iPad Restaurant POS Review
Why Buy an iPad Restaurant POS System?
The top performers in our review are Revel Systems, the Gold Award winner; SalesVu, the Silver Award winner; and Restaurant Manager, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of ten iPad restaurant systems.
iPad restaurant POS solutions offer some distinct advantages. If you are looking to upgrade or you're shopping for a new system, you'll find these tablet-based systems are just as capable, if not more capable, than a traditional PC-based system. They're mobile and can be connected by Wi-Fi and or used as a counter-attached terminal. The software is attractive, simple to use and always up to date. It can help you run your business better, process sales faster and run food orders more quickly. An introductory system is low-priced and upgrades can easily be added. Many restaurant staff use these systems with limited training, but training and implementation assistance is available if you need it.
POS solutions are suitable for many types of food establishments, from a single iPad on a food truck to a large full-service restaurant utilizing 20 connected iPads. Configurations are also available for creating bar POS systems.
When you're researching iPad POS systems, you'll want to consider the software features you require, the hardware you need and what your options are for credit card processing. In many cases, you can continue to use the payment processor you're already contracted with by simply connecting one of the terminals.
While you can use an iPad to conduct all your usual sales and management functions, with this type of POS system, you can access your account from other devices, Apple or Microsoft alike. So you can use a standard PC, Mac or laptop when you need to add inventory items or new vendors or update your menu. Many people worry about giving up a regular screen and keyboard and whether this is going to hinder efficiency, but, actually, you'd be surprised just how convenient these systems can be and how much they can add to your restaurant.
Most restaurant businesses use the iPad for front-of-house transactions and order placement but use a traditional computer, a desktop or laptop, for more complicated tasks, like running reports or adding inventory. In addition, since these POS systems are accessible by mobile devices, you can log in and view sales from your mobile phone whether you're there at the restaurant or away. If you are interested in an Android tablet solution, we have also reviewed ten Android POS systems.
Restaurant Payment Processing
A POS system consists of three elements in order to be fully functional: hardware, software and payment processing. Few businesses these days function on a cash-only basis, and most consumers prefer paying with a debit or credit card, so contracting with a card processor is necessary. To learn more about payment processing, including information about rates and fees, see our credit card processing reviews.
In most cases, the POS provider will offer you the opportunity to sign up with their integrated credit card processor, or you can choose your own processor. To process card transactions, you will receive either an integrated card reader or a connected reader. An integrated card reader connects directly to the iPad. A connected card reader connects to the POS system via a cable (or Wi-Fi), which is then linked to an external card terminal. Both types of readers work well. In most cases, your credit card processor will offer you a variety of payment terminals to choose from. You may want to invest in an EMV card reader for security and liability reasons. If you are not sure what becoming EMV compliant is or what it entails, be sure to read our article, "Guide to Becoming EMV Compliant."
Once you decide on a card processor, the next step is deciding how and where you want to process transactions. There are a few ways you can do this. You can process cards at the counter or terminal, which is what most restaurants do. However, nowadays you can also process cards tableside using a mobile device and Wi-Fi connection. Tableside payment processing is becoming increasingly popular in full-service restaurants. Customers like it since it's quick and their card never leaves their sight, and business owners like it because it's fast and efficient.
Benefits of An iPad Restaurant POS System
You may wonder how your restaurant will be impacted by a modern, wireless POS system. If you are already in business and looking to upgrade, you are well aware of the POS challenges your business experiences. You may also benefit with a frank discussion with your wait staff and customers about improvements they would like to see. A new restaurant iPad POS system can dramatically help staff and customers by ensuring accurate orders and improving the overall efficiency of your restaurant.
Here are few advantages to implementing this cutting-edge technology in your restaurant:
When customers place their orders, servers or counter staff can transmit orders directly to the kitchen, plus any changes, directly from the iPad. There is no need for the server to walk back to the kitchen, place the order with the chef, discuss any modifications or additional items, and then make sure the chef understands the order. The reverse is also true: once an order has been prepared, the kitchen staff can send an alert to the server notifying him or her the order is ready.
More Accurate Orders
Placing orders using an iPad negates the need for handwritten orders. Orders are printed and or displayed on a digital kitchen monitor. There are no longer any misunderstandings between restaurant staff about unclear or illegible orders. Plus, detailed menu descriptions also help servers provide accurate, complete information to customers. If you plan to use multiple iPads and or other pieces of hardware in your restaurant, consider connecting everything to an onsite router, which allows you to continue processing orders quickly even if your internet or Wi-Fi connection is not working.
Fast Tableside Card Processing
Many consumers have been the victim of credit or debit card fraud. With tableside processing, customers like that their card never leaves their sight. Customers can sign their name on the iPad using a stylus or even their finger. For business owners, the benefits of tableside processing are that payments are processed more quickly and table-turnover times shrink. One additional feature that will please your wait staff is that the software can suggest recommended tip amounts, which has been shown to increase tip amounts overall.
Better Support for Customers with Allergies or Special Dietary Needs
Processing orders for patrons with food allergies and or special dietary needs can be challenging and time consuming. Restaurant iPad POS systems allow for detailed menu information so servers can quickly and accurately relate ingredient information (nuts) or other important information to customers. One other nice feature with these systems is if you have a regular customer, for instance, you can input his or her preferences as well as any allergy or special diet information to the customer's profile.
Increased Inventory Accuracy
A good POS system takes the guess work out of managing your inventory. The best systems, however, are more detailed and can account for ingredients used within a recipe, such as whether it's time to order more olive oil, which is used to make your restaurant's famous salad dressing, or if you need to order more vodka for a signature drink. You can also configure the system to send you alerts when an item is low or near its expiration date.
