iPad POS Adds Spice to Thai Restaurant

Gift cards, frequent dining and iPad POS functionality now on the menu

Siam Dish Digital Dining iPad POSWhen Ti Wisesputi launched an expansion of his Siam Dish restaurant concept, his authentic Thai cuisine will be served up via Digital Dining. When Ti discovered that he could that same software as an iPad POS system anywhere in his restaurant, he was delighted.

The POS system he purchased from Armagh for the opening of a second location in Hamilton last year has all the features he was seeking, plus many he didn’t even know existed. “Armagh showed me how they could put the restaurant POS system on an iPad, and we can use it anywhere in the restaurant – upstairs, and even outside on the patio when we open that,” says Ti.

“It’s like a portable handheld unit only much better, because it has all the capabilities of an iPad. We can load the whole menu on there, and we can even have pictures to show the customers what each item looks like.”

Ti says he has been impressed by both the power of the system, and the service support he receives from the Armagh team. “The support is phenomenal. If I call, they answer right away and deal with the issue immediately.”

He and his partner first met the Armagh team at a tradeshow three years ago. “I was very impressed by what the software could do. It had a lot of features that we couldn’t find in other POS systems. When we decided to open our second restaurant in Hamilton, I remembered that and went to talk to them.”

Siam Dish Thai RestaurantWhat really impressed him was the Gift Card and frequent dining functions, as well as the ‘fingerprint’ log-in process for employees. “You can put any dollar amount on the Gift card, and it is reloadable so you don’t have to issue a new card when the gift amount has been redeemed,” says Ti.

The frequent dining function, he notes, is something that can set the Siam Dish apart from its competitors. “The system tracks and shows you how much a customer spends in the restaurant,” says Ti, adding that it can be set up to automatically reward customers when they reach certain spending levels.

His system includes two POS stations – one on the ground floor as well as one in the second-floor dining area, where they use a mobile iPad POS.

Siam Dish has enjoyed success at both its Burlington and new Hamilton location because of the focus on fresh, says Ti. Everything in the restaurant is prepared from scratch, using recipes from his mother-in-law. “It is truly authentic Thai, we make all our own sauces and curries. Nothing comes out of a can. And we buy as much local food as we can.”

To download the pdf version of this onsite report click here.

About Armagh, The POS Specialists

Armagh has been serving the restaurant POS industry in Canada since 1979, delivering solutions for a range of operators, from single-unit small businesses to multi-unit national chains. We are specialists in touch screen and iPad POS systems for restaurants.

With 30+ years POS industry experience
the sales staff at Armagh provides experienced consultants in point-of-purchase management, customer service efficiency, process automation, and restaurant order management.

Armagh’s award winning Digital Dining iPad POS Software for restaurants is best-in-class, and Armagh is a Certified Toshiba POS Partner.

Knowing The Rules

Gift Card Laws In Ontario

Gift cards are the gifts that keep on giving, or at least they are for retail stores and restaurants. But there are rules for gift cards in Canada. Provinces across the country have legislated what retailers and restaurant owners can and can’t do, and merchants need to understand what they are. The rules have been in place since the Consumer Protection Act was changed on October 1st of 2007, but I regularly see my clients incorrectly apply the law to their programs, or ignore the law altogether. On the other hand I get a lot of questions about the gift card regulations from people trying to follow them but aren’t sure how to get the right information, so if you haven’t learned what they are, you may want to read further and become informed – it’s better late than never.

Activation Fees

Prior to the legislation it was quite common for “Activation Fees” to be charged by store owners on gift certificates and gift cards, the logic being that they were providing a “service” to the customer in creating and offering the gift card. Logically, you can understand the point of view of the merchant; after all, the drug store will charge you at least 5 or 6 bucks for a birthday card to stick it in, why not charge a modest fee to cover the cost of the plastic gift card, envelope, and the significant cost of the purchase and maintenance of the gift card technology? The Ontario government doesn’t see it that way though, and prohibits any activation fees on gift cards.

There is one notable exception in the case of shopping malls (rather than individual retailers). Shopping malls may charge an activation fee of no more than $1.50. The reason for this exception is perhaps that shopping malls that sell gift cards redeemable at any merchant tenant within the mall will not be the direct beneficiary of that gift card purchase, so the $1.50 fee is to compensate the mall for the trouble and cost of issuing the card. This seems to me to be an inconsistent position for the government to take. If the government won’t allow retailers to levy a fee, thereby expecting the retailer to take on the cost of the gift card program, it seems to me that the retailers of the shopping mall should shoulder the same burden. But, it’s government legislation after all, and government doesn’t need to make sense or be consistent.

