Is Square the Answer?


Can mobile POS solutions really provide the security, reliability, and business management features your eatery needs?

The broad availability and purported ease of mobile “dongle-style” point of sale (POS) solutions like Square, Groupon, and Intuit’s GoPayment have driven many restaurateurs to consider making the switch or launching new operations with this simple, low-cost technology.

While paying at an iPad kiosk seems “cool” and certainly gives the impression that the restaurant is tech-savvy, is it really the best solution for your business? Far more than looking cool, restaurants need fast, efficient, secure, and reliable technology to drive success, support business growth, and maintain satisfied customers who not only return, but also tell their friends.

If your business is weighing the options between traditional POS and a mobile-based solution, here are several factors to consider.

Security and Reliability

Traditional POS systems have set the bar when it comes to enabling secure and reliable transaction processing. Mobile solutions rely completely on the signal availability and strength of your wireless carrier or a Wi-Fi connection, neither of which is as secure or reliable as a hard-wired connection. Data thieves can easily intercept over-the-air signals, and excessive traffic or interference can hamper signal quality and availability, which could render your business unable to process payments at peak times.

With data security becoming an increasing concern, it’s critical to provide a safe, secure method of payment that protects both you and your customers from potential data theft. Choosing a system with built-in PCI compliance is an absolute must to ensure that they are delivering a secure transaction network. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCIDSS) sets forth requirements that merchants and merchant service providers must meet to prevent security vulnerabilities and protect payment information. While most traditional POS companies have embraced these measures, this is a valid concern when relying on a mobile payment provider.

Support for Cash Transactions

One of the advantages of a traditional POS system over mobile apps is the ability to avoid bouncing back and forth from a cash register to a card processing terminal. This could be a problem with mobile systems. While some tablet-based POS alternatives do support cash transactions, the majority of mobile payment apps are heavily focused on card-based transactions, which could alienate customers who prefer to pay with cash. This also creates a disconnect for the establishment, since the cash transactions can’t be tracked through the same system as card payments. This makes accurate reporting very difficult, requiring manual calculation of total cash and card sales. On the other hand, traditional POS systems support all payment types and deliver advanced sales reports broken down by payment type, in addition to numerous other tracking metrics.

Back-End Management

Frankly, the back end is where traditional POS systems really shine over mobile solutions. The back-office functionality, reporting capabilities, and overall ability to support high-traffic businesses made possible through a full-featured POS give restaurateurs unprecedented visibility into sales, product, and employee performance that mobile solutions simply cannot address. While many mobile apps can provide some limited reporting, these are focused on the transaction process only, and provide the “simplest” experience possible, which inherently means they deliver far fewer features and functionality compared to traditional POS systems.

Certainly you could cobble together several solutions to serve this range of needs: an HR/payroll management solution, a menu management/order-entry solution, plus the mobile POS. But this disjointed approach not only requires you to purchase and maintain separate software and systems to suit each function, but also means that the data housed and managed by each exists only within these specific silos. Want to track sales performance per employee and offer bonus compensation as an incentive for reaching certain goals? With this cobbled-together approach, that process requires manual computation and multiple configuration steps in two separate pieces of software. Need to see which menu items are the top-sellers during the lunch rush and order supplies accordingly to prepare? Again, with the piecemeal approach, this requires several pieces of software and a lot of manual effort—not to mention the time investment. No mobile payment platform can help you here.

On the other hand, traditional POS systems also offer all of these valuable back-end features and more, like employee tracking, inventory management, and customer and vendor databases for marketing use, as well as advanced reporting capabilities to deliver a top-level view of the entire business. Traditional POS systems utilize built-for-purpose hardware and specialized software to provide a seamless and time-saving experience for management. Many POS systems even include a built-in employee time clock that reduces the time managers have to spend on payroll.

In addition, employee productivity reports can help managers identify top-selling employees while hour-by-hour sales reports can help with efficient scheduling. Some systems even offer the ability to import inventory data and send alerts when on-hand stock runs low; others go so far as to automatically generate a purchase order with the vendor at certain inventory thresholds. Product and sales reports also enable establishments to identify best- and worst-selling items as well as other sales trends. These comprehensive reports not only reveal valuable business insights but also reduce the time spent on bookkeeping, accounting, and the associated costs. None of these kinds of features and benefits are possible with mobile POS alternatives.

While mobile POS solutions may seem to offer a simpler, cheaper alternative to a full-fledged POS, in most cases, you get what you pay for. Implementing a full-featured, state-of-the-art, integrated POS can save any full-service restaurant the time, cost, and headache of upgrading later when the business outgrows the dongle system.

Jared Isaacman

As Chief Executive Officer, Jared Isaacman manages the core divisions of Harbortouch as well as the overall operations of the company. Isaacman founded the company in 1999 under the name of United Bank Card, and has led the company to prominence as one of the largest payment processors in the country. He believes in a hands-on management style and his expertise extends to all aspects of the industry. In addition to his responsibilities at Harbortouch, Isaacman currently serves on the Advisory Board for the Green Sheet publication and is also on the Board of Directors of the Northeast Acquirers Association.


I'm going to open my first restaurant and I'm pretty sure that iPad-based pos is the best solution for me. Such systems are more flexible and easy to use so there is no need to waste time and money on teaching workers to work with them. My choice is Smart POS system
It's great because it supports the big iPad Pro. Large screen is awesome ;)

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