What Is a Hybrid POS? Everything You Need to Know About Using Your POS Offline

By Andrea Victory

illustration of restaurant pos

A point of sale (POS) system is a restaurant’s most important tech tool, but if you’re not using a hybrid POS, your business could be vulnerable to costly interruptions. That’s where a hybrid POS can help.

Simply put, a hybrid POS merges the convenience of a cloud-based POS with the reliability of a legacy POS. By preventing disruptions to service when the Internet goes out, this revolutionary system helps restaurants maximize revenue, save time and money, and ensure a smooth guest experience at all times.

While keeping your restaurant up and running is crucial, there’s a whole lot more that the almighty hybrid POS can do. In this article, you’ll get the full scoop on:

  • What a hybrid POS is
  • The benefits of a hybrid POS for your restaurant
  • What to look for in a hybrid POS

What Is a Hybrid POS?

If you’re new to the restaurant industry and are wondering what POS means, we’re referring to the high-tech equivalent of a cash register.

A hybrid POS essentially combines the best of locally-installed legacy POS systems with the best of cloud-based modern POS systems to create a reliable network that doesn’t get in the way of doing business when your Internet goes down. To fully understand how a hybrid POS system works, we need to first review the differences between a cloud-based POS and a locally-installed POS.

Legacy POS

A legacy POS is like an old school desktop computer where any files you save to the computer can only be accessed on that specific device. 

Similarly, any data created and stored in a legacy POS system is saved to a closed network on a local server. It can only be accessed through that POS system, which means you have to be physically at your restaurant to review sales reports, check inventory levels, or access any other POS information. This type of system is considered more secure and reliable but less accessible.

And just like an old, desktop computer, a legacy POS system runs on bulky hardware that’s installed on-site in a fixed location.

Cloud POS

If a legacy POS is like a retro desktop computer, a cloud POS is like a modern laptop. Today’s laptops let you store files locally and on the cloud (a digital storage database) via the Internet. You can also access your files from other devices connected to your cloud account, like a smartphone or tablet, as long as you have a WiFi connection. 

Likewise, cloud POS systems store data on – you guessed it – the cloud. This means that any order information input into one POS terminal can instantly be seen and accessed on other POS terminals or connected devices. Thanks to the cloud’s omnipresence, you can check your business’s performance from anywhere: at your restaurant, from home, or from your vacation in Madagascar.

And just like a laptop, a cloud POS system uses sleek, portable hardware that’s easy to reconfigure and use almost anywhere in and around your restaurant.

Hybrid POS

A hybrid POS combines the accessibility, streamlined hardware, and remote capabilities of a cloud-based POS system with the reliability of a locally-installed POS. This means that unlike a strictly cloud-based system that is fully reliant on an Internet connection, you can use a hybrid POS system offline, so you can keep your business moving even when the Internet connection is stalled or disrupted. 

With a hybrid system, data is saved to the local server in the event of an Internet outage. When the connection is reestablished, the locally-saved data is uploaded to the cloud, and can be accessed from anywhere.

What About Offline Payments?

An interruption in payment processing tends to be the most significant disruption that restaurants with a strictly cloud-based POS face when their Internet goes out. It forces them to rely on cash payments because they’re unable to process card payments. In turn, these restaurants end up losing business from customers who don’t carry cash.

However, if you have a hybrid POS, you can still take payments even when the WiFi is down. With a hybrid POS, offline payments work best when your payment processor is directly integrated with your POS, because both tools run on the same system. If you have an unintegrated, standalone payment processor, it may not have an offline mode, even if your POS does. Make sure that your payment processor integrates with your POS, has an offline mode, and can accept card payments in offline mode.

7 Benefits of a Hybrid POS for Your Restaurant

counter staff entering an order on hybrid POS

A hybrid POS is the secret weapon of efficient restaurants. Here are seven important benefits of using one. 

1. Take Orders on Multiple POS Terminals

With a strictly cloud-based POS, terminals can’t talk to one another in offline mode, which means all orders would need to be entered into one device. While a limited system may work for small venues, it could cause chaos at larger restaurants and significantly slow down service.

With a hybrid POS, all of your devices can still communicate with one another in offline mode. Even with an Internet outage, your servers can continue to use multiple tablets and business can go on without a hitch. 

2. Clock In and Out on Multiple Devices

Since information can only be stored on one tablet when a cloud POS is in offline mode, staff can’t clock in and out on their own devices. Instead, they have to take turns using the single working tablet, which servers will also be using to process orders – a situation that can ultimately lead to longer wait times for customers. 

However, it’s business as usual with a hybrid POS in offline mode. Because all tablets can still talk to one another, staff can clock in and out on any device. 

3. Send Orders to Your Kitchen Display System

If you’re using a cloud-based POS system and the Internet goes out, orders entered into the lone working device won’t be sent to or displayed on your restaurant’s kitchen order system. Instead, servers have to walk handwritten orders to the kitchen. This extra step takes servers away from guests. Plus, illegible handwriting inevitably causes order errors.

