Real-time, enterprise-wide access to data from any Web-enabled device, easier PCI compliance, and less IT management: these are just a few of the benefits restaurant operators are realizing from making the leap to a cloud-based point-of-sale (POS). As more vendor options become available — including uptime guarantees and backups in place for downtime — many believe the cloud is the wave of the future.
“There are a lot more options in the market within the last two years, and only recently major players have offered it,” says Tony Marsters, director of IT services at Pita Pit, (www.pitapit.com) based in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and operating more than 200 franchised locations using Posera (www.maitredpos.com). “The precursor has been the mindset of the mobile and tablet world. I believe adamantly that POS is going to go entirely mobile in the future.”
While some operators are opting to run the POS on a mobile device, those who prefer a traditional terminal still have this option available from many vendors. The good news is, with the cloud, the terminal is the only hardware needed at the restaurant.
“Going to the cloud takes everything out of the restaurant. We only need a terminal there because all of the data is somewhere else,” says David Silverglide, CEO of Split Bread, (www.splitbread.com), with two locations in San Francisco using Brink Software (www.brinksoftware.com).
Vendors offer a mixture of solutions
Many vendors offer a 100% cloud-based solution, but there are some who still require a back-end server to report to the cloud. Some don’t have the capability to go without the server yet, and others find operators feel more comfortable with the back up, according to Phil Audino, CFO of Franklin Restaurant Group in Boston (www.franklincafe.com), operating six locations, including three Tasty Burgers using an iPad solution from ISISPOS (www.isispos.com).
However, those who have gone server free can’t imagine going back. “You really are not cloud-based if you have a server in your office,” Audino notes. “ISISPOS has full functionality and is a robust POS system all on an iPad. We process 2,000 transactions a day through it.”
The same is true for Silverglide, who also owns Mixt Greens restaurant locations, which still operate on legacy systems. He plans to migrate them to the cloud in the near future after seeing the benefits in his two Split Bread
“Dealing with the old legacy systems is probably something my staff spends four to five hours a week maintaining,” he explains. “With cloud you don’t have the IT headaches. It eliminates 95% of them, and as a restaurant operator you can just run your business.”
At Aramark Higher Education, (www.aramarkhighered.com), which handles foodservice in schools and universities, CIO and vice president of technology solutions Dominic Boffa explains he was able to redirect his service staff to other areas when they switched to cloud-based POS using Micros Simphony (www.micros.com).
Another benefit is having less hassle when it comes to PCI compliance, since all of the data is stored off-site in the cloud. This was a major benefit for Booster Juice (www.boosterjuice.com), based in Canada with more than 300 locations. Using Vivonet’s MyHalo product (www.vivonet.com) on Par Tech POS terminals (www.partech.com), there is no need for a back-end server onsite, so no data resides there, says Steven Lee, director of IT at the company.
“All of the data is synced to the cloud in a continuous stream, with a 5-minute delay maximum,” he explains.
Back-up contingency plans
The POS is a mission critical technology necessary to keep business operating, so uptime is extremely important. While some operators fear downtime is an issue without the on-site server, those who have made the switch report very few issues, if any.
“Most of the cloud-based solutions have 99 percent uptime if it’s managed correctly,” says Audino. “We also have redundancies in place for our Internet because the POS relies on it. If our router goes down, we have a 4G card so the router starts pulling the Internet that way until the wireless comes back up.”
Daniel Dolan, CEO at Native Foods Café (www.nativefoods.com), operating 14 locations with 12 more under development in Chicago, California, Oregon and Colorado, takes a similar approach with Internet backup, and says has never had an Internet connection issue.
“We’ve never had the system go down in four years, and if the Internet does go down, our Brink POS (www.brinksoftware.com) system continues to function, so it’s not something I worry about,” he explains.
While Audino admits in the past year he experienced two outages hosting his ISISPOS on the Amazon cloud, each outage only lasted one minute, and because of built in redundancies, he was still able to operate the POS in standalone mode. Once the cloud was back up, the stored information was immediately transferred, he says.
Boffa at Aramark Higher Education believes it’s just a matter of having the right backup processes in place. Even with an outage, the consumer is never aware of it, and there is no reason to assume even with a server on site that it won’t go down, he notes.
“Our Micros workstation has the capability to understand if we are offline and will accumulate transactions so we can continue to do business in the event of an outage,” Boffa says. “We also have the option to reroute credit cards if we need to.”
What’s next for POS in the cloud
As cloud-based technology becomes more accepted, restaurant operators are looking forward to more all-in-one solutions, easier integration and mobile options. And many believe traditional POS terminals will eventually
Booster Juice is currently testing a tablet for line-busting and mobile purchasing in its locations, and going completely mobile is a matter of consumer acceptance, says Lee.
“What is next for cloud-based POS is 100% mobile virtualization,” he notes. “The only thing stopping it is mobile penetration. When at least 60% of people have a smartphone, I can see the elimination of most traditional brick and mortar in-store POS.”
Some operators already offer the option of placing an order via a smartphone, and staff members taking orders via a tablet, but as acceptance increases, more will adopt these practices in the future.
“We already offer QR codes at our tables where guests can place an order by scanning the code and it goes directly into our system,” Silverglide says.
Additionally, the cloud technology will lead to more integrated offerings, eliminating the need for multiple vendors and solutions, says Franklin Restaurant Group’s Audino. “The next step for a lot of POS companies will be more all-in-one solutions in the cloud where there is POS, online ordering and more in one package,” he concludes.