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The 2021 Guide to Restaurant POS Equipment and Hardware

Gabor Bona
Senior Manager, Solution Engineering, Oracle Hospitality

Just a few decades ago businesses could operate as cash-only establishments without an issue. However, recent advancements in technology have shifted consumer preferences towards engaging with restaurants through a variety of sales channels using devices that didn’t even exist all those years ago.

To stay competitive small businesses have to manage everything from online ordering and delivery to inventory management, and more. Cloud-based point-of-sale systems are quickly becoming the gold standard for businesses looking to modernize and streamline their operations, reduce complexity of IT at the restaurant level, quickly expand guest service and reduce costs. No restaurateur ever wants to run a complex POS system out of their kitchen. But they also don’t want to give up the gains sophisticated POS systems offer in making their businesses more guest friendly and more profitable. With cloud POS you can indeed have your cake and eat it too.

All POS software, whether cloud based on not needs to run on some sort of POS hardware. Let’s have a look at what this hardware entails.

What is restaurant POS hardware?

Point-of-sale hardware consists of the physical equipment required to run your cloud POS system. Restaurant POS hardware is a necessity for anyone running their business out of a physical storefront. Food trucks, pop-up restaurants, and even ghost kitchens all require some level of hardware to operate their business. 

Here’s a look at just some of hardware needed to outfit a restaurant:

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

Purpose-built vs. consumer grade hardware

There are countless benefits to investing in a cloud-based POS system and equipment – but making the switch to purpose-built hardware isn’t cheap. It might be tempting to try and cut costs by purchasing consumer grade hardware, but there’s a variety of hidden costs most people aren’t aware of. Consumer grade hardware is designed for planned obsolescence and isn’t built to withstand the wear and tear of the restaurant industry.

Consumer grade hardware might be cheaper upfront but will ultimately require replacement more frequently than purpose-built hardware. Oracle MICROS hardware is purpose-built for the restaurant environment as well as optimized for the software that’s deployed on it. Every component of your hardware portfolio is designed to work seamlessly together with processing power and durability you need to operate at the speed of your business.

Purchasing your workstations directly from your POS provider gives you security of knowing that your hardware will be compatible with your software now, and in the future. You also gain access to the 24/7 follow-the-sun customer support and the peace of mind that your investment will continue paying dividends for many years to come.

What are the necessary hardware components of a POS system?

The amount and type of hardware required to run a restaurant varies depending on the size and scale of your operation. Small businesses might only need a single tablet and a credit card reader to get started. On the other hand, multi-revenue center establishment with several diverse sales channels might need to invest in multiple workstations, tablets, and self-service kiosks.

Here’s a closer look at the most common types of POS equipment needed to run a restaurant

Workstations and tablets

POS workstation

POS workstations and tablets are the centerpiece of any POS solution. Workstations allow your staff to tie all operational aspects of the restaurant together and control the entire guest experience. Workstations are also needed to control every aspect of fiscal accountability of your operations so you can minimize or eliminate pilferage and waste.

POS workstations – whether fixed or mobile – need to be rugged and designed for the inevitable abuse they will endure. An ordinary touchscreen will likely suffer a fatal malfunction if a pint of beer is spilled on it and a consumer tablet will probably shatter if a server accidentally drops it – and these accidents happen more in a restaurant than any server would care to count.

Fixed workstations are the powerhouse of the POS system usually commanding much higher processing power than tablets. Due to their design these workhorses of the restaurant are often employed to run critical services and applications such as payment services, printing services and various API’s that integrate with 3rd party solutions.

In fact, Oracle MICROS workstations are powerful enough to run all required services right on the device, eliminating the requirement for an on-site server or back office PC. Optimally fixed workstations are appliance-like in their design: purpose-built for rapid guest service, look attractive as part of your restaurant décor and designed to last a lifetime.

POS tablets bring your operations closer to the guest. They help increase guest satisfaction by improving on the speed and attentiveness of the service and also help you increase your revenues by improving table turns / order throughput. Mobile tablets have been used for tableside service, curbside pickup, seasonal service such as  patio seating, table reservations and line busting in QSR environments just to name a few. As a fringe benefit tablets may also help improve fiscal integrity by delineating between order taking and order pickup – thus forcing every order to be entered and accounted for on the POS.

