Talking tech: hospitality tech terminology explained

Want to know your AI from your EPOS? We understand that hospitality technology can be intimidating and some of the terminology is, frankly, baffling, so we’ve created this jargon-busting glossary of terms to help licensees make sense of it all.

Artificial intelligence (AI)

In pubs, this happens when arguments and theories become more spurious the longer the night goes on. In tech, it means intelligence demonstrated by machines rather than humans or animals. Advanced Google searches or Alexa answering your questions are both common examples.

Augmented Reality (AR)

It’s reality but not as we know it. Augmented reality is an interactive experience of the real world enhanced by computer generated information. Still not clear? Remember when loads of people were using their smartphones to find Pokémon? That was augmented reality. It can be used in pubs to provide customers with venue information that can be accessed with their phones, such as details generated on menus or pump-clips about food and drink.


Tech circles will affectionately refer to this as ‘under the hood’. This is the bit of the computer which allows it to operate and is not typically accessed by the user, it includes data and operating systems.

Click & Collect

Prior to the pandemic, the practise of buying online and collecting at a venue was more generally associated with retail and the weekly shop. Smart pub operators pivoted during enforced closure periods to sell meals and drinks online that customers would collect at the venue. For many, it has provided a valuable and continued revenue stream.

Connected Technology

This one is as simple as it sounds. Connected technologies are devices that connect to each other and the internet, making business more efficient. This could be a tablet connecting to your EPOS system to monitor payments and bookings or the way a smart phone links to a watch.

Customer Database

A means of storing all the metrics about your customers and how they interact with your business. Using a variety of channels like reservations, loyalty and WiFi to build and maintain your database allows you to glean insights about your customers and thus personalise their experience of your brand. If the data shows the majority are veggies, maybe hold off on that steak night! This data is often stored in a CRM system.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System

Ensuring customers are happy and want to come back for more is essential for any pub. CRM systems are designed to help you do this by managing the touchpoints you have with customers so you can communicate effectively. They do this by using the data from your customer database.

Customer Experience (CX)

Also known as the customer journey. This is the entire experience a customer has with you, from finding you online, making a reservation, entering the building, ordering, eating and drinking – all the way through to writing a positive review and sharing that experience with others.

Contactless Payment

Contactless was something we all got used to over the course of the pandemic. Payment wise, customers now expect to be able to pay using contactless in pubs so they can avoid entering their PIN number or trying to find some loose cash. Contactless includes both physical cards and mobile payment devices using Apple or Google Pay.

Digital technology

A catch-all term for basically everything involving computerised technology. It also covers data captured in binary digits. We’re talking smartphones, social media, laptops, desktops, digital photos, EPoS (we’ll get to that) and much, much more.


Newcomers to the trade may well wonder what this acronym means. It’s short for Electronic Point of Sale (as opposed to PoS, which covers the likes of posters, beer mats and table talkers). However, EPoS is so much more than just a fancy till system these days. A modern EPoS includes all the tools a business needs to help you run your business better, faster and with as little effort as possible. Find out more about our customisable EPoS solutions for independent pubs here.

Handheld Ordering

Taking the EPoS system to the table with a connected handheld device has many advantages. It dramatically speeds things up, reduces the potential for any errors from either memory, notebooks or inputting into the till and can give a superior guest experience! (Think: a table ordering drinks before their meals, and having those drinks arrive before they complete the ordering process!)

Integrated Payment System

The important bit – receiving your hard-earned money! This technology ensures servers always charge the correct amount and sends that money directly to your bank. Simple. As this technology progresses, you’ll find it built into EPoS, Pay-at-Table devices. handhelds, kiosks, apps, websites… and likely wherever the next frontier takes us…

Integrated Technology

A suite of technological solutions that link and work seamlessly together to help the smooth running of the business. Zonal works with a number of partners to offer various solutions to help pubs and the wider hospitality industry.

Inventory Management System

This is a digital system that controls your Stock and Order process – from supply chain and recipes and menus to stock counts and reports. Such systems help operators keep a close eye on things and spot where savings can be made and margins improved.

Online Booking

A software system to allow customers to make reservations online, before they visit you in person.

