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Why a Retail-First POS System Isn't The Best Choice for Restaurants


Tessa ZuluagaAuthor

Thinking of upgrading your POS system? 

A retail POS (or point of sale) is a great tool to have - for a retail store. But you're not a retail store, you're a restaurant. You may be thinking of adopting a generic point of sale that isn't restaurant-specific. While this will work for your restaurant, it's still a bad idea.

Your point of sale system is integral to your business. You use it every day, all the time, every time you make a sale and cash someone out. Your staff will be using it. Your managers will be using it. Choose the right POS system and you can do a lot more with it than take orders.

Choose the wrong system and you'll be kicking yourself for a long, long time.

If you're about to sign a deal for a new POS that isn't restaurant-specific, put your pen down and read carefully. Here are the main reasons why a retail POS is a terrible, awful idea for your restaurant. In this article, we’ll also discuss the most important aspects of a restaurant point of sale system that retail can’t provide. And if you run a restaurant with a hybrid concept, we also have the right POS for you.

Why retail-first POS systems aren’t for restaurants 

Let's talk about the makings of a great cloud-based POS system.

Like anything, creating and developing an outstanding point of sale takes dedication, creativity, and passion.

The problem is, that the people dedicated towards making retail POS software aren't dedicated to restaurants. While some features may have cross-functionality, this doesn't mean the system is ideal or even appropriate for restaurants.

These companies may possess dedication, creativity, and passion. What they lack is dedication, creativity, and passion for restaurant businesses.

Therein lies the root of the problem with retail POS systems in restaurants. On the surface, they may appear to be a good fit, but once you peek behind the curtain, these issues are exposed point-blank.

What Does This Mean For My Restaurant?

I implore you – please do not look at point of sale providers with a "one size fits all" mentality.

You have many options for your point of sale system, just like you have many options for nearly all of the decisions you'll make in life.

For example, when you go car shopping, do you immediately go for the standard sedan? Four wheels, four doors, gets good mileage – it seems to get the job done, right? You may shoot for the sedan, but what if you have a family of six? Maybe a minivan or an SUV would be better for your needs. If you do some off-road trekking, you may decide to buy a pickup truck or car with 4-wheel drive.

A car – like a POS system – comes in certain models, because buyers have certain requirements. A standard sedan will do just fine for most people, but others need more than that.

Your restaurant will probably get by with a retail POS, or one that isn't restaurant-specific, but does that mean it's the best choice for your restaurant?

No. It doesn't. To truly succeed, your restaurant needs more than the basics.

Feature Frenzy: 9 Features a Restaurant POS Can Offer that a Retail POS Can't

A retail POS system will let you add items up and close the bill. However, due to the innovative and modern features that a restaurant-specific POS has, using one made for retail can actually inhibit your restaurant's growth.

This is because restaurant POS systems are loaded with features that will enable you to stand out from your competitors. Let's talk about a few of them now. Here are 9 POS features restaurant POS software provides that retail systems don’t.

1. Table Management

Retail POS systems don't always offer table management. Restaurant POS systems, having been built for restaurants, do.

2. Online Ordering

Why pay a portion of every order to third-party online-ordering sites when some restaurant POS systems integrate right into your system? A user-friendly online ordering interface is crucial to increase sales.

3. Analytics

What sold the best today? How can we develop sales forecasts? Which server makes the most credit card tips? The analytics on a retail POS system aren't nearly as insightful as a restaurant POS system, and only the latter can answer all the questions that restaurant owners need answers to.

4. Customer Database

Customer loyalty is essential in the restaurant industry. Who are your best customers? What do these customers love about you? A restaurant POS solution can help you keep track of your most dedicated clientele with an integrated loyalty program and database of customer purchase trends. Better your customer relationships today with a restaurant POS provider.

5. Integrations

Controlling inventory, employee scheduling, sales, gift cards, loyalty, a customer database, and more from one system? Believe it or not, it's all possible with restaurant POS systems. The same can't be said for all retail POS systems.

6. Boosted Efficiency

A retail POS will get the job done – but it won't get the job done right. Restaurant POS systems improve efficiency with features like restaurant kiosks and a software that helps increase table turn time by up to 20%.

7. Strong POS Hardware

Restaurants are messier than retail stores. We spill. We splatter. Things happen. The best restaurant POS systems have strong touchscreens that can withstand the elements of a restaurant. Spill a coffee on the card reader? No problem. Being built for restaurants means being built for the restaurant mess. Check out Toast’s strong POS terminals that can help your business needs here.

8. Contactless payments

Have you ever scanned a QR code on your Apple/Android phone to order/pay in real-time at a restaurant? How about just to view menu items? You may notice this option is not available in retail stores. Choose a mobile POS with mobile payment capabilities for all mobile devices. This is especially important for quick-service restaurants.

9. Kitchen display system

One thing a retail provider doesn’t need is a kitchen display system. Toast Kitchen Display System (KDS) seamlessly connects your front-of-house and kitchen staff so they can deliver unforgettable meals in your full-service restaurants.


Kitchen Opening and Closing Checklist

Ensure your back of house runs like a well oiled machine with these customizable kitchen opening and closing checklists.


The Numbers Don't Lie for Restaurant POS 

The numbers prove that a restaurant-specific POS system can improve restaurant operations dramatically.

Consider what restaurants using Toast POS, a restaurant-specific point of sale system, can see with this kind of POS:

  1. Tables are turned up to 15% to 20% faster.

  2. With improved efficiency, staff earns up to 30% more in tips.

  3. Time and money are saved with integrated sales reporting and inventory tracking.

  4. Restaurants create an insightful customer database for their repeat visitors.

Not all of that is possible with a retail POS. Restaurant-specific systems enable restaurants to achieve these results because the priority of these companies is to make the lives of restaurant owners easier - not to make the lives of retail managers easier.

Does your restaurant sell merchandise?

What if your restaurant does food service and sells goods? What if you still need a barcode scanner for these items? Foodservice and retail used to mean different POS systems... not anymore. Manage both your food service and retail businesses with Toast. With Toast Restaurant Retail you can update inventory, pricing, or other key information for one or all items in one easy and intuitive item management screen. This way, you can focus on giving incredible dining experiences instead of worrying about your retail inventory.  

Making the Right Choice For Your Restaurant

While you will be able to conduct transactions with a retail POS, a restaurant-specific point of sale is engineered by those committed to bettering the restaurant industry and those who work in it.

Because of this, pos systems for restaurants go beyond offering the bare minimum of features and allow restaurant owners to access insights and increase operations in a way that retail POS systems can't. Streamline your operations, improve your customer experience, and better your employee management today with a POS made to help your restaurant management.

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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.