iPad POS Systems & Other Technology That Will Change Your Restaurant

The World is Changing

The iPad is changing the world! Okay, so not quite, but it might just change the way you take orders. With the widespread availability of the iPad and other tablet platforms, there are some great opportunities for restaurants to adopt new technology into their business model while cutting costs and improving efficiency. We will look briefly into some of the options that restaurants have in implementing new technology. So read on and see if you can benefit from a new POS system.

It's a Mac dominated world out there: The hardware

I am not a Mac fanatic, but I have to give it to them. In terms of hardware and integration of 3rd party software with the iPad OS through their developers network, Apple is making it easy to incorporate their technology for work or play. You can read about how Apple has been working with hardware and software developers over the last several years to bring forth mobile payment systems over at Apple Insider. This is not to say that other tablets, such as those that run off of an Android OS, can't be used, but just that there is not a whole lot out there yet besides the Apple offerings which utilize the iPhone and the iPad. Although not as well established, I have already seen some POS systems for Android devices, and I expect that Android and Microsoft based tablets will be playing catchup this year. It will be interesting to see how things progress in 2011; but for now, early adopters of tablet POS systems will be relying on Apple products and 3rd party software.

Okay, great, so what other technology is out there to help my restaurant?

Portable tablets are not the only option for those looking to replace the traditional POS system. Self-order kiosks could also be a way to go for high traffic food service establishments. Customers are increasingly enjoying the task of self-service. What does Redbox, Netflix, ATM's, and Online Shopping all have in common? They successfully put the consumer in control of what they want when they want it. There are many potential benefits to self order kiosks, and fast food chains have been experimenting with them since the early 2000's with McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts widely testing and utilizing kiosks to cut down lines in high traffic areas since 2008. Mostly these kiosks are quite large, but with the advent of tablets you could conceivably create your own small "kiosks" for customers to use. Do to the size of the tablet the "kiosk" could be incorporated right into the table or booth to create a self-order system integrated directly into the layout and theme of the restaurant. This could be the avenue for mainstream adoption of customer generated ordering systems by large restaurant chains.

Can a tablet help my restaurant?

POS system integrated with kitchenIn the end only you can make that decision for your restaurant, but consider the following benefits:

  • Low startup Costs: between $2,000 - $5,000 compared to $ 15,000 - $20,000 for a standard POS system
  • Highly portable, all wireless connection
  • No server bottlenecks at the terminal as they all have their own tablet for inputting orders
  • Reduce paper waste by going electronic
  • Send the order to the kitchen right from the table, no forgetfulness or messy handwriting to deal with back at a terminal
  • Credit cards never have to leave the customers eyesight as they can be run right at the table
  • Current specials and upsell suggestions can be given to the server as they input the order
  • Ingredients and descriptions of meals can be provided to the server, drastically reducing the time it takes to learn all of the items on the menu
  • Because the hardware is separate from the software you can switch POS software in the future without having huge transition costs.
  • You earn major Tech Geek status and accolades for your cutting edge business practices

iPads were just starting to be seen in mainstream restaurants when I left serving to come work at Prima. As a server the benefits of having your own "terminal" always with you was quite exciting. And in truth it would have been so much more than an order system as so much information would be at your fingertips, with recipes, prices, specials, etc all within a couple of clicks.

Other Technology and resources

Get rid of your old computer With so much new technology out there, restaurants have the ability to ditch older technology and cut costs at the same time. As tablets continue to catch on and programmers start maximizing the technology, the competition will continue to spur innovation. If you are interested in checking out these tablet system and the POS software offerings then head over to Nation's Restaurant News for a break down of different software packages and configurations. Towards the end of the article they do some cost analysis where you can really see how adopting a new POS system could save you a lot of money.
There are other products making a splash in the mobile payment system world, so take some time and see if any of these options could work for you.

  • Square Mobile as reported on Wired.com - an app and a simple piece of hardware that plugs into your iPhone, iPad, or Android device. Input the amount of the transaction then swipe the card and they will take care of the rest. It will even send an email receipt to you both so that you remember where and what you bought. Perfect for those who don't need to tie into a back end inventory system or low volume stores (or just the techy individual).
  • Turn your iPad into a cash register with shopkeep
  • Tuaw.com has a review of Lecere Corporation's restaurant POS system
  • If Self serve Kiosks are more your style then check out these articles which deal with the benefits and challenges of self-order kiosks.
  • Update: April 20th eater.com just reported on a new product that is poised to make a splash in the market, looks really slick, check out the "E la Carte" and see if it is right for you
  • Update: October 20th Check out SoftwareAdvice.com for a brief overview of Web and iOS POS systems

I hope that this brief look at the technology that is emerging, stimulates some thought on how mobile devices and self-order systems, might integrate with your restaurant to provide better and more efficient guest service. If you are currently using one of these systems or know of other technology that is increasing efficiency and saving money then drop me a line in the comments. I would love to hear from you.

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Thanks to Michael at Software Advice for sharing with us some more information on the different options out there for using a POS system on a iPad. We have updated the article with their review of iOS vs Web based POS systems.

I have seen a new solution which is called Eat Online which seems to be
even faster and eaiser than others, have you seen it?

High Steve, thanks for the note. We are not familiar with that one. Do you have a link where we can find more information on it?

This is the website for Eat Online http://eatonline.eu/