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Purpose built vs consumer grade hardware: which one is right for your restaurant?

Gabor Bona
Senior Manager, Solution Engineering, Oracle Hospitality

Running a global food service enterprise isn’t cheap – and when looking for places to cut costs, many business owners consider purchasing consumer grade hardware to help lower costs. But can choosing a cheaper commercial option actually cost you more in the long run?

In recent years there have been attempts in the global POS market to try and deploy commodity hardware to run the myriads of software solutions competing companies have on offer. Off-the-shelf consumer devices such as tablets and general-purpose touchscreen hardware flooded the market with cut-rate prices and enticed hospitality operators with essentially one single feature: low cost of entry.

But as more and more operators have now started to realize, the promise of low-cost consumer hardware comes with a handful of hidden downsides and problems. Many business owners are coming to realize that the upfront savings of purchasing consumer grade hardware might not offer the big savings they’d once hoped.

Here’s a look at what purchasing consumer grade hardware actually gets you and why business owners should consider business grade hardware solutions through their POS system providers.

Purpose built hardware vs. consumer grade hardware

It takes more than a few tablets to run a functioning restaurant. Purchasing enough hardware to operate your business is a serious investment that can cost thousands and thousands of dollars. Here’s a look at just some of the POS hardware needed to outfit a restaurant:

  • Mobile ordering and payment tablets
  • Fixed workstations
  • Kitchen display systems (KDS)
  • Printers
  • Scanners
  • Cash drawers
  • Scales

It’s easy to see how costs can quickly add up when purchasing hardware for your business. And it’s even easier to see why the low costs of commercial hardware might seem tempting. But understanding the difference between purpose built and consumer grade hardware is the first step to making an informed decision.

  • Consumer grade hardware refers to equipment that can be purchased at local electronic stores or through online marketplaces. These devices are designed for everyday use and are often cheaper than purpose-built hardware
  • Purpose built hardware refers to specialized equipment supplied to businesses directly through their system provider. While these devices are typically more expensive, they are designed specifically to support the software solutions needed to run a successful business

Consumer grade hardware is often cheaper to purchase upfront, but you lose many of the benefits of specialized hardware. Here’s a look at the hidden ways consumer grade hardware actually costs businesses more time, money, and effort than you might think.

Consumer hardware is designed purposefully for planned obsolescence

One of the main reasons consumer grade hardware is cheaper than purpose-built hardware is because it’s designed to go obsolete faster.

The average consumer isn’t worried about how well their router will perform in ten years; they’re looking for a quick solution now. This means quality and longevity are often sacrificed to keep costs low. Consumer grade products are cheap to purchase because they are not built to last. This means while it might be cheaper now to invest in consumer grade hardware, you’ll be replacing more of those devices more frequently.

“Our whole economy is based on planned obsolescence. We make good products, we induce people to buy them, and then the next year we deliberately introduce something that will make these products old-fashioned, out of date, obsolete.”

-Brooks Stevens

Take for instance the iPad – a ubiquitous tablet nearly everyone knows and loves.

If you own one, you are keenly aware that iOS updates are only served to devices one or two generations back. After that, OS support for the device ceases to exist. When you consider the rate at which OS updates are released, you can see first-hand how it is designed to ensure that customers keep on replacing their hardware on a predictable (and frequent) schedule.

Not only that but consider how many times has Apple changed the data interface and layouts on these tablets (eight times since the inception of the iPad in 2010). What happens to the custom designed stands and casework that is no longer compatible with the newly released tablet version? What are the costs of re-engineering the supporting hardware and replacing peripheral devices when the vendor evolves the hardware completely out of the blue?

These are the types of questions restaurateurs need to consider before purchasing hardware for their business. Consumer grade hardware poses great risks with incremental costs and a short life cycle to any enterprise that’s built on it.

Consumer hardware isn’t optimized for software compatibility

Business owners often think they can save a few bucks by purchasing consumer grade hardware, only to find these systems aren’t compatible with their software. They might be surprised to find that the consumer grade hardware they’ve purchased doesn’t meet the minimum specifications needed to run their many business applications.

Another aspect of trying to “marry” off-the-shelf hardware with enterprise cloud solutions is that in order to future-proof the business, companies may acquire hardware that’s not optimized for the real requirements of the software. In an effort to ensure that future software versions will still be able to run decently on the hardware, businesses end up buying over-spec’d hardware – thus spending more than they really have to.

And last, but not least, one needs to ponder on the intricacies of hardware to software compatibility. Not just at the point of purchase, but many years down the line. How can you as a buyer be sure that the hardware purchased in 2021 will still be sufficient to optimally run the latest cloud software solution in 2031? Will the hardware distributor be able to offer such assurances? Will they even be able to say what happens next year – let alone a decade from now?

Purpose built hardware – the smarter alternative

Hardware exists mainly to support the software that’s running on it. Don’t make the mistake of investing in high-tech restaurant software and operating it on cheaply made hardware.

Purchasing your critical hardware directly through a vendor offers many advantages that consumer grade hardware doesn’t. With purpose-built hardware you may be able to source your solution from a vendor that can offer a single global price list with hardware support, warranty and delivery all consistent across all jurisdictions, countries and continents.

The same vendor should also be able to cover compliance with local fiscal regulations, import regulations on a global scale and constantly keep their portfolio compliant throughout the useful life of the hardware.

Ultimately, the long-term benefits on purchasing purpose-built hardware greatly outweigh the upfront cost. These systems need fewer replacements and are designed to optimally support any future software updates or changes to your solution. Hardware purchased directly from providers is guaranteed to be compatible with your POS system – meaning you are guaranteed to get the most out of what you’re paying for.

Switching to purpose-built hardware doesn’t have to break the bank

Achieving a cash-positive position is a struggle for many restaurants right now and maintaining consumer-grade devices is a financial drain. What if you could upgrade your devices, increase your speed of service, expand sales channels, and drive down waste at almost no cost to you?

With Oracle’s One for One offer, you can. Our One for One initiative enables restaurateurs to eliminate what is typically a large capital expense and simultaneously upgrade their operations for maximum efficiency. For each Oracle MICROS Simphony POS  subscription, customers can replace their existing workstation or tablet with Oracle MICROS hardware for one dollar.

Our cloud-based restaurant POS systems are competitively priced, and with every license you get your workstation for $1. No tricks. No strings attached. Our product experts are standing by to help you explore our POS SaaS (Point-of-Sale Software as a Service) offerings and create a restaurant POS system package that's right for your business. Get in touch and we can help you calculate your total cost of ownership and you return on investment so you can make an informed decision quickly.

How to Take Advantage of Our One for One Offer

It’s simple. With every subscription to Oracle MICRO Simphony POS, you get a workstation of your choice for $1. Our product experts are standing by to help create a package that's right for your business. Get in touch and we can help you calculate your total cost of ownership so you can make an informed decision quickly. Reach us by phone: US: +1 866-287-4736; UK: +44 207 5626 827; AU: 1300 366 386; LAD: 52 559 178 3146) | chat 

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