Point of sale (POS) systems have given the restaurant industry a huge boost over the last few years, and as the technology continues to develop, so too will be opportunities that come with it, including faster service, improved payment methods and internet integration.

The days of scribbling orders on a pad and passing barely-readable checks through to the kitchen are fast coming to an end, with even the smaller, independent restaurants and cafés choosing to embrace POS systems and all the advantages that they provide.

The question on most restaurateurs’ minds is: “If I’m going to invest in POS systems, should I go mobile or stay traditional?” In truth, it all depends on the type of establishment you are running, and whether or not your services require a mobile device like an iPad or tablet to take orders.

Before you make your decision, let’s take a look at the pros and cons for traditional and tablet-based POS systems, and compare the two:

A comparison between Tablet and Traditional POS Systems

Both tablets and traditional POS systems have a host of functions that are an asset to your restaurant operation, including:

  • • Making reservations
  • • Setting up tables/open tickets
  • • Splitting tabs for payments
  • • Payment processing via cash, card and check (and in some establishments, PayPal or Apple Pay)
  • • Delivery/Takeout features
  • • Custom printing
  • • Inventory control
  • • Sales reporting and forecasting
  • • Waste management

These features are a huge bonus to restaurant owners because they speed up service and give servers more flexibility and responsibility when it comes to their daily tasks. One example of how a POS system helps a server do their job more efficiently is when it comes to split checks. Before a POS system was widely in use, this would have caused an incredible headache for anyone who doesn’t have a degree in Mathematics.  A POS system can split a check any number of ways in a matter of seconds, with no issues at all.


While there are a lot of areas where both Tablet POS and traditional POS are the same, the biggest difference is definitely in the area of mobility.  With traditional POS systems, servers are constantly running back and forth between their tables, POS system, drink stations and the kitchen; they’re taking orders, placing orders, and fulfilling orders and walking several miles per shift with all of this back and forth.

Tablet-based POS systems give servers the flexibility to move around, take orders and payments tableside.  There is no longer any need to constantly be back-and-forth between their tables and section and the POS system.  This can save an incredible amount of time that will in turn allow the servers to provide more effective service to their customers. In a high-volume restaurant, a tablet-based POS system could result in tables being turned around a great deal quicker, increasing revenue for your operation as a result.


With traditional POS systems, thieves could easily target the cash drawers as they are always on display. Typically the system as a whole was not tempting to be taken, due to the size of the register, drawer, etc.  Now, with newer mobile systems, there is little temptation for it to be stolen from the premises as they can be locked remotely and even tracked via GPS software.


Modern POS systems are a godsend for owners and managers because of their ability to help control waste, predict sales, manage inventory and produce reports on every aspect of the business. Both traditional and tablet POS systems have these features, but the tablet-based systems allow management to take the device away in order to view and print reports at another location. The traditional POS systems have to be accessed by specific computers or systems in the establishment, and sometimes files are unable to be exported from the system, adding extra work to any manager’s daily duties.

Which one should you purchase for your restaurant?

There is no easy answer to this question, as all businesses are different.  From the standpoint of the tablet POS, the increased mobility and the perks it offers are undeniable.  However, there are always other factors to consider.  A traditional POS system won’t rely on an Internet connection the way a tablet might.  Traditional POS systems usually involve a heftier investment on the part of the business owners, which is always a consideration. Software upgrades are not always included in the systems with a traditional POS, but they typically are for a tablet POS.

If your business is a one to two shop operation, a smaller system along the lines of a tablet or mobile POS is definitely a more cost-effective option.  If you operate at an enterprise level, a traditional POS model is definitely a smarter route to take, just given the amount of data that could be collected on a daily basis for the business.

What is important for anyone to consider is that you purchase the system that gives your business the best chance to profit and thrive.  Any kind of POS system, whether mobile or traditional, is really the upgrade you need to make, whatever type of system you finally choose. [/fullwidth]