QR code for success now on the menu

Captiva POS’s innovative software allows diners to beat the queue, and restaurants to increase turnover

Benjamin Grogec, Jump Juice supervisor and Eddie Carty, Captiva POS co-founder photographed at the new touchscreen payment terminals at the Jump Juice store in Liffey Valley shopping centre. Picture Barry Cronin

The food service sector, from quick serve to fine dining, has enjoyed a renaissance in the last few years, but with margin pressure and staff shortages, establishments are under pressure to increase revenue and keep costs down. At the same time, consumers demand quality, so corners cannot be cut.

Company Details

Captiva POS

Year founded: 1999

Why it is in the news: Captiva POS is helping businesses deploy technology to grow revenue in a tough business climate

Innovative technology was one answer to this conundrum, said Ed Carty, chief executive and co-founder of Irish software company Captiva POS.

“We are constantly innovating but what is noteworthy is that QR codes are something that has really exploded this year,” he said.

QR code-based ordering has proved most successful in the casual dining sector, more formal than quick service but less so than fine dining.

Customers open their smartphone camera app and point it at the code on the table and will then be taken to the restaurant’s ordering web site, where they can examine the menu and make their order.

“It allows people to sit down in comfort and order exactly what they want, and indeed extras,” Carty said.

Extras are key: able to peruse the menu at their leisure, customers tend to order side dishes to accompany their meals.

“The person ordering invariably orders 20 to 30 per cent more,” Carty said.

In addition, QR code-based ordering allows for more efficient staff rostering, he said.

“It helps the restaurant with staffing, and with turnover, as well,” he said.

Captiva POS recently signed a significant new customer in the form of Irish Ferries, and QR code-based ordering is now being implemented in all of their on board restaurants.

“We just signed a deal with Irish Ferries, and will be rolling it out on all of the ships. It’s very exciting and will make ordering a lot easier for people,” Carty said.

However, smaller restaurants are also taking an interest in the technology, he said. One example is Shake Dog, a group of diners in Dublin, Limerick and Cork, which is using QR codes in an innovative way: offering service to customers arriving in cars without the need to build complex infrastructure.

“The QR code opens up stuff that would have been prohibitively expensive for anyone other than the large chains. Shake Dog has QR codes in its car parking spaces — they’re on poles — and you can put the order in and get a notification back to your phone. Then they bring the order out. So that’s effectively a drive-thru,” said Carty.

Mini kiosks

One of the key insights driving the adoption of QR codes has come from Captiva POS’s quick-serve ordering kiosks, another technology that allows independent restaurants to compete with the global giants. Over time, it became clear that when customers were able to think about what they wanted and what was on offer, they placed a more comprehensive order.

It’s all about reducing pressure, Carty said.

“If you have only one kiosk installed in a restaurant you don't get as high an order value, as people feel pressured to complete their order to let the next person use the kiosk. If you have two or more, though, people can take their time,” he said.

QR codes, which are scanned on individual phones, solve this problem by effectively giving every customer their own mini kiosk. This makes it a real queue-busting technology, said Carty.

“QR codes can get around this. It really beats the queue”.

Captiva POS also designs and develops web sites and apps for clients, and the restaurants can update the menu as often as they like. This is essential as QR codes link back to web sites, and the site therefore needs to be up to date.

It allows people to sit down in comfort and order exactly what they want, and indeed extras

Interestingly, Carty said that there are signs of app fatigue: regular customers are happy to download an app, particularly if it includes loyalty discounts, but those who walk in off the street are typically more reluctant to do so.

“Maybe we’re going back to the U2 album everyone with an iPhone got automatically. People didn’t want it and it took up valuable storage space on their phones,” he said.

Captiva POS’s web sites are fully interactive and include both the front-end that the end-user engages with and the back-end for ordering, all linked into Captiva POS’s order management and payment processing.

“We've taken on not only the back-end, but also the front-end, so we can deliver fully-functional web sites that are fully integrated with apps. You can adjust the menu, create special offers, offer discounts, and have a loyalty scheme,” he said.

By adding a little intelligence into the mix, Captiva POS allows restaurants to unobtrusively suggest extras.

“You can tap on a burger and then take the offer ‘Make It a Meal’, just as a server would. We've engineered our QR codes and apps so that if something is missing on a typical order it will make a suggestion of filling it out,” he said.

Once an order is placed, a serving, delivery or collection time will be sent to the customer, ensuring everyone is kept in the loop. Not least among these are the kitchen staff, of course, and orders are stacked appropriately to ensure they are prepared not only on time but also in the order they were made.

Discounts can also be automated, by applying rules-based systems that, for the restaurant, is as simple as clicking a button.

“For discounts and loyalty we have a range of preset rules that you can choose from, such as five orders get the sixth one free for example, or you can send out 15 per cent off discount at certain times with a notification saying ‘Click on This Now to Order’,” Carty said.