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The Green Sheet Online Edition

December 24, 2012 • Issue 12:12:02

No reservations about mPOS at eateries

By Rick Berry
ABC Mobile Pay Inc.

The steakhouse restaurant Claim Jumpers in my backyard of Santa Clarita, Calif., is seemingly always busy at dinnertime. When the place is rocking, thirsty patrons pack the bar, and families milling about like hungry cattle fill the waiting area by the stone fireplace. And, yes, we are always very hungry.

Good food and excellent service are reasons enough to justify spending the time waiting to be seated. Claim Jumpers is so busy, in fact, that when I'm short on time and the line is long, I go elsewhere for faster service.

And I'm not the only one who does. Often, I've seen others turn around and leave, muttering their disappointment. When potential patrons leave unsatisfied, that means lost revenue. And some customers may never return.

Capturing the overflow crowd

Have ISOs and merchant level salespeople sufficiently tapped this market for mobile POS? Such restaurants are a golden opportunity to provide servers with mobile devices. Mobile POS equipment has the potential to speed up orders, speed checkouts, and increase orders and total revenue through up-selling and faster table turns.

A tremendous amount of time is wasted by servers' repeated trips to the POS station for every add-on, order or request. Cutting servers' wasted time is an ideal way for restaurants to boost revenue during peak demand times.

How many trips are required to the POS station in the payment process alone? Usually, five or six trips are required to complete a credit card payment. The server:

  • Presents the check at the table
  • Comes back for the payment card
  • Goes to the POS station for authorization
  • Returns to the table, presents bill and then leaves
  • Keeps an eye on the table while the customer adds in tip, signs receipt, and separates copies, keeping one
  • Returns to the table to pick up merchant copy of signed receipt
  • Goes back to the POS station, enters the amount with tip and processes the transaction

How many steps do you count? How much time does such a repetitious process take when you add in the never-ending customer requests, interruptions and distractions?

Walk a mile in their shoes

When restaurants put mobile devices configured with mPOS in the hands of servers, all those trips to the POS are eliminated. This gives wait staff more time to focus on what really matters: serving their customers. Servers no longer have to wait their turn to place orders for drinks, appetizers, meals and desserts. And they no longer need to make countless trips to the POS to complete payment at the end of a meal.

Servers can also use wireless devices to access a wealth of information in real time, such as menu changes, calorie-count information and ingredient lists, to answer questions about the contents of dishes. Servers can help customers avoid foods that pose dietary problems for them, such as nuts, gluten or milk. These questions previously required time-consuming trips to the kitchen. The devices also can be programmed with prompts to help ensure that every order is complete.

Ensuring the last impression is a good one

How many times have you impatiently looked for your server after you've finished your meal and you were ready to pay, only to have the server take forever to settle up?

Customers may have enjoyed a wonderful meal with great service. But if they have to wait long for payment to be completed, their last impression will negatively impact the overall customer experience. Once I'm ready to pay and go, I find further delays are annoying. To me, this is as important a part of the dining experience as any other aspect.

With mobile POS technology (mPOS) in a restaurant's arsenal, making customers wait to pay becomes a thing of the past. Diners simply swipe their credit or gift cards at the self-serve payment station kiosk. Or they can present their cards to the server, who processes payment at the table via a mobile terminal or device such as an iPhone encased in a combination card reader and receipt printer.

Servers can even swipe loyalty cards to record purchases for discounts or points. With mobile devices' and kiosks' ability to accept PIN debit transactions, customers can securely type in their PIN codes. For credit card transactions, they may sign on the device after swiping their cards.

Improving the dining experience

Several advantages of mPOS enhance customers' dining experiences. Mobile technology eliminates patrons' fears related to payment cards leaving their possession, while providing a unique and differentiating dining experience.

Servers equipped with mobile devices can wirelessly send different orders directly to the kitchen, bar and pizza oven all at the same time so that customers get their food and drinks without delay. Every important detail can be captured to ensure the best experience for guests, such as their side dish preferences and how a steak should be cooked. Real-time information from the kitchen also lets servers know when orders are ready for pick-up, so food is delivered within moments of preparation.

When it comes time for a guest to pay, servers can process payments at the table with a self-serve tabletop tablet. When credit and debit cards are processed on the spot, they are handled by servers in full view of customers at all times so that payment cards never leave customers' supervision.

Without all the trips to the POS, servers are more attentive to customers and are able to provide better service. Customers are more satisfied, servers get larger tips and the restaurant sees more repeat business.

Key benefits

Mobile POS technology provides three key advantages over traditional restaurant POS systems, plus several ancillary benefits I haven't yet mentioned:

  • Improved payment card security: With mPOS technology at the table, diners have the peace of mind that comes from never losing sight or even possession of their credit cards. Credit card skimming becomes almost impossible. Also, the card can't be inadvertently charged twice. And a diner's payment card won't accidentally end up in the hands of the wrong guest.

  • Increased server productivity: By eliminating trips to the POS, server productivity is increased. The same number of servers can now provide better service to more tables, helping contain staffing costs without impacting service quality. At the same time, servers can make more in tips and improve their job satisfaction, thereby reducing turnover.

  • Increased sales: Since the overall time that it takes to provide the entire dining experience is reduced, service is faster, and the restaurant turns tables more frequently, providing higher revenue. As servers take orders on the mobile devices, they can up-sell related items, such as wines that complement the entrees that have been ordered. Restaurants can serve more customers in the same amount of time, and the average check size grows.

Mobile POS is a win-win for restaurants, servers and patrons. And maybe the next time I head to Claim Jumpers, I'll be able to breeze past the entrance to an unoccupied table. end of article

Rick Berry is the President of ABC Mobile Pay Inc., a Valencia, Calif.-based company specializing in providing affordable, software-as-a-service POS solutions. Rick can be reached at rick@abcmobilepay.com.

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