- Mobile point-of-sale systems enable merchants and restaurant owners to accept and process payments on the go.
- With an mPOS system, you can use your smartphone or tablet as a register.
- A mobile POS system can help you speed up checkout and accept contactless payments.
- This article is for restaurateurs and small business owners who are thinking about implementing a mobile POS system.
If you run a restaurant, you need a point-of-sale system. Current POS systems have the technology to improve customer retention, protect customer data and drive sales. But what if you run an on-the-go restaurant? What if you don't want to pay for POS hardware but still want to offer your customers great features?
Mobile POS systems allow restaurants to increase sales and retain customers using their own tablets or smartphones. This means business owners can have lower upfront costs and still enjoy great POS software.
"The best mobile restaurant POS systems can operate seamlessly on relatively cheap hardware and deliver an easy-to-use interface that drastically increases the value to the operator," said Rory Crawford, CEO of BevSpot, a Boston-based restaurant software management company.
There are clear benefits to using a mobile POS, but before we get to that, let's look at what a mobile POS system is, how it works and how much it costs.
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What is an mPOS system?
A mobile POS, or mPOS, is a point-of-sale system that uses a smartphone or tablet to act as a register and accept payments on the go. A mobile POS accepts credit cards and contactless payments. The best mPOS card readers can accept the following payment types:
- Credit and debit cards with an EMV chip or magnetic stripe
- Contactless credit cards
- Digital wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay, which use near-field communication (NFC) technology to facilitate contactless payments
- Samsung Pay, which uses magnetic secure transmission (MST) technology to facilitate contactless payments
- QR codes (allowing a customer to scan a QR code to make payment or use a discount)
What sets a mobile POS apart from a stationary POS system is the portability of the hardware. POS systems usually have a terminal, cash drawer and receipt printer. The hardware has a fixed location within the restaurant or store. With an mPOS, the terminal is portable. You can take it with you to a trade show or multiple other locations.
Both mPOS and POS systems use software that provide the ability to process payments, track inventory and run reports. An mPOS is best for businesses that want to complete transactions on the go – such as a landscaper, a food delivery service, or a retailer that wants to move customers through the checkout process faster. Chick-fil-A is one example of a fast-food restaurant that uses mPOS systems to take and process orders in its drive-thru line.
Key takeaway: A mobile POS system enables merchants and restaurant owners to accept payments on the fly. The mPOS software connects to a smartphone or tablet, turning the device into a portable register.
What are unattended POS systems?
A growing trend in the mPOS market is unattended POS systems that enable self-ordering and self-checkout. They have become increasingly popular during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Merchants and restaurant owners can implement the technology with POS systems that have built-in kiosk and mobile features. With a kiosk module, you can set up tablets and/or smartphones to act as self-service ordering and payment stations. Mobile features allow customers to place and pay for purchases online.
Key takeaway: An unattended POS system enables self-ordering and self-checkout, which has become popular during the COVID-19 pandemic.
How do mobile POS systems work?
Getting an mPOS system up and running is simple. You choose your mobile POS software provider, download the app, and connect your card reader to the mobile device. Once that's complete, you can start accepting payments. Mobile POS systems rely on Wi-Fi or a data connection to process payments. Some offer an offline mode that lets you continue to accept payment if your internet connection drops, while others provide some functionality but don't allow you to accept and process payments offline.
Key takeaway: Mobile POS systems are simple to use. Once you download the mPOS software and connect your card reader, you can begin accepting payments.
What are the best features of an mPOS?
There's a lot of reasons restaurants and merchants have been adopting mPOS systems at a fast clip. According to Statista, the transaction value of mobile POS payments is projected to have an annual growth rate of 22.6% through 2024. By 2024, Statista projects the number of mPOS users will reach 77.8 million.
Various features make mPOS popular. Here's a look at the big ones.
- Mobility: An mPOS gives you the freedom to ring up purchases on the fly. You aren't tethered to a specific location. Your sales associates don't have to be stuck behind a register. Queues get shorter, checkout has less friction, and trade shows and events are no longer a logistical nightmare when you have an mPOS.
