More and more restaurants are turning to tablet-based POS systems as they recognize those solutions offer many benefits, including cost savings. mobility within the restaurant, remote access to data, and more frequent feature updates.
When restaurants do turn to the tablet POS market, they often find a sea of iPad-based systems because of Apple's favor among consumers. But is a consumer-grade solution the right solution for the rigorous and widely varying restaurant environment?
Android POS systems may be more suitable for the restaurant environment due to the durability and flexibility offered by the Android software and hardware.
No two restaurants are the same. From the concept and ingredients to the kitchen or checkout workflow, there may be hundreds of customizations a restaurant staff needs in order to set up the ideal technology solution. In the fast-paced restaurant environment, a few-second delay in closing out a check is truly felt, especially considering how many times that action happens at the busiest times.
When identifying our own customers' needs at Toast, we've seen dozens of specific customization requests such as medium kitchen printer font (in addition to small and large that already existed), larger POS screen buttons, and control over sharing tips with non-tipped employees -- all examples of customization-focused feature updates driven by customer requests.
The restaurant industry itself is unique, but even moreso, each restaurant is unique in its technology needs and operational workflow. Ultimately, flexibility is a core feature of POS systems for restaurants.
How do Android POS and iPad POS compare? Here is how each compare on four essential features.
Android as a mobile operating system is known for being open and flexible - allowing developers to have more control over the software and app experience. Apple's closed environment enforces limitations not only on when and how an app makes it into the App store, but also on developers' flexibility when customizing the experience within that application.
What this means for restaurants: Android POS systems can offer an experience more tailored to the restaurant environment -- and more customization to a specific restaurant. Instead of forcing a restaurant's desired workflow to fit into what Apple apps will support, an Android POS app can adapt to the restaurant's needs.
Both Android and Apple offer regular software updates, and there have been frequent reports of Apple updates causing apps on iPhones, iPods, and iPads to break. In order to have a seamless experience for the restaurant, the POS company must get access to the new version of the OS, update and test the app, and then publish the update. The key difference between Android and iOS here is that iOS apps need to go through a review and approval process every time an update gets published to the app store.
What this means for restaurants: It's not uncommon for Apple to release an iOS update that causes an iPad POS system to break, while the POS company scrambles to develop an update and push it through the approval process. You may find emails or tweets from the POS company warning, "Don't install iOS 9, it breaks xyz and we're working on an update." With Android's open system, OS updates cause less of a disturbance and support a smoother overall operation.
While Apple offers beautiful hardware that consumers often favor, there are only a handful of very specific form factors available: 8-12" for iPads and 5" for iPod Touch. Meanwhile, there are dozens of manufacturers and hundreds of Android device models. Android also comes in small form factors such as a 5" phones but scales to much larger form factors, upwards of 22".
What this means for restaurants: Again this comes down to the flexibility afforded to restaurants, to adapt the technology - even the hardware size itself - to their specific needs. Often, quick-service restaurants focused on throughput will prefer a large form factor in order to fit as much onto a single screen, so staff can make selections faster. Meanwhile, a full-service restaurant (or especially a nightclub) will prefer a small format, without sacrificing functionality, to stay mobile and serve as many customers as possible without having to return to a central terminal.
Many of us at Toast are certainly Apple fans for our personal and office use, but our office doesn't have a kitchen that gives off extreme heat, and our employees are less likely to spill drinks on their iPads, or worse, drop them on the floor. The normal daily demand on these devices in restaurants is very different from the expected consumer use of devices like iPads. Meanwhile, many Android device manufacturers specialize in developing restaurant POS solutions. These equivalent tablets and phones are also significantly more affordable than their Apple counterparts.
What this means for restaurants: Android hardware is more reliable in the face of the demanding restaurant environment, and sometimes built specifically to handle the extreme daily usage. On top of that, Android tablets are much more affordable than their Apple counterparts --both upon first installation and in the case of replacing devices that are dropped and broken.
Learn more about the benefits of Android POS hardware.