Author John Giles has over 30 years of experience developing point of sale software for the hospitality industry. John is the President of Future POS, the company he founded in 1998 after single-handedly developing the award-winning software package.
I’ve been in the hospitality business for over 30 years, and it still amazes me to see how long promising restaurant technologies take before receiving widespread market adoption. Although some don’t remain idle quite as long as others, the food and beverage industry is notoriously slow to embrace change.
Despite the gradual pace, there seems to be more momentum in recent years, and that’s a reason to get excited.
Let’s take a look at how restaurant technology is changing the business of dining.
1. Point of Sale System (POS)
POS systems are the backbone of any eatery and a piece of restaurant technology no business owner should be without - and I’m not just saying that because I’m in the business. Instead, it's the reason why I went into business in the first place — to provide independent restaurant owners a POS solution that works.
Simply put, a point of sale system is a combination of hardware and software designed to streamline your business operations at the point of purchase; or in the case of the restaurant industry, at the point of order.
When implemented correctly, a POS system can help you track everything from food costs and profit margins to labor costs and your most loyal customers.
Whether you own a food truck or a 5-star restaurant you need a point of sale system to help streamline operations and provide real-time analytics so you can make smarter, data-driven decisions.
2. Handheld Ordering Devices (Tableside Ordering)
We mentioned POS systems first because they are the foundation and connecting point for many of the other technologies we’re going to talk about in this post.
For instance, mobile devices such as tablets that employees can use to take orders tableside rather than walk back and forth to a stationary POS system. Not only is this convenient for staff, but it also gets the order to the kitchen quicker which means patrons will get their meal faster — and that makes for better customer experiences.
For more than a decade point of sale software companies like Future POS have been trying to leverage mobile handheld technology with mixed results because there wasn’t a great mobile platform to build a product around.
You’ve probably seen several companies go the iPad route to bring some “Apple sexy” to an industry that has traditionally been anything but. While this may seem like a good idea, in theory, the problem with this approach is Apple products are consumer-grade devices and aren’t built to stand up to the harsh environment of most restaurants.
Not to mention they don’t work well with third-party peripherals such as EMV and magnetic card readers because most use a Bluetooth connection. This type of connection creates an additional single point of failure and an operational nightmare when it will inevitably become unpaired.
So, much like every other company, we were a software solution in search of a hardware platform that didn’t yet exist. We’ll admit that we did try to bring some “iPad sexy” too, but with the added cost of a credit card reader, the cost was as much as a 15” stationary terminal.
Luckily, here at Future POS, we finally found the PAX A920 payment terminal, and it checked all the boxes.
- It’s an Android device that has a built-in printer and therefore eliminating the point of failure present in Bluetooth devices.
- Because it operates on Android, it’s more than just a way to accept payments — it can take orders too.
- It includes EMV and NFC payments, so you never have to compromise on payment security or your customers’ preferred payment method.
- It’s 4G-ready so you can use it anywhere you have a cell phone signal.
3. Self-Serve Kiosks
For quick-service restaurants, self-serve kiosks are the equivalent of tableside ordering — and a restaurant technology I was sure would have gone mainstream long ago. Think about it. Would you rather repeat your order several times to a disengaged part-time employee who may enter it wrong, or would you rather enter the order yourself?
Every fast-casual restaurant or counter service cafe could benefit significantly from implementing at least one kiosk. When you consider the improvement of order accuracy that will help eliminate food waste, the ability to satisfy the overflow of traffic during busy meal periods, and it will never call out sick, the financial advantage of a kiosk is hard to ignore.
Future POS is excited to announce their new Kiosk
4. Online Ordering
In the digital world, online ordering is our equivalent of tableside ordering and self-serve kiosks. It provides an on-demand element and allows customers to conveniently input and pay for their order using their preferred medium.
Although popular third-party online ordering apps like GrubHub and Uber Eats are an excellent way to gain exposure and reach new customers, they aren’t the most cost-effective solution.
Vendors like these tend to charge hefty commission fees, and in an industry where margins are already slim, you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket with these types of apps. Instead, choose a POS system that has a built-in online ordering feature and save yourself some dough.
With online orders tripling in the last five years, this a sales channel that you can’t afford to neglect — but it also shouldn’t eat up all your profits.
5. Online Reservations
Continuing on the digital path of restaurant technologies, for sit-down restaurants we have online reservations. For patrons who want to break bread at their favorite restaurant and ensure they have a table to do so, online reservation solutions are one of the more widely adopted technologies on our list.
Pioneering apps like Open Table that have been around since 1998 have left people feeling more comfortable with this technology; however, restaurateurs beware. These third-party apps also come with costly monthly fees that can minimize your ROI for using these types of services.
Again, the more cost-effective solution is using a point of sale system with a built-in online reservations feature.
6. Digital Menu Boards
Another digital technology that’s steadily gaining popularity is digital menu boards, especially in the QSR segment. Digital signage is a great way to add rich content such as images and video to an otherwise dull and flat detail like a menu.
What looks more appetizing to you? A black and white line item letterboard or a digital display with mouthwatering visual images of potential entree choices ... and dessert — even though you had no intention of ordering dessert.
Not only are they easier to read, but they’re also easier to update than the old-school letterboard approach. Although there can be a significant upfront investment for the displays (monitors) depending on the desired configuration, 30.8 percent of QSRs recoup their money within 7-12 months of implementation of a digital menu board system.
7. Employee Scheduling Software
Last but not least and moving on to internal operating procedures, employee scheduling software is becoming more and more popular in the food and beverage industry. If you’re a restaurant manager or owner, you’re no stranger to the weekly challenge of employee scheduling.
Who requested off? Who can only work dinner on Tuesdays and Fridays? Who called out sick and now you need to find coverage? Remembering all these little details or accounting for the unpredictable is not only time-consuming, but it’s also inefficient.
Employee scheduling software solutions like When I Work is a great way to manage staff and hold them accountable for their shifts. Do you want to know the best part? It’s free for up to 75 employees. How’s that for cost-effective?
The Bottom Line
There’s no denying that restaurant technology is gaining momentum in recent years thanks to the advances in hardware technology and consumer demand. However, more importantly we’re seeing this shift because restaurant owners and managers like you are starting to see the value in technology — and that’s a reason to get excited.