It seems like no matter who you are or where you come from, we all end up taking a job in food services at one point or another. I can still remember my days of waiting tables through college, taking crap from customers, taking more crap from the kitchen, writing food tickets by hand, and adding up checks with a calculator (believe it or not, this was still during this century; the restaurant I worked at was just very behind technologically). So leave it to a team of former managers, bartenders, and servers to create a cloud-based POS system that alleviates some of the pangs we endure in our stints of wearing an apron.
Seth Harris, a former restaurant and nightclub manager with over 12 years of hospitality experience, has come up with an ingenious and low-cost POS solution for the future generation of waitstaff: Breadcrumb. Founded just last year, this new cloud-based POS system is tailored only for businesses in the hospitality industry (so if you’re looking to run another type of business, might as well stop reading now). Tired of costly POS systems that were old, slow, and unreliable, Harris decided to create a new kind of POS solution that not only made the jobs of restaurant crews easier, but made the establishments themselves more efficient and helped increase revenue. Co-conceived with friend and Two Bulls founder Noah Harlan, Breadcrumb allows hospitality businesses to focus on increasing business, rather than simply getting business done.
With features for specialty ordering, table management, and customer management, this POS has everything you’ll need to run a bar, restaurant, nightclub, or café. Best of all however, the system works exclusively with the Apple iPad, making this POS mobile! Now servers can take and send orders directly at the table, as well as provide digital checks, and collect payment.
Although it’s only been around for about a year, Breadcrumb has already grabbed the interests of several high-profile New York restaurants. The system is used in Justin Timberlake’s homestyle restaurant Southern Hospitality, Tuscan favorite Da Silvano, and nu-Mexican hot-spot Empellon Cocina. The system is seeing such great exposure that Groupon recently bought the company for somewhere in the area of $10-$15 million! Harris and his team of less than 10 were kept on board for their background knowledge of the industry, expertise in the POS, connection to current customers, and large contact list of new leads. Vice President of the mobile division for Groupon Mihir Shah has said that Harris is “uniquely empathetic to the tight budgets and unique needs of business owners in the food and beverage industry, who often struggle to find technology products that will work perfectly for them.”
This is just one of many acquisitions Groupon has made in the past year in an effort to become the official “OS for local commerce.” Eventually the company hopes to integrate all of its new ventures into a single platform that local businesses can purchase and use. Harris will still be running Breadcrumb under a new division of Groupon called Pospitality LLC.
All plans include unlimited users and free upgrades for the life of the subscription. Keep in mind the Breadcrumb app can be downloaded for free on as many iPads as you want, but only run simultaneously on as many as your plan allows. Breadcrumb also offers a free 30-day trial.
- Solo - $99 per month, up to 1 device.
- Café - $199 per month, up to 2 devices.
- Mid-Size - $299 per month, up to 5 devices.
- Flagship - $399 per month, up to 10 devices.
Anything more than 10 devices will require contacting the Breadcrumb sales department.
Web-Based or Locally-Installed:
Web-Based (see “Product Basics” for more info).
Clearly this is one of the few POS systems I’ve reviewed with a specific industry in mind; Breadcrumb is built for quick service restaurants, full-service restaurants, cafes, bars, lounges, and nightclubs. Breadcrumb supports all sorts of ordering: table (eating in), to-go (eating out), delivery, and bar tabs. Basically Breadcrumb is for any business that requires a menu.
Specific Size of Business:
No matter if your menu is as big as the Cheesecake Factory’s or as small as In-N-Out Burger’s, Breadcrumb can definitely manage it. In terms of number of restaurants however, the system does not yet possess any functions for managing and comparing data from multiple restaurant locations.
Ease of Use/User Friendly:
The Breadcrumb interface is immaculate, elegant, and orderly. Navigating the system is extremely easy, making training new employees a simple task that can be done in less than a day. Since the system only runs on the iPad, the entire interface is operated by swift and simple taps and sweeps of the finger.
Hardware/Operating System Required:
The Breadcrumb system only operates on the Apple iPad (iPod Touch compatibility is reportedly in development). Parameters for the iPad are very relaxed and the 16GB model has more than enough room for the app. Breadcrumb will not work on a PC or Mac (the software is built to run only on Apple’s mobile operating system iOS 4.2 or later).
In regards to peripheral hardware Breadcrumb doesn’t sell any hardware themselves other than credit card readers. The credit card reader needed for the system is an iDynamo reader that works exclusively with Breadcrumb; it is the only one that will work with this software and must be purchased from Breadcrumb (price information could not be found, but I suspect in the $100-$125 range).
