Maybe you started in business with a cash box under the counter and a portable crank-style adding machine. You might have used an old key-bank cash register in the family restaurant for years before switching to an electronic machine. Old but versatile mechanical cash registers built many restaurant empires, but times change and technology evolves. Today, cash is seldom used at restaurants because most people pay with plastic. This trend opened the floodgates to digital point-of-sale systems that could handle credit and debit cards, cash, checks and other kinds of money transfers.

Cash registers have evolved into POS systems with touchscreens, mobile card readers, shared terminals and systems that integrate with computer accounting systems. Restaurants can use POS systems to sell gift cards, issue, monitor and redeem gift certificates and loyalty rewards, manage seating in multiple restaurant areas and serve as time clocks for staff members.

But that is not the end of the story. Mobile payments, such as Google Wallet and Apple Pay, may soon do away with plastic altogether. Will restaurant’s be ready for this evolution?

PayPal, Google and Apple Pay

Apple Pay, Google Wallet and PayPal offer popular new mobile payment options to consumers, and your restaurant’s POS system needs to keep up with industry changes. The mobile-payment industry and credit and debit card manufacturers are phasing out traditional cards with magnetic stripes and replacing them with EMV smart cards that have embedded chips that can store more information and provide better security. Widely used abroad, these smart cards are scheduled for implementation in the United States by October of 2015.

PayPal has partnered with NCR Corporation to bring PayPal’s popular online payment system into the fold of smartphone payment options. Google Wallet and Apple Pay allow customers to pay for their meals. LevelUp is a system that’s very popular with restaurants because the application uses a QR code to make a payment, which varies depending on the tip. You customers need to scan the code to pay for their meals. The system also has an in-house loyalty program.

POS Systems Make Tech Leap Forward

In the past, POS systems concentrated on reducing operational costs by simplifying inventory, payments and management tasks while generating reports on demand. Any business owner increases net profit in one of two ways: by reducing costs or generating more sales. The next generation of POS systems can actually help restaurants connect with their customers, suggestively sell products and services and reach a broader base of potential diners through their mobile devices.

Many forward-thinking restaurateurs embraced legacy systems years ago, but older POS systems often prove inefficient for combining payment types, integrating with mobile ordering systems and ensuring data security. The latest POS systems allow such exotic benefits as issuing revolving charge accounts, promoting gift card sales, encouraging repeat business through coupon offers, integrating loyalty programs and providing the following key benefits:

  • Supporting multiple payment options including other kinds of currencies and payment media like bitcoins
  • Forwarding paperless receipts to customer email accounts
  • Generating work schedules for staff
  • Managing seating and sending orders to different stations at optimal times
  • Capturing signatures for checks, catering agreements, in-house credit and facility rentals
  • Generating personalized marketing messages on receipts
  • Taking payments for orders placed by smartphones or at tableside monitors or tablets
  • Prompting suggestive selling ideas to cashiers
  • Providing special prices for clubs, groups, students, veterans and senior citizens
  • Integrating email campaigns and incentives into daily specials and promotions
  • Improving customer service by capturing data about preferences, attitudes, special occasions and favorite foods
  • Printing and reading barcodes for promotions, merchandise and in-house packaged foods

Offering Customers More Payment and Ordering Options

Mobile payment options, which are often called digital wallets, continue to increase, and older POS systems simply can’t fully integrate the new payment systems. Customers increasingly want to use their smartphones to make payments and get loyalty rewards. The latest POS-system upgrades offer restaurateurs the following features and benefits:

  • Physical cards aren’t necessary: customers just tap their smartphones.
  • New systems can handle marketing promotions and integrate fully with computer software.
  • Restaurateurs get expanded customer service options.
  • Customers get interactive control of their dining experiences.
  • POS systems can handle digital signs, inventory control, property management, loyalty programs and pricing applications.
  • Mobile tablets, iPads and laptops allow servers to take payments right at the table.
  • The newest technology strengthens security and protects customer data.
  • Credit card companies and government agencies often update compliance guidelines for processing credit cards, and obsolete POS software can’t handle the mandates.
  • You can manage your restaurant from a single system to process payments, control costs, manage customer service, take inventory, order supplies, track sales and print on-demand reports.

Popular POS Systems

Popular systems that feature some of the latest options for restaurants include Clover, Breadcrumb, Square Up, Revel, Ziosk, MenuPad and TouchBistro. Choosing the right system for your restaurant depends on your budget, existing hardware, system complexity, staff training time and other factors.

The Only Constant in Hospitality Is Change

A diner steps up to a kiosk in the front of a restaurant and checks the ingredients of various menu items for allergens before placing his or her name on the waiting list for seating. Meanwhile, the customer preorders and pays for the meal. While waiting, the customer connects with the restaurant’s website to play a game and invite friends to meet at the restaurant for an informal meeting. The smartphone chimes to inform the customer that the table will be ready in five minutes and that the food will be served in exactly 15 minutes.

The scenario described above isn’t science fiction or near-future technology but current capabilities with next-generation POS systems. Major retailers routinely replace their POS systems about once every five years. Restaurants typically wait longer, and some family businesses used their older cash-management systems for generations. The fast-moving digital marketing environment today causes restaurants to fall behind their competitors if they don’t upgrade POS technology to deliver a seamless customer experience.