Will mPOS take over POS?

By Brandon Hull, Foodable Industry Expert

It sits there on your counters, collecting data. Weighing in at just under 202 pounds (well, it sure seems like it could,) your POS terminal silently awaits your employees’ input. It’s clunky, but useful. It’s an eye-sore, but new hires will likely understand how to use it instantly.

Alas, change is in the air.

But this isn’t just about the clunkiness of those massive terminals. It’s about customers. And it’s about flexibility and mobility. Five years from now, it will be just as common to see tablets in the hands of restaurant cashiers and servers —  maybe even oversized smartphones — as it will be the traditional POS.

What in the world is mPOS?

It’s called mPOS, or mobile point-of-sale, and it’s cruising down the fast lane, headed towards your restaurant. There are so many reasons why it makes sense, too. Let’s name a few. Or, better yet, you can sit back and relax, I’ll do the naming. You do the agreeing!

The cost of deploying traditional POS stations. The fixed space they consume. The emergence of lightweight, portable tablets that everyone is comfortable using. Disruptive technology companies building robust point-of-sale software alternatives on top of more secure operating systems. The need for faster, even more accurate, order management.

There’s also the rapid rise of mobile payments. Customers increasingly want to pay while on-the-go, according to Cornell, and no one argues with Cornell. And while you’ve still had to enter those orders manually in your POS in the past, that’s changing too.

Smoothie King and its 700 locations are switching to Revel, an iPad-based POS. Security was their stated reason for doing so. They’re just the beginning.

Why mPOS will take over POS

Here’s why we’ll rarely walk up to a register at QSR or Fast Casual restaurants with our credit card in hand.

1. Lines. We all hate long lines. That's enemy #1 and a big reason to look into mPOS. If you can allow a consumer to avoid a line at your location, do it. To enable customers to place an order and make a payment from no matter where they are to your restaurant location, that’s a great thing. You’ve gotten paid. They’ve got their order in. And they won’t clutter your location up standing in a line when they arrive. In, out, boom.  

2. Costs. We all hate excessive costs. Cutting in half (or more) the costs associated with deploying $5,000 - $10,000 per-terminal POS hardware in a single restaurant location is super attractive, isn’t it? Less cost, more portability, and increased flexibility. Easier startup for new restaurateurs and franchisees.

3. Mobile payments. Whether it’s through your custom app deployed to the marketplace or solutions like Tabbed Out, Cover, Apple Pay, Softcard, Paypal, Google Wallet, or the next big mobile payment platform, customers are going to adopt paying via smartphone. Emerging mPOS providers are rapidly supporting those options. Does your current POS support them?

4. Provider acceptance. The heavyweight POS companies are starting to innovate, while also providing ways for partners to tap into their platforms. It’s not just about the startups in the news. For some it’s now, for others in the not-too-distant future. You’ll be able to keep your current POS vendor and enjoy a more flexible POS deployment.

5. Security. Many POS software solutions are Windows based. We’ve all heard the stories of Windows-based viruses, not to mention the recent stories of restaurant systems being hacked. Not that mPOS is all about Apple or iPads, but there’s only been one known announcement of a virus targeting Apple iOS. And that one required a domino effect of circumstances unlikely to occur in a restaurant.

Embrace the Future

Sometimes it’s hard to picture what’s possible when you're limited by the present reality. It’s hard to picture a server taking an order with iPad in hand, having that order instantly transmitted to the kitchen, and the same iPad being used to swipe a credit card payment — or better yet, accept a wireless payment with no credit card handed over.

For that matter, it’s just hard to picture a terminal-free counter. (I mean, what would you put in PLACE of a POS terminal? That’s a whole new set of decisions!)

But try to picture it, because it’ll soon enough be the reality.