Remaining peripheral hardware must be purchased elsewhere. Breadcrumb recommends the following:
- Wired Printers Star Micronics or Epson only - Epson TM-88V Thermal Ethernet Wired, Epson TM-U220B Impact Ethernet Wired, Star Micronics SP742ML Impact Ethernet no journal, Star Micronics TSP743IIL Thermal Ethernet. These range in price from $184.00 to $314.00
- Wireless Printers Star Micronics or Epson only - Star Micronics TSP743IIU USB Thermal, Star Micronics SP742MU USB Impact, Epson TM-T88V Wireless Thermal, Epson TM-U220B Wireless Impact. These also range in price from $184.00 to $314.00
- Cash Drawers - APG Vesario VB320, NuRol Heavy Duty Drawer, or any other printer-driven cash drawer (i.e. drawer opens when you hit “print receipt”). These two range from $102.00 to $129.00.
- Wall Mounts - Rhino Elite iPad Flip Mount, Metal Jacket iPad VESA Case, iPad Wall Bracket, 100X100 VESA Wall Mount Bracket, or Archelon SWIPE Wall Mount. These range in price from $99.99 to $299.00
- Table Mounts - Archelon SWIPE Table Top Mount. This costs about $299.00.
Breadcrumb is truly unique in that it is the first POS I’ve reviewed (cloud-based or not) that only focuses on the hospitality industry. What’s more is that it is only mobile as well (the system will not work on any regular PC or Mac, only the iPad). Like other cloud systems it is accessed via a web browser, so running the system requires the use of a wireless network and a broadband internet connection. Breadcrumb provides no alternatives in case of a lost internet connection.
Getting started requires downloading the Breadcrumb app from the app store and signing up for a Breadcrumb subscription (see price for details) in order to login. The app can be installed on as many devices as you want, but only used simultaneously on as many as your subscription plan allows.
Running the system consists of two parts: the application itself and Breadcrumb HQ (“headquarters”). Breadcrumb HQ is sort of like the back office, where settings can be toyed with and menus, items, and employees can be created. Access can be customized per employee responsibilities, so not all employees can or should have access to Breadcrumb HQ. The HQ menu is set up with a navigation bar along the top listing: home, users, menus, reports, notes, and settings. Each of these fields can be opened into further fields on the left such as general settings, roles, courses, tables, zones, printer groups, printers, void/comp reasons, devices, tax, and my account. The ordering/POS application itself can be accessed by each employee’s unique PIN number and it has 4 easy to navigate sections: home, tables, check, and quick serve.
Breadcrumb will perform all necessary functions from the moment a guest is seated to the moment they leave: table management, seat positions, order-taking, adding modifiers, firing orders, printing checks, and accepting payment. The system supports remote printing (e.g. kitchen printer) along with multiple printers (e.g. receipt, kitchen, bar, etc.). It can even be customized so that each terminal prints to a specific printer or multiple printers (hence the “printer groups” feature). There is no limit on the number of printers Breadcrumb can operate with.
Keep in mind since the system is cloud-based it can be accessed from anywhere (any iPad with an internet connection). As a restaurant manager even if you are at home you can log on to Breadcrumb HQ and make any necessary changes you require including editing menu items, courses, modifiers, and employee roles.
These are arranged a little differently this time since we are only focusing on hospitality features. Breadcrumb does not have any features for managing inventory, purchase orders, work orders, or customer relationship management (customer contact info can be saved for delivery purposes, but the system is not yet capable to track customer purchases in order to analyze preferences; this feature is said to be in the works).
- Taking Orders:
- Two modes: Quickserve or Server.
- Quickserve employs menu items arranged as buttons on tabbed pages; can be customized and organized as you wish. Quickserve is designed for fast order-taking, but performs all the same functions as server mode.
- Server mode employs menu items in list form on tabbed pages; items can be tapped to be added to a check, or added by running a search for the item name.
- Tap on an item more than once to automatically increase quantity.
- Once added to a check, tap on an item to edit it: things like quantity, seat position number, course (e.g. want my salad as my entrée), any modifiers (e.g. well done, fries on the side), notes (e.g. VIP guests, allergic to shellfish), or delete the items.
- Ability to change prices of certain items right at order screen (like for market price items).
- Repeat option – quickly repeat an individual item or a combo of items (similar to the “second round” feature we’ve seen on other POS applications).
- Store addresses and phone numbers for delivery orders. Search by phone number to pull up address.
- Tableside ordering – take the iPad tableside to take, confirm, and send orders. No need for any scratch pads or hand tickets!
- Reprint tickets if needed.
- Dining option available for every new check: table, tab, delivery, or takeout.
