The POS Industry: A Three-Part Rant

The phone I grew up with was clunky and served just one purpose — talk to someone. My monthly costs were high, and long distance calls were expensive. If something broke… major trouble. Today I have an iPhone. I can do a million tasks on it easily and intuitively; apps make it infinitely customizable; and while I may pay more each month, the expense is pegged to my usage- to my satisfaction.

The POS is a nerve center of a restaurant but no matter how much improvement you drive everywhere else in your operations, the majority of POSes are at best like the old phone.  There are three big issues that need to change to bridge the divide between today’s POS and the POS of our dreams. 

1. Elegant, attractive design, once consider frivolous, is now known to improve user satisfaction and return on investment. System complexity leads to errors and long training times. And those fancy features you paid extra for? No one uses them because no one remembers how. There is a new generation of App-based POS with great user interfaces (notably LavuBreadcrumb, and OwnPOS), but the vast majority of restaurants still use outdated systems…and pay dearly for it. 

2. My new phone is not just pretty. It is open. Third party developers have access, building apps that provide specialized service. I use Instagram for photos and Dropbox for file sharing. Not only does this free Apple to focus on their core capabilities but I am more - not less - dependent on the phone. POSes today offer a tiny selection of third party apps (like one or two choices for online ordering) but otherwise force you to rely on their usually inferior native tools or use third party apps without POS integration. Close your eyes and imagine  a world with an easily installed MailChimp and Fishbowl email apps linked in real time to your POS. Now open your eyes. Reality stinks.

3. Perhaps worst of all, most POS companies use a sales + service financial model. You pay up front, then again for maintenance and service, and if you need something special or have a problem you pay even more. Sometimes much more. Last year, 68% of Micro’s revenue came from service. My phone, on the other hand, charges me for use: The more I use it the higher my data bill. Shopkeep, one of the better App-style POSes, has a light-weight pricing model. Not the same as pay-for-use but at least strong value.  If restaurants had a choice of POS apps I bet usage, satisfaction and ROI would go up. Would you rather pay for success or failure?

The restaurant industry is waking up to the idea that the old model serves the POS industry but not consumers or restaurants. And when a new generation of operators looks at the phone in their pocket and the POS terminal on their host stand, they are going to demand change. Easy, open, financially aligned. This is not too much to ask for. Why do most POS companies serve pink slime and call it sirloin? Demand better.

(originally posted to ordrin.tumblr.com)

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Comment by David Abron on June 13, 2012 at 9:46am

Interesting post!  We see alot of different POS solutions that we integrate with.  As an answer to the rising costs associated with POS integration, we have come up with Free gateways as our attempt to help the restauranteurs mitigate costs (free setup and free monthly).  We are also assisting with the integration as well as you pointed out, POS companies are charging a premium to assist with the integrations. I too am looking forward to the POS solution that steps up and only bears the restaurant and the customers concerns in mind!

Comment by Ken Burgin on June 10, 2012 at 6:57pm

Time to say goodbye to the tractors! POS displays at trade fairs have a slight smell of death about them...

Good rant - thanks!

Comment by David Bloom on June 4, 2012 at 2:53pm

When you have a fully interactive tool that lets employees monitor and respond to data in real time, the terminal is only one access point. Imagine a manager reviewing guest checks remotely, seeing a valued customer and comping their drinks from the CRM/HUB. The server in the restaurant sees an alert on the POS/HUB and tells the guests. The physical and functional constraints of the old terminal go away.  Yes...restaurant tech nirvana. 


Non-Operator
Comment by FohBoh on June 4, 2012 at 2:43pm

Thanks for the post. Restaurant + technology nirvana is a fully integrated CRM+POS hub that becomes the command center for all social and business intelligence activities. Add a cloud-based dashboard that helps manage the customer experience, allows real-time engagement and even tells you a few things you can do to improve, drive sales and manage your CRM better. But, I wonder, is the HUB, the POS? or, is the HUB, the website? 

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