When it comes to restaurant management software, a POS system is possibly the most mission-critical piece of tech you need. Every restaurant requires a great restaurant management POS system for its day-to-day operations. It’s essential for streamlining how your kitchen takes orders, managing staff, controlling how wait staff work tables, and much more.
Overall, the right POS plays a significant role in business efficiency as well as customer satisfaction. But, choosing the best system for your restaurant can be tricky, as there are so many available - each with its unique features and functionalities.
This guide will cover everything you should look out for when choosing a POS system. You’ll be able to apply the insights to suit your needs, regardless of your restaurant type, size, or style.
What is a Restaurant Management POS System?
A point of sale (POS) system is an essential device for managing a restaurant. Initially, POS systems worked as cash registers to input and record all sales. However, these days the systems do so much more than that.
Today, restaurant POS systems are fully digital and often used on devices that work remotely from the till. While their primary function is to track and record sales, they can perform many broader restaurant management functions. You might use your system for inventory management, organizing staffing, shifts, profit margins, marketing promotions, and more.
What to Look For in Restaurant POS Software
Choosing the right restaurant POS system is one of the most critical decisions for any well-run business. Here are a few essential factors to consider when choosing your POS software:
Considerations for the Restaurant Experience
Restaurant POS software plays a vital role in the way any restaurant operates. Here are some essential elements to pay attention to:
Using your POS system should be a fast and easy experience. A lot happens at any given moment in busy restaurants, so you don’t want to spend too long putting orders through.
Here, you want to ensure the point of sale has a fast and intuitive interface. The system should also have a fast check-out to make it easier to manage. This is especially important for quick-service restaurants.
Aside from that, keep in mind that your internet connection can impact processing speed. Having fast internet in your restaurant will help prevent the system from lagging.
The best restaurant POS is easy to understand and use. It should be straightforward to navigate, with different menu items and categories easily arranged. The easier it is to use, the more it will improve employee performance during service.
In addition, it should be easy to set up. This includes user-friendly updates to link the POS with your restaurant software. Importantly, find out how difficult it is to update new menu items. There should also be no need to reboot the entire system for an update to reflect.
Easy to Manage
A POS system should make your day-to-day operations a lot easier. Some systems come loaded full of features and abilities, but you don’t always need these. Try to choose a system that isn’t ‘cluttered’ so that managing your restaurant point of sale is easier.
In many cases, a more expensive POS system is not necessarily the best for a small restaurant. A higher-priced system often means it’s more complicated to use. This could require professional training to help you learn its many features.
If you prefer a DIY approach without needing vendor support to run updates and setup, look for a simple system you can use straight out of the box. If it’s cloud-based software (which most are), you can make changes from anywhere, with access on any device. There’s no need to be in the restaurant to access your POS, run updates, and review your daily performance, making your system much easier to operate.
Excellent Help and Support
If something goes wrong with your POS, you will be very grateful to have easy access to customer support, especially if an issue arises during your busiest shifts.
First off, your POS system should come with comprehensive training materials. Some systems only include training videos, while others provide on-site training from a representative. The best solution is to install your POS several weeks before going live to ensure that all staff members are adequately trained and comfortable with the system.
And if you do require emergency support, it's essential to know what this will look like. A good strategy is to test how long it takes support to answer the phone. Does a real person answer? Are they friendly and helpful? This is important if you need an instant support solution.
It’s also worth asking support what they like the most about the system and the most significant complaint they receive. This will help you understand its strengths and weaknesses more easily.
Most restaurant POS systems offer demos that let you explore the software and see if the product is a good fit. This will help you understand how the point of sale system will actually work in your restaurant environment.
Also, see if you can explore any free trials or free software plans for restaurant POS systems. This will help you compare options side by side before investing in anything.
Automated Inventory Control and Management
A POS system is a vital piece of restaurant management software. Beyond just managing sales, it can also perform important inventory management tasks. This can make it a lot more efficient to run your eatery.
Pay attention to whether the system includes an inventory count option with each order placed. The system could also cover things like food costs and profit margins on each item. This will provide helpful insights for improved restaurant management.
Menu management tools like this can either be built-in to the system or work with it as third-party integrations. If you already have food cost and inventory management tools, check to see that they will integrate with your POS.
Your POS system is a centralized platform that holds valuable data on your restaurant. This means you can use it to generate Key Performance Indicator (KPI) reports and detailed analytics on critical factors around your restaurant.