Dormancy Fees

Some retailers and restaurant owners want to levy a gift card “dormancy fee” for unused balances on gift cards that haven’t been used for a specified period of time. According to Ontario gift card legislation, dormancy fees are banned. That means you can’t impose a fee, penalty, or charge on unused card balances and have it reduce the card down to zero over time. The logic of most merchants for doing so was to solve two problems – reasonably imposed dormancy fees eventually eliminated forgotten or lost cards from the merchant’s gift card database; dormancy fees also contributed to the merchant’s cost of maintaining the technology that housed the gift card “liability” over extended periods of time – conceivably customers could hold onto gift cards for years. The Ontario government has decided that concern is immaterial; merchants are not allowed to charge dormancy fees.

Once again, there is an exception for shopping malls. They must maintain the gift card values that they sell for a minimum of 15 months. Consumers may request an extension of an additional three months by requesting it from the mall during the 15th month after they purchased the card. After that, the mall is allowed to charge a “dormancy fee” on the 19th month and monthly thereafter on unused balances of no more than $2.50 a month.

Fees That Are Permitted

Not all fees pertaining to gift cards are banned. Merchants may charge a fee to customize a gift card. What this is exactly I’m not certain, but it’s written sufficiently vague so as to allow merchants some wiggle room with regard to shipping fees for cards ordered online or over the phone, fancy envelopes and packaging to put gift cards in, and other related materials or services.

Fees may also be charged to replace a gift card. Most gift card policies include (or should include) some sort of statement referring to replacement. Many merchants simply state that they will not replace a card that is lost or stolen. If you do allow for a replacement policy, and I think you should consider it for customer service purposes, Ontario legislation allows for the merchant to charge a fee to replace the card.

Expiry Dates

As of October 1st, 2007, no expiry dates are allowed on gift cards. That includes any expiry dates for cards that are unused for any period of time. This is problematic for most merchants, because it means that they must maintain a gift card database (which is a liability to the merchant) for an unspecified amount of time. This can be inconvenient and costly to the merchant. The Ontario government does not appear to be sympathetic to that argument.

Gift Card Policy

Your gift card policy, exclusions, limitations, and replacements, for example, must be clearly defined. I recommend that you print it on the back of the card or the promotional material used to sell and deliver the card. If your gift card policy exceeds the available printing space on the card, you can direct the customer to a page on your website that is designed to clearly outline your gift card policy.

Loyalty Cards

Ontario gift card legislation does not apply to loyalty cards, so if you have a customer loyalty program that allows customers to generate points that can be redeemed as cash value at the point of sale in exchange for products or services, legally the merchant may charge fees and allow them to expire as they see fit. The legislation also does not apply to cards that have federal jurisdiction such as prepaid phone cards. Cards, certificates, vouchers, or coupons that provide a specific product or service, such as one massage at a spa, are also not covered under the legislation.

Fines And Penalties

Some retail and restaurant owners will choose to ignore the gift card rules or feign ignorance of them, and they do so at their own peril. In Ontario, fines for non-compliance with gift card and consumer protection legislation ranges from $50,000 and/or two years in prison for the individual and the corporation can be fined up to $250,000. Fines are similar for the rest of Canada.

Integrity Matters

There is no question that the benefits of gift cards are significant for merchant and customer alike, but retailers and restaurant owners need to be aware of the rules and regulations that apply to gift cards and make sure that their own gift card programs are not contrary to the law in their province or territory. Merchants not only risk fines and penalties for non-compliance but they also face a consequence far worse – the potential damage of their own goodwill and credibility in the eyes of their customers.

For more information about Ontario gift card rules visit: http://www.sse.gov.on.ca/mcs/en/Pages/Gift_Cards.aspx

In Search of Goldilocks’ Handheld POS

Handheld POSNot too big, not too small… just right.

The latest electronic device in the mainstream is the tablet computer – and they have definitely gone mainstream with literally hundreds of sizes, shapes, brands and Operating systems, to suit just about any user. If you own a tablet, then you already know they are not a replacement for everything – they are terrible computer replacements and if you’re trying to buy a tablet to replace your desktop or laptop you’ll probably be disappointed. What they are great for is specific tasks or things you want to do. Some of them are great entertainment devices, and casual web surfing on them is fun. There are thousands of handy apps to keep you occupied or provide you with very specific information or perform specific (read: limited) functions.

This doesn’t mean they won’t be computer replacements in the future. I think the tablet format will eventually replace the computer, and the stock prices of the major PC manufacturers certainly reflect that assessment. But until the tablet and handheld industry figures out what customers are looking for and addresses their product shortcomings, there will still be challenges. One of those challenges is the actual size of the tablet’s form factor, despite what you may have heard, size does matter. Especially to the “Goldilocks” restaurant owner looking for the perfect wireless handheld POS tablet solution.

A couple of weeks ago I was reading the iMore.com blog, part of the Mobile Nations group of websites, and stumbled upon an article where they speculated two things: 1. “If” Apple will release a 7” tablet, fondly known at the moment as the iPad Mini, and 2. “Why” would Apple offer a 7-inch iPad, in seemingly direct competition with the iPad 2 & 3 and priced around $200? To read the full article written by Rene Ritchie, go to: www.imore.com/apple-release-7-inch-ipad.

