Some operators believe the crowded, and often contentious, point of sale market could be on the move—literally. Software Advice, a Gartner company that reviews and researches mobile point of sale software, found in a study that 63 percent of restaurants still don’t deploy a POS system, citing cost as the main deterrent. On the same note, the company says 72 percent are seeking a mobile alternative, either through an iPad or some other digital solution. The entire study can be found on the company's website.
Anthony Tse, the owner of Jack’s Sliders and Sushi in New York City, notes mobile POS systems can help accelerate and simplify the process for some owners. “I believe so,” Tse says about restaurants eventually making the mobile switch. “It only make sense with wireless technology becoming more common and mobile payments, and so on.”
There will always be traditionalists, and both models have their benefits. But perhaps the biggest difference can be measured by the bottom line. Typically, legacy systems have a much larger upfront cost, although some present pay-per-month options that don’t have the same sticker-shock value. The actual numbers vary, but it comes down to a couple of factors. A traditional model will charge a license fee plus equipment cost, as well as monthly maintenance. Mobile POS systems ask for a subscription fee in addition to the hardware—an iPad or compatible tablet. The user-friendly nature doesn’t hurt either, Tse says. “I taught myself how to set up both software and hardware within two days,” Tse says of his TouchBistro mPOS. “And I thought my server how to use it within five hours.”
Another difference is space. The countertop model, naturally, stays rooted to a certain area of the restaurant. “… The mobile POS take less space and it doesn't require me to setup a station for it,” Tse adds. “Second, it saves lot of time. Rather than writing on a pad and transferring the info into the POS, now it can all be done by tableside. Therefore, it cuts down time for serving and turning tables, which also allows us to cut cost on floor staff.”
There are additional capabilities as well. Mobile POS systems can offer customer-facing functionality, such as displaying a receipt, menu viewing, and quicker forms of payment. Servers don’t have to pick up a check and run back to the payment station, as diners can slide and sign from the table. Tse also says he likes the ability to update the software and communicate with the company on possible changes.
“As compared to traditional POS, the functionality is limited to what they created 10 years ago, with a very minimum update to adapt what's new in the market, or you have pay for the new modules in order to adapt,” Tse says. “With TouchBistro, they take my input seriously and use it as a part for their improvement, even though there might be some technical issues here and there between updates. But overall, I am happier with the functionality way more than what I used to before.”
One of the unique—sometimes positive and sometimes negative—traits of a mobile POS is the Internet reliability, although there are some models that support offline modes. The Cloud-based system, also know as SaaS or software as a service, stores data on remote servers. That allows for integrated systems, where restaurants can multi-task on the device—everything from financial tracking to back-of-the-house ordering. Loyalty programs and marketing options also exist. It also means operators can manage the restaurant’s logistics off-site.
“It’s just a matter of time until there will be more competition and the price will start to come down,” Tse says. “Then, it will become even more accessible for all restaurants.”