As solution providers compete for restaurant spending, Square is making a play for a major untapped market in the United States: Spanish speakers.
On Tuesday (Sept. 13), the financial services platform announced the launch of all its products and services in Spanish. Square Head of Restaurants Bryan Solar explained to PYMNTS in an interview how the move not only expands the company’s customer base but, when it comes to restaurants, boosts efficiency by enabling better flow of information across different parts of the business.
“My grandmother owned a Mexican restaurant. I’ve got aunts and uncles that own Mexican restaurants, and the front of the house and the back of the house particularly — they don’t always speak the same language,” Solar said. “So, doing things to help our restaurants operate more efficiently and help their staff have a better experience — it felt very personal.”
He cited a figure (offering a caveat that he was not certain of the stat) that roughly 60% of restaurants’ back-of-house staff is at least somewhat comfortable with Spanish, adding that the language is many of these employees’ first, such that the move to translate the kitchen display system (KDS) enables restaurants to “operate much more accurately and efficiently.”
Similarly, in restaurants that serve a primarily English-speaking clientele, servers who are more comfortable speaking Spanish can take orders in English, input them into the point-of-sale (POS) system Spanish, and it will appear in the KDS in the kitchen staff’s preferred language. The move removes the time and friction from requiring employees to translate the information and lowers the chances of misunderstandings.
“There’s about $300 million of spend coming in Latino restaurant tech. And so it’s also the fastest growing market in the United States,” Solar said. “And so for us, this was both a move to help our current sellers who had problems or asking for it, but it was also us investing in where we kind of see the market going.”
Granted, there is no guarantee that, if the company builds it, the restaurants will come. Solar noted that immigrant communities are used to technology being inaccessible to them and often will only try a new system if it comes recommended from others within the community. On the flip side, he noted that once that foot is in the door, adoption will “typically go very quickly.”
The news comes as more solution providers compete for restaurants’ tech spending. For instance, a week ago (Sept. 7), payments technology firm Shift4 announced the launch of its SkyTab POS system for restaurants. In June, business software giant Oracle unveiled its payment cloud service for restaurants, Oracle Food and Beverage Payment Cloud Service, enabling eateries to accept common payment methods including several digital wallets.
With new entrants flowing into the space, incumbents are challenged to step up their offerings. For Square, adding Spanish-language options could open the company up to a wide range of new customers.
“We have aspirations that are obviously global, and so we’ll continue to add additional languages as we go,” Solar said. “We’re live in France. We’re live in the U.K., Australia. We’ve got a couple other countries that will add languages.”
However, he noted that the Spanish-speaking population in the U.S. is larger than the population of many other countries into which the company could expand, such that this launch marks a significant unlock for the tech provider.