As consumers increasingly rely on smartphones and tablets, quick-serve operators are presented with an opportunity to enhance the customer experience by also going mobile.

That’s especially true today with point-of-sale (POS) systems, says Jared Isaacman, CEO of Harbortouch, a merchant services company that offers POS equipment. Tablet-based POS systems became very popular in the quick-serve world in the last year, he says, and should continue to permeate the industry in a big way in 2014.

“Things have evolved rapidly since then to the point where there are some basic cloud-based POS systems that are appearing on Android and Apple tablets,” he says. “You’re going to continue to see that.”

The growing integration of smartphones and tablets, Isaacman says, is one of the key reasons so much change has stemmed from the burgeoning mobile tech sector. “You think back to eight years or 10 years ago, you might have a cell phone, a separate camera, maybe an iPod for MP3s. Nowadays, everything is integrated and super simple to use,” he says. “The same thing applies to POS systems.”

That evolution has bred a new generation of POS systems that integrate credit card readers and interfaces for inputting orders with traditional cash register functionality. Harbortouch, for example, aims to streamline all systems, including caller ID integration for call-in orders and delivery mapping.

“We believe a credit card terminal just runs credit card sales, but a POS system runs an entire business,” he says. “That provides just a boatload more value to business owners.”

For the years ahead, Isaacman says, POS companies like Harbortouch will continue to adapt to mobile, tablet, and cloud technology, with the focus on providing compatibility for a wide variety of platforms. While innovation was largely driven by speed in the quick-serve industry in prior years, he says, compatibility will be the next big factor.

“I think most consumers, especially the younger ones, care about if merchants are going to be on top of the next generation of mobile payment and mobile reward initiatives,” Isaacman says. “Five years from now, if we want to go out on a Thursday night, we’re going to be able to open up our phones and see a list of all of the bars or restaurants nearby based on geo-location and see what rewards are being offered, and then pick what deals we want.”

He predicts that merchants will be able to know which customers shopped for which mobile deals as they enter an establishment and will be able to offer mobile rewards and incentives continually, driving traffic and building loyalty.

“I think that’s coming soon,” Isaacman says. “And when it does come, the only thing consumers are going to care about is if a merchant is compatible.”

By Tamara Omazic