Ambur POS Review
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- East Amherst, NY
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. In 2009, O’Leary began coding the early versions of Ambur, building a custom app designed to work on his iPhone.
Soon after, the pair founded the umbrella company Refulgent Software and officially released Ambur to the Apple app store in April 2011. Since then, Ambur has expanded to 1,500 clients in 29 countries. It was recently purchased by the industry-leading iPad POS vendor, ShopKeep, in an effort to expand the startup’s reach into full-service restaurants. Khan has stayed on as a part of ShopKeep’s business development team, and the acquisition has already led to the development of new features like a web-based back office and multi-location capabilities.
Though these newer features are in the infantile stage (just launched at the beginning of April), they are sure to advance quickly with ShopKeep backing development. The fact that ShopKeep would even chose Ambur as the basis for its expansion into full-service restaurant software speaks to the overall quality and functionality that Ambur already had. Of course, there are still some holes that need to be filled, but they should be addressed pretty quickly.
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.
You can test Ambur by downloading the app from the Apple store. Access to the system is free for the first 30 days. After that, you’ll need to upgrade to one of Ambur’s subscription plans:
- One Device, $69/mo ($59/mo billed annually)
- 2-3 Devices, $119/mo ($99/mo billed annually)
- Unlimited Devices, $179/mo ($149/mo billed annually)
Cloud-Based or Locally-Installed:
Ambur is cloud-based, meaning the software is stored in a remote server and wirelessly transmitted to all of your Ambur-compatible Apple devices. All of your restaurant’s data is also stored in the cloud through Dropbox’s free storage service.
In the case of an Internet outage, Ambur can remain fully functional with full access to all of your features except for processing credit cards, emailing, and backing up the database to Dropbox. All devices are connected within Ambur using the wireless local area network. This is a signal that is broadcasted from a Wi-Fi router, and it allows Ambur to communicate between devices, print receipts/orders, and open cash drawers without an Internet connection.
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:
Right now, Ambur works best for one-location restaurant industry businesses that require 1-10 workstations. However, ShopKeep is currently trying to bulk up Ambur’s feature set to make it suitable for larger multi-location operations.
Ease of Use:
I found Ambur very easy to use. The interface is clean and well designed, and I would definitely call it intuitive. Once you download the app and enter your passcode you can view the home page, which can be toggled between six different screens: open orders, closed orders, menu items, reservations, management, and the table layout (if you chose to enable it). From the open orders screen, you can add menu items to an order, designate any discounts or fees (a tip, for example) applicable to the order, and assign a customer(s) to the ticket. The management screen takes you to the back office features where you can configure your hardware, mange your customers, create modifiers and order types, manage employee permissions, etc. The settings options are the only part of the interface I needed much help with, but the corresponding help page was very enlightening.
Hardware and Operating System Requirements:
Ambur is compatible with the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad operating systems that use iOS 8.3 or later. As for peripherals, you can source the hardware from ShopKeep (another benefit of the acquisition), but not all of the devices offered by ShopKeep will work with Ambur (the bluetooth printers and readers, for example). You need to verify that the equipment you’re purchasing is compatible with Ambur’s system, and you can do this by contacting Ambur directly or going through POSPortal.
If you’re interested you can check out a full breakdown of Ambur features here, but I’ll highlight some of the main players.
- Orders: New orders are easy to create, either by selecting a table, tapping the + sign, tapping a menu item, or even just swiping a credit card. Orders are detailed and include the name of the user who created the order, the type of order made, the date/time the order was created, the date/time the order was closed, the total of the order, and the tip amount added. Orders may be merged or split (into even portions or item by item).
- Audit Logs: Audit Logs are a recently added feature, and quite useful if you’re looking to catch small mistakes, increase efficiency, or manage wayward employees. These logs show you virtually every action in your system, including who was logged in at any given point, as well as when print outs were made, orders were created/deleted/opened/closed, payments were created/deleted, edits were made, or someone authenticated a permissions override. Audit Logs are kept for 30 days and can be emailed to partners/employees or sent to Ambur for support inquiries.