Order & Pay

The ability to browse the menu on your phone, make your choice and pay, all while at the table or in a seat. Another area of tech that became more familiar from necessity due to the pandemic, but is now a customer expectation.


Not just the stage from where your resident quizmaster asks the questions or your karaoke singers star, but also technologies that provide systems or services. Google, Amazon, Twitter, Facebook and (of course!) Zonal are all platforms.

Property Management System (PMS)

A software system for hotels and venues with rooms. It can encompass facilitation and management of a range of requirements such as: bookings (availability, rates and channels); check-in / out; finance and invoicing; room maintenance; customer details; staff rotas and wages; marketing and point of sale.

PoS Terminal

The tangible device that houses your EPoS software, be that behind the bar, at a host point, in the ticket office, at reception and even at the table (see handheld ordering). Check out what Zonal has on offer here.

Purchase to Pay

This is the term that describes the end-to-end journey of placing orders with your suppliers. It can enable teams to see what’s in stock, what’s on order, when orders are due for delivery and invoices that need to be paid. A Purchase to Pay system can reduce over-ordering and significantly improve margins by sourcing goods from the best supplier at the cheapest price..

Mixed Reality

The next step on from augmented reality, where the real world and virtual reality are combined together to create new experiences. Think, sitting in a pub and enjoying a pint with friends – except they are in another pub…

Real-time Booking

Technology that allows customers to make online reservations with you at any time of day or night and receive immediate confirmation. Connected technology can take this to the next level by giving an ‘in-session’ view of availability for those last minute booking types!


Not the boss of the company, but probably even more important. Your SEO is ‘search engine optimisation’ and getting it right improves your visibility and presence online.


A pivotal role in all hospitality businesses around the world! Not dissimilarly, in tech a server takes orders and delivers the right thing, to the right place, at the right time! It stores applications, files, web services, email and customer databases.

Stock & Order

Running low on stock? Got a big event coming up? Stock and Order describes the process of tracking what lines you have in stock, on order and what you will need to replenish.

Table Management System

Paper diaries are great. Online Bookings are even better. And Table Management makes Online Bookings the best! A good Table Management system will automatically assign your bookings to the most suitable table, allow hosts to plan and refine the session allocations and make greeting and seating a thing of beauty. Using connected technology can even give a hosts live course status’, automatically assign loyalty numbers and even ping pre-orders directly to the kitchen! Check out how we can help with this.

Tech Stack

All the bits and bobs together… The combination of technologies used to help run a range of processes within a business. This is sometimes delivered by a single platform (like Google or Microsoft – you may hear a business described as a ‘Microsoft House’ which means their tech stack is mostly provided by them), or by a multitude of providers. Choosing the right ‘stack’ is essential for a business and will be determined mostly by the technology experience levels it holds, and how well this tech works together.

User Experience (UX)

A term that has as much relevance in hospitality as it does to technology. User experience, often shortened to ‘UX’ is used when talking about how easy, effective and enjoyable a device or service is for the person using it. Something tech and hospitality providers strive tirelessly to get spot on.

Voice Recognition

Many of us are now familiar with asking Alexa, Siri or Google for answers to tricky homework questions or weather forecasts. We would anticipate a proliferation of this kind of technology within hospitality both for customers and staff.

Virtual Reality (VR)

Another piece of the reality puzzle, where users are immersed in an entirely simulated environment. Examples are already appearing in hospitality via gaming experiences and is likely to grow in the on-trade. This could be used in training programmes or even allow customers to enjoy a version of your venue from anywhere in the world.

Web Ordering

Not just for those Halloween decorations. It’s another catch-all term that covers ordering via any web-based platform. It includes how your menus can be made available on third-party apps and website.


As simple as it sounds, the ability to communicate over distances without the need for any wires or cables. There are many technologies that can provide this, most notably: Wi-Fi; Bluetooth and 4/5G. Different situations and locations will suit a certain wireless type, so it’s always a good decision to get some expert advice.

Zonal has a wide range of technology solutions designed to make life easier and businesses more profitable. Find out more about our range designed specifically with pub tenants and licensees in mind, here!

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