Optimally, POS tablets are designed to allow for processing of payment in the form of a PaTT (Pay at the Table) solution so that servers can close checks tableside, thus reducing the time it takes to turn the table. Mobile payment is also crucial in curbside pickup where the extra trip to a payment terminal would be time prohibitive. When used in line-busting, the ability to pre-process payment means the only thing left to complete is the pickup, which will dramatically increase the speed of the line. Furthermore thanks to the growing prevalence of PIN chip cards and the legislation stipulating that cards cannot leave the cardholders sight mobile payment has now moved from a nice-to-have to an absolute business essential.

As it comes to the type of integration of the payment terminal Oracle MICROS advises against all-in-one built-in payment terminals since the add-on approach provides you with much more operational flexibility. With a detachable payment terminal a server would be able to leave the pin-pad with one guest while walking over to another table to take a round of drink orders. The flexibility and speed of service you can achieve with a mobile tablet / payment terminal solution will dramatically increase your wait staff’s ability to delight your guests, garner better tips and increase your revenues.

Workstation peripherals

Workstation peripherals

It’s almost impossible to imagine a POS solution without peripheral devices. After all, you will need the ability to print a guest receipt at a minimum. But a modern POS solution might employ a large variety of other peripherals depending on the needs and style of the restaurant.

These peripherals might include:

  • Receipt printers
  • Mobile wallet readers
  • Integrated scales
  • Barcode scanners
  • Cash drawers
  • Customer facing marketing displays
  • Order confirmation boards

 Restaurant POS hardware

As it comes to peripherals the most important thing to question is interoperability with your POS workstations and the software that’s running on them. You don’t want your floor manager to spend Friday evening with trying to figure out why the receipt printers stopped working after an OPOS driver update. Optimally all peripherals connected to your workstations are tested and certified to work with the system and each software release is also certified to support legacy peripherals. Only vendors that maintain a wide selection of advocated hardware offers can provide you with this level of guarantee and peace of mind.

Customer facing displays allow restaurateurs to provide a streamlined customer experience and vastly improved order accuracy during the order process. Customers can view their order, check total, loyalty points, and more directly from the touch screen display. What’s more, innovative use of the rear facing display allows you to capitalize on these devices to run your promotions and place them in direct sight of your guests for better impact and uptake. Using the customer facing display to drive automated intelligent upsell is one surefire way to increase average check, which is why these solutions have found such a fervent following with many counter service and quick service operators.

Customer facing display

Self-service kiosk

Question: what works even better than a line-busting mobile tablet to cut down on your counter line-up? Answer: Kiosks!

Self-service kiosks have exploded in popularity since these devices can dramatically increase order throughput and as a consequence increase revenues. Increasingly, larger and larger segments of your guest demographic feels comfortable with interacting on a kiosk terminal especially if the order-flow is designed in a clear, logical manner. Cashiers need to be trained and kept reminded constantly about upselling – kiosk will do that for you automatically and consistently. Kiosks will also help managing your restaurant’s labor costs especially with the recent government mandates on minimum wage. Last, but not least kiosks can help you streamline your kitchen production – especially when they are paired with a KDS (Kitchen Display System).

Self-service kiosk

Kitchen display systems

At the first glance a KDS station appears to be a mere replacement of a kitchen order printer. But there’s so much more to KDS! The main benefit of a properly implemented KDS solution is that it helps you “productionize” your kitchen. Your chef and sous chef will finally be relieved of the burden of prep coordination and can focus on the much more important aspect of food quality and presentation.

While a printed kitchen order chit is “dead on arrival”, KDS orders can be dynamically updated, bumped, timed and sequenced so a multi-prep kitchen line can work in quiet, efficient harmony. KDS SOS (Speed of Service) stations will then in turn help your expeditor to coordinate service from the pass and serving multiple sales channels such as delivery and pickup. There are entire case studies written on the operational benefits of KDS, so we won’t go into more detail here – reach out to us for more information on the benefits of a true integrated KDS solution.

