Running a restaurant or a cafe is tough business. Not only do you need to take care of the food and ensure it’s up to standard, you also need to manage the suppliers of ingredients, deal with difficult customers, and in between solving operational issues, work out marketing and promotional activities to attract diners.
Modern point-of-sales (POS) systems go a little way towards alleviating the worries of restaurant owners. Automating the process by which orders are taken and communicated to the kitchen, reduces human error, making sure customers get their correct order and that accounts and payments are done accurately.
However, simple POS systems are starting to look inadequate in our current smart and connected world. By opening traditional POS systems up to external developers as well as out towards the cloud, opportunities abound for restaurant owners to both, simplify existing processes such as coupon redemption, as well as execute wholly new initiatives such as location-based marketing.
iChef is one such tech company spearheading this charge. Headquartered in Taiwan, iChef makes use of Apple iPads as POS terminals, letting waitstaff enter orders, manage tables, and accept payments. While both, iPad support as well as system and payment integration are available through many POS system providers, iChef is one of the few who manage to combine the two together, saving costs by minimising the customisation needed for a variety of food and beverage outlets.
The use of iPads for iChef’s platform also lends itself to easy expandability. iPad terminals can be added to the POS network as and when demand surges, and they can be moved around to cater to customers instead of being fixed at a single payment counter. In addition, restaurant owners can check on the operations of their establishments remotely, with iChef’s terminals connected to the cloud. This will certainly prove a boon to chain restaurants, enabling more consistent, more central control.
The cloud-based nature of iChef also lends itself to easy data collection, storage, and analysis. iChef’s analytics package lets restaurant owners view data such as turnover, visitor numbers, popularity of meals, average price, and so on. This aggregated data can then be used to generate insights, letting owners plan their businesses better.
Not surprisingly, iChef got top marks among the judges in Echelon Japan Satellite, given that Japan has a rich food and restaurant culture. As competition stiffens, Japanese F&B proprietors are starting to look at ways to improve productivity, letting them focus on their main business of providing tasty, affordable food.
According to iChef Founder Ken Chen, the Echelon Japan Satellite was a good platform to network with fellow startups, as well as get attention and funding from investors. “It was great to feel the startup energy in Japan and learn our strength and weakness from observing others,” he said, “Echelon Japan gave us the opportunity to have five minutes’ full attention from VCs and others, letting us share our passion and achievement in our field.”
In addition, Chen is on a mission to make POS systems more interesting, or ‘sexy’, as he puts it. “Our business is about restaurant Point-of-Sales, and POS is not sexy as a topic in startup circle,” he noted, “For the main Echelon event in June, we want to show the world that restaurant POS could be extremely sexy.”
Echelon 2014 is a two-day Startup, Technology and Business event where Asia’s most innovative startups, early-stage investors and tech industry leaders as well as tech media, gather to celebrate and build Asia’s growing tech industry, as well as make valuable relationships.