Grab ’n’ Go

Debating the merits of
hand-held POS technology
Debating the merits of hand-held POS technology

The foodservice community has been atwitter with controversy lately as chefs and foodies debate the merits of dining and tweeting, but don’t let that confuse you into thinking technology doesn’t have a place at the table. Many restaurateurs are already touting their own technological prowess with hand-held POS units.

Designed to be swapped for a pen and paper, the small units record orders, print and split bills, and discount and void items. “It’s making [operators] happier because the servers can make more sales. The more sales a server makes, the more tips they make,” explains Michael Thalassinos, an account executive at SilverWare POS Inc., based in the North American technology company’s Ontario office. “They can also spend more time selling and catering to their customers, building relationships, offering service. ”

Margaret Zellermayer, director of Operations, Training and Development at The Pickle Barrel — the parent company of Glow Fresh Grill and Wine Bar at the hip Shops at Don Mills in Toronto — is already reaping the benefits of hand-held POS units. “There are times where it’s absolutely invaluable, especially when it’s busy. You don’t have a line-up of staff trying to get to one or two terminals,” she says.

When Glow opened last year, Zellermayer was eager to complement Rose Reisman’s innovative healthy cuisine with cutting-edge technological advancement. “It’s also good advertisement for our customers to see us on the forefront of new technology,” she explains.

But bridging the gap between new and old comes at a cost. According to Thalassinos, hand-helds average $3,000 a unit, a price on par with one regular add-on POS terminal. Even Glow, which has a relatively tiny footprint, uses two terminals and 10 hand-helds — a big investment that could be lost if the device is misplaced or accidentally dropped in a bucket of water.

Doug Fisher, president of FHG International Inc., a Toronto-based foodservice and franchise consulting firm, recognizes the risk and understands why the units might not be so widely used in the industry, even after being made more user-friendly and durable in the past couple of years. “Most people who have anything that still works are going to keep it,” Fisher explains. “The problem is you have to have at least one terminal, plus your back office and the software.”

It’s why Zellermayer and her team haven’t implemented the technology chain-wide at The Pickle Barrel. “Glow is smaller, so 10 hand-held units are more than enough for us, whereas at The Pickle Barrel at Yorkdale [Shopping Centre], we can have up to 25 servers working,” she says, alluding to the expense but not completely closing the door on the possibility.

Hand-held POS units are valued in the fast-paced foodservice world where speed and accuracy is paramount. Small restaurants with patios and huge arenas are popular spots for the device. It’s even popped up rink-side (or courtside) at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre.

It’s no secret today’s society craves instant gratification; just ask the person sitting beside you in the café tweeting their whereabouts to a gaggle of eager followers. No doubt the hand-held feeds that addiction.

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