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Restaurant IT Execs Debate Move to Tablet POS at MURTEC

Converting to tablet point of sale has become an issue for many restaurants looking to streamline service and operations with mobility. This was a topic of discussion at the recent MURTEC 2014 (Multi-Unit Technology Restaurant Conference).  A combination of information technology, operations and vendor executives from The Melting Pot, Lucille’s/ Hut Hut, KFC, Taco John’s, Jack in the Box, Tumbleweed Tex Mex Grill, and Heartland Payment Systems discussed the future of the tablet point of sale and key points to consider prior to implementing.
In fast food and fast casual, tablets are becoming more common for line busting in-store and for drive thru. In full service restaurants tablets are replacing traditional terminals. The panel of executives have seen iPads and Android-based tablets for mobile POS. In preparing for a conversion to tablet-based POS the table discussed the following factors: dependability, durability, price, warranty and training.
IPad’s and iPad Mini’s with their IOS operating system are the most common tablet sold in the U.S.. The executives were torn on whether they arethe most dependable, however. The general consensus was that operators deploy them or own them and that overall they have been dependable and with proper care they should last at least three years and up to five years. Android tablets are quickly gaining market share and with all brands combined they come close to Apple’s iPad.
The executives agreed that from what they have seen they seem equally dependable. There are other brands that are made specifically for restaurant POS. It is certainly worth researching how well they handle drops and what the operating specs are.
Stability of systems can depend on add-ons
Durability of iPads, Androids and other POS tablets can come down to two accessories; a great case and screen protectors. These accessories can minimize damage from drops and spills. Without them they may break or need to go in for warranty every year. Most tablets have improved durability over the last few years, but adding these accessories will make this transition a lot less costly. Table members suggest stress testing the tablets in a lab and then at a test store with key employees. Servers can give feedback and help develop training before sending tablets to all locations.
The cost of change
Price of tablets can be under $400 for consumer iPads and Android tablets. Our panel had success with used and refurbished tablets as well. One person at the table suggested for great prices. 16GB is usually plenty large enough for tablets, so no need to spend hundreds more for additional memory. One participant buys iPad 2’s with 16GB, that are refurbished and sell for $200 to $250 and they hold up well, he said. Total cost of ownership (TCO) can include the initial price, accessories and warranty over the life of the tablet. Keep this in mind when choosing the tablets.
The table said that an all-inclusive warranty that covers drops and spills was vital to lowering the total cost of ownership. While this could be as much as the device for three years it could replace or repair the device multiple times. The generalexperience with mobile devices is that they break once a year on average in a restaurant environment.
Training is key to successful deployments
Developing the training from test store and lab use will be much more effective than rolling out to all stores at once. Table members said that having the same layout as traditional POS is very helpful in training. Having swiping technology for credit cards and mobile printers on the employees or nearby can make this truly have ROI for restaurants and this will build buy-in with the staff. Security should be part of training. Check all devices out from managers and then check in before servers or staff can leave. Keeping accountability policies will insure they do not walk away.
When looking at deploying tablets, look at dependability, durability, price, warranty and training. It is better to test in a lab and then a test store before installing in all stores. Look at TCO with price, warranty, accessories and training in choosing the right tablets.
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