Restaurant point of sale systems were always right on the front burner of business system development, even from the beginning of the personal computer age. The hospitality and restaurant industries really needed automated systems that
- minimized the demands on wait staff
- while accurately passing orders to cooks,
- enabling customers to conveniently and quietly pay their checks and add their tips,
- use their credit cards,
- while, behind the scenes, handling all the data base business functions like inventory control and accounting,
- made sure everyone got appropriately paid,
- and integrated everything with the front office so senior management always knew what’s going on.
If these things could be done at table, so much the better.
Early electronic cash registers were pre-windows PC computers disguised to look like regular cash registers, because operating staff were not used to using computers.
In 1973, IBM introduced the IBM3650 which was really a small main frame computer that would serve up to 128 point of sale registers connected to it in a local area network. The first company to use these systems was McDonald’s Restaurants. Staff used numbered menus for order-taking. The screen displayed the entire order. When the “grill” button was pressed, the order was sent for preparation and other orders could proceed. The computer totaled bills and taxes for the customer after the transaction, printed receipts and saved accounting information. The system had built-in accounting checks and duplicated data in triplicate for security.
The development of the first digital POS systems corresponded to the introduction of the first magnetic stripe credit cards, which began appearing in the early 1970s. The union of magnetic card readers and POS computers marked the beginning of the modern era of POS systems.
The first graphical interface POS systems ran on Atari 16 bit systems in 1986 using a touch screen interface. These had some limited success, installed on several restaurants in the US and Canada. The first POS software to run on Microsoft Windows systems appeared in 1992. POS system development proceeded with the improvements in network technology and portable digital devices.
Modern cloud-based POS systems run on computers and portable devices including IOS and Android tablets and phones, which can be equipped with card reading devices for at-table POS service. These system often include back up on local servers to assure operation during periods of lost wi-fi service. The typical restaurant POS software system can create and print guest checks, distribute orders to the kitchen, accept credit card or cash payments with necessary accounting. The systems can also provide ongoing inventory and other accounting management functions.
Hawk IT Services is an IT services company in Australia with a special interest in POS systems. For more information, contact us.