By SHEILA SELMAN
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Business fronts are no longer just on Main Street. They fit in phones, computers and tablets.
Technology has changed the way stores, companies and restaurants do business — and not just with customers letting their fingers do the shopping. Operations are utilizing technology for efficiency and safety.
For an example, go to Venturi’s on Lincoln Avenue in Goshen.
When the server takes your order it’s done on a mobile device with an application written by owner Justin Venturi.
Jolene Garty, front of the house manager at the Neapolitan pizza restaurant, explained that the server can take an appetizer order and send it back to the kitchen with just the touch of a screen. The server can then continue to take drink orders and the main meal without leaving the table.
In the kitchen, the chef sees the orders on a touch screen. Information can be communicated through all different areas of the restaurant, Garty said.
“A lot of people use POS (point of sale) programs,” she said. “With us it wasn’t in the budget at first and it was a hobby for Justin.”
But since Venturi created the program, Garty said, ordering has become much easier than putting pencil to paper as in the past or even walking to a centralized computer station.
“In most restaurants you have a computer at a server station,” Garty explained. “The nice thing for us is you have it in hand. We can send it right from the table. … One of the other really cool things that people like that we are doing is people can put in their account information and they can go into their Square Up account (referred to as just Square) and can pay from their phone instead of having to give us their credit card.”
Technology has really been a boon for Venturi’s.
“I really don’t know that we could function without it,” Garty said. “We used to be in Shipshewana. I was their only employee at the time there. And we really didn’t accept credit cards at that location. We were cash only. Seeing the change and the amount of business we can go through — it helps in sales, it makes things convenient for customers. At times at the Shipshewana restaurant, (customers) wanted to eat and they wanted to stay but they only had a certain amount of cash on them.
“It really helps you move quickly and efficiently and helps you keep track of things. The POS has good record-keeping and print reports, which has helped us keep tracking. POS helps us say what’s been the big seller and what have we sold the least of. It gives a more accurate feel of what’s really going — what people are looking for. It makes our product match what they are wanting. That’s helped us a lot on that side of things.”
Times they are a-tweetin’
What Garty is seeing happen at Venturi’s is dead-on with what local technology experts are saying.
“A lot has changed in the past five years,” said Troy Rumfelt, president of Digital Hill Multimedia Inc., 229 S. Main St., Goshen.
More companies are embracing not only store websites, but social media including Facebook and Twitter, and applications like the ones Venturi’s is using.
Venturi’s also has a web presence with its own website. It also utilizes Facebook and Twitter.
Rumfelt said Facebook and Twitter are the same as word of mouth but online. So it’s friends telling friends about what they like or don’t like.
And social media sites are becoming more and more important to consumers and to businesses.
“Businesses still need a web presence,” he said, “but the days of just having a website are over.”
Using a multifaceted approach is often the best option. Businesses can alert customers to specials or sales nearly instantaneously via a Facebook update or a “tweet” on Twitter. That’s one of the jobs for employees of Digital Hill.
“We have to take care of it and be on top of it,” Rumfelt said. “Part of our business is being on top of technologies and offering what works best for (the customer).”
Social media forums are still picking up speed and to keep customers from being overwhelmed, Digital Hill has created a new program called TabSite. TabSite allows people to add virtually anything to their Facebook page.
There are 66,593 businesses using Tabsite worldwide.
“The application has allowed us to be international,” Rumfelt said.
The accumulation of “likes” is now more than 106 million.
Clients of TabSite include Entertainment Tonight, Microsoft, Cold Stone Creamery and Billboard Magazine, to name a few.
And just a couple of weeks ago, Digital Hill launched a new app that allows its customers to plan out their posts. Fittingly, the app is called Plan Your Post.
“We think it will complement (TabSite) nicely,” Rumfelt said.
Much good for businesses can be accomplished by looking at analytics — or the statistics, Rumfelt said. Business owners can see when people are visiting their site and what is drawing the most attention. They can also find out what types of devices people are using to view their websites.