KDS hardware is installed in the most unforgiving part of the restaurant – the kitchen. Ordinary consumer devices don’t stand a chance surviving the conditions Oracle MICROS KDS is exposed to on a daily basis. The 400 series workstations from Oracle MICROS are purpose designed for the kitchen environment with heat and IP (Ingress protection) ratings well beyond of even these harshest places. These KDS devices have also been designed to eliminate all cabling mess helping with regular cleanup and sanitation.

Kitchen display systems

What does OS have to do with it?

Why should you care what OS (Operating System) runs on your POS workstations? After all, you will almost never see it. Every workstation will have an OS. Most often it is some flavor of Windows. The problem with generic operating systems is that they have never been designed specifically for the restaurant business. Ask yourself this question: does your workstation’s OS really need to load fax services or does it have to have a built-in word processor? Does it have to include a media player?

All these superfluous services in the OS put an additional tax on workstation resources which means you will need to buy higher-spec workstations then you would really need. Additionally, Windows, iOS, Android and more require regular security updates. How will you maintain OS compliance and what effect will regular updates have on your day to day operations?

Enter Oracle Linux for MICROS. We took Linux and created a purpose-built OS from it that includes everything you need and nothing that you don’t. With Oracle MICROS Linux your OS is light on its feet and is in the service of the POS software only. It is deployed, maintained and updated from the same Cloud source that the rest of your configuration resides in. With Oracle MICROS Linux you will never have to schedule downtime for another OS security update again. What’s more, you will not have to reinstall a new OS when support for your current version runs out, or even worse, buy new workstations because they’re no longer supported.

The beauty of Oracle MICROS Linux is that with it, we are in complete control of the entire POS technology stack from the hardware through BIOS, the OS (Linux) through Database (MySQL) and the application. No other vendor offers this level of control and integration and the resulting optimized system performance, reliability and longevity speaks volumes for the benefits of this one-stop-shop approach. Being in complete control of the entire technology stack gives us the ability to end-to-end test and verify your ecosystem under a unified version control of all components. Contrast this with what happens when Apple releases a new iOS update for an iPad based POS system for example.

What’s more, for existing Oracle MICROS POS hardware customers that have historically been unable to upgrade to the cloud, the introduction of Oracle Linux for MICROS opens up tremendous opportunities associated with point of sale as a service (POSaaS). Since Oracle MICROS Linux is so light on its feet, older legacy workstations might very well be adequate to run the latest cloud software, allowing you to sweat the hardware a little more instead of sending it to the recycling depot.

Another concern with cloud-based POS systems is their reliance on a reliable Internet connection. The loss of network connectivity can cause business to grind to a halt. This may result in the loss of thousands of dollars of revenue for every hour network issues persist.

Oracle MICROS Simphony is different. The system has been architected around independent services that can be deployed across a number of workstations in the restaurant. This means you don’t need to put all your eggs in one basket like you do with a server-based system. Additionally, all business critical services such as printing, payment service, KDS service and more have been designed to be able to run offline without connection to the cloud.

While offline, the CAPS (Check and Posting Service) deployed strategically on a workstation at the property level will take care of coordination of local check sharing and services. Once the connection is restored to the cloud, CAPS will synchronize all local activity with the cloud database. You may also ask what happens when CAPS goes down? If that ever happens, the Backup CAPS installed on an alternative workstation will take over duties of the CAPS. And in the most extreme case when a workstation is completely severed even from the local network, the system will still continue operating basic functions such as opening and closing checks and even payment services if your payment device offers an alternative connection.

Redundancy and stand-alone resilience are basic tenets of Simphony’s architectural design. The approach helped us create a solution that enables you to take advantage of the best the cloud has to offer with none of the drawbacks. When you’re able to dramatically simplify and reduce the IT footprint at the restaurant level without giving anything up in terms of functionality and guest service finesse, you know you have made the right choice for a best-of-breed, cloud native restaurant management system.

Looking forward with Oracle

There’s a lot that goes into running a successful restaurant – purchasing the right POS hardware should be easy. Oracles One for One offer enables restaurateurs to eliminate what is typically a large capital expense and simultaneously upgrade their restaurant operations at a competitive price. For each Oracle MICROS Simphony POS subscription, customers can replace their existing workstation or tablet with Oracle MICROS hardware 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)

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