Ambur POS Review
Merchant Maverick's Rating: (4.5 out of 5)
Last Updated: April 20th, 2013
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The Ambur restaurant point-of-sale system was born in Kabab and Curry, a family restaurant in Williamsville, NY. Ansar Khan, waiter and son of the restaurant owners, and James O'Leary, a fellow waiter, realized that scrawling customer orders on a notepad wasted time and often led to errors. The early versions of Ambur were coded by O'Leary who built a custom app designed to work on his iPhone. That was in 2009. When Apple released the iPad in 2010, Khan and O'Leary realized that they had a major business opportunity on their hands. The original iPhone app evolved into a cloud based software that networked and synced between multiple devices. Khan's parents helped develop the app by giving advice about what features would be helpful to restaurant owners. After nearly year of development and testing, Ambur was ready to see the world beyond Kabab and Curry.
Although Khan had just graduated from the University of Buffalo with a biology degree and O'Leary was still finishing his degree, the partners found themselves with a really good thing on their hands. They founded the umbrella company Refulgent Software and officially released Ambur in the Apple app store in April 2011 (watch this great little video about how Refulgent Software came into being). The name Ambur means "sky" in Urdu and it looks like Khan and O'Leary have set the sky as their limit. Their first client was a Greek restaurant in Poughskeepie, NY and since then they have expanded to over 265 clients in 14 countries. Khan and O'Leary's business philosophy is geared towards developing a product "designed by and for people who actually work at restaurants." Their other goal is to offer a sophisticated POS system that can manage sales reports, inventory, customer data, and credit card processing without sacrificing on simplicity and ease of use. Ambur is intended to be a lean, mean POS machine with strong features that are not hindered by a cluttered interface.
After putting Ambur to the test I can confirm that Khan and O'Leary seem to have successfully achieved their goal. It's a cloud based software that can be used on the iPhone, iPod Touch, and the iPad. Once you setup the restaurant on one "hub" device you can wirelessly sync it to all the rest of your devices. The entire system is regularly backed up to a free online storage account with Dropbox and backups can be downloaded to any device. Ambur is designed to be a turn-key management tool for restaurant owners. You can run payroll, create employee schedules, generate sales reports, track inventory, and review customer purchasing patterns in addition to all the standards cloud based POS features such as ordering table side, wirelessly sending orders to kitchen printers and checking customers out table side.
Along with all the standard restaurant features I would expect, Ambur also offers a couple fantastic twists such as customer reservations, customer purchase history, a customer information database, and loyalty discounts and coupons. Version 2.0 is due to be released at any point and it offers several major updates and new features. Another Ambur feature worth highlighting is their payment structure: their only fee is a flat $999 fee for the Ambur license. The one-time fee covers use on unlimited devices as well as unlimited software updates. There's something really appealing about this simple, one-time setup fee as opposed to recurring monthly fees with different subscription tiers. I've reviewed other licensed POS software systems where you have to pay for licenses per device as well as software updates. Simple is good and Ambur is simple.
Read through the rest of this review to get a better idea of how Ambur works and whether it's a good match for your restaurant.
East Amherst, NY
You can download and test the Ambur app for free. They limit the demo by locking in the tax rate at a random point between 3.26% and 5.26%.
As I mentioned above Ambur charges a single, one-time licensing fee of $999. The $999 license allows Ambur to be installed and used on unlimited devices. All software updates are included in the initial fee.
The only other software expense is an optional phone support plan, which is $40/month. Email support is free for all users, though clients with a support plan will receive priority service.
Web-Based or Locally-Installed:
Ambur is cloud/web based. The software is stored in a cloud server and wirelessly transmitted to all of your Ambur compatible Apple devices. All restaurant data is also stored in the cloud through Dropbox's free storage service.
Ambur is specifically designed for all businesses that fall under the restaurant industry category. Ambur can be used for restaurants, bars, cafes, and food trucks.
Specific Size of Business:
Ambur works best for small restaurant industry businesses that require 1-10 workstations.
Ease of Use:
I found Ambur very easy to use. The interface is clean and well designed. I would definitely call it intuitive. Once you download the app and enter your passcode you can view the home page. The left side is divided into six simple categories: orders, closed orders, menu items, reservations, customers and management. Everything is exactly where you would expect it to be. I always like to play around with a software before reading any instructions to see how much I can figure out intuitively. The only thing I couldn't decipher was whether or not there was a table layout mode for restaurants with seating. I pulled up the eye-friendly Ambur user manual PDF and quickly found that yes, there is a table layout and it can be switched on in the Settings area. The user manual was helpful for quickly breaking down every single Ambur feature. I felt like I had a good grasp of Ambur after just an hour or two of messing around.
