You’d think that fragmented, piecemeal point of sale systems, like bulky countertop terminals and handwritten receipts, would have been done away with by now, especially in a day and age where POS advancements have never been more sophisticated, mobile or affordable. In our discussion with POS software specialist Justin Guinn from Software Advice, we learned that 63% of restaurants don’t have a restaurant POS system in place.
When we asked Guinn why restaurateurs have waited until now to revisit their most critical business process, he said that many restaurateurs have reached a point of comfortable disorganization – a business state that runs by a “‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’” mentality. But, then he asked, “What does that say if those processes are currently breaking?”
The old standard of jotting down orders, plugging those scribbles into a computer, penning modifications directly onto the ticket, and presenting a single bill, technically works, even with the miscommunications, the risk of error, and the cost to maintain those legacy systems. The process isn’t great, it’s definitely not perfect, but it gets the job done.
However, many restaurateurs are starting to see the light, and a huge trend towards mobile POS is occurring: Guinn reports that within the 63% of restaurants that don’t have a POS, 73% are requesting mobile POS with an iPad favorability.
“In the restaurant space, the trend towards mobile POS is very, very apparent. It’s definitely the biggest shift happening right now. The primary reason for this? There is an incredible operational benefit gained when servers can take orders and complete transactions anywhere in the restaurant, as opposed to having them go back and forth to terminals. The servers are more efficient, tables are turned over faster, there is no lag between order and order submission, and, of course, way less room for error,” says Guinn.
Now that restaurateurs are seeing the immense operational and cost benefits of automating their ordering and billing process, the question becomes, what key capabilities are they looking for? Based on our discussion with industry expert Justin Guinn, here are three of the biggest POS trends occurring in the restaurant industry.
Here’s a scenario that reflects what traditional processes can look like: first, a server chicken scratches an order into their notebook. Then, they run across the restaurant to a monitor and input that order into the computer. Sometimes they have to wait for another server to finish entering an order. Once they’ve logged in and started entering their order, halfway through, they’re interrupted with a red-hot task. In a hurry, the server forgets to add on the modifications. The dish is prepared and then taken out by a busser - and it’s all wrong. The customer experience and the restaurant’s reputation is affected, as well as the server’s tip. Mistakes happen, but with the advent of mobile POS systems, they’re drastically reduced.
The trend towards mobile POS is largely occurring because restaurateurs are recognizing the direct correlation between inefficient processes and customer service. You could have the best front-of-house and back-of-house teams in the world, but with an ineffective ordering process, you’ll never get to the next level.
Guinn remarked on the effectiveness of mobile and the remarkable effect that mobile has on the ordering process: “With a mobile POS system, servers input the meal as the customer orders it, complete with modifications. They send it to the kitchen before they even leave the table. While this leads to a reduction in errors between servers and the kitchen, even servers and the bar, it also leads to a reduction in errors in general.”
The streamlined effect that mobile offerings have on operations immediately improves the customer experience. In addition to this, the implementation of an iPad over any other tablet offering further simplifies and enhances the customer experience.
While any tablet-based POS is better than a clunky and outdated traditional POS, it’s POS systems on the iPad specifically that are appealing to the majority of the market because of their inherent ease of use and one-size-fits-all maintenance – for both servers and customers. “They’re proven, they’re ubiquitous, and people have experience with them,” says Guinn. “From the consumer side, iPads are typically the first tablet customers and restaurant staff are exposed to. This makes this an easy first choice. iPads are relatively affordable. They’re easily acquired and therefore scalable.”
We’ve already discussed how the operational benefits of mobile POSs inherently improve the guest experience by providing a more streamlined service, but because iPads are designed for ease of use, a new trend that is emerging is to put the POS directly in the hands of the customer.
While some large chain restaurants like Red Robin and Buffalo Wild Wings are choosing to have tablets at their tables for customer ordering, some POS systems like TouchBistro enable customers to interact with the iPad POS to settle their bill.
As Gary Jones, the concessions manager at the Lyric Theatre put it, “We flip the iPad around and the customer is able to use their finger to sign and generate the tip. They feel like they have control and it’s fun for them, especially with older folks who are new to the technology. It’s great to watch their faces light up.”
The beauty of the iPad POS specifically is that they’re designed for usability, so you don’t have to worry that guests won’t understand how to use it.
Guinn revealed to us that, in terms of mobile POS features, reporting and analytics are most sought after.
Reporting in the past consisted of basic, one-size-fits-all templates at best, and was non-existent at worst. But now, restaurateurs are realizing the potential of custom analytics to save on food costs, drive strategy, help with scheduling and overall, provide deep insights into the inner-workings of a restaurant that can so easily go overlooked.
“With legacy systems, you’re getting an older, spit-out, non-customizable report with minimal granularity or transparency. Now, you have POSs with easy to read, customizable dashboards that can pretty much gather and sort any information you need. They come complete with customizable charts, dashboards and reports. The ability to customize reports has been the biggest evolution in POS technology.”
Analytics remove the guesswork and track trends so restaurateurs are better able to preemptively prepare for busy and slow nights and allocate their resources, both food and staff, more effectively.
One thing was clear after our chat with Justin: Never before has there been a more cost effective, efficient way to automate the most essential operation in your business. Mobile POS isn’t a thing of the future; it’s a thing of the now.
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