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Getting Started With Point of Sale

New lamps for old!

  • December 28, 2015
Getting Started With Point of Sale

Earlier this week, I took my family out for a very pleasant meal at a very modern looking restaurant. The waiters were all immaculately dressed as they floated between tables brandishing menus and showing customers wine bottle labels. It was all very cordial and pleasant.

Unfortunately, the spell was broken when I finally asked the waiter to let me have the bill. It took about 10 minutes to produce the bill, and it arrived in the customary wrapping of a small leather folder accompanied by a bowl of mints, although when I saw the total, a bowl of Valium would have been more appropriate!

After I had read the bill, I summoned the waiter by waving a debit card in his general direction. It is the next sequence of events which made me think that perhaps this particular restaurant ought to rethink its POS strategy.

The waiter tried to extricate the payment card from my fingers but as I never let go of my debit card or credit card, I asked “Do you have a portable payment device would you like me to come to the till?” By this time, the waiter had let go of my card realising that there was no way I was going to part with it.

I watched him talk to three other waiters on his way through the restaurant until one of them handed my waiter a portable payment terminal. The waiter arrived back at my table very quickly, closely followed by the other waiter who was obviously waiting to have his terminal back.

The bad image was compounded by the fact that the terminal was one of those ancient ones which looked like a half-brick and it was quite interesting to observe both waiters fiddling about with what appeared to be a tally roll printer at the end of the half brick, which appeared to have jammed.

‘Excuse me,’ said the waiter as he disappeared towards the main till in order, presumably, to replace the tally roll. Eventually he did reappear and with a flourish inserted my debit card into the slot on the portable terminal and handed it back to me so that I could presumably add a gratuity – which I didn’t…. I merely punched in my pin number, pressed ENTER and handed the terminal back to him.

While the terminal was busy transmitting to the main till and having my card approved, the waiter and I chatted about plate stacking and a couple of other restaurant related subjects I have absolutely no interest in. The other waiter was still hanging around waiting for his turn with the portable terminal. It transpired that there was only one terminal between six waiters because the ‘other two’ terminals had died.

Eventually, my card was approved. I was handed a curled up tally roll, the mints had all been consumed and my family and I were able to leave.

Up until that point, the service had been truly excellent as had been the food and wine. Nevertheless, I left the restaurant slightly annoyed and although the wait between asking for the bill and actually paying had only been four or five minutes, to me it seemed more like half an hour.

There’s a lesson here for all users of POS systems and that is to keep your system up to date and if possible, carry spare fully functioning remote terminals just in case the one in use ceases to function.

I referred to the terminal that the waiter was brandishing as a ‘half brick’ because its size and styling were more reminiscent of the 1980s Atari or Commodore printer which certainly did not suit the restaurant’s slick image. I would have at least expected each waiter to have been supplied with an iPad or at least something which didn’t look more like an offensive weapon rather than a piece of modern electronic kit.

If the waiter had been using an iPad, and possibly been able to send my restaurant bill directly to my own smartphone, I wouldn’t have been especially impressed but would have been pleased to see the restaurant owners were at least making an effort to keep reasonably up-to-date.

Those clunky mechanical portable terminals never looked particularly slick but they have now been superseded by smart phones which in turn will soon be replaced by who knows what!

POS changes are happening so fast that instead of being one generation behind, my favourite restaurant will soon be two generations of technology behind.

Make sure that you do not make the same mistake!

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