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Tipping Point for Tableside

If you’re traveling in Europe, you can barely sit down and order a Starbucks’ coffee without a tech-enabled barista processing your order on a hand-held POS. Stateside, however, we’ve been talking about tableside point-of-sale for years but have yet to see major traction for either ordering or payment. That tide, I predict, is about to turn, and there are two major developments that will drive deployment.
The first simply comes down to form factor. Many of the devices previously available for tableside POS were too costly, or until recently, too cumbersome. Restaurants are now getting around this by loading POS applications onto devices that were intended for consumer use, which can cost 90% less than POS hardware built for the enterprise (say, $200 vs. $2,000). One restaurant chain is rolling out a tableside ordering application on Motorola’s Droid, and others are giving servers iTouch devices to capture orders. These consumer devices, in some cases from the same makers as the enterprise tools, are the “way” to the restaurant industry’s “will”: nearly 40% of restaurants responding to Hospitality Technology’s 2011 POS Software survey identified tableside POS for ordering and/or payment as the “most interesting platform innovation to their company” for the year ahead.
The second driving factor is menu labeling requirements from the U.S. Federal Government, passed into law this past March, that require restaurants with 20 or more locations to provide nutritional information to consumers. Rather than reprint paper menus every time a food item is changed, restaurants will likely turn to technology. For the QSR segment, digital menu boards may well be the best way to keep this information current. For family and upscale segments, tableside devices that can offer information to the consumer while processing orders will help restaurants boost check totals, while complying with Federal requirements. 
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