- Table Management:
- Table view – number and organize tables by tapping and dragging them across your virtual floorplan. Include obstacles, customize table shapes, and draw in additional tables if needed.
- Include seat numbers if you like to ensure all appropriate food and drink goes to the right guest.
- Zoning – divide tables in your restaurant into different zones for simpler server assignments and restaurant management.
- Color-coded system allows you to keep tabs on occupied seats (occupied tables show up in red, available tables in green). Furthermore the pie chart meal progression graphic shows which course a table of guests is on.
- Easy tap of a table starts a new check.
- Course/Menu Management:
- Create as many menu items as you want and organize them to your liking; items can be arranged into item groups which then become your tabs on the menu (e.g. appetizers, salads, entrees, drinks, etc.).
- Set each item’s cost, price, tax rate, category, printer group, default course, sides (and whether sides have an upcharge), min/max side number, and item status.
- Store item descriptions within the menu so your servers can provide your guests accurate descriptions of meal ingredients and preparation.
- Item status can be set to active (available), archived (doesn’t show in menu), or 86ed means you’re out of that item: will come up as “unavailable” if selected))).
- Create as many courses as you want and assign specific menu items to courses so food comes out in your desired ordered (can be changed by server if guest desires).
- Ability to manage your kitchen with firing mode: a simple tap of a button can fire courses (i.e. notify the kitchen to start cooking!).
- 86 option: cancel menu items as soon as they run out so servers and bartenders know it’s not available.
- Up to 3 names allowed for menu items: one that shows on the Breadcrumb menu (“menu name”), one that prints to the kitchen/remote printers (“chit name”), and one that prints on the receipt (you guessed it, “receipt name”).
- Ability to add modifier groups to items. This means that you can select modifiers for an item once it’s added to a check (things like temperature: rare, medium, well-done, or even sides: fries, baked potato, steamed veggies, salad). Modifiers can be set to be required or optional and you can also designate whether modifiers carry extra charges.
- Customizable reports: track comps, voids, gross sales, tax, net sales, cash tips, credit tips, employee performance, number of checks, check average, and guest average.
- Reports can be exported to CSV.
- Dashboard feature: report summaries of your most important figures.
- View report data in various graphs for better understanding and analysis.
- All data is stored for the life of your subscription.
- Restrict employees from seeing certain reports.
- Customize reports based on time frame.
- Employee Management:
- Built-in time clock to track employee hours. Set some employees as hourly and others as salary if you wish (to clock or not clock option).
- Track employee tips, both cash and credit.
- Built-in bulletin board for staff communication.
- Customize employee access parameters based on responsibilities; assign roles (e.g. bartender, server, host) to specific users and define access parameters for each role.
- Generate payroll reports to help you process your payroll.
- Set manager access to edit shift times and make corrections if need be.
- No limit on number of staff.
- Each staff member gets a unique PIN for access into the system.
- View all tip totals for any given day, organized either by table number, payment type, employee, or time of sale.
- Taking Payment:
- Ability to merge, transfer, or split checks. Ability to process as many credit card payments as you want to pay off a check.
- Void, comp, or discount individual items or entire checks. Ability to remove a whole item charge, take off a certain dollar amount, or a certain amount based on percentage. Customizable reason codes must be entered so you always know why an item was taken off the check.
- Organize checks by name, time, amount, or type.
- Set automatic gratuities (like for large parties).
- Digital check – no need to print a paper receipt; simply show your guests the iPad screen and accept payment right at the table!
- Ability to print or email receipts.
- Can accept cash or credit only; no check, gift card, or credit on account capabilities yet.
- Integrated credit card processing supported (see compatible credit card processors for details).
- Customize receipts with headers and footers.
- Cash Management:
- Run checkout reports at end of shifts to balance your till.
- Set times at the end of day when the system will automatically reconcile batches with your credit card machine.
- PCI DSS compliant: the approved Breadcrumb credit card swipe is encrypted, 128-bit SSL communication is used between devices, and all data is hosted on Amazon’s cloud server (which is ranked with PCI-DSS Level 1 security).
- Cardholder data is never stored; encrypted from point of swipe.
- All data is backed up regularly.
Currently Breadcrumb offers no integrations, but in Breadcrumb’s own words:
We are working on integrations with various accounting, payroll and reporting applications….We love hearing from customers about anything that will make their lives easier and their Breadcrumb experience better. Visit our Community Forum to suggest an integration, or drop us an email at email@example.com.
Compatible Credit Card Processors:
Breadcrumb works with 5 different processors for its integrated credit card processing, 4 of which are highly ranked by Merchant Maverick: TSYS, First Data, Chase Paymentech, Heartland Payment Systems, and Global Payments. Rates and fees vary from provider to provider. If you need help negotiating rates with any of these processors, let us know.
