The History of Hand Held Terminals in Restaurants
The desire for restaurant hand held terminals and wireless restaurant software has been around since the invention of the electronic cash registers in the 1980's. When restaurateurs saw the power of the electronic cash register how it stored and recalled orders, how it dispersed orders to various kitchen and preparation printers and how it helped control the flow of the restaurant the desire to have this power in the palm of your hand has been there. It is only recently that technology caught up to the demand.
In the 1990's a couple of companies introduced hand held terminals to restaurants with limited success. Displays were small and therefore limited menu items. Battery life was short and limited use. But the demand was still there because the tremendous benefits to the restaurant owner.
I distinctly remember a trip to an NFL game where the stadium food provider used Seiko hand held terminals to take orders from customers sitting in their seats. I was about 6 seats from the aisle and placed an order for a drink and a hot dog fixed the way I wanted. The server took the order, told me the total and I passed the money down to her. As I was receiving my change my food arrived from the kitchen! Now THAT is service.
Most recently, restaurant software companies have taken advantage of the PDA craze and their technology and have adapted their software to these devices. Screens have become larger and now can display entire menus. Battery life has been extended and we now have “hot swap" batteries that allow you to swap a battery without loosing the program.
Table service restaurants are now entering orders at the table and having food runners deliver the food. The server/waiter only has to leave the floor when it is time to print the check.
Quick service restaurants are taking orders in the drive through ahead of the speaker box. Others are creating entire sections for curbside ordering where the customer parks and a server with a hand held takes their order and payment then the food is brought out to them.
With hand held terminals restaurants are providing a speed of service only dreamed of before now.
The Need for Hand Held Terminals in Restaurants
To be able to take orders at the table or car, receive payment and have the food delivered with amazing speed of service. Thereby increasing table turns and customer throughput.
The hand held unit needs to be reliable, durable (they do get dropped) and easy to operate. The battery needs to be able to swapped during operation without loosing memory.
The network needs to be able to handle several hand held terminals without slowing down the entire system. In some cases, the network needs to extend beyond the walls of the restaurant so additional customer may be served in patios, parks and parking lots.
The Solution Hand Held Terminals Provide Restaurants
Some point of sale systems have an interface that allows the download of their software to a PDA using Windows Pocket PC technology and Windows Terminal License software. Multiple hand held PDA terminals can be in the wireless network at the same time.
Through the use of wireless routers and wireless access points an entire restaurant can be set up for wireless hand held terminals for every server/waiter/manager. Additional wireless access points may be installed outside the restaurant to give broader coverage and allow for taking orders outside the restaurant.
We have one customer who walks across the street to a park and takes orders. The server collects for the food, even swipes a credit card and the system processes the approval without the server having to go to a terminal. A food runner brings the food to the person who is still sitting/laying in the park.
Servers/waiters are able to enter orders and take payments at the table. Managers are able to authorize voids, check sales and other manager functions from their hand held terminal. Imagine the ability to view reports on a hand held terminal or to approve a void without having to go to a terminal. All these things are possible with restaurant hand held terminals.
The Benefits of Hand Held Terminals To You
- Dramatically increased speed of service for your customer.
- Greater customer service because your servers/waiters do not have to leave the floor to place orders.
- Increased table turns because of faster service.
- Increased customer throughput in Quick Service.
- Wait on more tables/customers per server/waiter. More time on the floor equals more ability to handle additional tables. Increase manager efficiency.
The ability in Table Service to turn just 1 additional table per night with a $20 ticket average equals $600 per month in additional revenue.
In Quick Service, if you were able to increase throughput to handle only 4 more customers per lunch rush at $5 per order, you would enjoy a similar $600 per month increase in revenue.
About the Author
Jerry D. Wilson is Director of Internet Sales for DirecTouch Restaurant Point of Sale. With over 25 years of hospitality point of sale experience, he has written several articles explaining the benefits of touch screen point of sale software. Please visit DirecTouch Do It Yourself Restaurant Point of Sale or DirectRetail Do It Yourself Retail Point of Sale for more information.