All Systems Go: Point-of-sale technology update

Advances in point-of-sale technology have made the systems easier to use and less expensive to implement. Tablets in particular are helping bars and restaurants streamline their business processes and improve their bottom lines.

POS systems have come a long way from the large, bulky fixed terminals with expensive hardware. In addition to the high upfront costs—about $2,000 to $4,000 per terminal—these systems generally required multiyear lease contract commitments for support and maintenance.


Lightspeed Restaurant, a cloud-based product line, offers bars, nightclubs and restaurants mobile point-of-sale, business management and customer analytics technology.

Expensive upgrades and service from the manufacturers would boost costs further, as did customization. Manufacturers often charged additional programming fees for functions such as changing daily menu specials or designing operating reports relevant to the specific restaurant or bar.

Today’s POS systems are smaller and offer more efficient options to help operators improve speed and accuracy, and ultimately enhance the customer experience. Depending on how you incorporate the technology, benefits can include higher check averages, faster table turn, shorter lines, more secure payment processing, savings on menu printing and reduced waste in the kitchen, says Chris Ravelo, vice president of operations at MenuPad, a POS software application for iPads.

Tapping into Tablets

The Ledford House Restaurant in Albion, CA, used to take orders and calculate checks on duplicate carbon tickets using pocket calculators. “Often the addition was wrong because of human errors, and we thought we were losing money,” says co-owner Tony Geer.

Bad handwriting also was a problem when the kitchen was not able to read what the waiters wrote, he notes.

The restaurant implemented TouchBistro Mobile iPad POS system in August 2014. Waitstaff use the wireless system on iPad Minis to take orders from customers; the orders are instantly transmitted to the kitchen or bar for preparation.

The system also automatically calculates and splits bills whatever way customers desire, and integrates with card keypads or mobile wallets for payment, says TouchBistro CEO Alex Barrotti. “This eliminates errors resulting from manual or double entries when placing orders and processing payments,” he says.

What’s more, users can program daily menu specials into the TouchBistro system within minutes, along with seating charts for larger venues.

TouchBistro, founded in 2010, launched its POS software in 2011. The hardware—an iPad—costs from $499 to $799 per terminal, while the software to run on the iPads is licensed on a monthly subscription basis with no contract required, according to the company.

The TouchBistro software costs $69 per month for one license; $129 for two; $249 for up to five licenses; and $399 for unlimited licenses—no matter how many terminals are added in the future. All prices include free product updates and technical support by phone and email.

Red Cedar Spirits, a distillery and cocktail lounge in East Lansing, MI, began using TouchBistro in April 2014. Co-owner Kris Berglund says the tablet technology has made it faster to take and prepare orders. “The server can take and send multiple orders while out on the floor without having to return to the POS station to send orders back.”

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