Modern POS systems track everything, not just total sales. They allow you to drill down so you can glean important insights into your restaurant's sales. For instance, you can view sales by the day, hour, even by employee. Better reports help you run your restaurant more efficiently by helping you create improved menus, schedules and food purchase orders.
What We Tested, What We Found
We tested and ranked the 10 most popular iPad restaurant POS systems. Our tests focused on three portions of the system – the server, management and kitchen features. We divided tasks into two types of categories: back-of-house and front-of-house functions, just as a typical restaurant would do.
We tested all 10 systems to see how simple it is to perform common tasks with minimal training. This is important, because restaurant owners and staff are pressed for time, so it's essential that a POS system be easy to use so a new employee can quickly learn and master the system in just minutes.
Our tests did have a few limitations. For instance, we didn't test systems within an actual, live restaurant establishment, and we were limited in terms of time; however, as much as possible, we strived to replicate the needs and wants of restaurant owners and managers to test the software's most essential functions that owners and staff use every day, and we evaluated each POS system (using the latest generation iPad Air) over a sufficient period of time that gave us ample insight into the features, strengths and weaknesses of each system.
Overall, we found most POS systems simple to use and easy to set up. You will notice that the ease-of-use scores vary and this is due to the fact that they are compared to one another. So if a product scores an 80 percent for example, it doesn't mean the product is difficult to use, it simply means that we found it a tad more difficult to use than those who scored higher.
As you evaluate POS companies, one thing to keep in mind is that many offer free trials. We highly recommend taking advantage of these free trials and additional assistance to find the best solution for your business. You can work with account representatives to discuss your needs and help you pick the best hardware and add-ons to complement your POS system.
Counter-Serve vs. Full-Service Systems: What's the Difference?
POS systems designed to manage full-service restaurants are inherently more complex than systems designed with counter-serve restaurants in mind. Many counter-serve type restaurants with limited menus, such as coffee, ice cream, or sandwich shops, can manage with a simple POS system. However, if you need to manage tables and complex food inventories, you'll benefit from a more advanced system. iPad POS systems specifically designed for full-service restaurants can help manage tables and seating, inventories (even down to each ingredient), vendors, complex menus and reservations.
Advanced restaurant POS systems also include tools to help you boost sales and customer satisfaction, such as table-turnover reports, social media integrations, caller ID integration, course management, tableside order placement, and online ordering.
Additional iPad Tableside Features
Handheld technologies are changing the daily routines of servers and kitchen staff, and for the better. In addition to faster credit card processing, iPads help your staff and customers a number of ways. For instance, you can load helpful information such as full menus with pictures, entrée descriptions and daily specials. Kitchen staff can even load real-time alerts such as when an entrée or other item is no longer available. Better-informed servers serve your customers better and turn tables faster. In addition, the software helps your staff easily and quickly perform tough tasks such as splitting tickets, managing seats and modifying orders.
Some restaurants even provide iPads for patrons at each table so customers can view specials and place drink orders on their own. Many also allow patrons to process their card payments themselves. Restaurants that provide tablets at the table include Chili's Grill & Bar, Outback, Applebee's and Olive Garden. Many restaurants report increased sales once they began using iPad kiosks installed at tables. Ziosk and Presto are two popular options for kiosk options.
Back-of-House Management Functions
Most restaurants use PCs or Macs to perform the more complicated back-of-house management functions, such as entering inventory, vendor information and menu descriptions. Current iPad restaurant software is mostly online these days, and managers and owners can instantly access business-management functions from nearly any device. In addition to providing instant access to information, the best iPad restaurant POS systems also help management track information such as inventory levels, table-turnover times, sales trends and liquor sales. They also simplify the lives and stress levels of managers and staff. Besides tracking server tips, the information can be used to help calculate employee withholdings. And, if you are responsible for creating employee schedules, some systems can help you create schedules and then notify your employees of schedule changes either online and or via SMS messaging.
iPad Restaurant Hardware
Besides an iPad, which is just the basic set of hardware for your iPad restaurant POS system, there are additional items you can purchase to complement your system and increase production and efficiency. Other hardware options include pole displays, kitchen printers, liquor monitors, patron tablet-ordering systems, takeout or delivery printers, scales, routers, cash drawers, kiosks, card readers and the list goes on. Choosing an iPad POS system does not mean you're limited in terms of hardware. You'll want to consult with your POS representative to help you customize the POS system so you get peak performance and efficiency from it.
Our Verdict & Recommendations
First and foremost, choosing the best iPad point-of-sale system for your restaurant is going to take some research. Our reviews are a good place to start. You may also benefit from printing out our list of questions from our "Where to Start" article to help you pinpoint the features you are looking to include in your new system. Again, we recommend taking advantage of the free software trials and extensively discussing what might be the best hardware configuration for your restaurant with your POS service representative. Finally, rate shopping for the best credit card processor will save you a lot of money in the long run.
Based on our numerous tests, Revel Systems continues to land on top. This company can help you customize the POS system to fit your specific needs, and it provides every restaurant feature we look for in the best iPad Restaurant POS systems. Revel also lets you select the processor of your choice.
If you have a counter-serve business with a limited menu, you may flourish with a simple system such as Square. Those who offer delivery services may benefit from Revel Systems or Restaurant Manager, both of which offer caller ID integration and delivery-specific features. If you have marginal credit, Square and Lavu (via PayPal) can provide flat-rate processing.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. We obtained the units in our comparison by utilizing their free trials or by obtaining access directly from the provider. The companies had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.