- Fast checkout: The last thing any business owner wants is a frustrated customer, and long lines can create that. If your business uses an mPOS, you can cut down on the time it takes customers to check out. The quicker you get customers through the purchasing process, the better off your business will be.
- Inventory management: Mobile point-of-sale software does much more than ring up sales. It can track and manage inventory, send alerts when stock is low, and even automate reordering. With retailers that use a mobile POS, sales staff can check if any given product is in stock and, if it's not, order it to be shipped to the customer, all within seconds.
- Advanced reporting: Depending on your budget and level of service, an mPOS can run advanced and custom reports on your sales. These insights can help you plan stock, take advantage of a trend, or cut back when sales are slow.
- Cost: Mobile POS systems tend to be cheaper than traditional POS systems. Your tablet acts as the terminal, requiring only a card reader for its other hardware. You still have the option to add peripherals like a cash register and printer to your mPOS at an extra cost.
Key takeaway: The standout features that make mPOS popular include portability, speedy checkout, inventory management tools and advanced reporting.
Benefits of using mobile POS for your restaurant
There are some clear advantages to using a mobile POS system for your restaurant. Here are five of the main benefits.
1. Lower setup costs and easy implementation
One of the benefits of mobile POS is that it's cheaper and easier to get started with the system. Instead of installing brand-new hardware, you can often download an app or work directly with your POS provider to set up software on mobile devices you already have. In businesses like restaurants, which already have tight margins, a switch to a mobile POS solution can be a good way to reduce overhead. It could also give you greater flexibility down the line.
"Mobile POS systems are compatible with all devices, so restaurant owners don't need to worry about investing in additional proprietary hardware or equipment in order to integrate a POS system into their existing operations," said Mary Fabro, CMO of Hostme. "That means owners don't need to lock themselves into any additional vendor contracts."
2. Ease of use
Mobile POS solutions are usually intuitive and easy to use. In addition to making it easier for your staff to learn how to use it, this means you can process transactions quicker, turn tables faster and increase the efficiency of your system.
Many mobile POS systems also feature paperless options, so customers can opt for email or text receipts. Eliminating steps in the checkout process means your team can focus on taking orders and your customers can get their food quickly.
Some mobile POS systems are known as at-table solutions, which means guests can pay using a business's device directly at their table.[Looking for a new POS System? Learn what we recommend as the best POS system for your restaurant is.]
"Restaurants gain greater waitstaff efficiency [with these systems], affording them the time to provide more in-person service instead of ushering checks," said Erik Ploof, vice president of business development and marketing for TableSafe.
3. Transparent operations
It's important to have clear information from and about your POS system. These mobile systems can provide useful reports and more transparent records of operations. By prioritizing reports, you can get better insights into each terminal, how your staff is leveraging this technology and how to retain customers.
"Mobile POS systems give restaurant owners or managers the ability to closely monitor their establishment's operations, even when he or she is not onsite at the restaurant," Fabro said.
Because mobile POS solutions utilize the latest technology, it's easy to keep them up to date and integrate them with other platforms your business uses, such as accounting software and order management software. By using mobile POS technology, you can create another data trail to integrate with your operations.
"These mobile POS systems are also much easier for other critical mobile restaurant systems – including staffing management, online ordering and delivery, and cost management – to integrate with than traditional systems, which provides the user with greater overall value," Crawford said.
5. Customer service
Perhaps the biggest benefit of using a mobile POS system is customer service. Customer profiles can be linked in the software, letting you set up reward programs for repeat visitors. You can also store valuable customer information so you can treat them like family when they visit your establishment. If you keep your software up to date, it also helps keep customer payment information secure.
"Restaurant operators can gain greater efficiencies and increased customer satisfaction, both of which contribute to a stronger bottom line," Ploof told Business News Daily. "It's really about giving consumers peace of mind."
Key takeaway: Restaurant owners have come to rely on mPOS systems for several reasons. They're easier to set up and use, they support a wide selection of third-party integrations, and they can facilitate rewards and loyalty programs.
Matt D'Angelo contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.