Groupon Expands Breadcrumb POS, Shifts its Small Business Strategy

Groupon Breadcrumb POS for small businesses

Still thinking of Groupon as a company that sends out daily deal emails all the while incurring the ire of small businesses that lose money on one-time customers? Well, think again.  That’s the old story.

Groupon has a much more compelling small business story to tell in 2013.  It’s a very positive story, in fact.  One part of that story is how Groupon is repositioning itself as a provider of technology systems to help local businesses become more profitable and increase sales.

Since last year, Groupon has offered a POS system for small businesses. Just this week the company expanded its point of sale (POS) systems to include a new, free POS system called “Breadcrumb POS.”

It’s a downloadable app that you use with an iPad.  It functions as a simple POS system that can be used by any small local business that handles sales using a cash register, such as retail stores and coffee shops.

The Breadcrumb POS system can be used seamlessly with Groupon’s electronic credit card payments processing system. The payments system consists of a credit card swipe device to attach to your iPad. You can process credit card payments at rates that Groupon says are very competitive.

Groupon’s Strategic Shift: Small Business Systems

Groupon has had some tough times on Wall Street over the past year. The company, just four years old, is already  reinventing itself.  Part of the reinvention is on the consumer side with how deals are positioned and made available to consumers. For instance, deals are now heavily focused on mobile, which accounts for 45% of North American deal volume.

But there’s also a reinvention on the small business merchant side.  And that’s where the Breadcrumb POS system fits in, along with payment processing and associated technologies.

In last week’s earnings call with Wall Street analysts, co-CEO Eric Lefkofsky emphasized the company’s mission when it comes to small businesses:

“One of our proudest achievements [is] the economic boost we’ve provided to local merchants. Not only have we funneled billions of dollars into our local merchant community but based on surveys of nearly 2 million Groupon customers in North America, over 80% of the customers we send to merchants are either new or have not been to that merchant in the prior 3 months. Groupon can be a powerful force of new customer acquisition and financial returns for small businesses.

We began making investments about a year ago into what we call the operating system for local commerce. It’s a bundle of technology around payment systems, point of sale systems, loyalty and reward systems.”

He points out that Groupon has to be valuable to both consumers and small business merchants:

“And because we are for many many merchants – hundreds of thousands of merchants – their largest source of new customers, we also at times can be a pain point, in that we’re sending all these new customers. We want to help merchants manage that process. And we want to help them determine how best to target these customers so that they come back on a repeated basis. So we realized we needed tools inside the merchant’s shop to help them do that, and hence the investments we’ve made.”

Groupon Offers 2 Versions of Breadcrumb POS System

The Breadcrumb point of sale system was an acquisition Groupon made in 2012. Seth Harris, the founder of Breadcrumb, is from the hospitality industry.  He was frustrated with the POS systems in restaurants and bars he ran in New York, calling them “old, clunky, difficult to use, hard to set up and expensive.”

So he founded Breadcrumb in January of 2011.  The following year he was approached by Groupon.  “My initial reaction was why would these guys want to get into the POS business?” he said.  But he became impressed with the Groupon vision for local businesses.

The product announced just a few days ago, named Breadcrumb POS, is a “lite” version of the original Breadcrumb PRO system.

Breadcrumb PRO

The PRO system is designed primarily for restaurants and bars. It has a floor plan layout for your restaurant.  It includes hospitality-related reports.  It also offers the ability for servers to modify menu items to accommodate special orders, such as ordering a burger well-done or with no fries.

According to Harris, whose title is now VP of Breadcrumb, it’s more than just a POS system. “It’s designed to help you know your customers better.  For example, with the PRO product there is an integrated delivery system.  If you do deliveries, you can put customer information in the delivery system.  When customers come back in, you can find their information again.  You can even do telephone integration so that when they call, the customers can be greeted by phone,” he notes.

Breadcrumb PRO integrates with several hospitality industry systems.  You can also download reports as CSV files and then upload them to QuickBooks or another program.  Breadcrumb PRO does require payment of a monthly fee, with several pricing levels.

Breadcrumb POS

This free version of the POS system is simpler because, as Harris says, a small ice cream shop may not need a layout plan for tables nor special menu options.  It is “even easier to set up and use” than the PRO version, he notes.

Breadcrumb POS offers simpler reports than the PRO version.  There is no ability currently to download CSV files, however.

With either system, you can buy your own iPads.  Breadcrumb works with any version of the iPad, including the iPad Mini.  According to Harris, it is not meant for an iPhone, as he hasn’t seen demand by small businesses  for using it on such a small screen.

Or you can buy iPads through Breadcrumb. They also sell cash drawers, stands and printers.

Breadcrumb Payments Processing for Credit Cards

You are not required to process credit card payments through the Breadcrumb payments system, but the point of sale system is set up to handle them and work together.  Currently the processing fees are 1.8 percent plus $0.15 per transaction (MasterCard, Visa and Discover) with no monthly fees.  Harris says that Groupon has pledged to meet any better credit card processing rate a business owner gets elsewhere.

The swipe device that you plug into the iPad, costs $15.  You get next-day deposits into your bank account.

“Ultimately,” he says, “Breadcrumb’s mission is to bring together merchants and customers by making it better and easier to buy things.”

