Before the invention of the cash register, few business owners actually knew if their restaurant or store was operating at a profit or a loss. The invention of cash registers and point of sale systems ushered in a new era of restaurateurs using analytics and information to produce profits in commerce businesses.

The innovation of restaurant technology has become critical to the industry as food, beverages, and labor costs account for 50-75% of total restaurant costs.

Insights gained from point-of-sale systems, such as restaurants sales, payroll reports, labor costs, peak business hours, and frequent customers, are critical for owners to effectively manage costs and increase profits.

With the modern restaurant POS system becoming a necessity, restaurant technology has come a long way from the humble beginnings of the cash register in the late 19th century.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane and look at the history of restaurant technology:


Invention of the Cash Register 

original-cash-registerEarly developments to calculators throughout the 19th century led to the invention of the first working, mechanical cash register in 1883, named the “Incorruptible Cashier,” by James Ritty. These brass-encased machines used metal taps with denominations that indicated the amount of the item and could to sum up the total cash values of the sale.

In 1884, John H. Patterson bought the patent and company from James Ritty for $6,500 after testing several of the machines in his own store. Patterson changed the company name to the National Cash Register Company, which became the most successful cash register company from the late 1800s and led the push to create more secure and reliable machines.

Throughout the 1900s, electronic innovation in cash registers made stealing more difficult as well as made commerce easier and more profitable for business owners.


Invention of the POS System

The electrical calculator and simple computer innovation of the mid to late 1900s led inventors and manufacturers to develop the first point of sale system. The uptick in plastic payments led many restaurants to switch to digital POS hardware that was able to process credit and debit card payments.

These systems enabled business owners to automatically record each sale, allowing them to analyze sales data, take inventory, and adjust buying decisions.

Newer generations of POS systems began to include touch screens, mobile card readers, and shared terminals that integrated with accounting systems. Now, these systems are increasingly web-enabled, so owners and managers can track sales and inventory remotely.


The Future of POS 

Though the POS system has radically changed and revolutionized in the past, society is moving toward a plastic-less payment system. Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and PayPal mobile payment options are persuading many consumers to pay differently than the traditional plastic or cash. These options are supported by some POS vendors already, but will likely be adopted industry-wide to strengthen security and protect customer data.

The next generation of technology will aim to help restaurants better connect with customers, sell suggested products and services, and reach more potential customers through mobile devices. Many vendors are already moving in this direction by capturing data about customer preferences, ordering history, and using this data to create more informed marketing campaigns. This information could also be used to personalize receipts or create suggestive selling ideas.

Mobile ordering pads are also becoming a common POS addition. These order pads allow cashiers and servers to take customers’ orders from anywhere in the restaurant and are integrated with the POS software tracking total sales and inventory.


Final Thoughts

Restaurant technology has come a long way since the late 1800’s. Innovations ushered in a new generation of point of sale systems with detailed business insights and add-on options like mobile ordering, mobile payment, and suggestive marketing.

With the help of modern technology, owners and managers can now make more informed staffing, buying, marketing, and business decisions to drive restaurant profits.