Point of Sale
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By Katie McCann
It’s a familiar scene: the start of the dinner rush. Your main dining room is packed, your customers are hungry, and your staff is hustling to take orders.
Then without warning, your Internet connection just disappears.
What happens now?
Well, if you run your restaurant on a cloud POS system, your business comes to a screeching halt without the Internet. Orders aren’t displayed properly in the kitchen, staff can’t clock in and out, and your diner’s information and sales data are completely inaccessible.
That’s no minor disruption – that’s an entire dinner rush at risk. You could lose time, money, and return customers.
In this article, we’ll break down exactly what happens when a cloud-based POS restaurant loses Internet and how you can avoid these disasters. We’ll go over:
Let’s get started!
The right restaurant POS is a powerful tool for your venue. To make sure you’re picking the system that’s right for you, it’s important to consider what type of POS system is best for your business.
The Cloud refers to software and services that are run fully over an Internet connection, instead of locally on your computer or tablet. All of your information is stored online via servers.
A cloud POS system stores all of your business information in these online servers. When you want to access your information anywhere, such as managing your restaurant menu remotely or creating your staff schedule from the comfort of your home, a cloud POS gives you the option to do so.
When it comes to a traditional POS, think classic barcode scanners, large monitors, and giant cash drawers. A traditional POS, also known also as a legacy POS, runs on a closed network. Since it is its own network, a traditional POS stores all the information it holds on a local server.
To compare the two, think of a traditional POS as your old home computer. The files on that computer are just on that computer. It runs on a completely independent network.
With the traditional method, you compromise on some of the modern features. Mobility is a big spot where traditional loses, since carrying around a giant computer from table-to-table is impossible.
Instead, you have servers running back and forth to take orders at each table, punch them in at the POS station, and go between the kitchen and the bar. This slows down service, reduces the number of tables turned, and increases the chance that orders are entered incorrectly.
On the other hand, a cloud-based system gives you the ability to take orders tableside, eliminating all the back and forth.
But that’s not all.
The cloud POS is the legacy POS’ young, hip cousin. Think of your smartphone being able to share texts with a laptop and a smartwatch, or access photos taken from another computer. Because all the info on your main device – the smartphone – is in the cloud, you can retrieve its contents from anywhere, as long as you have Internet access. Everything is centralized and accessible.
Seems like it would be a pretty obvious choice to use a cloud POS, right?
Let’s think back to our scenario at the beginning. Dinner rush, full dining room, waiters taking orders as fast as they can, Internet goes down.
All those great features your cloud POS offered you? When the Internet is off, those features are off, too.
When you’re at your busiest, you need a POS that’s going to be reliable – because, as you know, your Internet may not be.
If you’re using cloud-based software, losing your Internet means, at best, running a full venue on only one terminal for every part of your restaurant. If your terminal has no offline capabilities, you’re back to paper service and a calculator.
When this happens, you’re facing customers who can’t place orders, staff who can’t clock in or out, and orders that can’t get delivered to the kitchen. Your packed restaurant is now at a stand-still as you desperately try to get the Internet back up and running.
Another concern about running your restaurant on a cloud-based system are the security issues. If everything is in the cloud, what happens if somebody else gets your login info?
All your business information is stored there – menus, customer information, financial reports, you name it! Having a system on-site at your restaurant, such as a local hard drive or server, helps keep more of your information secure.
So, what’s a restaurant owner to do?
Imagine having the convenience, features, and modern look of a cloud POS with the security of your own network.
That’s where a hybrid POS system comes in. Unlike the cloud POS and traditional POS, a hybrid POS has two elements: a hardwired, local connection in the restaurant and cloud access. This means you get all the perks of a cloud POS with the security of a local connection keeping you up and running even if your Internet stops working.
When picking a POS for your business, make sure to ask what happens if you lose your network connection. If the system isn’t hybrid or they can’t give you a clear answer on what features you lose when you’re offline, you may want to consider moving onto the next provider. One thing you don’t want from your POS is downtime.
Get the guide that helps you evaluate different POS solutions and find the right one for your business.
But let’s say you have opted for the cloud POS. What exactly are the risks with this type of system?
