Sure, you may be able to accept credit cards on your smartphone. But can that reader actually help you run your quick-service restaurant or food-truck business after the swipe?

In early 2014, the owners of Atlanta-based food truck Happy Belly Curbside Kitchen realized they needed more functionality from their point of sale (POS), including the ability to manage customer requests, track sales, set up taxes by geography, and keep up with the day-to-day operation of multiple locations. After consulting with other business owners, they realized they needed to step up their POS game.

Happy Belly isn’t the only limited-service operator that faces POS challenges. As more consumers look for alternative payment acceptance, mobile order-ahead, and loyalty rewards, the pressure is on for businesses in this industry to deliver.

Is it time to makeover your POS? Here are three signs you should consider modernizing:

1. Cash rules the payment roost

As much as cash is considered “king,” your business could be headed for trouble if your POS system doesn’t accept alternative payment options.

If your POS system serves as nothing else besides a cash register or card reader, it’s time to look at alternative options.

Market research firm Javelin Strategy & Research predicts that by 2017, only 23 percent of point-of-sale purchases will be made with cash. In addition to increases in traditional credit and debit card use, consumers are turning to fast-growing alternative payment options like bitcoin, LevelUp, and Apple Pay. Apple, for instance, reports that 1 million people have used the Apple Pay mobile-payments system since it launched in October. That number will continue to climb as more consumers experience the convenience and flexibility mobile payments offer.

EMV technology (chip and PIN) is another payment alternative that will become essential for limited-service businesses later this year. In October, U.S. businesses will be required to leverage a chip and PIN–compliant payment terminal. Ultimately, the combination of the individual PIN and the secure chip will generate higher levels of security than credit cards with magnetic strips.

2. Your loyalty program consists of a paper punch card

It’s 2015, and high time to put down your hole-puncher—and pick up a cloud-based POS system with integrated loyalty.

Dalton Castano, owner of the Philadelphia-based More Than Just Ice Cream restaurant, has been using LevelUp for three years. He says his customers use LevelUp because sometimes they don’t like carrying wallets. In addition, there’s the instant loyalty aspect. “I get a lot of repeat customers because of LevelUp loyalty—people who may not have been coming in as much,” Castano says. “I also get new customers, because when you sign up, you see other merchants who accept it.”

He says having LevelUp integrated into his POS system makes it much easier to take and clear transactions.

3. Your technology programs aren’t integrated

Thanks to the digital revolution, your new restaurant can handle payroll programs, reach customers via mobile apps, enable mobile payments, and much more. These solutions work great. But they all work separately. This reality causes increased cost, confusion, and technical complexities that are often overbearing for restaurants—especially startup restaurants. 

With a cloud-based point-of-sale system, your restaurant has only one point of entry: the cloud. With your POS system integrated in the cloud, you’ll have easy access to integrated data, wherever you are.

According to a recent research from the National Restaurant Association, restaurant operators across segments plan to allocate a larger proportion of their budgets and other resources to technology. The fast-casual restaurant segment is leading the way, with nearly half of operators saying they will increase their tech budgets in the future.

If your POS system serves as nothing else besides a cash register or card reader, it’s time to look at alternative options that can help you better manage day-to-day operations and your business growth.

Reggie Kimble is director of business development for NCR Small Business, which features the NCR Silver cloud-based point-of-sale system.
Back of House, Ordering, Outside Insights, Restaurant Operations, Story