Small businesses can’t stop work to be IT trouble-shooters when the mobile networks that run their payment processing have a hiccup. Square Inc. aims to solve that problem by bringing Offline Mode to Canada.

Square’s mobile point of sale solution has been in Canada since October of 2012, and is used by many small businesses to accept credit cards. The Square credit card reader attaches to an iOS or Android-powered tablet or smartphone, allowing staff to easily process credit card payments by customers.

One limitation though has been that connectivity is required for a payment to be processed. Small businesses usually rely on either their WiFi network or a mobile cellular data connection. If the network goes down, businesses can lose their ability to take credit cards; and, if the customer doesn’t have cash on them, they lose the sale too.

That changes with Offline Mode, launched today by Square. It allows sellers to use the Square solution, including accepting a credit card payment, while temporarily without an Internet connection. Square logs payment information and saves it until a connection is re-established. In addition to helping businesses with a WiFi hiccup keep calm and carry on, it will also allow small business to bring mobile payments where connectivity is difficult or spotty, such as festivals and tradeshows.

It’s expected to make a real difference for Steve-O-Reno’s Cappuccino, a small, locally-owned coffee shop with three locations in Halifax. With one café, a drive-thru location and a presence at the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market, Steve-o-Reno’s focused on specialty ethically-sourced coffee, offers breakfast and lunch and has a bakery at the café location.

Manager Melissa Armbruster said Steve-o-Reno’s has been a Square customer since it came to Canada, as more customers wanted to use their credit cards to pay for their coffee and more businesses were beginning to accept them. She’d heard horror stories about working with merchant companies, and wanted a solution with a transparent fee structure.

“That’s how I found Square. There was no contract, so we could try it out without obligation and go with something else if needed,” said Armbruster. “But we’ve been happy with it so we’ve stuck with it.”

Armbruster said she enabled Offline Payments and initially didn’t even realize it was on – except when the WiFi network may have had issues there was no interruption in business. She sees it having a real benefit for their business. Steve-o-Reno’s uses Square at all three of its locations – an iPad with a WiFi connection at the café, and a smartphone relying on the cellular data network at the Farmers’ Market and the drive-thru.

“It’s a pretty good WiFi network, but sometimes goes down. It’s great to know that with offline payment we don’t have to interrupt what we’re doing,” said Armbruster. “If we have a big lineup we don’t need to reset the wireless modem. And at the drive-thru, if we need to wait for the data connection to establish it really adds up to the cars waiting on line. People expect the drive-thru to be fast.”


Square users can put a cap on the size of transactions  they'll accept in offline mode.
Square users can put a cap on the size of transactions they’ll accept in offline mode.

Armbruster said it will also help with Steve-O-Reno’s catering business, providing a mobile payment option for customers that want to pay on site.

It’s not a new feature, but Armbruster said some of the backend analytics data within Square has been a benefit to the business from a management perspective. She can track her busy times to help with staff scheduling, identify what menu items are selling better and on what days and times, and track sales both against historical norms and regional competitors.

“It’s great to see if business is just down for you, or if it’s down for everyone,” said Armbruster. “I use it a lot. It’s a lot of information we didn’t have before.”

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