What to Look for in a Tablet-Based POS System
By David Hogan Executive Director of Major Accounts, Heartland Payment Systems | January 18, 2015
Hilton Worldwide recently announced that it plans on rolling out mobile room keys during 2015 as part of its effort to revolutionize the hotel experience by allowing guests to completely customize their experience through mobile devices. By 2016, hotel guests will be able to check-in and check-out, choose their room and purchase upgrades on a smartphone or tablet. The restaurant and retail industries have already begun using mobile technologies to better service their customers, but the hotel industry has been slower to catch up, with good reason.
At Heartland Payment Systems we believe that businesses across all industry verticals will continue to develop or enhance their mobile strategy through the use of mobile apps or hardware, including tablets. In fact, tablet PC sales are expected to reach 57 million in the U.S. in 2015. With the increase in sales of mobile devices for consumers, tablets and smart phones are starting to become an integral part of hotel and restaurant order entry, effectively becoming part of the point-of-sale (POS) system. However, before making that investment, it is important to determine what makes the most sense for your hotel to ensure that you have the capability to sustain a strong network now and in the future.
Most of the time when people refer to tablet-based POS systems, they are referring to Cloud-based POS systems, not solely POS systems that can work on a tablet. Some legacy systems can be adapted for use on a Windows tablet since a majority use the Windows platform, but those systems would still be site-based systems running through an onsite file server. Many cloud-based systems can perform the same functions as a legacy POS system, including back-of-house tasks, which include price and menu changes or payroll reports; front-of-house applications, including waitlist management and mobile wallet functionality; credit card processing; and inventory management. Every business has different needs and requirements of their POS system and need to know the advantages and disadvantages of using a tablet-based, or Cloud-based, system before making the switch.
Cloud-based POS systems could be a great fit for a hotel's restaurant or gift shop, but not all cloud-based, mobile POS systems are created equally. The cost of the hardware is usually the primary reason that businesses are interested in trading in their legacy POS systems for tablets, as well as the ease of mobility. The cost of a standard POS work station can range from $1,500-$2,500, while the cost of a tablet PC rarely exceeds $500. Even though the upfront cost of the tablet hardware itself is only a fraction of the cost, there haven't been many studies proving that it can withstand the harsh restaurant environment over a long-term period. Restaurateurs may end up spending more money replacing the tablets over time than they would if they had just purchased a device built for the environment.
Another advantage of using a tablet-based POS system is that they can provide significantly more functionality and flexibility to easily integrate with current and future technologies, payment types and third party applications that can enrich the operational experience. However, some Cloud-based systems are completely reliant on internet connectivity and can be severely hampered or disabled entirely by service outages, which can jeopardize customer service. It is extremely important to understand the capabilities and functions of each system and how it is designed to handle service interruptions.
Operating systems are also an important factor to consider when choosing a tablet-based POS system. Some companies sell proprietary hardware that they produce, which use either Google Android or Windows, while some Cloud systems can run using any operating system, often via HTML5 running in a web browser. This allows the maximum flexibility in choosing a device, but it may affect the application speed and performance.
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