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Are Tableside Ordering and Payment Processing Worth the Investment?

Sean Peek
Sean Peek

What are the benefits of tableside ordering and payment?

There's something about the word "tableside." Some Mexican restaurants offer guacamole prepared tableside for a markup that customers are willing to pay. In fine dining establishments, the Caesar salad that's made to order next to your table with the right amount of flourish is worth the extra money to many diners. The personal touch makes a meal out even more special.

Tableside ordering could also be a special touch that diners would return for. If you're interested in tableside ordering, read on to learn what it is, the benefits of adding it to your restaurant, and the technology you'll need to offer this service to your customers. 

What is tableside ordering?

Tableside ordering is a service that allows customers to order food directly from their table at a restaurant through a handheld device, an iPad, or their own phones. Customers can also browse a restaurant's menu, reorder drinks, and pay for their meals directly on a device that's dedicated to their table. Large chains nationwide, including Olive Garden and Applebee's, already offer this kind of service.

Another type of tableside ordering is when restaurants equip their staff with handheld devices instead of placing them at each table. Restaurant servers armed with tablets take orders at the table and the ticket is immediately relayed to the kitchen staff. Additionally, card payments can be made on the spot through the same tablet. This type of tableside ordering can be more cost-effective than equipping each restaurant table with devices. 

Benefits of tableside ordering

There are many benefits to adopting this type of restaurant technology.

No more wrong orders

There's no need for a server to run back to the kitchen to reenter the ticket, and customers can see their orders on the screen, so there's no trouble about wrong orders. You can even leave the tablet at the table so customers can input orders themselves. That means you'll issue fewer comps in a day or night of service.

Faster table turnover

Tableside ordering and payment processing reduces runaround for servers. The faster your staff can fulfill orders, run payments and get satisfied customers out the door, the shorter the wait time is for incoming customers, and the more people your restaurant can serve overall. This also means your servers can spend more time caring for their customers and potentially earn higher tips. 

Upsell reminders

Your servers always try to push drinks, desserts, appetizers and extras, but the truth is every server has skipped this step to get to the next table or to get food out. Certain apps can offer reminders to upsell, which your servers must acknowledge they've done to place the order to the kitchen staff. It's good for your bottom line and the ticket total, which also benefits your servers' tips.

Customer peace of mind

Credit card fraud is an unfortunate problem in retail, and customers are more aware of the issue than ever. Because of this, diners may be wary of a server who takes too long to return their credit card when running the payment through a processor. Tableside payment processing means your servers run customers' cards through right at the table, so a diner's card is never out of their sight.

Tableside ordering and restaurant payment processing technology is a worthy investment for your restaurant if you always have a line at your door. You don't want to lose customers who become frustrated waiting for a table to open up. Even if you're operating an old-school diner, you can incorporate this advanced technology without detracting from the nostalgic experience too much.

Bottom LineBottom line: Every type of restaurant can benefit from tableside ordering, whether you own a chain or a small-town diner.

What equipment do you need for tableside ordering?

Restaurants can offer tableside ordering either through QR code technology or handheld devices. Depending on the method you choose, there are a few types of technology restaurants will need to provide tableside ordering.

  • Handheld platforms: A guest-facing iPad or other handheld device is necessary for customers to place orders or browse the menu. Alternatively, staff can carry handheld devices of their own to wait on tables. These devices can even be left at the designated table so guests can reorder drinks or alert their server.

  • QR code: QR code ordering is a newer technology that's gaining in popularity, especially as restaurants continue to seek contact-free options due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Restaurant guests can scan a QR code on their mobile device that sends them to the restaurant's menu. Once online, they can order food and beverages as well as pay their bill directly from their own devices. 

  • Integrated POS system: No matter which tableside ordering method your restaurant chooses, you must configure the QR code technology or handheld devices to a central POS system. A technologically advanced restaurant POS system sends orders directly to your kitchen staff from these devices. Additionally, the system can close out bills and add payments to your books as soon as customers send them through.

Bottom LineBottom line: You'll need a technologically advanced central POS system for tableside ordering, whether you choose ordering by QR code or a handheld device.

Which providers offer tableside ordering technology?

As tableside ordering becomes more widespread, an increasing variety of top POS systems provide this capability.

  • Clover: With over 100 integrations available, the Clover POS system is an all-in-one solution for payment processing, tracking sales and other POS functions. Clover offers a few different systems that can cater to your restaurant's needs. Once you purchase the hardware, the POS software for Clover can cost as little as $9.95 per month. Learn more in our review of Clover.

  • TouchBistro: TouchBistro has over 200 features dedicated to helping your restaurant run as smoothly as possible. Its mobile-friendly POS software is compatible with iPads, which allows customers to use the self-serve ordering option. TouchBistro's POS licenses start at $69 per month. Learn more in our review of TouchBistro.

  • Toast: With Toast, you have a choice between three separate POS plans and three types of digital ordering software plans, along with specific add-ons to create a unique tableside ordering experience. The Toast Starter plan is $69 per month, while the Growth plan is $189 per month. Learn more in our review of Toast.

  • Square: Square offers free and paid plans with personalized add-ons for restaurants to use, such as payroll or customer management. Square is compatible with iPads and also has devices available for purchase. It offers a 30-day trial period to test out its features before committing to a plan. Learn more in our review of Square.

Amy Nichol Smith contributed to the writing and research in this article.

Image Credit: Prostock-Studio / Getty Images
Sean Peek
Sean Peek Contributing Writer
Sean Peek has written more than 100 B2B-focused articles on various subjects including business technology, marketing and business finance. In addition to researching trends, reviewing products and writing articles that help small business owners, Sean runs a content marketing agency that creates high-quality editorial content for both B2B and B2C businesses.