Image: Breadcrumb


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

16 Reactions
  1. Shawn Hessinger

    Groupon’s reinvention has been a real sight to see. The tools being provided are not only a potential benefit to small businesses. The company’s story is a good illustration of how change in direction and change in business strategy can completely transform a business. Thanks for sharing this, Anita!

    • Anita Campbell

      Hi Shawn, Yes, I thought the “whole story” was what was interesting here. A POS system is news for small businesses, but Groupon’s 2nd generation small-business strategy is the bigger story. It’s intelligent and I think it will resonate well with the community.

      However, the strategy is still in the early stages. They’ll need more than payments processing and a POS to provide a true “local commerce operating system.” We’ll have to watch Groupon’s progress to see if they pull off their vision.

      – Anita

      • Dear Anita,
        As a journalist I really want to suggest that you interview some small business owners like myself who are trying to use the Breadcrumb system. Please don’t drink the GroupOn cool-aid without further exploring how it looks here on the ground. The customer support is abysmal. I have opened five or six restaurants in the last 20 years and I have never ever had such a horrific experience getting a new system up and running. And we already have an existing restaurant; I cannot even imagine what it would be like for a brand new inexperienced restaurant owner and the managers, trying to work with this system.
        But even worse than the lack of customer service–their “credit card processing” to “help” small business. Nothing short of a scam. We got up and running (with so many glitches I had scores of customers walk out furious) and then on top of no onsite Breadcrumb support for our malfunctioning system, we got an email, an email, mind you, NOT a phone call with a sincere apology and promise to fix the situation, but an email, after business hours on Friday, telling us they cannot process any of our incoming credit card transactions because we went over our #2,000 limit. A busy restaurant will do $2,000 in one lunch, not to mention one day. When we signed up NO ONE, NOT ONE PERSON AT BREADCRUMB (aka GROUPON) told us that we would not be able to process our credit card transactions over any limit. So now we have days and days of money NOT in the bank and tied up by GROUPON. And their response, “we cannot help you until Monday.” It sounds like they have other uses for our money in the meantime. Honestly Anita, you need to take a much deeper look into this company. It’s starting to remind me of the Enron Story.

        Leslie Nilsson
        Sage General Store

      • Anita Campbell

        Thanks, Leslie, for sharing your story. Sounds like it has been painful, to say the least. I hope that someone at Breadcrumb comes over and sees this.

        – Anita

  2. I’m excited to see Groupon’s new direction. They climbed so high, smashed back to the ground, but haven’t given up. And I’m a huge fan of iPad-based POS systems for SMBs. It’s a great solution to the cash register issue and Apple makes great hardware.

    • Anita Campbell

      Hi Robert — Over the past year we’ve heard a lot of backlash coming from the small business community toward Groupon, after the initial positive reaction of a few years ago. It’s good to see that Groupon listened and trying to be more of a partner to small business merchants.

      Let’s see what happens!

      – Anita

  3. Nicholas Halliwell

    Hi Anita

    Wanted to let you know we were in touch with the business owner who commented above and resolved the situation the very same day they raised their concerns. Their processing limits were promptly raised to $50,000 per week, and they received their outstanding payments the next day.

    We performed extensive onsite support for this merchant: May 23 – venue visit, May 24 – employee training on the system (four hours), May 27 – canceled onboarding appointment due to restaurant not ready to reopen after remodeling, May 28 – showed up on site, but employees determined they still weren’t ready for onboarding session due to remodeling and May 29 – conducted multiple hour onboarding session.

    This merchant signed up for Breadcrumb Payments through our self-service platform, which has a $2,000 weekly limit until their identity can be verified. We sent the merchant a message asking them to verify identity and they did not respond to it. However, all merchants can continue to process credit cards even if they hit their limits. Limits are a standard industry feature for unknown/self-serve merchants and are easily lifted once Merchant’s business is confirmed.

    One of benefits of having 24/7 live support, which comes free with Breadcrumb, is that we’re always here to take care of your needs and keep your business running smoothly.



  4. Breadcrump arbitrarily “stopped” payments to our bank account. No notification, no email, no call. About 97% of our revenue comes from credit cards and this was a big deal. It affected payroll, accounts payable and general cash flow. They need MUCH BETTER contact and customer service.

    • Hi Adam, we checked with our support team and it appears the issue has been resolved and you’re able to continue processing payments. Let us know if you have any other questions by contacting Thanks!

  5. Here is an update from the real world of a multi unit restaurant and the Breadcrumb POS…..I have tried to stick by Breadcrumb for over a year…..they keep trying but good intentions only get you so far….sooner or later, you have to deliver and they just cant seem to get the damn thing to work. After much hoopla, they created this offline mode that was supposed to save us from the internet or cloud going down. But tonight we got our first real test, as all of Breadcrumbs system went down. So we assumed the new offline mode would save the day….ooops…..Can you say Sh!tshow!!!! Dont even think about getting this POS system, no matter how much they tell you the problems are in the past, etc…..they just don’t seem to have people that know what they are doing. What a nitemare experience it has been….

    • Hi Michelle,

      We hear you and we are sorry for the issues you experienced and we want to help—we understand how crucial point of sale is to running your restaurant. We’d love to reach out to you directly to discuss what specific issues you experienced and what we can do to resolve anything outstanding. What is the name of your restaurant and/or bar?