THERE was a time not long ago when the cash register systems market was dominated by two big names - the multinational National Cash Register (NCR) and the lesser-known firm called Sweda. NCR's fate has been well documented. The multi-billion computer company was swallowed by telecommunications giant AT & T, then recently regurgitated in the form of a planned voluntary divestiture of AT & T's computer business. The fate of Sweda has been more of a roller-coaster ride. But with the aid of some Hong Kong investment dollars, Sweda looks to be making a comeback, at least in the Asia-Pacific region where the firm is known as Sweda International. The point of sales (POS) systems that now dominate the market bare little resemblance to Sweda's original cash registers. The company has launched a new version of its personal computer Windows-based software - aimed at fast food chains and 'fine-food' outlets - complete with local language versions catering to Asia's double-byte character sets. The 60-year old Sweda has remained true to its original POS equipment mission. The company with Chinese-language versions of its software is targeting Hong Kong and China as potential markets, particularly in the fast food area. Anyone who has visited one of Hong Kong's many fast food chains - Cafe de Coral or Fairwood - would have to agree that it is time to upgrade its methods. The current system involves paying for food items and then taking a receipt to the counter where is food is prepared. This method appears antiquated. Apart from the inefficiencies that this way of paying and ordering prompts, the systems do not cater to the back-end processes which computers are designed to simplify. Sweda has just initiated marketing efforts to change this. In Hong Kong, Sweda International operates as a specialist systems integration house, according to chairman Norman Tsui. It offers analysis of requirements, system design and installation, user training and on-going support. The software used to drive the system is called Compris, licensed from a Georgia-based software house, Compris Technology. The actual POS terminals were designed by Sweda in Canada with compact touch screen systems designed with Hong Kong's modest space resources in mind, Mr Tsui said. In the United States, the Compris software is among the best. Its customer base includes Kentucky Fried Chicken, Wendy's, Pizza Hut, Denny's and K-Mart Group. In Hong Kong, the company has recently installed two systems at American Pie in Times Square and the newly opened Miami Spice. Although Sweda International set up in Hong Kong a year ago, its sales cycle has really just begun. Much of the group's efforts have been in localising the product for Asian markets in simplified and traditional Chinese characters, Japanese and Korean. The localisation of the product, Mr Tsui said, went well beyond introducing Asian character sets. More time-consuming and complicated was building into the system the different requirements of each country market - tax systems and currencies. But for a system that really relies on volumes of sales, theses local changes were critical, Mr Tsui said. For the Chinese-style fast food restaurants, the move to the Compris Restaurant Management System (RMS) is a more complicated process. It was not due to the differences in making Chinese-style fast food as compared to Western-style hamburger fare, but in the software itself. Mr Tsui maintains that the Compris system is the most flexible on the market in terms of designing a system to a restaurant's specific requirements. But while managers of Hong Kong's vast fast food 'can clearly see the need for change', the complex issue in designing the system is instituting changes in the operational structure of how food is prepared. Sales into such chains, he said, would be long-term projects, given the sheer scope of such operations. But given the importance of being able to produce market reports - whether it be daily or weekly reports of particular food products or particular restaurants, or even on-going inventory reports of food items in stock - Hong Kong restaurateurs are taking such new POS systems seriously. The fast food business, the most obvious target in Hong Kong initially, is just one of the markets Sweda International is pursuing locally. The company sees three distinct market areas for its software - supermarkets, speciality stores and the restaurant business. One of Sweda's aims is to build a presence in the mainland Chinese market. 'In China we have not really started yet,' Mr Tsui said. 'But we have completed localisation of the product, so we intend to get into that market very quickly.' The company is currently assessing joint venture partners in China. It has already planned offices for Beijing and Tianjin. 'Basically the strategy is to pull what we have done in the US, and [put that into China] through the localised version of the software.' The prospects for Sweda International, Mr Tsui said, were excellent for the region, where the firm expects to produce revenues of about US$6 million dollars this year from total revenues of about $40 million. Hong Kong, he said, would remain the operational headquarters for the company, largely because of its proximity to China and because of the surprising strength of software development talent in the territory.