The Ambur demo comes with a pretend menu and pretend employees. I practiced processing a pretend order of chicken fingers (with medium spiciness), two hamburgers with ketchup, mustard, onions, pickles and jalapenos (50 cents extra), and a chocolate shake. I wirelessly sent the order to my pretend kitchen printer and then processed the payment by splitting it multiple ways with multiple tenders. I added my pretend customer info to the database and then rewarded my pretend loyal customer with an automatic 10% discount every time they visit my pretend restaurant. After I finished my order I clocked out of my shift right on my iPad. Easy!
Hardware and Software Requirements:
Ambur is compatible with the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad with operating systems that use iOS 5.0 or later. Ambur offers a lot of hardware options and bundles directly through their website. You don't have to use their hardware, but I'll include some pricing below so you can get an idea on costs. If you choose to purchase hardware on your own, be sure to confirm that it is compatible with Ambur.
- Devices - Get the Apple iPad 2 with 16 GB for $399 or the Apple iPod Touch for $199.
- Printers - Ambur supports both Ethernet ($299) and USB ($250) Star Thermal TSP143 printers as well as Ethernet ($299) and USB ($250) Star Impact SP742 printers. The Ethernet printers are recommended and the Star Impact SP742 printers hold up better in the hot, humid conditions of a restaurant kitchen.
- Cash Drawer - Get a standard 16x16 cash drawer for $149.
- Credit Card Reader - Process payments securely with the iDynamo magnetic swipe reader for $149. The reader plugs directly into all OS devices (iPhone, iPod, iPad) for portable payment processing.
- Cases - Protect your iPad stations with cases and mounts. Pricing for cases ranges from $129-$249.
- Bundle - Ambur offers two complete hardware bundles. The Terminal Package ($809) includes an iPad 2, cash drawer and cable, Star Thermal TSP100 ethernet printer, and one ethernet cable. The Starter Package ($1099) includes an iPad2, cash drawer and cable, two printers (Star TSP100 Thermal and Star SP700 Impact) and two ethernet cables.
- Installation - Ambur also offers installation and setup support--they'll completely setup your menu, employees and table layout. Price varies according to length and complexity of your menu. This is a cool service to offer.
If you're interested you can check out a full breakdown of Ambur features here. I'm going to cover a couple features that I think make Ambur distinct from other restaurant industry POS software. The first is Ambur's customer management options which definitely deserve spotlighting. Several of the other restaurant POS systems that I've reviewed don't even offer the possibility for entering customer data. With Ambur you can take down customer name, phone, email, address, birthday and notes. You can also assign automatic rewards such as a certain amount or percentage off every time they visit your restaurant. Export your entire customer list to a CSV file for use with other marketing campaign software. Create coupons with your own parameters for discounts, minimum/maximum values, exclusivity, and expirations and then email, print or iMessage the coupon to your entire customer database. Ambur also tracks purchase history by customer, so you can review what individual customers order over time as well as overall purchasing trends. Ambur's customer management options are stellar for a small business POS app.
Another customer-oriented feature--reservations--is also strong. You can add as many reservations as you'd like by recording the party name, number of people, date and time, and any notes. The reservation feature allows you to draw from the customer database too. So if you have a regular customer you can directly create a reservation under that customer's profile. Even better, once the reservation is made you can email or iMessage it right to the customer as form of confirmation. The only feature I felt was missing with the reservation category is the ability to assign a specific table to the reservation party. Maybe Ambur will add this option in future updates.
Even though Ambur is geared towards small businesses it also has a really strong employee management options. As a manager you can create profiles for each employee and you can also create employee groups like servers, waitstaff, assistant managers, and managers. Fine tune system access for different user groups with the permissions function--you can even decide who can open the cash drawer and who cannot. You can set hourly wages in user groups and also indicate whether you would like employees to be prompted to clock in when they login to the Ambur app for their shift. Set employee schedules for any date or time. Employees with the Ambur app will be able to check their schedule remotely. You can even run basic payroll with the options within the software. Again, these are impressive features.
I also want to note that Ambur has the capability to work even when the wireless connection goes down. I checked with Ambur support on this one and they confirmed that you can indeed take orders and wirelessly send them to the kitchen even when the internet goes down. This is a great option. Credit cards cannot be processed if the internet is out, but Ambur recommends recording all credit card information and then manually entering totals once the wireless comes back online. Not optimal, but at least you have some functionality in the event of a wireless emergency.
Integrations and Add-Ons:
At this point Ambur has no integrations or add-ons.
