How to Pick a Restaurant POS System

May 10, 2023

Selecting the best POS system for your restaurant is a significant decision that can have a profound impact on your business's success. Your POS is not just a transactional tool; it plays a central role in engaging with your guests, making their experience either seamless or cumbersome. By choosing the right POS system, you can enhance your business's organization, efficiency, and ability to deliver exceptional service. This article explores the five critical factors you should consider when selecting a restaurant POS system.

Top Considerations for Restaurants:

When evaluating your needs for a POS system, consider the following factors:

  • Service Model: Determine the nature of your restaurant's service model. Are you a full-service establishment, a counter-service eatery, or perhaps operating a food truck? Understanding your service model will guide you in determining the number of terminals required and the specific features that are essential. For instance, a full-service restaurant may benefit from check-splitting and course firing capabilities, as well as handheld POS systems to enhance table turnover. On the other hand, a coffee shop might prioritize an integrated loyalty program to foster a loyal customer base.

  • Data and Reporting: Tap into the insights generated by your sales transactions, as they hold significant potential for your business. Consider the type of sales data analysis you prefer, such as comparing week-to-week and year-to-year performance, monitoring top-selling menu items, tracking dine-in versus takeout trends, and managing multiple locations. Identify the key metrics you need to assess daily and ensure that your chosen POS system offers robust reporting and analytics capabilities.

  • Ease of Use: Keep in mind that both your staff and guests will interact with your POS system. Opt for an easy-to-use interface that simplifies staff training and enhances the overall guest experience. Consider the learning curve associated with a new POS system. Is it as intuitive as browsing Netflix, or will it require extensive education and coaching for staff and customers?

  • Accessibility: While your restaurant may be a labor of love, you don't want to be tethered to it 24/7. Evaluate whether having remote access to your POS data, with cloud storage and retrieval capabilities, is a priority for you. This flexibility allows you to manage your restaurant's operations from anywhere, providing convenience and peace of mind.

  • Extensibility: Determine whether you require a POS system solely for order, sales, and payment management, or if you're interested in a solution that integrates with other aspects of your operation. The ability to adapt and expand is crucial, as demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Restaurants with flexible POS systems were better positioned to implement online ordering, contactless delivery and payments, digital loyalty programs, and e-gift cards to meet customer needs. Having control over these features through your own POS system, rather than relying on third-party vendors, can enhance revenue generation and provide invaluable customer insights.

By carefully assessing these factors, you can choose a POS system that aligns with your restaurant's unique requirements and sets the stage for improved operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Choosing the Right POS Provider:

Once you have completed your needs assessment, it is time to compare different POS providers. The options available in the market can generally be categorized into two types: cloud-based systems and legacy systems.

Cloud-based systems are hosted on the web and can be accessed anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection, just like accessing your email or social media accounts. For restaurant owners, these systems offer the flexibility to manage your restaurant remotely. Whether you need to quickly run to a supplier for restocking or enjoy a well-deserved vacation, cloud-based systems allow you to efficiently handle your restaurant operations. On the other hand, legacy POS systems rely on data stored on local servers within a closed network.

Additionally, it is crucial to consider whether the systems you are evaluating are specifically designed for restaurants. There are both cloud-based and legacy systems that are exclusively tailored to meet the unique needs of the restaurant industry.

While retail POS systems, commonly used in salons, pet stores, and other businesses, can handle basic order and payment functions for a food business, restaurant-specific systems are better equipped to accommodate the specific requirements of restaurants. These specialized systems excel in features such as tracking courses and seat numbers, providing comparative reporting across multiple locations, and enabling the setup of multiple job roles per employee. For example, they can seamlessly handle scenarios where a server also works as a bartender by efficiently managing shifts and responsibilities.

By considering these factors, you can ensure that you choose a POS system that aligns with the specific demands of your restaurant and enhances its operational efficiency.

POS Systems Cost Comparisons

The pricing structures for point of sale (POS) systems can vary significantly. When you're in the market for a POS system, it's important to understand two key aspects: upfront costs and ongoing costs. These costs encompass various components such as hardware, software, installation, payments, and support. It's crucial to assess which costs apply to each POS system you're considering and understand the billing structure associated with them. Some companies may require you to pay all costs upfront, while others offer a Software as a Service (SaaS) model, where you make monthly payments. It's also worth inquiring about financing options, as many POS providers offer financing solutions to help alleviate the burden of large upfront costs.

Use Your Network for POS Reviews

Once you have narrowed down your search to POS systems that meet your needs and budget, it's time to leverage your network and seek advice from your peers. Other restaurateurs who are using the POS systems you are considering can provide valuable and candid feedback.

Visit Restaurants with POS Systems

An added benefit of shopping for a restaurant POS system is the opportunity to experience the systems as a guest would. Visit establishments that are using the POS systems you are considering and engage in a transaction. Place an order or make a purchase and evaluate the experience. Is it user-friendly? Was your order accurate? Are there convenient payment options available, and is the payment process smooth? Do they offer sign-ups for marketing emails or a loyalty program? Pay attention to how your receipt is issued.

Your purchase decision goes beyond simply facilitating order and payment transactions; it also presents an opportunity for the restaurant to create a positive impression and learn more about you. Consider whether their POS system enables them to achieve both objectives effectively.

Final Step: Get a Demo, See the POS in Action

Now that you have a shortlist of POS systems you are interested in, it's time to request a demo and see them in action. Most POS providers offer an easy way to request a demo through their website. Expect to be contacted by a sales representative who will arrange either an in-person visit or a phone conversation at a convenient time for you.

During the demo, you will have the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of how each system would function in your restaurant and the value it can bring. To make the most out of the demo, use the following checklist to prepare:

  • Enlist the Appropriate Decision Makers: Identify who will ultimately make the decision about which POS system to choose. Whether it's you, a superior, or a business partner, it's beneficial to have all relevant stakeholders present during the demos you set up.

  • Share Your Goals in Advance: If given the opportunity, communicate your priorities and what matters most to you in a POS system before the demo. Are there specific features or products you want to learn more about? Are there specific business objectives you aim to achieve? This will allow the sales representatives to tailor the demo to focus on what is most important to you.

  • Prepare a List of Questions: Take the opportunity during the demo to inquire about specific functionality, products, and features. Come prepared with a list of questions that will help you understand the system better. Additionally, use this time to learn more about the POS provider as a partner. Ask about their research and development roadmap, any current limitations or gaps they are addressing, and how they plan to address them.

  • Confirm Your Timeline & Next Steps: Assuming the demo goes well and you are interested in moving forward, discuss your timeline and the next steps with the POS provider. Communicate whether you are opening a new restaurant and have some time before needing the system in place, or if you are looking to onboard as soon as possible. Be clear about your specific needs and requirements.

Choosing the best POS system for your restaurant is a significant decision that can have a game-changing impact on your bottom line. With this comprehensive guide, you are now equipped to narrow down the vast array of options available and find the best restaurant POS system that suits your specific requirements.

To learn more about POS systems and what might be the right fit for you, book at POS demo/consultation with Chowbus! We're the #1 POS tech system for US-based restaurants!

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