Everything You Need to Know about Tableside Ordering at Restaurants

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Whether it's through handheld POS systems or QR code ordering systems, tableside ordering delights guests and makes your front-of-house jobs easier.

It’s 2022 and guests are expecting better, more efficient experiences when they dine out. But the COVID pandemic changed the way we operate — both as restaurant guests and business owners.

Here’s the technology you should be aware of to make tableside ordering a reality at your restaurant.

What is tableside ordering?

Tableside ordering is defined as any contactless or limited contact ordering and payment system that allows guests to browse the menu, order food and drinks, and close their checks, either with the help of a server or on their own phone. If you’ve ever been to a restaurant where the server is armed with a handheld tablet or you’ve used your phone to place your own order, you’ve likely experienced tableside service.

What is a tableside ordering system?

Tableside ordering systems for restaurants show up in two ways: via QR code ordering systems and/or handheld POS systems. They're an integral part of the New Steps of Service, a model that has emerged to meet the new needs of restaurants and restaurant-goers. Tableside ordering systems allow the server or guest to use an ordering device that quickens the speed of service and drives a better customer experience.

What is a QR code ordering system? 

An increasingly popular, newer type of tableside ordering technology is Mobile Order & Pay, where guests can easily scan a QR code to browse the menu, order, and pay, all from their mobile devices. The entire mobile ordering process — from opening the menu and selecting food to paying the bill and adding gratuity — is all done from the guest’s phone. This is a self-serve restaurant tableside ordering system; there are no menus, receipts, credit cards, or pens to touch — ever. And while QR code ordering solutions are common in quick-service restaurants (QSRs), they can drive success (and reduce your bottom line) no matter the service model.

What is a handheld POS?

Another option for tableside ordering and payment devices is to equip your servers with a handheld POS. Handheld-based platforms can be carried anywhere throughout the restaurant, reducing the need to travel back and forth to a central POS to put in orders. Toast handhelds can take guest orders, process contactless payments (NFC) or physical card payments, email receipts to customers, and include loyalty and rewards programs. Handheld-based platforms for restaurant tableside ordering are increasing in popularity, even among restaurants that had clung to the traditional paper receipt model for decades.

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What are the benefits of tableside ordering?

Tableside service allows your servers to fire orders directly to the kitchen before they even step away from the table. This leads to the food coming out faster and, in turn, tables being turned over with speed. With a QR code option, guests can see their order in real-time, breaking down their ticket by who ordered each item and seeing live updates on the total cost. These restaurant technology solutions make even the smallest restaurant feel like an established, high-tech eatery.

Restaurant POS systems with tableside ordering

Toast offers both types of restaurant POS systems with tableside ordering, both of which help with speeding up table turn time. Whether you’re exploring self-serve tableside restaurant options with QR codes, or are looking for a way to streamline FOH flow with a handheld POS system, Toast’s ordering technologies are seamlessly integrated into the point of sale and can help you track what's working and what isn't. Restaurants can save both time and money, increase profits and tips, and reduce waste while providing benefits to customers, all of which make restaurant tableside ordering systems even more appealing.

Toast Mobile Order & Pay™

With Toast Mobile Order & Pay™ guests can easily scan a QR code to browse the menu, order, and pay from their mobile device. Both servers and guests can start and add to the tab, and items are immediately sent to the kitchen. In addition, this functionality means guests don’t have to feel rushed once the dining experience is over — they can pay on their own time, or leave as soon as they're ready to head home. 

Top 5 benefits of QR code ordering

  1. Serve more guests with less staff. Eliminate wait times and long lines by providing a flexible service model. Plus, less time spent swiping cards and closing checks may reduce labor costs — leaving more time for hospitality.

  2. Easy to order, easy to pay. Guests can browse the menu, place their order, and pay for their meal from their device on their own terms.

  3. Reduce the back and forth. Guests can order and pay as soon as they are ready. No waiting for a server and no handling of credit cards and pens needed.

  4. Help improve table turn times. With everything at their fingertips, guests don't have to wait for menus and checks.

  5. Increase revenue and average check size. Toast Mobile Order & Pay customers typically see an average 10% increase in revenue¹. And, on average, check size is 9% higher for customers using Toast Mobile Order & Pay™ vs. standard dine in². With item descriptions, filters, and simple menu modifiers, guests upsell themselves.