Compatible Credit Card Processors:
Ambur can be integrated with most of the major credit card processors like Heartland, First Data, TSYS, Elavon, Vantiv, etc... Basically any processor that offers the BridgePay payment gateway can be integrated with Ambur.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
Ambur offers free email support for all customers. They also have phone support for a $40/month fee. If you purchase the Ambur license, then your first month includes free phone support. I appreciate that Ambur offers a phone support plan but it's not critical to purchase it because you can still take advantage of the free email support. Please note that Ambur clients with phone support plans have priority with email support. I tested support by calling their toll-free number. Their office in New York was already closed by the time I made the call so then I tried emailing. Even though it was after hours I received a quick response from one of the Ambur staff members. He let me know that their support hours are Monday-Friday from 10AM-6PM EST, but they keep an eye on their inbox in case of urgent situations. Many Ambur client reviews mention how positive their interactions with Ambur support have been. Below is a list of ways you can get support for Ambur.
- Phone - You can call Ambur toll-free at 1-888-770-2205.
- Email - Contact Ambur at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- User Manual - Check out the very readable Ambur user manual for a brief, simple overview of everything Ambur has to offer. I scanned through the whole thing in about 15 minutes. Pretty great as far as manuals go.
- Youtube - Browse the Ambur Youtube channel for videos on everything from setting up your menu to exporting your data to Quickbooks.
- Facebook - The Ambur Facebook page is active and features articles and info about updates. It also acts as an informal client forum where people can ask questions. The staff actively engages with client inquiries on the Facebook page.
- Twitter - Follow Ambur on Twitter if you're into that sort of thing.
- Google+ Circle -Add Ambur to your Google+ circle too.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
Most of the online reviews for Ambur can be found in the comments and review section of their Apple app store page where you can download the software for free. There is almost zero negative feedback and Ambur has a 4+ out of 5 rating based on 87 client votes. After scanning through customer comments on both the Apple app store page and the Ambur Facebook page I came to the conclusion that the only real "complaint" with Ambur is the lack of a few features. This is the only fault I could find with it too. I'll list a couple concerns below.
- Missing Features - Ambur is missing a few features that a lot of other mobile, cloud based POS systems offer. For example customers can't sign for their credit card purchase directly onto the iPad/iPhone/iPod and receipts can't be directly emailed to the customer--they have to be printed. The ability to email the customer a receipt instead of grabbing it from the printer is another time-saving feature that would be great to have. It's also important for line busting so that staff doesn't have to leave the line as often. A few customers have requested the addition of sub-categories to make sorting through menu items more simple. There is also a request for register payout. Some of these feature may be addressed in future updates.
- Weak Inventory - The inventory feature is the only area that I felt Ambur isn't very strong in. At this point it's very simplistic and you would probably need some sort of outside inventory software to supplement your business. You can do basic tracking for dishes, but no one stores baskets of chicken wings long-term, so it's not very helpful (especially if the chicken wing basket comes with fries or other items). A really good restaurant inventory needs to be able to track menu items by ingredients used, not just the completed dish that gets handed to the customer. The inventory system also lacks the ability to create product orders by vendor. It would also be nice to be able to upload photos of menu items and upload menu items via CSV files.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
Positive Ambur reviews far outnumber any complaints or concerns. See below for trends in positive customer reviews and testimonials.
- Easy Setup - Many Ambur clients mentioned how easy it was to setup their restaurant menu, even for people who wouldn't define themselves as tech savvy. It's easy to update and revise menu items and assemble the wireless network between mobile devices and printers. Several clients reported a smooth transition as they went live with Ambur. It only requires one shift to teach a new employee how to use the software.
- High Efficiency - Ambur has saved many business owners time and money. The ability to process orders digitally helps avoid errors and makes checkout quick and easy. You can click three buttons to process a payment rather than manually entering handwritten menu items into a cash register, kitchen staff doesn't have to worry about translating messy handwriting, and servers can focus more of their energy table side because they don't have to run back and forth to the kitchen or the cash register.
- Great Support - Ambur wins major points for good support. One client described the Ambur team as "very responsive" and "eager to help and take the time to listen." Multiple reviews mentioned that when a problem did arise Ambur was quick to resolve it. Another Ambur user said, "I think the customer service is the best I have received in any type of industry."
- Price - While the up front $999 licensing fee might add up to more than the cost of a year's worth of monthly subscriptions with other restaurant POS systems, Ambur becomes more cost effective the longer you use it. If you use Ambur for five years you end up paying the equivalent of $16/month. As long as Ambur continues to offer free updates and use on unlimited devices, it's a great deal. Also, even though they offer a technical support plan for phone, I'd be willing to bet that you could get away without it, especially if you're running a fairly straightforward business.
Overall I give Ambur a 4.5 out of 5 rating. There's very little fault to find and if they address a few feature issues then I'll bump them up to a full five star rating. If you have a small business in the restaurant industry Ambur should be at the top of your list of considerations. Keep an eye on this startup as founders Khan and O'Leary continue to develop a great product.
Once again, if you need assistance sorting through POS options for your restaurant or if you are unsure of how to go about negotiating the best credit card processing rate, please let us know because it's what we're good at.
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