Even if you’d like to stick to your current provider but they are not one of the ones listed, Breadcrumb states:
If your payment processor is not on our list, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org to see if we can integrate.
Customer Service/Technical Support:
Breadcrumb does not charge additionally for any sort of support plans; yet that’s because most of Breadcrumb’s support is available online in training videos, a searchable support knowledgebase, a community forum, and through email (email@example.com). Since the system is relatively new no information could be found by users as to the turnaround time for a reply to inquiries. Individualized phone support from a Breadcrumb representative is also available following an initial email.
Although Breadcrumb has a blog, Twitter, and Facebook page, these social media outlets offer little in terms of system support information, focusing more on new Breadcrumb users and Breadcrumb events.
Seeing as Breadcrumb is such a new system, thorough research turned up very few reviews and more specifically no negative reviews. Personally I take issue with the following:
- No Gift Card Capabilities – The fact that the system doesn’t support gift cards is a big let down. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a foodie…and I love getting gift cards to some of my favorite restaurants! Of course you could maybe work around this and still sell paper certificates on the side (and manually incorporate the revenue from said transactions in your sales)…but wouldn’t it be more 2012 if it was all integrated and on plastic? That being said…I’m pretty sure this function is already in the works by Breadcrumb’s creators.
- No Integrations – In an age when technology is becoming more and more cohesive and helping to streamline our daily functions, the fact that the system currently offers no integrations with any sort of accounting, payroll, or e-commerce applications is a big let down. I mean how much cooler would it be if the system also allowed for people to place orders online with the option of delivery or take-out? That’s a whole new outlet for generating business that is being passed up.
- No Inventory Tracking – Now you might ask why is inventory such a big deal for a hospitality business? Well knowing your cost and quantities of ingredients is an integral factor in determining menu pricing and profit margins. Other POS systems I’ve reviewed with hospitality capabilities (namely PC America) have the power to track how much of an ingredient should have been used for an item, a function especially helpful at the bar for identifying overpours, irrational comps, and theft. Ingredient tracking could also help in maintaining appropriate stock levels so extra food is not purchased and then required to be thrown out later from spoiling. In the words of Real Housewife of New Jersey Teresa Giudice, you never want to have too many “ingredientses” (I just couldn’t resist).
- No Multi-Store Capabilities – For a restaurant business this isn’t as big a deal unless you’re looking to open several locations and compare busiest times, revenues, and most popular items. Still something worth mentioning though…so I did.
Just like the negative reviews, very few positive reviews were found as well. The Breadcrumb site lists several big name users of the system, however very little in terms of testimonials by these users. Only one quote could be found:
This is a gamechanger for our industry. –Southern Hospitality co-founder Eytan Sugarman
Additionally this iTunes Store reviewer had this to say:
This is by far the best point of sale application on the market. It is truly the state of the art. –user named Kyle Cooke
Depending on how many iPads you think your business will require to run the application simultaneously, Breadcrumb is not exactly cheap. If you needed 10 devices at one time (that’s 10 servers/bartenders, something that sounds pretty standard for any large restaurant), that’s $4800 a year! Whereas a hard-installed software with similar capabilities could cost you around $1000 per device (so $10,000 up-front). But you also have to consider the added benefits of mobility, convenience, and data storage/management that you are getting with the Breadcrumb system.
Of course there are some downsides to the system (namely the ones I mentioned in the negative section), as well as the fact that if your internet connection fails your business comes to a stand-still (best to have a 4G or dial-up connection as a backup). That being said, it seems to already be working pretty well for some fairly high-profile Manhattan restaurants. From what I’ve seen, I definitely like the look and feel of the system myself. And the fact that it’s owned by Groupon now tells me new features and integrations are definitely coming along the way.
If I was opening my own new restaurant I would surely take the system for the free trial run. My problems would arise if I liked it and wanted to sign up, because as I just said earlier, it’s not exactly cheap. Opening a new restaurant is costly enough without having to worry about spending hundreds of dollars monthly on a POS system. Yet believe it or not, the silver lining of this is the fact that the hospitality industry has one of the highest failure rates of any business. So if after a year my restaurant fails, I’m only out $4800 for my POS as opposed to $10,000 (if we’re using the hypothetical situation that I created earlier).
Bottom line here is if you trial the system, like it, and feel it’s within your budget, it’s a great system for any successful hospitality business. As for a fledgling and struggling hospitality business, they can find comfort in the fact that if there venture fails they have not lost as much capital.