Restaurant Technology

According to a former physicist, Niels Bohr, “Technology has advanced more in the past thirty years than in the previous two thousand.” Although Bohr died in 1962, his words remain alive as seen with the case of Point of Sale (POS) systems. POS systems have gone through significant changes similar to other types of technology towards simple, seamless, and mobile solutions.

Digital innovations remain the leading factor in changing the way people make and receive payments. Cash registers are now a technology of the past as business owners now focus on greater flexibility and control. Similarly, gone are the days of basic systems and stationary credit card leaders. Restaurant POS systems are changing, morphing, and evolving as restaurateurs and other good business owners demand features that did not exist 20 years. The evolution is real as traditional POS systems remain to be a thing of the past.

The Evolution of POS

The Point-of-Sale (POS) systems have evolved from simple cash registers to more complex control modules due to changes in technology. Still, POS systems remain a vital and key component of the restaurant industry in both mom and pop establishments and major franchises. In fact, a good point of sale system can be the biggest asset for a restaurant. It functions as a team of experts working behind the scenes to make sure that everything is moving quickly and efficiently. With the new changes, the previously humble POS systems can now track sales, inventory, cash flow, and more.

Where it All Began

Merchants have always dealt with the creation of an accurate system for purchase transactions. The origin of POS systems dates back to as far as the late 1800s. The systems were originally developed by a local Dayton, Ohio entrepreneur, James Ritty. On his trips to Europe, Ritty was amazed by a mechanical device on his steamboat’s propeller that was used to track the number of revolutions for maintenance purposes. When he returned to Dayton, he partnered with his brother to develop the idea of recording cash transactions at his saloon. The result of this was a mechanical device that could track cash transactions and prevent employee theft. Years later, the two brothers opened a factory to manufacture what would become the modern-day cash register.

Computer-Driven Cash Registers Developed in the ’70s

The cash drawers or registers developed by James Ritty were enhanced in several ways over the years. For instance, paper recording of the day’s transactions was added as a key feature. However, the major evolutions of the cash registers occurred in the early 1970s when IBM introduced the first computer-driven cash registers.

The early system was simple with “dumb” terminals wired back to a mainframe “controller” that did all the processing. Although the terminals introduced screen-based systems for cash registers, they lacked processing capacities of their own.

This system marketed the first commercial use of client-server technology, peer-to-peer communications, Local Area Network (LAN) simultaneous backup, and remote initialization. By mid-1974, the system was installed in Pathmark Stores in New Jersey and Dillard’s Department Stores. After IBM introduced the electronic cash register (ECR), manufacturing companies in Asia started using micro-processing technology to create a boom in available products. However, the functionality of the early ECR was still limited. It was a basic inventory product that would pinpoint top-selling items and print out a summary report. This limited functionality remained a major concern among business owners pushing for more innovations in providing POS solutions.

First Point of Sale Created in the 1990s

Several technological advancements occurred in the late 1980s and 90s. The major evolution was the development and introduction of standalone credit card devices. This made it easy for credit card transactions to be easily and securely integrated. However, the major technological breakthrough occurred in 1992 when Martin Goodwin and Bob Henry created the first point of sale software. The POS software was dubbed IT Retail and could run on the Microsoft Windows platform. As the software increased in popularity and became readily available, the point of sale technology continued to evolve consistently.

During the Silicon Valley Boom, Apple and Windows computer systems made it possible to run POS systems with higher functionality and using a new user interface. A New York restaurateur by the name Gene Moshel used this new technology to pioneer a system for his deli. His system would soon become the basis of POS systems for years to come. As the technology evolved, new features were introduced to boost Moshel’s design. The most significant features were the inclusion of touch screens and graphic elements.

Modern Day and 2000’s Point of Sale Systems

The retail POS systems evolved into the most sophisticated, powerful, and user-friendly computer networks in commercial usage during the 2000s. The new Point of Sale systems could do more than the traditional point of sale tasks. With the emergence of software vendors, the POS was now integrated with features like financial reports, inventory tracking & management, customer relation management (CRM), service management, operation reporting, and payroll modules. Throughout this period, several other solutions have been created to run on different types of machines and operating systems (OS).

The electronic point of sale has now become the norm. Restaurants owners no longer rely on longer bulky metal drawers to manage their restaurant operations. They now enjoy a wide variety of modules, from traditional consoles to thin and sleek mobile phone devices that enhance customer experiences. The new technology allows restaurant owners to have quick and easy access to their management tools in a centralized dashboard. They no longer have to go through the hassle of running reports on multiple systems.

For small business owners, they now have affordable access to powerful data right at their fingertips. The changes and benefits of the POS systems have made it easier to receive orders and manage almost every aspect of the restaurant. With the advent of the internet, features like online ordering, cloud-based POS, and loyalty programs have become a norm. Among the most useful qualities of the modern POS system is the ability to extract information from recorded transactions. This is a critical factor in making smarter business decisions.

As restaurant POS systems shift to the digital area, several upgrades that emerged that tackle everything. The modern-day system can handle both the back-office operations like inventory and sales management and front-office systems like waitlists and reservations. By streamlining processes, POS systems enable restaurants to create a culture of quality service. When properly integrated into a restaurant, a POS system allows restaurant employees to stay on the floor, rather than running back and forth between the kitchen and the cash register. This way, employees are always in eyeshot and earshot of their customers to solve any problems immediately.

What the Future of POS Holds

The modern-day restaurant POS functions on its ability to integrate. It aims to bridge the gap between online and offline communications. It covers everything from inventory lists and custom directors to marketing campaigns and more. This way, the new POS systems synchronize and streamline financial data, product and customer insights into real-time data. The new POS applications help improve clarity on both sides of the transaction, business and customer.

Looking at where the POS comes from, it has evolved from a cash register into a hub of business, seamlessly gathering analytics and maximizing profits. Mobile payment adoption may be a slow transition attributed to the need for convenience and flexibility. Merchants across the globe are gearing up to make the leap as customers shift their payment habits. While retailers can accept credit card payments from anywhere with an Internet connection, customers have more autonomy over how they want to pay.  Mobile credit card processing services simply require a credit card reader attached to a smartphone or tablet with a mobile app. On the other hand, mobile wallet providers and loyalty mobile apps use a POS scanner to read barcodes on their screen.

Although it is quite impossible to predict the future of POS technology with certainty, it is quite evident that the technology will continue evolving to meet the changing demands in the market. Lately, mobile POS has attracted a lot of attention. This is an interesting time to find out whether it will take over the restaurant industry and replace traditional POS. It will also be exciting to find out whether it will follow the path of the internet to complement and extend the functionality of traditional POS.

The future of POS will continue evolving with the changes in technology. It is likely that POS terminals will remain dominant with the brick-and-mortar establishments that utilize multiple channels like internet integrations to connect and interact with customers.  At the same time, mobile POS will continue to grow by assisting locations in improving customer experience. This new development will also create more value for businesses, resulting in more efficient and time-saving technology.