- Database Backups: One of Ambur’s most popular features is the ability to back up your database (hourly) to Dropbox. You can even email your database (as long as your emails allows for attachments of around 10MB). If you email your database, it is copied as an attachment so it can be easily downloaded and/or viewed elsewhere.
- Table Layouts: In Ambur, you can customize your table layouts and create new ones by dragging and dropping tables (represented by circles and squares). The layouts are not exactly to scale, which is a bummer, but the concept works well nevertheless. Each table can be given its own name/number, and you can also designate the number of guests and display the running check total on the table’s icon.
- Employee Management: As a manager you can create profiles for each employee and create employee groups like servers, waitstaff, assistant managers, and managers with customizable permissions. You can set hourly wages and taxes 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. You can also set employee schedules for any date or time, and employees with the Ambur app will be able to check their schedule remotely. Conveniently, Ambur can examine employee clock-in/clock-out data and calculate payroll for you.
- Reservations: 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 a form of confirmation.
- New Features: Since the ShopKeep acquisition last year, Ambur has added a web-based back office and multi-location capabilities. However, these features are both very new and aren’t fully functional yet. Both of them are going to need to see a lot of growth before they’re usable.
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 will work.
The latest version of Ambur includes support for accepting EMV and NFC transactions.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
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.
- Email – This is the only form of 24/7 live support Ambur currently offers, but they seem pretty good about answering emails quickly so I’m not too worried about this.
- Knowledgebase – Like most POS systems, Ambur features a support page that you can use to troubleshoot on your own. I found the articles very helpful and comprehensive. Plus, the entire knowledgebase is searchable, which just makes the whole process easier.
- YouTube – Browse Ambur’s YouTube channel for videos on everything from setting up your menu to configuring your hardware.
- Social Media – The Ambur Facebook and Twitter have been inactive since 2015, which is strange considering they were pretty active up until then. I’m assuming this has something to do with the acquisition by ShopKeep?
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. Ambur has a 3.5 out of 5 rating based on 175 client votes, which is actually pretty good considering how overwhelmingly negative comments tend to be on the Apple store. Comment trends and my own experiences generally yielded problems in the following areas:
- Missing Features – Ambur is missing a few features that a lot of other cloud-based POS systems offer. For example, customers can’t sign for their credit card purchase directly onto the iPad/iPhone/iPod. 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. And while flexible overall, Ambur also has a tendency to keep things too basic in certain areas. The table grid, for example, does not allow for different (visually) sized tables—thereby making the scale somewhat inaccurate; and what tables are available must snap to a predetermined grid. In this sense, the grid is more of a rough guideline than an accurate representation of an actual floor plan.
- Weak Inventory and Reporting – Though there are enough reports to access most of the information you need, the reporting suite just isn’t robust or customizable enough to appeal to mid-sized or larger businesses. This was fine when Ambur was exclusively aimed at small businesses, but now that it’s looking for bigger clients, the reports just aren’t going to cut it. In the same vein, without raw ingredient tracking, you’ll probably need some sort of outside inventory software to supplement your business. 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.
- No Integrations – Without any integrations with third-party CRM software or even an online ordering service, Ambur is left behind many of its competitors in terms of utility. I’m sure more than a couple customers aren’t super happy with the fact there aren’t any accounting integrations either. Really, if Ambur (or, I guess, ShopKeep) hopes to appeal to larger business, these integrations are going to be essential.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
Positive Ambur reviews generally 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 set up 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 tableside because they don’t have to run back and forth to the kitchen or the cash register.
- Great Support – Ambur wins 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.”
Overall, I give Ambur a 4 out of 5 rating. Two or three years ago, they probably could have gotten away with limited cash management features, no raw ingredient tracking, a basic reporting suite, and a complete lack of third-party integrations, but even small businesses are realizing how necessary those features are. Now that ShopKeep (via Ambur) is trying to expand their reach into larger, high-volume businesses with multiple locations, these developments better be at the top of the priority list.
That said, since its conception, Ambur has been one of the better-functioning restaurant POS systems. Really, the intuitive design, general ease of use, and basic functionality are already there. ShopKeep shouldn’t have much trouble helping this product become a truly great point of sale system in no time.
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 that’s what we’re good at. Otherwise, go ahead and get started with Ambur.