Guest Column | March 28, 2014

10 Ways Mobile POS Impacts Restaurant Revenue and Customer Experience

TouchBistro screen shot

By Toan Dinh, CMO, TouchBistro Inc.

Restaurants have led the way in adopting mobile tablet-based point of sale (POS) systems. Twenty eight percent of restaurants have gone mobile, and of those that have not made the switch, nearly 70 percent are making mobile their top priority.

Restaurant owners understand mobile POS systems have tangible impacts on restaurant revenue and intangible, positive impacts on the customer experience. When owners are intimately familiar with restaurant profit margins being in the 3 to 4 percent range —  and the intangibles are what  make or break a restaurant — it's no surprise experienced restaurateurs have a keen sense for anything that can positively impact revenue and customer experience. A mobile POS delivers both.

Here are 10 ways mobile POS makes a positive impact on a restaurant business — and 10 things you can point out to your restaurant customers in the market for mobile POS:

1. Restaurants Will Turn Tables Faster

A mobile POS system brings incredible efficiency to front of the house operations. Outside of a kaiten sushi system, there seems no practical or appealing way around the need for a waiter to walk to a table to take an order, walk back to a fixed POS to enter the order, walk to the table with the guest check, walk back to the table to check the guest has placed down his or her credit card, walk back to the fixed POS to process the credit card…

Mobile POS eliminates the need for double order entry. Orders can be entered into the mobile POS and transmitted back to the kitchen, to either a traditional chit printer or a paperless kitchen display system (usually referred to as a KDS). A mobile POS and KDS system also eliminates paper and having to manage costs associated with stocking paper and printer ribbons.

On the payment side, mobile POS again steps up with a range of mobile payment options resident in the POS itself and mobile payment technologies now being deployed on smart phones. A POS with a card reader attached allows processing the card tableside the moment the diner presents the card.

2. Customers Will Appreciate An Efficient Payment Process

The payment process is the last point of contact a restaurant has with a patron before the bowl of mints on the way out. Who hasn't had a great dining experience diminished by an inability to find a server when we want to pay? Mobile POS systems with payment processing certainly bring efficiency to the final act but it can be made even better. Payment innovators like PayPal are starting to roll out the ability for customers to host payment apps on their smart phones that communicate with the venue's POS system. A customer on his or her own smart phone can view the bill, pay, and tip.

3. Servers Will Miss Fewer Sales

Research indicates one of the most effective ways a restaurant can increase customer satisfaction is to provide more information on its menu. Printed menus are a significant expense. They must be designed, printed, and replaced as prices and offerings change. Paper menus get damaged and even stolen. Cost factors compel owners to keep their menus short. Unfortunately, as the research indicates, customers enjoy more verbose menus. They want nutritional facts, product information, and details about food preparation. It's clearly impossible to deliver this in a condensed and attractive way on a paper menu. However, a tablet POS with an onboard customer-facing menu neatly addresses this major customer demand. Menu item copy can be as detailed as the owner or chef wants.

4. Servers Will Miss Fewer Upsells

When you give wait staff a tablet with a mobile POS, you're not just giving them a shiny new way to write down orders. You're giving them a POS with built-in intelligence. A great feature found in many mobile POS systems is it can be programmed to offer modifier and addition prompts. In a fast paced environment, a POS can ensure a server is prompted for up-sell additions like bacon or cheese. In fact, one can program a POS to prevent an order from even being sent to the kitchen until a server queries for modifications or additions.

5. Customers Will Be More Likely To Leave An Appropriate Tip

You would think in North American society it's ingrained that a 15 to 20 percent tip is standard at a traditional restaurant. Amazingly, 1 in 3 patrons are not aware of this standard. A mobile POS can present a patron standardized "fast" tipping buttons, ensuring patrons are clued in regarding tipping. Also, some customers get a bit stressed out when trying to calculate 15 percent or 18 percent tips. Conveniently placed tipping buttons help reduce customers tipping anxiety.

6. Restaurants Will Change Prices Easier

Returning to problems inherent in paper menus, restaurant owners are well aware their food costs are changing all the time. Unfortunately, the cost of reprinting menus limits the owner's ability to immediately respond to price changes. A mobile POS with a customer-facing menu makes it very easy for owners to adjust prices on the fly. Dishes traditionally sold as "market price" items can be accurately priced day to day and eliminate a disincentive to some diners who prefer transparency.

7. Restaurants Will Free Up Counter Space

Mobile POS, based around a hand-held tablet, has a considerably smaller footprint as compared to a traditional POS fixed to a counter or fixed at a bar. More space at a bar or counter can mean squeezing in an additional seat. More counter space also means a restaurateur can use it for other revenue generating purposes, like offering their own branded sauces.

8. The System Will Run Other Apps

Mobile POS based on iOS or Android is open ended. A restaurant can use it to tweet or Instagram about the restaurant during down times, or to manage the restaurant's finances. A dedicated POS is very hard to shoehorn into other roles. It seems silly for a restaurant to buy a computer to perform only one purpose and then have to purchase another computer to perform accounting, promotions, and reservation taking.

9. Restaurants Will Reduce Staff Training Time And Cost

Restaurants experience high turnover rates. National Restaurant Association figures indicate, depending on economic conditions, a restaurant can expect between 40 – 60 percent employee turnover per year. Anything that lets a restaurant owner lower training costs can help the bottom line. A mobile POS can help. Despite cash registers being a common place technology, the vast majority of people have always been on the customer side of a cash register and come to work with no prior operational knowledge. A mobile POS typically operates on an iPad or Android tablet. Wait staff are likely to be younger, tech savvy, and already familiar with using these devices.

10. Restaurants Will Pay Less For Mobile POS

For a new restaurant, a mobile POS, with the inherent benefits outlined above, presents an easy win. A mobile POS costs about a tenth what it would cost to install a traditional POS system. For an established restaurant with an existing "fixed" POS, mobile POS's low entry price makes for an attractive short term ROI, especially when you factor in mobile POS's impact on sales, table turns, paper savings, and customer satisfaction as outlined above.

Abandoning a traditional POS built around proprietary hardware and software also pays off in terms of maintenance. Updating a mobile POS can be as easy as visiting the Apple App Store and scheduling an update during a natural down times or overnight. A traditional POS requires a visit from a technician to update the firmware.