JOSE, Calif. — Apple has often touted the millions of
consumers who have switched from Windows PCs to Macs and
from Android devices to iPhones.
there’s another, growing group of customers who are
switching to Apple devices that the company hasn’t
talked a lot about — owners of restaurants and retail
Carrubba is one of them. About two years ago, he
replaced all the cash registers in the three restaurants
and nine cafes he and his brother own in the Bay Area
only regret? "Not switching three years
earlier," said Carrubba. "It would have saved
me a lot of time and a lot of stress."
is among the thousands of business owners small, medium
and large who are ditching old-style push-button cash
registers and even newer touch screen-based ones for
iPad has "completely revolutionized that
market," said Rhoda Alexander, director of tablet
and notebook research at IHS Technology, a consulting
companies have been designing applications that allow
the iPad to be used as a sales system since soon after
the first one hit store shelves in 2010. But the use of
the device in restaurants and retailers has been gaining
numbers in use are hard to come by, but it’s becoming
more and more common to see them being used in both
small and large stores. The Waffle House restaurant
chain, for example, has rolled out an iPad-based cash
register system at hundreds of its locations around the
that design the apps that allow the iPads to be used as
sales systems say that the numbers in use have been
growing at exponential rates. For example, the number of
iPads running a sales system from Revel, a San Francisco
startup, grew 300 percent last year, and the company is
shipping out about 1,600 iPads with its software
pre-installed each month, said Chris Ciabarra, the
company’s chief technology officer.
month it increases," he said.
that offer iPad and tablet-based sales systems typically
include several components. There’s usually an app
that can be used to take orders or ring up purchases.
The systems usually include a cloud service that stores
and analyzes sales data and makes it accessible on
multiple devices. And the companies often offer directly
or through partner accessories like cash drawers,
receipt printers, countertop stands, credit card readers
and cases that allow the iPads to duplicate the features
of traditional cash registers.
companies generally charge a monthly per device fee to
business owners who use their services. Some sell iPads
directly to customers, while others direct them to Apple’s
stores and other electronics outlets.
some companies also offer apps and services for Android
or even Windows devices, iPads tend to be the most
popular among both businesses and vendors. They’re
generally easier to support than rival devices, because
there are fewer models to worry about and they’re sold
is so many different places, said Alex Barrotti, CEO of
New York-based TouchBistro, which offers another iPad-based
growing popularity of the iPad as a sales system for
retailers and restaurants comes as Apple’s tablet
business has been struggling. Apple sold 16.1 million
iPads in its most recent quarter, which was the lowest
total for a holiday quarter since 2012. It also
represented the eighth straight quarter in which its
sales have fallen from the same period a year earlier.
CEO Tim Cook has remained enthusiastic about the iPad
line, and the company has been touting its potential for
use by businesses. The headway the device has made in
the retail and restaurant industry gives credence to
owners offer different reasons for why they switched
from other sales systems to the iPad. For Gary
Blackwell, who with his wife, Dita, owns Blackwell’s
Wines & Spirits in San Francisco, a crashed hard
drive on the server that backed up his sales records was
the catalyst. He wanted to find a system that was
cloud-based so he didn’t have to worry about another
didn’t initially care that the system he adopted,
which was designed by Ottawa-based Shopify, ran on iPads.
But he quickly grew to love the advantages of using the
tablets for his sales system. He could check out
customers using one of his three iPads while walking the
aisles, for example, or check his inventory without
having to go to Windows-based desktop PC he previously
used as a cash register.
features were "hideously cool," he said.
portability that the iPads offer is just one of their
advantages over traditional cash registers. Among the
others: they tend to be far less expensive than
traditional sales system and easier to swap in and out
or replace if they break. Businesses can choose among
multiple apps and sales services rather than being stuck
with a system from a particular cash register maker like
NCR or Oracle-owned Micros.
systems aren’t perfect. Laura Rodriguez, general
manager at San Jose’s 71 Saint Peter restaurant said
she’s been having some trouble getting sales reports
after-hours from the credit card provider that works
with her system, which was designed by TouchBistro.
Blackwell said one frustration he’s had is that he can’t
connect more than one iPad at a time to his receipt
printer or cash drawer.
on the whole, both are more than happy they ditched
their old systems.
we got switched over it was like, ‘Oh my goodness, why
couldn’t we have done this in the past?’ "