POS: To Tablet or Not to Tablet?

By Steven Meyer, Director of IT, Benchmarc Restaurants by Marc Murphy | April 08, 2014

Tablets have been around for a while now, but their popularity has grown exponentially since Apple released the iPad in 2010. This rise in consumer attention has encouraged developers and technology leaders to compete in the expanding tablet software market, and point-of-sale (POS) companies are no exception. When correctly implemented, a tablet-based POS can help a business run faster while reducing the overhead expenses associated with a traditional system. But are tablets right for every business type?

Tablet-based approaches can improve operations. For example, in order to save counter space, an owner might opt for a tablet-based POS. Employees are outfitted with tablets and the owner manages data with a cloud-based system. The servers are stored offsite and professionally managed by the POS provider, and the owner monitors it all from a laptop. Since everything is remotely administered, the owner doesn’t have to deal with a clunky interface or suffer downtime when working directly on the terminal.

By eliminating bulky, expensive terminals and onsite servers, space is maximized. With the option to email receipts right from the tablet, the transaction can be completed without any paperwork. If a tablet fails, the owner can keep a few in stock or easily replace it with a run to the electronic store. The system is clean and cost-effective.

Another situation would be a restaurant owner looking for a POS system to be reliable and efficient. The owner invests in an onsite server and tablets for all employees who enter orders tableside, drastically reducing mistakes and wait times. The data is used to build robust reports that interact with third-party accounting, reporting, and inventory software.

POS pitfalls
While tablets can simplify processes, every technological jump comes with potential downsides. Before committing completely to a tablet-based system, operators should weigh the pros and cons.

For operators who use the cloud and offsite servers to run their POS, if the connection between the server and tablets is interrupted, the POS fails. The cause could be two-fold; either the Internet or the cloud could have gone down. Business owners can help prevent an Internet interruption by choosing a robust router that accepts both 4G and hard-wired connections, or by investing in a backup Internet. But businesses have no way of preventing a cloud failure, leaving owners with nothing to do but wait for the connection to be restored. While this situation is occurring less as cloud environments mature, it is still a difficulty to be anticipated.

An onsite server might seem like an advantage, however there can still be some of the same complications — downed terminals, frustrating and expensive repairs — as traditional systems. That being said, POS solutions for tablets tend to be more up-to-date with web interfaces than traditional software.
Tablet concerns that affect both situations are responsiveness and battery life. Until the technology takes a foothold, wired terminals will normally be faster than wireless, and tablet batteries need charging.

Choosing the “correct” POS system is a personal decision; it depends on business model, goals, and expectations. When coming up with a wishlist, things operators should think about include: reporting, mobility, simplicity, aesthetics, responsiveness, and cost savings.

Also, payment companies should integrate seamlessly with the POS to provide analytics on customers and marketing tools to help boost sales. Swipely (www.swipely.com) works with every major tablet and non-tablet POS, and gives merchants the insights necessary to make smarter decisions about in-store operations and marketing programs.

Focus on how the system would operate and ask for employees’ input. Remember, at the end of the day, they will use it more than you. Your final operating system may or may not include tablets, but it should efficiently address your needs. 


   
What was your first job?
Network administrator for a law firm.

Who inspires you?
Bill Gates because he’s brilliant and gives so much back to
the world.

What are your hobbies?
Hiking, camping, botany

What technologies excite you?
Anything that contributes to the greater good and helps the average person to reach their dreams (open source technologies to 3D printers).

Sage Advice:
Be straightforward and
double check yourself.

What is one other job that you would like to try?
CEO, so that I can help solve
more problems outside of IT.


What is your favorite book/movie?
Tie between Jurassic Park,
Sphere, Alien 2

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