Ambur POS Review
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The Ambur restaurant point of sale system was born in Kabab and Curry, a family restaurant in Williamsville, NY. Waiters James O’Leary and Ansar Khan (also a son of the restaurant owners) realized that scrawling customer orders on a notepad wasted time and often led to unnecessary errors. In 2009, O’Leary began coding the early versions of Ambur POS, building a custom app designed to work on his iPhone.
Soon after, the pair founded the umbrella company Refulgent Software; they 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 purchased in September 2015 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.
Unfortunately, there are some feature holes that still need to be filled in Ambur’s system and even after nearly two years under ShopKeep’s supervision, not much has been done to fix them.
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: $139/mo ($99/mo billed annually)
- Unlimited Devices: $199/mo ($149/mo billed annually)
Cloud-Based or Locally-Installed:
Ambur is cloud-based, meaning the software is stored on 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; you’ll have full access to most features, with the exception of credit card processing, email, and Dropbox backups. All devices are connected within Ambur using the wireless local area network.
Ambur is specifically designed for businesses in the restaurant industry and can be used for restaurants, bars, cafes, and food trucks.
Specific Size of Business:
Right now, Ambur works best for one-location foodservice businesses that require 1-10 workstations. ShopKeep is currently trying to bulk up Ambur’s feature set to make it suitable for larger multi-location operations, but this goal has not yet been achieved.
Ease of Use:
I found Ambur very easy to use. The interface is clean and well designed, and I would definitely call it intuitive. In December 2016, Ambur released a design update in an effort to make the system look more modern. Once you download the app, entered some personal information, and your passcode you are taken to the floor-plan page. In the top left corner, you have the option to select Home, which will take you to the menu and show you which orders are still open. At the bottom left of the screen, you can select Open and Closed orders, Menu, Reservations, and Managment. The first four options are pretty self-explanatory, but when you select ‘Management’ a list of options pops up. You are able to view a wide selection of back office features where you can configure your hardware, manage your customers, create modifiers and order types, manage employee permissions, etc.. 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 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 Ambur directly or 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 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 printouts 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 platform 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 generate 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 log into the Ambur app for their shift. You can also set employee schedules for any date or time; 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.
- Web-based Back Office: I was pretty surprised by how basic the web-based back office is. It does allow you to see your reports “at a glance,” update your personal information, and access the support page, but that is about it. It’s nice to be able to check in on your reports from any device at any time, but honestly, that’s pretty standard in the industry now.
Integrations and Add-Ons:
At this point, Ambur has no integrations or add-ons.
Compatible Credit Card Processors:
Ambur can be used with most of the major credit card processors, including Heartland, First Data, TSYS, Elavon, Vantiv, etc. Basically, any processor that offers the BridgePay payment gateway will work.
Ambur also supports 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 your Ambur system:
- Email – This is the only form of 24/7 support Ambur currently offers. At one point in time, Ambur seemed to be great at quickly responding to customers, but recently customers complain that it takes several days for a representative to get back to you (if they get back to you at all). I personally tested out their email support and received a friendly helpful response within 11 hours.
- Phone – Ambur recently added phone support, a much-requested feature. To get in touch with a representative, users must call 866-836-0050 and select option 1 for Ambur Support.
- Knowledgebase – Like most POS systems, Ambur features a support page which 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 – I was unable to find much of a social media presence for Ambur. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume 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 the company’s Apple app store page where you can download the software for free. The current version of Ambur has a 3/5 rating based on 188 client votes. Quite a few customers feel that the quality of Ambur has gone done since ShopKeep’s take over.
- Poor Customer Service – Multiple customers cite nonexistent customer service representatives. For those who are able to reach someone, service is extremely slow to respond, is not always helpful, and can be unfriendly.
- Bugs, Glitches, and Crashes – Another common problem seems to be the fact that Ambur is subject to freezing and frequent crashing. Some customers have had problems with bugs in the system; one person claimed that the system deleted an entire day’s worth of transactions, while another had to deal with the fallout of Ambur charging every one of his customers twice.
- 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. Some 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; 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 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 – Because it lacks integrations with third-party CRM software, online ordering services, and accounting solutions, Ambur is behind many of its competitors in terms of utility. Really, if Ambur (or, I guess, ShopKeep) hopes to appeal to larger business, these integrations are going to be essential.
- Logging In – This is a small complaint, but I did find it highly annoying that after one minute and five seconds the Ambur app logs you out. This is great for maintaining security but is pretty frustrating when you are trying to work in the back office, stop to check your phone for a minute, and then have to re-login multiple times.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
I really had to scour the internet to find any recent positive comments regarding Ambur. It seems that since Shopkeep’s take over many customers feel that the quality of Ambur has severely suffered. That being said, here are some of the positive customer comment trends I was able to find.
- 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.
- Efficiency – Ambur, like many other POS systems which offer tableside ordering, 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.
Overall, I give Ambur a 3 out of 5 rating. Three or four 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 their priority list. The fact that ShopKeep is nearly two years into the Ambur acquisition and still hasn’t addressed these issues is part of the reason I’m dropping Ambur’s rating for now. Perhaps more importantly, since ShopKeep took Ambur over, many customers feel that Ambur’s quality has actually gone downhill.
In its conception, Ambur was one of the better-functioning restaurant POS systems. It still has an intuitive design, general ease of use, and basic functionality, but it just isn’t keeping up with the demands of the iPad-based Point of Sale market. ShopKeep shouldn’t (key word here being shouldn’t) being having this much trouble helping this product become a truly great point of sale system. But if they continue as they have been, making only minor, more aesthetically pleasing updates, releasing buggy features, and neglecting to make customer service a priority, I don’t see much hope for Ambur’s future.
That said, Ambur is still a practical and respectable solution for small businesses in the foodservice industry, and I sincerely hope that ShopKeep will invest more energy in this POS very soon. Go ahead and get started with Ambur by signing up for their free, 30-day trial when you download the app or opting for a free ten-minute demo.