Motorola recently released a case study highlighting the latest in restaurant POS system technology: handheld, wireless ordering systems for servers. The handheld device is about twice as big as a BlackBerry, and connects directly into the restaurant’s POS software via a wireless connection.
The case study focuses on Sam’s Chowder House in the San Francisco bay area, a high volume seafood restaurant that seats about 280 people. According to the study, the restaurant achieved a return on investment on the hand-held devices in one month. That’s because check averages went up and table turnover times and labor costs went down. Servers no longer have to write down orders and then re-enter them into the POS system. Instead, they enter orders directly into the handheld device, which then sends the order along automatically. This allows servers to focus on customer service and sales, which explains the check averages and improved table turnover times.
Labor savings were realized by Sam’s because more efficient servers means less front of house staff could serve the same amount of people in the restaurant. This also makes the servers happy because they get more tables and therefore more tips. Staff turnover rates have plummeted since the introduction of the handheld ordering devices as a result. Finally, these devices can also process credit cards, allowing servers to run customer checks while standing tableside, further improving turnover times and customer service.
The handheld ordering device is obviously the future in restaurant technology, but for now, I suspect the cost of the system is still prohibitive for most restaurateurs. Yes, Sam’s realized an ROI in one month, but Sam’s also does A LOT of business ($6 million in annual sales). If you’re a larger operator, I really don’t see why you shouldn’t buy handheld ordering devices today. The benefits I list above are admittedly direct from Motorola, who has an interest in hyping the good points, but they also make good logical business sense. Imagine if your servers never had to leave their tables. Of course sales and table turnover times are going to improve.
If you’re a smaller operator, wait for the day when these devices are much more affordable. It’s just like any new technology (HD TV, cell phones, iPods): they’re always extremely expensive at first and then eventually become affordable to the masses.
I’m personally looking forward to the day when all restaurants have these handheld ordering systems. Every restaurant should be able to focus on the customer, and on making the best sale possible, and handheld ordering technology is the way to get there.