Digital Hill can create custom applications for mobile sites and devices. Rumfelt said that 50 percent of Facebook visits are done on a mobile device.
“We do see some people who have not made the plunge into having an online presence and social media,” Rumfelt said, which he feels is a mistake. “Just under 80 percent of people check out a business online before they call. Content is king. The more content you have out there, the more likely you are to be found.”
Which is why being on social media sites can work for a business.
“Social media, in my mind, is where things are moving,” Rumfelt said.
Facebook may be more dominant in the future and there’s a lot more that can be done with that. Rumfelt cautions businesses — or even individuals, especially job seekers — to make sure their sites, even personal ones, portray a good image.
“That impression,” he said, “is crucial.”
The gist of what a company offers should be immediate, he said. Public postings and reactions to postings should be thought out.
Opening doors through mobility
One downtown Goshen business that uses a website and Facebook is Jules Boutique.
One of the managers for Jules Boutique, Haley Kaser, said having an online presence is good for business.
“It’s opened a lot of doors for us to expand to our clients and gain a lot of friendships that way,” she said.
The store’s website hostess uses an iPad to keep track of what project she’s working on and uploads photos of the pieces Jules is carrying so the website is always fresh, Kaser explained.
The web hostess’ use of the extremely portable and user friendly iPad or other tablet is part of a growing trend. Rumfelt said tablets and mobile devices are becoming more of the standard.
Craig Troyer and Ron Breniser of MapleTronics Inc., Goshen, agree.
“Mobility is a big deal,” Troyer said.
MapleTronics deals more with the hardware end, along with networks and solution-providing.
Troyer is vice president of sales and marketing and Breniser is a marketing specialist.
Businesses rely on data and need that data protected. They also need to be able to access it from any device at any time.
“A business can’t survive without its data anymore,” Troyer said.
Breniser said that technology has really changed the way information is stored and disseminated.
Backup of financials and other crucial data isn’t necessarily someone taking a tape home each night for security. Now there are redundant servers and solid state drivers, which Troyer said is absolutely the best way to store information.
“There are no moving parts. It just imprints on the device,” Troyer said of the solid state drivers. “Technology as it advances creates things that are more and more permanent.”
Regardless of the size of a business, the basic needs are the same: They need data collected, protected and retrievable.
MapleTronics has redundant servers that store business information at different sites so that if one site goes down, the information is still protected at another site. MapleTronics has someone working 24 hours a day. If a system managed by MapleTronics goes down anywhere in the world, an alarm will sound with MapleTronics; an employee addresses the problem; and often times customers don’t even know that their server was down.
“Just sitting there dead costs (a company) a lot of money,” Troyer said. So MapleTronic employees have to be on top of situations, even planning ahead to make sure their customers have a solution.
If information is stored by a business on-site, it can all be lost with a fire or natural disaster, so the men explained it’s best to have the information in different locations. MapleTronics has operations not only in Goshen, but in Sarasota, Fla., and Columbia, Tenn.
As for security, Breniser said that years ago a virus would have been just a kid hacking into a server. Now it’s one of the biggest forms of criminal enterprise. Malware can be sent to botnets that can wreak havoc on a computer system. They explained that’s why it’s important to have security.
And as for accessibility, people want to be mobile and access data from anywhere. More people are using laptops to conduct business instead of the traditional personal computer. PCs are still heavily used by businesses that require a lot of graphic work, such as computer aided design.
But mobile is the trend.
Troyer has a PC, but also carries a tablet, he said.
“From the hardware side,” he explained, “laptops and tablets continue to gain ground.”
Troyer said that being able to do stuff in “the cloud” goes with mobility.
What’s cloud computing? It’s using the collective power of thousands of computers to store information and be able to retrieve it without it being stored on your computer‘s hard drive. As an example, if you use Gmail, that information isn’t stored on your hard drive, it’s stored in the cloud where you can retrieve it from any computer.
Troyer grinned and described his job as a lot of fun.
“To be a technician or engineer,” he said, “is a great place to be.”