best use of technology to maximize speed of service to our customers to enhance their dining experience,” explains Compass CIO Rob Watkins regarding the deals with Visa and MasterCard.

Also, because the cards never leave the consumer's hand, there is less risk of loss. PayPass and PayWave are available on traditional plastic cards as well as on key fobs and keychain tags.

Compass plans to install several hundred readers by the end of 2009, mostly in B&I sites where credit card payment is already in place, but also some hospitals and colleges. The initial rollout will focus on new openings and swap-outs where high numbers of credit card transactions can be expected.

The 4500M units, which process both traditional and contactless transactions by all major vendors, also position Compass for the next generation of technology, says Mike Barner, vice president of field systems.

“Longer term, we see them as an enabler for mobile payments — contactless cards embedded in cell phones — which we see coming down the road in the coming years,” he says. (The technology is already in general use in Japan and Europe, and MasterCard and Visa have been collaborating with cell phone makers on pilot programs to introduce it here.) “We want to be ready for it when it comes and demonstrate to our clients that we're part of the innovation process,” Barner offers.

The Nutricate deal gives Compass a tangible value-added service to augment its wellness initiatives, along with a platform for encouraging repeat business. The technology is applicable to most major segments, depending only on the interest in nutrition among specific populations.

In addition to the nutrition information about the purchase, the receipt can also carry targeted promotions based on purchases — for instance a breakfast juice buy triggering a discount on a healthful lunch item — as well as nutrition quizzes and tips (“Did you know…”) that engage customers and emphasize the “healthy eating” message.

The application uses nutrition information on the different menu items to calculate results for each order. It works with all standard POS systems, and the individual unit operator can decide what information (calories, fat, sodium, etc.) will be displayed, as well as the details of promotions.

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