How Tableside Payments Are Changing the Restaurant Industry

Restaurants have always been forced to adapt and change on the fly. That’s why they invented the daily special. But being an agile restaurant owner today isn’t just about maximizing margins, it’s about building up your entire business to be flexible, transformable, and constantly optimizing. 

The restaurants that survived wave after wave of the pandemic not only pivoted to become contactless, takeout businesses overnight but dealt with everything from feeding hospital workers to coaching guests on how to use QR codes. These are the same businesses that continue to take the brunt of the global labor shortage, supply chain instability, and the rising costs of everything, with no clear rebound in sight. 

Restaurant operators have and will continue to lean on technology to help them move from survival mode into thrive mode. They need to reach more diners and extend their hospitality beyond the dining room, with delivery or curbside pickup to meet growing diner demand anytime, anywhere. As the GM for Square for Restaurants, I’m passionate about giving restaurant operators POS tools that automate front-of-house and back-of-house processes, give time back to owners and staff, and provide everything they need to gain a competitive advantage.

Industry challenges bring new waves of concern

Success in the Food and Beverage business is notoriously challenging, and the unique circumstances of the past few years have created new headwinds. Some of the biggest challenges I see restaurateurs facing today are: 

  1. Rising costs: Overall, costs of operations and ingredients are going up. Whether it’s due to supply chain shortages, Covid closures, inflation, or geopolitical conflicts — all of these factors have a major impact on both businesses and their customers.
  2. Staffing shortages: Many restaurants are in crisis right now, trying to cover even more job responsibilities with fewer people –  both finding and retaining staff continues to be a major struggle across industries.
  3. Volatility: With supply chain instability, evolving health and dining regulations, erratic weather, constantly changing consumer behaviour, and more, flexibility is still the key to success. 
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Tools tailor-made for restaurants are the solution

Before the pandemic, contactless and tableside ordering and payments was a nice-to-have idea, at least in Canada. But now, adding handheld devices to your existing POS can be the key to helping your restaurant survive the volatility the industry is suffering through. In fact, it can empower restaurant staff to manage more orders, no matter where they are placed. 

  • Bigger tickets and faster table turns: By using a handheld device to take orders, servers can spend more time adding that extra round of drinks and less time sprinting back and forth to a countertop POS. When orders can be fired off instantly to the kitchen right out of the server’s hand, it decreases the wait time between courses, which means servers can turn tables even faster.
  • Fewer voids due to out-of-stock items: When there’s time between taking an order and entering the ticket, there’s room for inventory discrepancies, leading to the need for manager voids and wasted time. When servers use a tableside POS, orders get fired off to the KDS immediately. At the same time, servers can see sold-out items in real time from the kitchen. That means they can keep customers informed and avoid disappointment that comes from selecting a dish that’s no longer available.
  • Time to cross-train staff to work across more ordering channels: When your POS and other management tools are easy to use, you open up more possibilities. Restaurants don’t need to dedicate certain staff to server, host, or table runner roles. Instead, they can cross-train staff to be able to seamlessly transition between different roles across the restaurant depending on order volumes and fluctuating needs. Owners and staff gain the flexibility to accommodate for a sudden surge of online orders on a rainy day, for example, or when a flood of customers arrives at the bar when a local game lets out nearby.
  • A better customer experience to increase loyalty: A smooth customer experience is instrumental in building a repeat and loyal customer base. Tableside ordering and payments reduce the opportunity for error and streamlines the ordering and payment process, creating a quick and pleasant experience for your customers.

As more restaurants discover the power of tableside ordering, they’re seeing its potential to help do more than they realized. A handhled POS device small enough to fit in a server’s apron pocket has the power to drive up the average check size, increase tips for servers, reduce comps and voids, and enhance the customer experience. It can help restaurants increase sales, even when short staffed. In my mind, this is the key to putting operators back in the driver’s seat for the new era of restaurants. Best of all, it puts the focus back on hospitality – and profitability – where it belongs.