According to research conducted by CGA Peach on behalf of Zonal, nearly half of diners (47 per cent) say food not arriving quickly enough is their biggest frustration when going out for a meal, with another 24 per cent saying their order being taken incorrectly is their leading bugbear.
Technology providers argue that hand-held ordering, or mobile point of sale (mPOS), is the answer to both of these problems.
“You are completely taking out the element of writing an order down and having to walk over to a central terminal to enter it manually into the system,” explains James Cook, managing director of Tevalis.
“Effectively, this means a customer’s order goes through to the kitchen or bar in a quarter of the time. It also means that orders are more accurate, because there is less room for human error.”
Faster, more accurate service is not only good for customers, it is good for business. “Because hand-held ordering devices allow wait staff to spend more time on the floor serving customers, they allow operators to increase table turns and ticket averages,” says Shannon Arnold, marketing director for Maitre’D. “It also increases wait staff’s efficiency and productivity as they can serve more customers in less time, ultimately reducing labour costs."
By eliminating the need for staff dash between tables and a fixed terminal, hand-held ordering can even improve the working environment for your staff, says Cook.
“Health and safety is increased because you don’t have the potential that people are rushing about and making unnecessary trips to workstation to put orders through.”
Of course, the ability to take orders from a hand-held device is nothing new- the hospitality industry has been using PDAs for years. What is new is technology that allows consumer mobile devices- such as ipads and windows tablets – to be used as part of an EPOS solution.
“Tablet devices are allowing a much more user friendly way of transmitting orders through to the kitchen,” explains Cook. “The screens are much bigger and sharper, and with some solutions – including ours – the tablets can actually mirror the fixed POS terminal on the bar.”
Tablets-based solutions are also affordable, making mPOS more accessible to the majority of operators. Clive Consterdine, director of sales and marketing for Zonal, says this is driving a growing trend for restaurants to opt for less fixed tills and more mPOS devices.
“In the old days they might have had four fixed terminals and one PDA, but now they will have one fixed till and maybe six mobile devices. The cost of the second option is now less than the cost of the first because tablets are relatively cheap,” he says.
Choosing a system
Technology providers have approached tablet-based mPOS in different ways - with some developing apps that link up with the EPOS system and can be downloaded onto any tablet or mobile device, and others offering a comprehensive package that includes specially-designed tablets and software.
The option you choose will very much depend on the size of your business, the money you have to spend and your priorities when it comes to ease-of-use over functionality, but there are several things to consider when choosing and implementing any tablet-based solution.
Firstly, make sure that any solution you go for can be fully integrated into your EPOS system, so all orders are processed in the same way as if they were entered through a fixed terminal.
“It is important when people are looking at an in-house mobile ordering solution that they are looking at it as part of the overall EPOS solution,” says Consterdine.
Secondly, make sure that whatever combination of hardware you choose will be up to the job of handling orders in a busy restaurant or bar
“The reality is that deploying a tablet that is used as a domestic consumer product rather than in a commercial situation which is being used in a real-life business are two completely different things,” says Cook.
“These things run on Wi-Fi connections, and you might find that cheaper tablets don’t run fast enough or keep falling off the network.”
Finally, make sure that you have a good infrastructure in place, with a good Wi-Fi connection and the right IT capabilities.
“We will always send out a technician to check that the operator has the right infrastructure in place and test out some of our devices before we make any installation,” Cook adds.
Finally, consider what extra functionality you might require from your mPOS Ideally you want a system that will allow you to process payment and scan loyalty cards, be it through hardware which is bolted on to the tablet device or integration with other apps.
A more radical option for operators is to ditch table service altogether and allow customers to place their own orders - either by providing tablets on tables or integrating the venue's EPOS system with a mobile ordering app.
“I think mobile ordering is something that will grow in popularity quite quickly, because people are ready for it,” says Consterdine.
“There are lots of operation considerations – such as how you are going to process the orders that come in from the customer directly versus what is going on in your restaurant – but I think it is something everybody should be thinking about implementing.”
Cook agrees that hospitality outlets should think about introducing technology that enables customers to manage their own experience and even provide entertainment.
“Gamification will be a big thing going forward – with tablets on tables that can be used as an ordering device but also have games on them to entertain children,” he says.
However, he operators should think carefully about their audience before implementing any mobile solution.
“We still have a scenario where fine dining establishments wouldn’t consider deploying tablets in front of customers’ faces, because it just doesn’t fit in with the ethos of a high end restaurant,” explains Cook.
"I think even fine dining restaurants will start adopting tablet technology eventually, because they will see the efficiencies it can create, but it will probably take the people who are in their 20s and 30s now to be the ones eating at those establishments."
Tevalis are the UK's leading Epos solutions provider, supplying the very latest technologies available in the hospitality industry.
Our extensive suite of internationally recognised hardware and software solutions are proven to increase sales and reduce costs as well as providing head office and site level applications capable of improving operational efficiency and driving profit maximisation and customer service. www.tevalis.com