Ritchie is usually pretty thorough, but in this case I think he misses an important client segment which is extremely important for Apple if they wish to continue growing their market share in a seemingly already saturated market – Business. He barely mentions the business user, but I think the 7” tablet is uniquely suited to the business category, for example the restaurant looking for a device as a restaurant handheld POS terminal, for example Ipad handheld POS, and here’s why.

4” Is Too Small

When Handheld POS terminals were new to the POS market, and we were installing devices like the Symbol MC50 wireless handheld, the number one objection we received from restaurants was, “they’re nice, but they’re too small. It’s hard to see the screen and touch the buttons. The servers would prefer to just go and use a POS terminal.” When the 4.4” x 2.32” iPod weighing in at 3.56 ounces hit the scene, the POS industry rushed to show off POS software running on them. The touch sensitivity was dramatically better, we didn’t need to use a stylus anymore, and the user experience was greatly improved. Still however, we had the same complaint from new and existing clients alike, “It’s handy, but it’s too small.”

10” Is Too Big

When 10” tablets like the Apple iPad and Toshiba Thrive were released to market, we geeks in the POS industry were elated. Finally! A wireless handheld device we could use as a mobile POS that was large enough to satisfy people with the worst eyesight and the fattest fingers! Off we went to the first demonstration, and proudly pulled it out of our briefcase. People were in awe of our 1.44 pounds and all 9.5 inches of Appley Goodness. When the newness wore off, they said, “That’s sexy, but you know, it’s way too big. When the server is done taking the order, where the hell will she put it?”

7” Is Just Right

When Apple releases the iPad Mini, I expect there will be a boom in Apple products once again. Except it won’t be for the entertainment segment – who wants to watch Netflix or surf the web on a 7” screen when you can do it on a 10” screen? It won’t be teens – they would far rather own an iPod or a mobile phone to listen to music, play games, and communicate to Facebook, Twitter, BBM, and email. I think the 7” tablet will be largely preferred by the cost-conscious and size sensitive business segment – and I think you’ll see the first visible usage out in restaurants as handheld POS devices, like POS for the ipad, for tableside order taking service.

Large enough to see and use comfortably but small enough to carry around and store in a restaurant server’s change pouch, a 7” tablet is just right for the restaurant looking to deploy wireless handheld POS so they can take advantage of the efficiencies of tableside service.

What if Apple Doesn’t Release a 7” Tablet?

Don’t forget that Apple releasing a 7” iPad Mini is still purely speculation – albeit educated speculation based on Apple’s manufacturing partners reporting their own manufacturing numbers. And based on Bloomberg’s reporting on those numbers Apple is manufacturing “something” new and it looks like a 7” tablet. But, hey, if they don’t, it’s Apple’s loss. As a restaurant owner you should not wait, you should simply select a 7” Android or Windows tablet you like and deploy that. The benefits of deploying wireless handheld POS in your restaurant far outweigh the drawbacks of not using Apple.

Don’t Wait Until The Bears Return to Your Restaurant

People have a habit of waiting too long to use technology. Experience is the best teacher, and with technology the spoils go to the people who get in on the ground floor. So when people ask me, “How long should we wait for the right tablet?” Don’t wait at all! Do not forego the benefits and ROI from deploying wireless handheld POS in your restaurant! The profit increase from deploying tableside service will more than pay for you to upgrade or switch to 7” iPad tablets! Don’t forget we’re talking about a tablet that will come out priced around 200 bucks. That’s porridge… er… I mean, peanuts. If you do decide to wait, Apple will probably release the tablet in October, but if they don’t release it by Christmas – stop waiting. You’re losing too much money by holding up the single most important innovation in the history of restaurants. There are plenty of great 7” tablets out there with great features and accessories, such as the Toshiba Excite 7.7”, Google Nexus 7”,  and the Samsung Galaxy Tab to name just a few.

Don’t forget how the story of Goldilock’s ends. Those restaurants that wait too long to upgrade will end up getting eaten – by their competitors.

* UPDATE – Tuesday, October 23: As predicted the iPad Mini has been announced by Apple and pre-orders are starting on October 26th. The Wi-Fi version will ship on November 2nd, and the cellular version 2 weeks later. Apple calls it the iPad just concentrated, but the specs are closer to the iPod touch 5 or iPad 2, with an Apple A5 processor, optional LTE 4G and DC-HSPA networking, a new Lightning connector, and the recently released iOS6 operating system.

We’re eagerly waiting for our shipment of iPad Minis because we know that as soon as we receive them our Digital Dining Restaurant POS handheld software will already work on it! When you receive your iPad Mini, let us know what you think of it!

*UPDATE – Saturday, November 3: We have received the iPad Mini and we already have Digital Dining POS setup on it! Setup a demonstration with one of our sales professionals today. In the meantime, check out our Youtube video to see how great it is! http://youtu.be/kV0rzALiolk