Is there Really Any Value in Tableside Handhelds?

  mobile waiter

The on-going goal of improving both profitability and customer return visits is constantly on the minds of restaurant owners and manаgers. While numerous articles and opinions have focused on how to use loyalty programs, aggressive (and smartly applied) promotions, and advertising through social media, these are not the only strategies that operators need follow in the pursuit of their goals. Handheld wireless ordering, which has remained under the radar as a way to realize tremendous costs savings and increased profitability for some time, is rapidly coming to the forefront as more proprietors recognize the value of such solutions. 

For instance, because the handhelds enable servers to send orders while still at the table, this has led to five dramatic operational improvements which are impacting the bottom line, while raising customer service levels.

Five benefits

The first improvement is a decrease in the average amount of time a ticket was open (from order until delivery) at the table by a little over 40%. Servers no longer had to waste time walking to and from the point of sale (POS) station, wait to place the order due to being stopped by customers at a another table, or stand in line if another server was using the POS station to place their own order.

The second and third improvements is directly related to the decrease in the open ticket time. Speedier service led to increased table turns, and perhaps more importantly, a greater average check amount. Why? Customers now had time for dessert which was additional revenue that went right to the bottom line. Restaurants are able to seat more customers during the day and generate a 10% revenue increase at the same time.

The fourth improvement comes in the form of improved customer service levels. Not only customers' meals arrive more quickly, but they know that as soon as they told the server what they want, the order is off to the kitchen. That helps drive more repeat business. Believe it or not, customers pay attention to how long it takes their server to place their order after leaving the table. Since the order is placed instantly, servers simply move on to the next table to make sure everything is all right, take the next order or up-sell that dessert.

A fifth improvement is a dramatic reduction in order errors. The kitchen no longer has to decipher hand-written tickets and eliminate the precious time spent recalling the server to clarify an order. That not only improves customer service and speed-of-order-delivery even more, but it directly takes out cost and waste from orders read incorrectly and the resulting remakes.

A final benefit is that environmentally conscientious proprietors can "go green." It may seem trivial, but using handhelds significantly reduced power consumption. Even the most efficient POS terminals use a lot of electricity, but handhelds use only a fraction of that.

New technologies coming into play

Today, handheld POS ordering have moved toward low-cost, easy to use and intuitive devices such as an iPod touch or Data capture Terminals. This is dramatically changing the attitude toward tableside ordering and payment. The interface is well known to today's generation of servers, and some input methods, such as using abbreviations, is as easy as texting without requiring servers to drill up and down through endless order entry screens.

Mobile Waiter solution is enhanced to work on the Handheld terminal with an integrated bar-code reader. With scan-at-the-table menus handheld POS ordering will soon come to the front.

The proven benefits of handhelds, along with the changes in technology, have put tableside ordering more into the spotlight than ever before.

Wireless gains ground

In addition to polling readers on their POS software purchasing plans, the POS Software Trends 2010 poll revealed that 46.4% of operators consider tableside POS for ordering and/or payment to be an interesting platform innovation for 2010. These sentiments were again reflected in the Restaurant Technology Study which indicated that there has been a significant increase in the percentage of companies using wireless handheld POS terminals in the period between 2009 (15.3%) and 2010 (27%). Sixty-three percent of respondents indicate that wireless POS terminals increase guest satisfaction, and 56% indicate that they increase guest credit card security. What's more, IHL's North American Hospitality POS Terminal Market Study identified that hospitality establishments are moving more and more toward wireless technologies, flagging this as a trend for the years ahead.