Probably the most popular of restaurant industry technology has been electronic Point-of-sale (POS) systems. Being able to automatically track orders, taxes, and more via computer makes bookkeeping a lot easier for everyone involved.
Then came along the next great improvement — handheld POS systems. Now servers could enter orders into a handheld device which would instantly shoot the order back to the kitchen. No need to constantly go to the kitchen and easier to move on to the next table. Some POS systems continue to print paper chits while others have taken it farther with screens mounted in the kitchens for the chefs to track orders.
But POS improvements continue, proving that the POS systems are the electronic heart of a restaurant.
Working with other software
There are several areas in which POS can be integrated. The key to working with other software are application programming interfaces (APIs). The APIs are the connection links that help one piece of software talk to another. Some software companies protect their APIs while others open source them, allowing for others to easily use and adapt them to their needs. A good example are the open source APIs of Apple and Google Android for the easy development of apps.
Another stumbling block can be how nimble companies can be. This can be effected by staff size (too many cooks spoil the broth) or ability to adapt quickly.
Finally there is the Cloud. Cloud technology not only provides more security in regards to servers, power, or internet going down, but also is much easier for multi-location restaurants to manage. Should a chain need to make some sort of edit or change to the system, it's easier to do it centrally via the cloud than at each individual location.
There are several areas of POS integration currently in the works with those companies that are able to adapt quickly.
Pay-at-table (PAT) — As discussed in our last post, Next Big Thing: Pay-at-table, the current trend is moving away from a cash or credit card exchange at the end of the meal. Instead, customers are starting to use PAT apps where their credit cards are stored. They simply finish their meal and leave and the credit card automatically gets charged with meal and tip. This is obviously a prime opportunity for POS integration directly as the order is in electronic form. It's a matter whether the POS companies integrate PAT on their own or open their APIs to third party apps offering the service.
Front-of-house (FOH) systems — Another area that is looking to integrate with POS systems is in the front-of-house management system, often tied to a reservation system. These systems take care of table inventory and the efficient flow of guests via turn times and server assignments. Many keep track of where the tables are in their meal. This is where the POS integration would be useful. As soon as a server takes the order, the table status is changed to "Ordered", "Meal", or "Entree". As the table progresses through courses, the table status would automatically change according to the status in the POS system.
Being tied in with systems such as PAT and FOH also helps with analytics of your customers. You can keep track of repeat customers' likes/dislikes and ordering habits.