With a hybrid, offline POS system your peripheral hardware is still supported, even without an Internet connection. Your back-of-house (BOH) staff can still see orders on the KDS, even if your WiFi isn’t working.

4. Process Gift Cards

Imagine going to a restaurant to redeem a gift card and being told that you have to pay out of pocket for your meal. You’d probably be pretty upset, right? With a cloud POS system, you’ll have to placate angry gift certificate holders if your Internet connection stalls because no Internet means no gift card processing.

Fortunately, a hybrid POS system can accept gift cards – and even sell new vouchers – while offline. 

5. Access Reports

Real-time reporting capabilities are a hallmark of the cloud-based POS system. They can be accessed from virtually anywhere, helping you make business decisions on the fly. Unfortunately, this helpful data is temporarily unreachable if your cloud POS enters offline mode.  

With a hybrid POS, you can continue to access reports on-premise and on the go. While the data won’t continue to update in real time, the data that is available will still provide you with valuable insights.

6. Access Your Customer Data

With a cloud system, you lose the ability to sync customer data and access guest profiles offline. As a result, you won’t be able to customize the dining experience with personalized suggestions or accommodations. 

A hybrid system lets you see your customer data in offline mode, so you can continue using it to enhance service.

7. Continue to Log in and Out

If you log out of a device on a cloud-based POS while the Internet is down, you won’t be able to log back in. And if you log out of your only POS terminal, that may mean you’re unable to use your POS at all until your Internet connection is restored.

With a hybrid system, you have the flexibility to log in and out as usual with or without WiFi.

hybrid POS on cash drawer

How to Find the Best Hybrid POS for Your Restaurant

If you’re still using an outdated legacy POS or a strictly cloud-based POS system, you might be considering switching to a hybrid POS. Choosing the best restaurant POS system is a critical decision. After all, a POS system is arguably the most important restaurant technology your business relies on. 

To ensure you find the best hybrid POS for your restaurant, follow these steps to carefully evaluate different solutions.

1. Evaluate Your Internet Connection

Before you begin your search for a hybrid POS, evaluate your current Internet setup. Consider the following:

  • Is your connection reliable? 
  • How often does it go out, and for how long? 
  • Can you access support quickly? 
  • Are there any dead spots in your venue where your WiFi doesn’t work? 

Most foodservice businesses can benefit from the flexibility of a hybrid POS system. Even if your WiFi is great, it’s always smart to have a backup. Just think about what a connection interruption during a lunch rush or holiday dinner service could mean for your business.

2. Evaluate the Quality of Customer Support

counter staff entering an order for pick up on hybrid POS

Not all hybrid POS systems are created equal. Even if software and hardware components are virtually identical from provider to provider, the level of support available when something goes wrong can mean a world of difference.

As you’re shopping for your new hybrid POS, look into the type and quality of customer support that’s available. If FAQ documentation is all you have access to, you’re going to have a difficult time getting back up and running with full capabilities quickly and easily. Similarly, email support can provide you with more personalized assistance, but chances are you won’t get a response quickly enough. 

Live chat and phone support are the gold standards of customer service. Read marketing materials and reviews carefully to make sure there will be a real person on the other side of that chat or phone line to ensure your concerns will be addressed as quickly as possible. 

You should also make sure that customer support is available during your business hours. If support specialists are only around from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., you’ll be out of luck if your Internet goes out during your dinner service.

Another consideration to evaluate is the cost of customer support. When support comes standard with your hybrid POS license (like TouchBistro offers), you’ll be more likely to call in when you encounter a minor glitch before it turns into a major problem. However, if you have to pay for every interaction with a support specialist, you might decide to save your hard-earned cash and take a DIY approach to troubleshooting, which could end up consuming a lot of your valuable time.

Don’t overlook the quality, availability, and cost of customer support when shopping for a hybrid POS.

3. Evaluate Offline Support of Peripheral Hardware

Finally, it’s important to find a hybrid POS with an offline mode that supports peripheral hardware like a kitchen display system or ticket printer, such as TouchBistro’s hybrid system.

If your POS and payment processor work offline, but your kitchen display system or ticket printer doesn’t, then your business will still slow down when your Internet connection drops, even with a hybrid system. 

The more hardware your POS supports, the more seamlessly your business will run even without an Internet connection. Find a hybrid POS that works as tirelessly as you and your staff do.

An Offline Hybrid POS System Is Your Restaurant’s Secret Weapon

You and your team never skip a beat, and neither should your technology – even if your Internet goes down. When you say goodbye to outdated legacy POS systems or an unreliable strictly cloud-based POS systems, you can find bliss with a hybrid POS that combines the best aspects of these systems for maximum reliability. 

Want to see TouchBistro’s hybrid POS system in action?

Photo of Andrea Victory
by Andrea Victory

Andrea was a Content Marketing Specialist and Editor at TouchBistro where she wrote about restaurant and dining trends, restaurant management, and food culture. A self-affirmed food geek, Andrea devours cookbooks and food blogs. She also knows how to make a killer kale salad.

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