Wednesday , May 22, 2024

Square’s New Tools Aim to Keep Restaurants a Step Ahead in the Technology Arms Race

Block Inc.’s Square unit late Thursday unveiled a suite of hardware and software tools the company says is aimed at helping restaurants manage orders, payments, and their overall business more efficiently as they wrestle with worker shortages and other fallout from the pandemic. The new technology also comes as competition among payments companies for the hospitality market has grown more intense.

The new suite of tools includes Square for Restaurants mobile POS, a mobile device servers can use to take orders and accept payments, and Square Stand Mount, an iPad point-of-sale device that can be mounted to any wall or countertop. Square also announced several updates to its 4-year-old Square for Restaurants POS platform that improve servers’ ability to add items to orders previously submitted to the kitchen and route tickets from a POS device directly to a kitchen display system. The restaurant POS technology also includes new features for loyalty, payroll, reservations, and ordering.   

“Payment technology is increasingly becoming just a part of the stack,” Bryan Solar, head of restaurants for Square, says by email. “That said, the POS that powers the payment is seeing a greater and greater expectation to help improve everything from diner experiences to restaurant profitability.”

Two advantages of Square for Restaurants mobile POS for restaurants is that servers can send orders directly to the kitchen, which speeds order fulfillment, and see sold-out items in real time. That second feature makes it possible for servers to tell diners before taking the order which items on the menu have sold out.  

Restaurants using Square for Restaurants mobile POS during the beta phase have been able to turn over tables faster and grow their sales, even when they were short on staff, the company says.

Scaffidi Restaurant Group, a Steubenville, Ohio-based company that operates restaurants as well as catering and delivery services, says that during the test phase alcohol sales increased by 22% and orders voided due to out-of-stock items declined by 57%.

“We’re seeing a lot of additional efficiency in our operations with Square for Restaurants mobile POS because our staff are spending more time on the floor rather than out of reach putting in orders,” Frankie DiCarlantonio, owner Scaffidi Restaurant Group, says in a prepared statement.

Square for Restaurants mobile POS runs on two handheld devices: Square Terminal and the forthcoming Restaurant Mobile POS kit. To entice restaurants to try the new device, Square is waiving its per-location software fee for the device through the end of year. After the promotional period expires, Square will charge restaurants $50 per location.

Updates to the Square for Restaurants POS system include coursing, a feature that helps restaurants manage the flow of orders to and from the kitchen by enabling servers to send additions to orders already sent to the kitchen. The feature also improves the efficiency of staff at prep stations and expeditors—liaisons between the kitchen staff and the waitstaff—by enabling them to view all orders placed, held, or completed. Having that capability improves ticket readability, reduces errors, and enhances the dining experience, Square says.

Square KDS, which launched in 2021, is being updated to allow restaurants to route tickets directly from a POS system to a kitchen delivery system, giving restaurants more flexibility in organizing their kitchens to support delivery and pickup orders.  

Enhancements to Square Loyalty will allow sellers to schedule one-time and recurring promotions. Square Payroll is being updated to help restaurants attract and retain staff in a challenging hiring market. Features include On-Demand Pay, which enables W-2 employees to access up to 50% of their earned income before the pay period ends.

Square is partnering with SoundHound AI Inc., a Santa Clara, Calif.-based audio and speech-recognition company, to enable servers to accept voice orders without dedicating staff to answering the phone. Restaurants using Square for Restaurants POS will also be able power their own delivery services through integrations with delivery-management software providers Cartwheel and Vromo.

To help restaurants better manage reservations, Square plans integrate the online reservation service OpenTable in Square for Restaurants POS. The integration will connect data from the restaurant POS with data from OpenTable’s reservations system. Data shared between the two system can help restaurants craft more personalized customer services, the company says.

“We believe it will be critical for companies like Square and others to invest heavily in democratizing the customer and owner-facing technologies restaurants need so that every restaurant, from large chain to a local independent, is able to keep up with the tech arms race coming at them from places like Starbucks and Chick-Fil-A,” Solar says.

That arms race also applies to tech suppliers. Besides Square, companies like Shift4, Toast, Clover, Revel, and Lightspeed have entered the restaurant POS market over the past decade.

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