Selecting a Next-Generation Mobile Restaurant POS System

January 30, 2018

Everything is going mobile — including your restaurant point of sale (POS) system. A rising percentage of restaurateurs cite mobility as the top reason to upgrade their technology capabilities.

But how do you select the right mobile restaurant POS (mPOS) system for your operation?

Like with any purchase, examine your needs first, and make a list before you shop. The features to target will vary based on your business goals, existing systems, internal operations, operation size and category.

Thankfully, restaurants have many POS system requirements in common: Transaction data security is a must-have, as is the ability to lift actionable insights out of the POS data.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the key considerations when selecting a mPOS.

Cloud Hosting

Cloud-based systems eliminate the cost and security risk of on-site server hardware. They also allow you to use mPOS devices for ordering and payment processing. Giving servers the ability to punch in orders tableside improves both order accuracy and customer experience.

Customizing the system to prompt mandatory upsells for specific menu items — like recommending a craft beer for an entrée or a pastry to accompany a coffee drink — can also boost incremental sales. Servers no longer need to return to a central register to place orders and close tickets. This saves time and labor cost across your operation.

Customer Service

Going mobile will cause your customer experience to evolve — so think about how you want it to look. Unlike a register, an mPOS directly engages the customer. A report from Software Advice shows that leaving the tablet with guests to process payments can boost server tips. If you’re handing the tablet to your guests so they can pay, be sure it allows check splitting and check for limits.

Some brands take that engagement further: Buffalo Wild Wings uses the Buzztime BEOND tablet, which is compliant with Europay, Mastercard and Visa (EMV) and promotes their long-running trivia and game programs. It also captures customer data for management.

A robust next-generation restaurant POS should include a customer relationship management (CRM) system to capture a significant amount of customer data — not only from sales, but customer feedback and rewards programs too.

The more data you capture, the better you can understand who your customers are, segment their data and customize your relationship with them. Targeted communications and promotions to groups like parents who bring in children or happy hour regulars can improve the value of your relationships.

New (More Secure) Payment Methods

Contactless payments are a growing trend because the extra layer of security is popular with guests and merchants. Therefore, you’ll want an mPOS that can handle it. Called near-field communication (NFC) transactions, e-wallet apps like Apple Pay, Masterpass and Google Wallet allow guests to make secure purchases with their phones as opposed to credit cards. Encrypted information passes between the devices via the cloud, keeping sensitive credit card information safe at both ends of the transaction.

If you haven’t upgraded your systems for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI-DSS) and EMV compliance, there’s no time like the present. Per the new EMV mandate, merchants are responsible for any fraudulent transactions and liable in the event of a data breach. The cost of a breach can be significant — and you’d be picking up the tab.

Support and Training

Signing up with a POS provider is the start of a long-term partnership. The provider should be willing to assist with training your staff on the new systems, whether online or in-person. Thankfully, the popularity of mobile technology in everyday life means the learning curve on a tablet is considerably lower than it was just five years ago.

Ask a potential POS provider the following:

  • How quickly can they respond to a customer service issue?
  • Is there an offline backup mode if the Wi-Fi fails?
  • Do they offer fraud monitoring, or do you need a separate provider?

Ensure the user interface is attractive and intuitive for both guests and servers. The addition of mobile technology to your brand should be beneficial, not a headache. Wow Bao, a Lettuce Entertain You concept featuring self-ordering kiosks, utilizes facial-recognition technology and large images of the food for easier guest ordering.

System Integration

Management and POS system packages with lots of built-in features can merge your business into one system. But they may have natural conflicts with specific third-party systems.

For example, if a system has a built-in labor management function, you may not be able to seamlessly integrate HotSchedules. If it checks recipes against inventory, can it provide the reverse and cost of each ingredient by recipe?

That’s how Cameron Bogue, corporate beverage director for Earl’s Kitchen + Bar, which operates more than 60 units in the U.S. and Canada, was able to pinpoint premade fruit purees as a significant expense. By changing vendors, he cut costs by more than 30 percent.

Know the features and integrations you want up front, and ensure your provider can assist you.

Data Insights and Financial Reporting

Who are your regular guests? What dishes are most popular at happy hour? Which are the most profitable? Which servers have the most comps? The more intuitive your POS system, the more insights you can glean from your data. If you can see both kitchen display system (KDS) and labor reports side by side, it’s easier to assess the effectiveness of the kitchen.

As the POS is the primary source for all revenue and cash, your accountant may need some specific reports and functions, like integration with existing accounting systems or data migration to a new system. Have them look over any accounting features of any new POS you’re considering. They may spot valuable reports or solutions you might have overlooked.

The Bottom Line

Make sure you take the total cost of ownership into account, including monthly fees, licenses, service plan, training, hardware, etc. Find out if your POS provider offers warranties for both software and hardware. Is there a hardware upgrade plan?

Tablets wear out, especially in a restaurant. You should also have a sense of the provider’s reliability. Check into how often they upgrade the software, read online reviews and ask to speak with other clients about their experiences.

The 2017 Smart Decision Guide To Restaurant Management and POS Systems is an excellent 45-page resource that includes a handy evaluation checklist to help narrow down the best POS system for your restaurant, and a CPA-led advisory firm can also help with the process.