Breadcrumb Review: Groupon’s iPad-Based POS System

Lately, Groupon has a keen eye for buying good startups. One of these recent Groupon purchases, Breadcrumb has recently launched nationwide, offering a surprisingly polished iPad-based POS system. They have over a hundred restaurants using the system so far, but they are growing rapidly (partially because of the influx of resources from Groupon) and look to become a viable alternative to traditional POS providers. I had the opportunity to sit down with a representative, and see firsthand what it can do for restaurants.

With POS systems, simple, intuitive and comprehensive are the three traits that are valued most. Breadcrumb lives up to this task, matching the gracefulness of the iPad.

POS System Basics

Wanting to compete with the established POS systems, Breadcrumb was designed to have all the corners covered. The interface starts with a simple sign-on (different for each worker), shuttling you to the main menu. From there, it offers the main features of a complete POS system, from menus to ordering to labor to payment. Of course, there is an in-depth backend with all kinds of reports arranged in a simple format.

Staff members, with their own sign in, can clock in and out. Scheduling is also available. It has all the basics being a fully functional POS. You can process credit card transactions, keep track of tips and automatically sends orders to the kitchen. It has a clever table management setup and enables you to keep track of the orders at a payment station or lets you bring an iPad to the table if you want to do ordering directly. Taking the iPad to the table may become more commonplace as there are rumors of an iPad mini.

Breadcrumb: Hospitality iPad POS from Groupon on Vimeo.

You can manage the permissions for all the members of your staff which lets you control which staff members can do what (like who can adjust an order). It prompts staff members for overrides when they try to do a task they are not allowed to do. Even though the iPad is a consumer device, you can lock out your staff from doing functions unrelated to work. I suggest you dedicate the iPad to Breadcrumb also for security reasons (as you can get malware from corrupted email).

The most impressive part is the menu simplicity, giving staff members simple ways of searching or entering orders, whether a food item or a wine. This cuts down on time at the terminal and mistakes. Hopefully, Breadcrumb leads to a more accurate idea of inventory and more accurate checks. Also, modifying the menu does not seem hard to do.

Additionally, the reports are straightforward although they seem to address restaurant owners needs. Groupon directly reworked this section to address the lessons learned in their own operations. The one thing that is missing is a direct comparison mode, where an owner may compare one week’s take with say the previous years. Of course, you are able to download the raw data and export the data to Microsoft Excel. But many restaurant owners are not proficient at Microsoft Excel that they can set up a comparison quickly (especially in a visual format).

Pricing, Getting Started and Value

The pricing is based on the number of iPads using Breadcrumb. It is $99 for 1 iPad, $199 for 2 iPads, $299 for 5 iPads, and $399 for 10 iPads. Can a small restaurant get away with one iPad? It is unlikely if you have multiple servers & take out/delivery. If you get busy and 1 iPad causes congestion at the terminals, it may just make sense to try 2 iPads. With a bar and restaurant, 1 iPad will be strained. When you get to 5 iPads, you have a bigger restaurant (multiple rooms or a big floorplan), or one that wants to take care of order entry at the table.

Breadcrumb is about making it easy, not only as POS system but getting setup. Breadcrumb has a startup package, enabling them to expand nationally (with offices in San Francisco and NYC; Groupon is based in Chicago so I imagine in-person help will be available there). Their package is called a breadbox, and has all the necessary supplies, including printers, iPads, cash drawers, routers, switches, cables, and swipes. Compared to systems like Aloha, Breadcrumb’s setup costs are a steal compared to traditional players and they will match the best price a merchant can find for the hardware (like an iPad or printer, etc.). Breadcrumb can come onsite to help in NYC and San Francisco.

As all systems require assistance at some point (hopefully later than sooner), Breadcrumb has 24 hour 7 day a week support hotline that comes with the package.

Drawbacks of Their Cloud Computing System

My main complaint is that Breadcrumb does not function offline, because the system solely relies on cloud computing. For those who do not know what cloud computing is, it means that the memory and sometimes, the processing, happen not on your computer but off-site on a server. Breadcrumb does both critical processing and memory aspects with cloud computing off-site, using the world’s largest cloud computing service, run by Amazon (many if not most Fortune 500s rely on them). It has significant advantages, especially in backing up information and keeping the software up to date. There are even some safety advantages to using cloud computing (as malware could show up on your system from another source) and I cannot recall Amazon being the weakest link (that does not mean the software is fullproof, but that would be a problem in your any system with an internet connection).

Breadcrumb relies on cloud-computing and does not have a backup mode. So if you lose internet connection, normally a rare event, it does not store information (and keep functioning) until it can re-sync up with the Breadcrumb system. So with no internet connection and the 4G mobile network, the restaurant is left to get out paper, pencil and calculator. The 4G network will inevitably be slower, but functional. Of course, the internet may be necessary for credit card transactions (but many restaurants have an old credit card slider with carbon paper). Still, I see no reason why it cannot keep going until the connectivity problem is resolved.

Overall Assessment

Breadcrumb did an impressive job without much resources. With Groupon’s belief in the system, I would be surprised if we didn’t see a product that soon becomes common amongst technology savvy restaurant owners. Of course, I do not know the reliability, security, system updates and future pricing, but the interface is smooth and seems like the way of the future. If you are in the market for a POS system, it should be on the list of items to consider.

Breadcrumb lets you sign up for a demo on their website (www.breadcrumbpos.com) that will show you the interface and make any decision easier.