Cloud POS: Choosing One for Your Restaurant
As a business operator, I’m sure you have heard “it’s in the cloud” so often lately you may be feeling overwhelmed with options and questions. Let’s talk about one of your most significant technology investments and why putting it “in the cloud” could be beneficial: your point-of-sale system.
If you have done any research on point-of-sale systems in the last several years, cloud-based features are a common theme. The term “cloud-based” refers to applications, services or resources made available to users on demand from a remote location via the Internet.
There are a couple of key questions to ask when moving technology to the cloud:
- What type of redundancy does the solution offer?
- What level of encryption does the solution have?
Redundancy in your restaurant technology is essential, and your provider should spell this out for your peace of mind. Consider this scenario: if your internet connection goes down on Friday evening and your internet provider won’t be available until late Saturday afternoon, what happens? The cloud-based POS provider should detail exactly how their system will respond to a loss of internet connectivity.
They should let you know. If they don’t, ask if their POS will:
- Continue working as usual but without credit card processing.
- Work as normal with credit card use, manually sending data to the cloud once the connection is re-established.
- Continue working with some modified color scheme to indicate that the system has lost connection, functioning normally and with automated credit card processing once the connection is re-established.
- Perform none of the above. (Note: if this is the answer, you may want to look elsewhere for your POS).
When shopping for a cloud-based restaurant POS, ask potential providers about their disaster recovery solutions. Does their hosting environment have a backup if something significant happens? With traditional site-based solutions, this wasn’t an option. If the PC or Server suffered a system failure, you’d lose your data, and any ability to ring in orders.
Encryption, features which protect your restaurant data and prevent unauthorized access, should be a given in your technology. Still, it never hurts to ask the vendor to spell it out, especially where payments are concerned. PCI Compliance has been a topic of conversation for over ten years, dictating that any time you move a customers’ payment card information to the cloud, you must encrypt that card data to that specific level of compliance. If a potential POS provider doesn’t ensure a role in securing that data, it might wise to keep shopping. You will still need a credit card processor to partner with your POS but the more encryption, the better.
Now that we’ve covered some of the critical factors in a cloud-based restaurant POS let’s look at the benefits.
Benefits of a Cloud POS for Restaurants
By moving your POS system from site-based to cloud-based, you will gain easy — and practically instant — access to your data.
Many systems offer both reports and live dashboards that your leadership can view through a portal or an app. If you have multiple locations, you can compare the restaurant data side by side, as they are happening or historically. A cloud-based restaurant POS system will back up data frequently throughout the day. Some will back up as often as every 15 minutes, and others once an hour. Backing up the data eliminates the ‘uh oh’ factor if one piece of hardware breaks. You won’t lose all the sales, cash, labor and inventory data stored on that one device.
Both large and small organizations can benefit from the ability to view, use and react to a system’s menu and visit data. Through analyzing restaurant analytics, you may notice that a particular menu item hasn’t been selling in the northernmost locations of your brand. In this instance, you could divert future inventory orders to your other sites. Through these analytics, you help prevent food waste, pinpoint your customers’ preferences, and create more potential for revenue!
Getting started with a cloud POS system for your restaurant often begins with your current vendor. More and more of the large, time-tested POS systems are adding cloud-based solutions under their umbrella of options. If you’d like to start fresh or open a new restaurant, there are many options available. Some of them are as easy to start up as downloading an app and building an account online. Others offer full implementation support and will develop the user interface and menu for you. The options for hardware are varied too, and range from iPad devices, branded touch hardware, and fixed stations to hand-held devices for servers to use tableside. If you shop around, you can find a solution that fits your operations and budget requirements.
The advantages of different restaurant hardware options are more significant than just the cost. With iPad-based cloud solutions, you can often troubleshoot online via a chat session, or over the phone. If the device is beyond repair, you might have to order a new one from your local retailer. That’s a significant change from site-based point-of-sale systems. With a site-based system, should problems arise, you’d call a help desk, wait on hold, troubleshoot, and then they’d dispatch a service technician to your site.
In worst-case scenarios, you’d have to wait for them to show up, only to hear they don’t have the necessary part available to fix the terminal or server. Then you’d have to wait for the new part to arrive.
There are several brands of restaurant cloud POS solutions, let’s take a look at a few of the best options according to Business.com.
|Brand||Hardware||Type of deployment||Best suited for||Fee structure|
|Revel||Recommended list of POS equip on their website||Cloud||All restaurant types & sizes||Varies by customer|
|ePOSnow||iPad or Android tablets or 3rd party options||Cloud||All restaurant types & sizes||Month to month option|
|TouchBistro||iPad and/or 3rd party options||Hybrid solution, local server/cloud-based reporting||All restaurant types & sizes||No lengthy contract|
|LAVU||iPad||Cloud||All restaurant types & sizes||Monthly options pay annually and save|
|Toast||Purchase hardware from them||Cloud||All restaurant types & sizes||Minimum 1-year agreement|
|Square||iPad or Android tablets||Cloud||Food truck / quick service / fast casual||No monthly subscription fees. Must use Square as payment processor|
|HARBORTOUCH||Proprietary hardware||Cloud||All restaurant types & sizes||Low monthly cost/ long-term contract|
|NCR Silver||Specific hardware requirements||Cloud||All restaurant types & sizes||Fees on-line/long-term contract|
|Upserve||iPad||Cloud||All restaurant types & sizes||Fees vary/three-year contract|
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Another benefit to using a cloud-based restaurant POS is the opportunity for integrations. Integrations offer a way for companies to focus on one service or solution that solves many issues for their customers. Point of sale vendors often integrate with solutions below:
- Kitchen display systems
- Table management systems
- Team member training or recipe viewer
- Geo location technology
- Online ordering solutions
- And more!
Once you have chosen a provider and selected the hardware, it’s time to consider how you’ll finance the costs. There are two primary options:
- Perpetual licensing
Saas stands for Software as a Service. This setup means you are leasing the rights to the software month by month. The upfront costs are lower, updates to the system are often automatic, and the length of commitment varies typically between two and five years. If the agreement goes beyond five years, be aware the total cost at some point will exceed the value of what a perpetual license may have cost initially.
When choosing a SaaS solution for an extended length of time, you should also take into consideration the longevity of the company. If it’s a startup and the vendor asks for a 10-year agreement, you should strongly consider what this entails.
Perpetual licensing will generally have more upfront cost (which varies significantly) because you are purchasing the software and some of these are permanent. Updates to the system may require a separate maintenance fee.
What’s Right for You
All these features and factors of a cloud-based restaurant POS can be a lot to process. There’s even more information out there to study and use in your decision-making process. In shopping for a POS, seek advice from peers you trust, read reviews, research the features, and decide which of them are the most important to you. But keep in mind, don’t compromise on the big items. There’s likely a system out there that’s right for you.
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About the Author
Shari McCauley is the Product Training Specialist at QSR Automations, where she focuses on educating employees and customers on the benefits and uses of QSR technology. You can reach Shari at firstname.lastname@example.org.