A restaurant POS system is like the central nervous system of your restaurant, carrying messages and important information from the head – the leadership – to the heart – your staff – and throughout the rest of the body – your concept as a whole.
Choosing which restaurant POS system to invest in is a big decision, one that involves a lot of research and demos with various vendors. You need to consider the best POS software in addition to POS equipment, and that's no easy task.
Unfortunately, after all that time spent searching for the best system, many restaurant owners end up making a huge mistake by basing their final decision on the least expensive pricing proposal. Instead, when analyzing POS system cost, it’s important to focus on how the various costs will translate into value for your business.
So, the question then becomes: what are the different components of a restaurant POS system and how much do they typically cost?
What Does A Restaurant POS System Do?
The basic function of a restaurant point-of-sale system is to facilitate customer purchases and accept payment. With the advent of new technology, POS systems have become increasingly robust in their capabilities. Along with facilitating orders, modern restaurant point of sale systems often offer users the following features:
A restaurant point of sale system isn't one item, but instead a network of products that work together to power your restaurant, including:
There are many different types of systems and pricing structures. More expensive does not always mean better system, and less expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better value. With each of these systems comes different equipment from different brands, including hardware, software, and additional features.
As a result, you cannot compare quotes from different POS vendors as apples to apples comparisons.
Here is a comprehensive breakdown of the POS equipment costs you can expect to encounter.
POS hardware costs vary depending upon the type of system you're looking to purchase for your restaurant. The two main types of restaurant point of sale systems are:
Typical point of sale hardware items include:
Front of House
Back of House
Rather than looking at the total charge for the hardware, focus instead on the cost of each line item. Ask questions like:
Legacy POS systems traditionally have the largest equipment costs, ranging from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars.
Most POS providers offer customers terminal and tablets as well, but only one has created a comfortable, compact, handheld version that offers restaurants a streamlined solution to cumbersome chaos.
Click here to learn more about Toast Go™, the future of handheld restaurant technology.
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At the end of the day, what truly separates one restaurant point-of-sale system from another is the software.
In a restaurant, it's important to have reliable, durable POS equipment, but if the software powering your concept isn't lightning fast, robust in functionality, and always improving, it isn't worth your money.
Cloud-based POS systems typically have a monthly or yearly software fee; it varies significantly between vendors. When you’re trying to judge how the software price will translate into value for your restaurant, you need to look beyond the listed price. Here are a few questions worth considering:
Most restaurant owners will agree that it's worth paying a little more each month in order to ensure both that you and your staff can get support when you need it and that you will always have the most up-to-date system available.
Legacy on-premise systems often charge very little for the software and discount the listed price significantly to make a sale. This is because the monthly subscription typically does not include regular software updates, feature releases, or support.
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Though the basic purpose of a restaurant POS system is to transact and accept payment from customers, most (if not all) restaurant owners are looking to invest in a system that does way more than that. In a way, this is similar to restaurants: a restaurant's basic function is to feed people, but you and your staff do way more than that by creating delightful, memorable dining experiences.
The best, modern restaurant POS systems offer customers additional features like:
At Toast, these features are integrated into the POS experience, so a user – customer or staff member – can access and use these services whenever they're connected to the system.
For example, if you invest in a restaurant POS system with online ordering integrated, your customers can order food online from you website and those orders will be routed directly to the kitchen to be fulfilled; they will also be tracked in your POS system's reporting.
Some restaurant POS systems offer these features as an integrated part of their system, but many do not. What's more, if your restaurant uses additional, third-party vendors to power different areas of your business, you'll want to invest in a restaurant POS system that offers the ability to integrate their services into your system via API sharing.
Here's how much you can expect to pay for additional POS system features:
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You've chosen a restaurant POS system and you're ready to get up and running. Then, it hits you: Who's going to install this thing? Me? My vendor? Who's going to teach my staff and I how to use this?
Installation and training are two very important factors to consider when choosing a new restaurant POS system. These services are critical for ensuring the system and network are set up properly and both you and your staff feel comfortable with all of the different features.
Here's the thing: not all POS vendors offer these services. If you choose a restaurant POS system that does not offer installation and training, it will be on you to both install and train your staff. This can take days to weeks to accomplish.
When you’re comparing installation and training costs, it’s important to look at exactly what is included in those services. Here are some questions to consider:
Paying more for a professional installation and hands-on, in-person training is often worthwhile to restaurant owners who care about a seamless transition and making sure the system is set up correctly from the get-go.
A restaurant POS system is a significant business investment, and it's important to treat it as such.
Select the system based on the value that it will add to your restaurant. If the quality of the software, support, and services, will prove itself as an investment, not simply an extra business expense, it will be worth it. Your ultimate goal should be to find the system and vendor that is going to help you better your operations, serve more guests, and improve every customer's dining experience.