Embracing the Cloud
As the technology advances, restaurants see a reduction in reliance on hardware and location-based POS systems, and a shift towards operating in the cloud with less invasive and costly hardware, says Ravelo of MenuPad.
Bar and restaurant operators can even find new revenue streams from entertainment and vendor marketing with the technology, he says.
Launched in 2010 by Chris Sullivan, a cofounder of Outback Steakhouse, MenuPad currently offers four unique modes in one app—three customer-facing modes, and one used by service staff. This allows the restaurant operator flexibility in working technology into their operations, Ravelo says.
“Table mode puts full control of the dining experience in the hands of the customer, and allows the staff to remain on the floor and focused on customer needs. Guests can browse the menu, place orders and pay from an iPad at the table,” he says.
MenuPad’s Kiosk mode can help quick-serve and fast-food concepts reduce wait times by allowing customers to place orders and pay on their own if they do not require a great deal of staff interaction. The systems’ Pay mode can eliminate the need for a customer to wait for servers to bring a check, pick up payment, and return with change or a credit-card slip.
And its Server mode brings 95% of the POS terminal functionality right to the table with the server. This ensures that orders are placed in a timely and accurate manner, and keeps the servers on the floor with their guests.
“All modes facilitate payment through the POS system, and speed up the payment process for everyone,” Ravelo says. The company is currently developing MenuWeb, a web-based menu display and ordering system to accompany the product.
While online ordering is widely available, he notes, “our system will allow restaurant operators to update menu changes in just one place rather than updating multiple systems. Changes made in our cloud-based MenuApp control panel will push to both the web and the tablets instantly.”
Cloud computing has made a huge impact on both POS and tablet menu ordering within the restaurant industry, says Mark Schulze, head of the Clover App Market at First Data, which acquired Clover in 2013.
“With the cloud, everything is now seamlessly connected, meaning customers can order how they want—from the web, a kiosk, a tablet menu or even in line,” he says. “The point-of-sale centralizes the ordering experience and makes it more integrated into the overall workflow.”
First Data introduced Clover Mobile, a wireless, tablet-based POS system, this past November. In June it unveiled Clover Mini, which accepts near field communication (NFC)-based payments from mobile wallets. The “all-in-one” management tool helps streamline operations, expand business intelligence and improve the customer experience; it also facilitates payments in a safe, secure environment, the company says.
Clover Mini’s cloud-based software makes it easy for owners to manage their businesses on the go, Schulze says. For instance, users can view activity such as inventory or staff hours while running errands away from the restaurant, or even monitor how much waiters are being tipped, he notes.
Pricing varies by a number of factors, but the company says it’s comparable to a single-use terminal, which by most estimates can cost about $300. But Clover Mini adds more functionality as a full business management tool vs. a POS terminal, according to First Data.
Borgata Pizza Café in Columbus, OH, deployed the Clover system this past March and added the Clover mobile handheld devices in April. “We used to get really backed up on the weekends with customers trying to check out and pay, but now we don’t have that problem,” says owner Ed Bisconti.
Other Clover clients include Restaurant Vivolo in New York and Serendipity in Concord, CA, a vocational restaurant run by the students of Mt. Diablo High School.
Another client is Kristina Rae’s, An All-American Grill in Dimondale, MI. Owner Roxanna Mann lost her eyesight completely in 2008 after a long degenerative illness; Schulze notes that she uses the voice activation software on the Clover Station to manage the register independently.
At their Fingertips
Lightspeed Restaurant is a cloud-based product line offering bars, nightclubs and restaurants mobile point-of-sale, business management and customer analytics technology.
It also improves in-house communication, according to Lightspeed CEO Dax Dasilva. “Lightspeed, for example, can send an order to the kitchen in a different language if the chef and line cooks and servers happen to speak different languages,” he says.
For the back of the house, Lightspeed offers a single view of data, giving owners one anytime/anywhere look into sales and inventory across locations and on any device. It also provides instant menu updates, making it easy to change listings, images and prices across restaurants and websites, as well as communicate inventory.
Lightspeed offers the front-of-house mobile tableside ordering, table-to-kitchen integrated workflow using an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch. It also enables quick opening and closing of bar tabs, activated by a credit-card swipe, and live visual floor management tools to help manage seating and table status. What’s more, restaurants can use the system to store guest information and reward them for loyalty, transforming customers into brand ambassadors.
Founded in 2005, Lightspeed has a tiered offering that scales up based on the size of the restaurant. Small, with one register and two printers, costs $59 a month on a 14-month agreement, or $69 a month on a month-to-month basis. Medium, with three registers, four printers and API access, is priced at $102 a month on a 14-month agreement, or $119 a month on a month-to-month basis. Large (seven registers, unlimited printers, API access) costs $205 a month on a 14-month agreement, or $239 a month on a month-to-month basis.
“Tableside tablets will continue to grow more interactive, as some now feature games and advertisements for restaurant specials,” says Dasilva. “Technology for high-end restaurants, however, is just beginning to gain more popularity.”
A fine-dining restaurant may not warm to the idea of iPad replacing waitstaff, he says, “but the technology can be used on the back end to completely streamline the diner’s experience.”