Consider the following information and reports when looking for POS systems:
- Sales by item, time, and department: To easily manage sales and see how different menu items are performing
- Employee labor: To improve labor management and stay on top of employee shifts
- Sales versus labor costs: For a better understanding of your restaurant costs
- Seating performance: To help you evaluate the performance of each service
- Custom reports: This is when you can select custom KPIs and dates to create your own specialized reports
- Auditing reports: To make it easier to gain historical insights into your restaurant performance
- Third-party integrations: Can you integrate data from other tools that your restaurant uses?
- Cloud reporting: Cloud-based mobile POS systems let you provide remote access to information, such as financial information that can be shared with your accountant. This also means you don’t have to exchange reports.
Another essential function of a POS system is managing employees. Check to see that the system can manage shifts and shift requests. Many systems provide functions to track clock-in and clock-out times, which lets you accurately monitor employees' hours. This is important if you are paying staff an hourly rate.
Some POS systems, like Clover POS, have a tip pooling feature for employees. This lets you evenly distribute all tips. Depending on your restaurant management system, this can be very useful.
Your POS holds a great deal of important restaurant management information. This means you’ll want to keep that information as safe as possible. The best systems should offer an automatic data backup process.
There should also be strong data encryption processes. Custom access controls for restaurant managers and owners are essential, as this can play a significant role in preventing theft.
You might require a POS for multiple restaurants or locations. This could include various branches of the same restaurant, or it could consist of food trucks, market stands, or anywhere else your restaurant could branch out to.
If you have multiple locations, try using a single POS that can be applied to each one. This should allow for separate inventory management and sales reports for each site but tie them into a single system. Getting multiple POS systems can be much more expensive and confusing if you’re running a multi-location business.
Knowing what type of hardware your POS will need to work with is important. Some POS systems require specific screens and devices, while others simply take the form of an app.
App-style POS systems are the most convenient, as you can download these onto tablets and smartphones for easy mobile use. Also, consider hardware like cash drawers and printers.
You will also need to know what kind of payment processing hardware your POS will require. Many systems come with their own credit card terminals, while others work with any type of credit card machine.
Considerations for the Customer Experience
Your POS is not only important for your restaurant management system, but it can also play a vital role in customer management and the brand experience of your restaurant. Here are a few essential customer experience factors to consider when choosing a POS:
Processing sales should be a swift and easy experience for customers. This means your POS should be able to process payments of different kinds. This improves the customer experience, making it easier for them to pay quickly through their desired method.
Look for a system that lets you easily split checks. Transferring tabs to a table should also be a simple process.
You also don’t want to rely on a desktop computer screen or fixed point to process payments. The system should let customers make payments from their seats using a mobile POS device, like an iPad.
Table Management and Reservations
Having an efficient table management and reservations app through your POS is also important. When choosing a POS, see if it offers a table seating/floor plan option for your restaurant. This can make planning and managing your busiest shifts a lot easier.
The table service solution should also reveal the status of the tables. This will help you see what tables are reserved, taken, or free. Ideally, your POS should be able to link to your reservations software. This is typically done through a third-party integration, although it can be built-in like OpenTable.
A great POS doesn’t only perform critical back-office functions, but it can act as a one-stop shop for all your restaurant management needs. This can include marketing features.
See if your POS system offers features like loyalty programs, gift cards, customer rewards, and messaging tools. This can make it much more convenient for you to run special promotions for your restaurant. Some POS systems even let you run auto-promotions based on the customer's purchase activity. You could also use the system to figure out special promotions during slow times.
Some POS platforms won't have marketing and promotions features built-in, but they should have third-party integrations. If this is the case, ensure your POS integrates with the promotional tools you plan to use.
Pick-Up and Delivery
Many restaurants want to be able to offer online ordering and delivery options. If this is the case, then your POS should facilitate this. Ideally, your POS should be able to integrate pick-up and delivery orders from various channels. For example, a customer could order from your website or a table, and both will easily ring up the order.
Online ordering lets your restaurant explore a wider market. Try to choose a POS that allows online ordering. You should also look for a solution that allows for remote payment processing. This way, you can run deliveries and accept payments away from the restaurant.
The right restaurant management POS system plays an enormous role in how your eatery operates. This robust restaurant management software covers everything from ordering to table, inventory, and employee management. It’s the heart of your restaurant operations, so be careful about which system you choose.
Understand your specific restaurant needs in advance, and consider your POS system's full capabilities and limitations. After looking at the points above, it should help you to find the best possible system for your business.
If you’re branching out to host events or private dining parties at your restaurant, check out Perfect Venue. It’s event management software that integrates with other restaurant software you likely already use. Organize all your event information in one place and keep the planning teams in touch with every event detail.