Even with the utmost care and caution, you can never be 100% certain you won’t lose your Internet connection. There are factors completely outside your control that can impact your ability to get online and, therefore, impact your business.
If this happens, you’ll lose the main features that make your POS such a powerful tool – until you get back online.
Here are some of the specific problems you can expect to encounter if your cloud POS goes offline.
There’s a reason you don’t run your restaurant on a notepad (anymore).
If you end up offline, this would essentially be what you’re doing. In offline mode, you would have to go down to a single terminal.
Not just a single terminal for front of house, back of house, and bar. A single terminal for every order being placed. While this is disastrous at any time, go back to imagining our dinner rush. Your staff would have to wait at a single terminal to punch in orders, leaving tables unattended for long periods of time, huge delays in orders being placed, and a lot of unhappy customers.
If you have to drop to one terminal during your busiest time, you’re going to feel it. And even worse, so will your guests.
One second your staff are sending orders from POS stations to the kitchen with ease. The next, you’re transported back to the pen-and-paper days.
When you go into offline mode, orders you put through won’t appear on your kitchen display screens. What was being managed with ease now gets tougher as your back of house has to juggle the dinner rush orders on slips of paper.
Nothing makes your customers feel quite as special as being recognized at their favorite restaurant.
Being able to access your customer information – especially your regulars – is a huge part of providing that personalized experience your patrons have come to expect.
When you’re offline, you risk losing the ability to sync and access customer relationship management (CRM) and loyalty features. When you work hard to build relationships with your guests, you don’t want downtime to jeopardize that.
The customer data you’re missing doesn’t end with that custom experience. Customer data tied to delivery orders also won’t sync with the customer accounts when offline. This can result in duplicate customers once you come back online. If the system isn’t syncing, you won’t be able to sync the others together even if their information is identical. Imagine the headache trying to sift through duplicate orders once you get back online!
Imagine your dinner staff comes in to take over from the lunch staff. Because you’re in offline mode, there’s only one tablet available to clock everybody in and everybody out.
Yeah, your back of house would get a little crazy.
Since your tablets can’t sync information from each other while offline, your full team has to wait to use one device to clock in and out if you want to keep your staff straight.
The only thing that makes going out for dinner a little more special is when you aren’t paying. Gift cards make a great gift because you’re treating somebody to a meal and a night out – win win!
However, if your system is offline, this great gift is ruined. In offline mode, you’re unable to process payments on a gift card. Nothing quite ruins a night out like having to explain to a customer that you can’t accept the gift card they came in expecting to use that night.
In fact, both selling and accepting payments with gift cards is completely off the table when in offline mode.
One of the greatest features with a cloud-based system is the fact you can access your reports anywhere. Business decisions can be made in your restaurant or across the ocean from it.
When you’re offline, all the reports you access from the cloud are – temporarily – out of reach.
It’s hard to lose the features you’ve grown comfortable with when you’re offline – going from tech-savvy to pen-and-paper in the blink of an eye is less than ideal. But, it’s better than having no features, right?
If you aren’t careful, you can render make your tablet completely unusable. If you log out of your cloud POS while offline, that device is out for as long as the Internet is. Since there’s no Internet, there’s no way to reach the network you’re trying to log in to.
With the right system, this restaurant nightmare can be completely avoided. A hybrid system keeps operations running smoothly both online and offline – keeping you in control of nearly every aspect of your restaurant as if the connection was fine and giving you 24/7/365 support to get back up and running for the rest.
Once you’re back online, simply sync with the cloud and have all your data safely backed up like you were never offline.
A hybrid POS system can offer the best of the cloud POS and traditional POS rolled into one – the flexibility of the cloud with the security of your own network.
Enjoy the perks of cloud features without the stress of knowing you could lose them all when your Internet decides to stop working.
Katie is a former Content Marketing Specialist at TouchBistro where she writes about food and restaurant experiences. She doesn’t shy away from the finer things in life, but no matter how much success she continues to acquire, she stays true to her roots and still considers imitation crab as gourmet. If she isn’t writing, you can find her on a patio with friends and a pitcher of white wine sangria.
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