How to Choose a Restaurant POS System

When it comes to cashing out customers, most restaurants need more than simple cash registers. Robust point-of-sale systems enable front-of-house managers and kitchen staff to operate more efficiently, and that can mean more money for your restaurant.

In addition to placing orders and ringing up tickets, “good systems can track and measure consumption and profitability while comparing actual use to projected use,” explains Lee Morcus, owner of Figue Mediterranean Restaurant in La Quinta, CA.

Important POS System & Software Features

If you are looking at buying a POS system (or upgrading what you already have), consider these factors first:

  • Capabilities: “What are you intending to use it for — scheduling and forecasting, inventory, daily specials, time clock functions, etc.?” asks Michael Horst of St. Louis, a former chef who now provides consulting services to the restaurant industry. “Discern what you want the system to provide, diligently, and purchase based on ideals matched against budget.” Horst suggests talking to your accountant and your chef to understand their needs before selecting a solution.
  • Ease of Use: If the POS software is hard to use, it slows down the kitchen and the wait staff, and upsets customers. “It’s important that users breeze through their shifts without problems,” says Asana Nakornchai, owner/general manager of Bites Asian Tapas in Chicago. “Make sure to test out the system and ask questions before investing.”
  • Customer Service: Support and service after the sale are critical, according to Eddie Johnson, co-owner of Publik Draft House in Atlanta. “With good customer support, remote access can ease the stress of fixing a computer system.” Consider purchasing a support plan, he suggests. “This adds to the price, but is very important.”
  • Payment Methods: “Digital wallets are becoming a popular method of payment in the consumer segment,” says Ben Dwyer, founder and president of Cardfellow, a small business advisory in Middletown, CT. “Making a payment with a digital wallet requires a system that will recognize near field communication. Also, EMV ‘smartcards’ are coming down the pipe for 2015, which will require compatible equipment.” Choose point-of-sale terminals compatible with these changing requirements to reduce replacement costs.
  • Mobile Functionality: Tablets as “cash registers” are more and more common in restaurants of all sizes and concepts. Some are mounted at a central location and others are available for servers to swipe cards tableside. Some restaurateurs even deploy mobile devices to enable remote order placement. Servers carry tablets in lieu of traditional order books and pads, or tablets are mounted to tables allowing diners to place orders themselves. Determine how you want to use mobile POS and verify the strength and reliability of your Internet connectivity before selecting a system.

Visibility & Accountability

POS systems can do more for your business than measure the cash coming in — they can give you visibility to many facets of your food service business.

“Whether selling a daily special or cataloging a wine library, everyone knows what’s in inventory and what needs to be sold,” says Horst. “Sales reports can assist in forecasting ordering based on trends. The right system makes that seamless.” Smarter ordering means less money wasted on items that don’t sell.

POS systems also reduce waste and theft. “When something is missing, this will trigger a red flag,” says Johnson. Then you can investigate to see whether the issue is related to mishandling of product or stealing.

Johnson also uses his POS system to track hours. “It’s good to know how many hours people are working so they will not go into overtime,” he says. “We can see if people are coming in on time, what time they are leaving…and of course we can track labor costs too. If there is a slow sales time, we can cut hours down to help on labor. Getting people in at the right times — rushes, for example — is extremely important. Schedule too many people, and you lose money paying for staff and they get bored. If you do not schedule enough staff, you give sub-par services and guests will not return.”

Consider these insights and ease your indigestion for choosing the right point-of-sale system.

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