Why The Best Restaurant POS Systems Should Never Use An Offline Mode
Updated: Feb 1
Before explaining why using an Offline Mode is a terrible idea for restaurant POS systems, let’s first discuss what an Offline Mode is and how it came to be.
In the mid-1990’s the Internet was born. If you’re old enough to remember, the early experiences of logging onto the Internet were rather painful. First, you had the dial-up modem which took a minimum of 20 seconds to connect. Then you had excruciatingly slow load times because of horrific download speeds. It was not uncommon for a single web page to take minutes to fully load. Thankfully these performance issues are in the rearview mirror, but one problem that still (shockingly) remains is Reliability.
Anyone with a brick and mortar business that is open throughout the day can attest to the frequent outages. Thankfully they don’t last as long as they used to, but being without an Internet connection for even a few minutes can cause major problems for a restaurant.
The Best Restaurant POS Systems Include These Features
POS systems that cater to restaurants need an Internet connection to:
Process credit card charges
Send orders to the kitchen and bar
Manage employee shifts
These are crucial, basic functions that can’t be compromised.
As a result, virtually every POS system has employed the same solution for decades when a restaurant loses their connection: switch to an “Offline Mode”.
What is an Offline Mode?
Every system’s Offline Mode is different, but the basic premise is that when your Internet goes down you can still perform the core POS functions by switching to the Offline Mode. When your connection is restored, the data accumulated in the Offline Mode then syncs and updates.
On the surface, this sounds like a good idea. But as any restaurant owner can attest, there are many problems and dangers associated with the Offline Mode.
Offline Mode Problem #1: You Can’t Process Credit Cards
Arguably the most important purpose of having an Offline Mode, is so you can still process credit card transactions without an Internet connection. Unfortunately, you’re not actually processing the transaction while in Offline Mode. You are only storing your customer’s credit card information (often unsafely) so it can be authorized once your connection is restored.
This important detail is often poorly communicated.
Here’s the fine print of one of the largest restaurant POS systems explaining the risks:
“Credit card payments can be taken while in Offline Mode, however payments will not be authorized until the internet connection is restored. This means that you will NOT be notified of rejected payments until your system is back online. Keep in mind that you are responsible for any declined, expired, or disputed payments while operating in Offline Mode.”
So if your customer’s card was expired or declined you won’t know until your Internet comes back, when your customer has most likely already left and you have no way of collecting another form of payment. This problem costs every restaurant hundreds to thousands of dollars a year.
Another issue is that most systems auto-batch your credit card transactions at the end of the day. If your Internet is still down when the batch is scheduled to occur, all of your transactions in Offline Mode will be lost.
“If your system does not reestablish connectivity by the end of your business day, please contact our support to temporarily disable the auto-batch process. We want to ensure your payments until you’ve had the time to properly update them.”
So after you’ve been dealing with problems all night because your internet is down, it’s your responsibility to remember to call your POS system and prevent the auto-batch from occurring in order to not lose all of your credit card payments. Got it.
Offline Mode Problem #2: Compromised Functionality & Loss of Data
No two Offline Modes are the same, but they all have limited functionality that reduces the value of the Offline Mode in the first place. Here’s what doesn’t work in Offline Mode for the same large restaurant POS system:
Logging in or out of the App/Software
Clocking in or out on separate devices
Syncing and sending orders between devices and KDS screens
Syncing and accessing customer data and online reports
Processing gift cards for payments
And here are their additional warnings while in Offline Mode:
“Do Not uninstall the App, resync data, or clear app data. This will result in a loss of data (including credit card payments) that CANNOT BE RECOVERED.”
Yikes! So in order to record all the credit card payments and data accumulated while in Offline Mode, you are required to “sync” the system. But if you accidentally initiate this sync while still in Offline Mode, everything will be lost. That is putting an enormous amount of responsibility on the customer.
Thankfully, There Is A Better Solution
While Internet Service Providers continue to have reliability issues, Cellular 4G/LTE networks do not. The best restaurant POS systems have made the switch to 4G/LTE.
As our smartphones become even more central to our daily lives, carriers are in a tight race to offer consumers the fastest, most reliable experience possible. Data usage, in particular, has exploded as consumers expect to stream their music and movies without interruption. This has resulted in significantly greater investment in technology, making 4G/LTE networks the most reliable way to access the internet.
We’ve finally reached the point where a constant, stable connection is available, which begs the question: Why choose an unreliable, limited Offline Mode when you can use 4G/LTE cellular networks to ensure you’re never Offline?
With a 4G/LTE router, you’re able to do just that. By connecting a 4G/LTE router to your modem, you’re able to use your modem’s internet connection as the primary source. But when the connection inevitably fails, it automatically switches over to the cellular network providing a seamless, “always on” experience.
As an added bonus, the most recent 4G/LTE routers are now equipped with Cat 6 modems. This means it is entirely possible your download speeds and performance are far better while on a cellular network than with your local internet service provider.
Read our Case Studies to learn how Brigade Society is helping restaurants transform their operations using a restaurant point of sale system that never requires you to use offline mode.