Toast Mobile Order & Pay™
Give guests the experience they're looking for with mobile order & pay - easy access to what they want, when they want it, from their own device.

Toast Go® 2 handhelds

The next generation of durable handheld POS by Toast is ready for restaurants to take the next step with tableside ordering — and more. It’s built for any restaurant operation: inside, outside drive-through, curbside, and whatever else your restaurant can dream up. The Toast Go® 2 handheld is restaurant-grade (spill, dust, and drop-proof up to four feet), lightweight, and has an ample 6.4-inch screen so your FOH staff can view orders indoors and out with ease.

Top 5 benefits of handheld POS systems

  1. Convenient payment options. Give your guests the convenience of contactless payments alongside dip and swipe. Guests can pay by tapping their cards or with digital wallets such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay.

  2. Serve guests faster, no matter your model. Ready for use indoors, outdoors, drive-through, or curbside, Toast Go® 2 adapts to how you're serving.

  3. Safety first. Doing more off-prem sales these days? Take payments curbside so your guests never have to leave their cars. Having a mobile POS reduces unnecessary contact and streamlines service.

  4. Better service. By reducing the number of times servers have to go back and forth to a central POS, they can focus on what matters most — delivering exceptional service to more tables — and turning those same tables 15-20% faster than restaurants that don’t use handheld POS systems.

  5. Higher tips. Restaurants can also see higher tips by using pay-at-the-table systems like mobile POS handhelds, as tables are turned more quickly and guests have increased awareness of tip amount percentages through the tip prompt screen that appears before they’re prompted for a signature.

How to choose a restaurant POS system with tableside ordering 

  1. First up, you’ll need to decide if you’re interested in exploring a QR code ordering system, handheld POS tablets, or both. These options for tableside ordering and payment options are best used together: Order and pay can be used at every table, while handhelds can be carried for servers to check in and see if guests want to order any additional items or if someone isn’t comfortable ordering from their phone.  

  2. Ensure the system integrates with your point of sale seamlessly. With outdated systems, sending an order to the kitchen can easily turn into a game of telephone. This means miscommunication and incorrect orders can define the restaurant experience instead of efficiency and clarity. Toast Go® 2 and Order & Pay are fully integrated with the back of the house. This means servers will always know which items are in or out of stock, so no more awkward conversations with guests having to explain that the dish they ordered is out of stock.

  3. Look for the ability to connect guest data for marketing campaigns. If you’re not collecting additional guest data and behavior, you’re missing out on a big opportunity to keep your restaurant top of mind when diners are looking for options. Ensure that your system collects valuable guest data (like email addresses or phone numbers) to better understand them and deepen the connection beyond the dining experience.  

  4. Ensure that the systems are worth the investment for your business’s needs. Restaurant POS systems with tableside ordering increase the efficiency and speed of service, meaning that you can turn more tables without diminishing the guest experience. Tableside ordering technology also increases the amount of upsells and tips, which can increase revenue. And eliminating paper menus and receipts saves money and reduces your restaurant’s carbon footprint. 

Tableside ordering is the future

Tableside ordering allows guests and servers to order and pay for menu items seamlessly and with little or minimal contact. While QR codes and handheld POS systems differ slightly in their functionality, they provide a slew of benefits, giving guests more control of the ordering and payment process, allowing servers to turn more tables faster, and increasing upsells and revenue. 

Whether your restaurant decides to implement QR codes, handhelds, or both, the ease and autonomy of tableside ordering are here to stay. Restaurants can save both time and money, increase profits and tips, and reduce waste — and improve their bottom line — while providing benefits to customers, which makes tableside ordering technology appealing for any restaurant looking to streamline its operations.

Toast Go® 2
The Next Generation of Handheld POS

1. Toast restaurants who add Order & Pay typically see an average increase between 10% and 12% in Toast processing volume.  Based on the average impact seen across different Toast restaurant segments.  Based on at least 12 months of Toast internal data.  Individual results will vary.

2. Based on Toast internal data from 2021 among restaurants using Toast Mobile Order & Pay™. Individual results will vary.

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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.