iPads Put Retail POS in the Palm of Your Hand

Successful retailers and restaurant owners understand the importance of creating a strong and positive experience from the moment a customer enters the establishment. While it may seem ironic, many are turning to technology to create a personal bond.

iPads are one way to maximize the one-on-one environment, by creating a point of sale (POS) relationship from the time the customer enters the shop or restaurant. Three companies that offer this solution are ShopKeep, Kronos and Revel Systems.

iPad POS vendor ShopKeep offers a new iPad mini register to help retailers reduce waiting times and enhance efficiency. Utilizing the MagTek uDynamo credit card reader, ShopKeep’s system allows merchants to take orders from customers as they enter the store, shop the aisles and then push receipts to the printer or to email directly to the customer.

One company using ShopKeep’s system is Laughing Man Coffee & Tea in New York. Some of the benefits noted by the store’s CEO, David Steingard, include the personal service customers feel throughout their dining experience. Customers are greeted warmly, without feeling rushed, and orders can be taken throughout the line inside or outside the store. Said Steingard, “The iPad POS system helps move the line, but more importantly it sends a great message to our customers that we are continually working to make their coffee experience better.”

Kronos offers an iPad solution that gives what they term “meaningful business intelligence” to retailers. The company touts its Workforce Task Management™ as the only solution built on an existing, proven workforce management platform. Retailers can keep stores accountable through real-time access to sales data, and increase sales and customer satisfaction by ensuring tasks are completed on time and consistently across locations, either through their on-site data centers or through the Kronos cloud. The company’s Workforce Tablet Analytics gives retailers a single view into forecasting, scheduling, time and attendance, POS, traffic counters, warehouse management systems, and more.  Paul de Freitas, systems and business development director at The Container Store, said Kronos is able to handle a great deal of complexity, and “being on the iPad helps to make it an easy and familiar experience.”

Revel Systems is an iPad POS provider that offers EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa, a global standard for inter-operation of integrated circuit cards) for security and card processing. The technology incorporates “chip and pin” cards which have been widely adopted in Europe and are now being introduced to the US.

Revel’s mobile POS software provides real-time reporting to track the sales at small to large scale retail and food-service operations. The San Francisco-based company requires no mandatory contracts, hidden fees or charges.  Features include secure logins for employees, monitoring check-in and check-out as well as activities within the system; simple order taking; order details, such as item voids, deletions, special requests, discounts and holds; payment processing through major credit cards and gift cards; and printed or emailed receipts.

Outstanding customer service has always been the hallmark of successful retail and hospitality companies. Through creative application of the iPad and mobile POS, technology can enhance the shopping experience.

Benefits of Leasing a Point of Sale System

At the same time that a business is faced with the decision of updating its point of sale system, it is also faced with the question of whether to lease it or buy it outright. This article discusses some reasons why it could possibly be better to lease.

What are the benefits for the business owner who leases a point of sale system?

  • When starting up a new business, leasing can help you preserve precious capital.    A medium scale POS system can run tens of thousands of dollars.  How much cash does the business generate on a monthly basis?   Are there any other expenditures coming up such as tax bills, or advertising campaigns that might require the business to hold on to some cash?
  • Leasing can increase your purchasing power by allowing you to get a more robust system that can increase your ROI right now.   Leasing a system now allows you to get more than you might otherwise be able to while still getting the equipment that you had planned for next year maybe more terminals, or digital signage.   These purchases might make you more money right this minute.    Example you can “make do” with four terminals right now, but you know that if you were able to add the extra terminals you really want for the back office, or the camera surveillance system you need, your business performance would improve there as well.
  • Tax advantages may be useful.  Lease payments can usually be written off entirely in the year you make them, as opposed to the purchase of capital equipment which may need to be amortized over a long period.  Check with your CPA to see whether this applies to your business.
  • Spreading the cost of the POS system over time, and matching costs more closely to the benefits you receive.   Why dump a bunch of money into a system right now, when the benefits come every day for years?
  • Constant rate financing.  Unlike a bank line of credit, which can vary with different benchmarks like LIBOR or the 10 year note, the lease rate you negotiate will usually be constant  for the term of the lease.    With interest rates fluctuating and set to rise over the next couple years, this could be the best time to lock in a rate.
  • Multiple options generally exist for the end of a lease – these can include the return of the equipment, the outright purchase of the equipment , or lease renewals.  These offer more flexibility than simply writing a check now for a full system.

Choosing A Restaurant Point Of Sale System

Selecting a Point Of Sale (POS) system for your restaurant can be one of the most important operational decisions you will make. There are literally hundreds of different POS systems to choose from.  While all systems try to serve the same basic purpose when it comes down to functionality, reliability, performance, and capability, no two systems are alike.  There are many routine factors to consider when buying a POS system.  Price, warranty, technical support, future enhancements, and after purchase care are just a few to mention.  However, the focus of this article will be on the more important but less commonly used software features that make all the difference in creating and operating a thriving restaurant.

