A Look At TouchBistro – mobile app for restaurants

touchbistro waitress

Traditionally, restaurant software has been delivered and installed on disks, CDs, by Internet.  A different approach is used by this company – they allow users to download it as an app.  It’s intriguing, so read on. 

The TouchBistro mobile iPad POS concept was initially conceived by Alex Barrotti in 2010 while sitting on the patio of his friend’s sushi restaurant in the Caribbean. The restaurateur was frustrated about the inconvenience of waiters having to run back and forth between the inside of the restaurant and the outside patio where most tourists wanted to dine. All the back and forth slowed down delivering orders to the kitchen and serving meals to the patrons, and added time to processing payments.

Asked by the restaurateur for a recommended solution, Barrotti came up with the novel idea to utilize the latest mobile technology as the foundation of an entirely new and more efficient way for a restaurant to operate. Waiters could take patron food orders at their tables as usual, but instead of handwriting the orders on an order pad and running back inside to re-enter them into a fixed terminal or hand the paper order slip to the kitchen, they could enter the orders directly into a mobile device at table-side that would instantly transfer the orders wirelessly to the kitchen for preparation. Bills and payments could be processed the same way.touchbistro ipad

The Apple iPad, just launched as the latest and hottest mobile device, was chosen as the perfect form factor for this model. It was nearly the same convenient size as the order pads waiters used to handwrite orders, so easy to bring to the table and carry around in an apron pocket. It was also big enough to show the menu choices and other key features that would be necessary for waiters to take table-side orders and payments. However, there was no software on the market that would work on the iPad Mini to provide the point-of-sale functionality that a restaurant or bar needed. So Barrotti embarked on the development of a hospitality-focused point-of-sale app with a team of mobile software developers. In 2011 TouchBistro was launched.

Since that time, TouchBistro has become a top food & beverage application in 34 countries on the Apple App Store. TouchBistro’s goal is to be the best iPad POS app for the hospitality industry.

What makes the app unique is the table-side experience, designed specifically for restaurants and bars

Consider the unique flow at a restaurant made possible with mobile technology. The patron is assigned a table and seated with a menu. The waiter comes to the table and takes the drink order, maybe an appetizer order too, and enters those into the tablet right at the table-side. The order is transmitted wirelessly to the bar and kitchen, eliminating the common errors when orders are manually re-entered at a distant fixed terminal. While the drinks and appetizers are being prepared, the waiter can remain at the table, discuss the specials of the day and take an order for the entire meal. These orders are also instantly transmitted wirelessly to the kitchen for preparation, while the drinks and appetizers are being served. Waiters can keep their attention focused on the best service for their customers, without other customers impatiently waiting for their bills that haven’t been totaled yet as the bills are automatically totaled by the POS system as they are entered, including any split bill requests, and sent to the customers’ cell phones if they have logged onto an integrated app.

Critical minutes of serving time are reduced by decreasing the number of times the waiter needs to walk back and forth to a fixed terminal and preparation areas. Time-consuming re-entry of orders and delays due to manual entry and bill calculation mistakes are eliminated.

At restaurants using TouchBistro, patrons seated with reservations made through OpenTable will show up on the TouchBistro floor plan with an OpenTable logo. These customers can see their order in their Open Table app as it is being entered by the waiter in TouchBistro, including the total bill. The customers also have the option to pay for the meal through Open Table payments when they finish eating without needing to wait for the server to bring the bill.

One restaurant using TouchBistro found that they could turn tables 7 minutes faster due to table-side ordering, and the time savings added $2,000 a night in business, according to the restaurateur.  He also said customers were happier because they did not have to wait as long and tips were higher.   

To facilitate payments at table-side, TouchBistro offers a custom case for the iPad mini with an attachment at the bottom that accepts a credit card. While the iPad Mini itself is not EMV compliant, Barrotti said TouchBistro ships EMV compliant payment terminals from the payment partners, fully integrated with the Cayan Genius Payment Gateway Services, the Mercury Verifone VX 680 Payment Device and the Moneris Ingenico IWL 220 , ICT250 or IPP320.

In Toronto there are 700 restaurants that use TouchBistro.  In his spare time, Barrotti likes to go undercover and observe and ask questions about the use of his software in those local restaurants. 


* TouchBistro software is downloaded on the iPad from the Apple App Store.
* TouchBistro utilizes off-the-shelf hardware (Any iPad 2,3,4 Air, Air 2, Mini, Mini 2,3,4, and iPad PRO) so there are no huge upfront costs for custom devices for the system.
* TouchBistro offers a monthly, quarterly or annual subscription so subscribers are not locked into long term leases or contracts.
* TouchBistro releases a free update every 8 weeks that restaurants can automatically download to installed systems.
* TouchBistro is installed at approximately 4,000 restaurants, bars, food trucks and hotels around the world, with 10,000 active terminals. 300 new food service establishments sign up with TouchBistro each month with an average 3 to 4 terminals per site. * The largest single site has 115 terminals.
* TouchBistro currently supports major payment gateways and mobile payments including: Merchant Warehouse, Mercury, Moneris, Chase Paymentech, Premier Payments, RBC Caribbean, PayPal Mobile and Apple Pay.

* Easy to program in-house to customize such things as daily menu specials without additional programming costs.
* Simple and fast to train staff, whether they are young students working at their first jobs or long term food service veterans who don’t like to use technology.
* Automated bill calculations, including splitting bills even after the order is placed.
* Full suite of customizable reports tailored to the restaurant/bar industry, making it easier to manage the business as it addresses everything from inventory, how many covers are turned, and popular selling items, to scheduling workforce and assigning workstations, and payroll processing.

Some well known clients:
Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse in Grand Central Station
Signs Restaurant in Toronto – staffed by hearing impaired employees
JustEat, international online restaurant and food ordering service, is one of TouchBistro’s investors.

Downloadable apps may indeed be the future of all software. The TouchBistro app is a low up-front cost system that can grow as the business expands, and is simple to obtain. 



VAR Delivers on Solution to Ensure Restaurateur Profit: A Low-Light Setting Case Study
Tableside Ordering and Payment Processing to Increase Profits
POS Technology At The Nat Restaurant Show Part 2 – EMV at the table?
Point of Sale Technology For Hospitality Abounds At #NRAshow
Upserve Acquires Breadcrumb Restaurant Point of Sale
5 Restaurant Technology Apps To Simplify Your Life
Starbucks Changes Reward Program, Makes Some Members Unhappy
Fast dining app Allset launches in New York City. Takes on Opentable
The Point of Sale News’ Most Popular Hospitality Articles of 2015