Ease of Use

One of the most important aspects of any POS software is its ease of use.  Listed below are some features & functionalities one should consider.

  • Live System Changes – It’s Friday night at 7 PM and you need to make a menu change or add a happy hour discount.  Can you make this change at any one of your stations and have the rest updated automatically within seconds without any restarts?  Some programs can do this, but many require you to go to the back office and restart the entire system.  Live system changes managed through a quality POS system allow you to efficiently run your business from any station.
  • Terminal Flexibility – It is best to get POS software that is setup to respond to the user and not the hardware.  This allows management and staff members to perform any actions at any station, whether it consists of menu changes, employee logins, or running reports.  This would also allow staff members with certain job types, such as a bartender, to use any other station besides the one behind the bar in cases where the wait staff may need their help during peak times.
  • Menu – When it comes to menu configurations, are you able to easily create menu items in a matter of seconds without having to create a button, place them on the menu, then assign the item to the button in a complex, multi-step process?  Let’s say you have a group of three people who have ordered a bottle of wine and they all want to share the cost.  Efficient POS systems allow you to share the cost of a menu item in any proportion and split it out in any way among any number of guests.  Lastly, you should focus on how choices or modifiers are handled.  If a server creates a ticket and mistakenly selected chives for the baked potato, they should be able to change the modifiers without having to start all over.
  • Menu Firing – Many systems allow the food to be held and released to the kitchen by the server, giving them control over the order timing to ensure that each course is prepared and delivered at appropriate times.
  • Discounts – When implementing happy hours & discounts, you should be able to create these options easily within minutes.  Those happy hour sales numbers should also then flow into your reports automatically.  Some systems require you to set price levels for each item, create a schedule, and if you want reporting on those sales, to create special menu items.

Customer Database

Most restaurants cannot survive without a loyal, repeat customer base.  Many systems have a customer database that allows you to take advantage of that data.  Two features that can be very beneficial are built-in loyalty and order tracking.  The loyalty feature normally allows you to give out points, credits, or free food.  By storing their previous orders, known as order tracking, servers can order a customer’s “usual” with just the touch of a button.  You can also run reports that enable you to know who your most profitable clients are and to market to them directly.

Tableside Ordering

It is a relatively new concept but some POS systems are now able to offer tableside ordering via handheld devices like an iPad.  The technology may come at an extra cost, but for many restaurants it would pay off through improved server efficiencies, less errors, faster food delivery, and better overall customer experience.

Online Reservations

For restaurants that take reservations, many POS systems are able to handle this within the software instead of using a third party provider.  These systems usually allow your customers to create a reservation online or place a call into the restaurant where the staff would enter it directly into the POS.

Online Ordering

One of the newest POS features is the ability for a restaurant to take an order online. Some systems already offer this for an extra fee.  For now, the consumer market is in the early stages of embracing the concept, but it is growing in popularity and should be much more popular in the coming years.  You should simply ask the POS provider you are considering if they will have this feature available in the future if not already.

Scalability

How much flexibility does the system have in terms of upgrades and expansions?  Can you easily add additional stations as your business grows?  What if you decide to add tableside ordering or online reservations?  Are those features currently available?  These are all questions one should ask when considering a POS system.

Printing

There are two basic ways POS software handles the printing of the menu items.  If the software prints based on the ticket itself, the entire ticket will be sent to one particular printer regardless of what it is.  If the software prints based on the menu items, the alcohol would go to the bar and food would go to the kitchen, regardless of what is ordered on the ticket.  Obviously, the latter setup is most ideal.

Bars – Liquor

For businesses with a bar, there are several important features you should expect from your chosen POS system.

  • Fast pay – This is the ability to quickly ring up an order with only a couple touches.  For example, someone orders a beer and gives you a $20.  The server selects the beer item, touches $20 as one of the dollar denominations that shows up, and the drawer pops open showing the change due.  This feature is also very useful for any type of fast food or QSR restaurant.
  • Tabs – Most, but not all, systems are ticket based.  Whenever a server adds a menu item, a virtual ticket is created that can remain open indefinitely or until they are ready to close their tab.
  • Repeat – Some systems have a repeat feature that allows you to reorder items on a ticket, such as another round of shots, with only a press of a button.
  • Job Types – Can the system handle job types?  For example, you only want alcohol items to show up for the bartenders, while servers see only food items.  Setting up this kind of system ensures that staff are not bothered with menu buttons that are not related to their tasks at hand.
  • Credit Card Hold – If you want your customers to be able to open a tab, it is best if the software can store the credit card data.  This allows you to swipe the customer’s credit card and give it back.  When they are ready to close their tab, they simply sign for it.

Data Recovery

No one likes to plan for the worst, but there are many unexpected disasters that can happen to any restaurateur, such as power outages or hardware failure.  When this does happen, how will it affect the data in your POS system?  There are many different types of databases being used by POS companies.  SQL for example, can easily recover from most disasters without much intervention needed from technical support or any loss or corruption of data.