The Best POS Systems for Bars and Nightclubs: 10 Must-Have Features
Bar POS systems and nightclub software can help owners increase their profit margins while also attracting loyal customers and big spenders.
In the nightlife industry, true success isn’t just measured by high sales and large crowds. The ultimate goal is achieving status as one of the hottest venues in your city, and this is accomplished by consistently providing guests with exceptional service. Depending on your bar or club, that can mean quick service, personalized service, or service that includes a long chat over a beer. But for any bar or nightclub, it’s critical to have staff and systems in place that can keep up with a uniquely challenging, fast-paced, crowded environment.
To keep the service and guest experience seamless, you need a nightclub or bar point-of-sale (POS) system that can keep up with the rush.
With the right bar management software and technology, owners and operators can increase their profit margins and better understand both their business and their customers. More importantly, the right POS system will allow bar and nightclub staff to spend less time in front of the screen and more time in front of customers, pouring delicious drinks and making connections.
If you're searching for a new POS system for your bar or nightclub, or looking to open a bar, here are 10 must-have POS features to look for.
The Top 10 Features for a Bar POS System
Ask a bartender about the strangest drink order they've ever concocted, and they'll probably list off a slew of cocktail combinations you're not familiar with.
The skills needed to make those drinks are crucial — which is why many bars and nightclubs have apprenticeship training programs — but the skills needed to ring up those orders on the POS system are also important.
You need a system that is easy to use, designed to handle volume, and makes it easy to customize every drink combination your guests can dream up. Customization is key. It shouldn’t be difficult to enter a mojito with vodka instead of rum and basil instead of mint. A bar POS can help clear up that confusion.
2. Ability to Move and Split the Check
"Oh, by the way, could we split the check?"
To a bartender or server, this can be one of the more grating requests a customer makes. It could mean you have to remember what everyone ordered, go back into the system, and print a check for each person. It might also mean your guests are about to have a debate about who's going to cover the nachos everyone shared.
Maybe less frustrating — but still frustrating nonetheless — is a customer who orders at the bar while they're waiting for a table and leaves without closing out their tab.
Find a bar POS system where moving checks from the bar to the table and splitting them is never an issue. Guests at bars are more likely to want to divide the bill, either among locations or members of their party. With the right bar POS software, you can make this process fast and easy for everyone.
3. Preauthorization of Credit and Debit Cards
Credit and debit card preauthorization (or "preauth") allows bartenders to swipe a customer's credit card, securely save that information as their bar tab, and verify that the card is real and has a preconfigured amount of funds on it.
Why is this important? In the bar and nightclub industry, things move fast, and besides having to look out for fake IDs, you might also have to look out for fake credit cards. With preauth, you limit fake and stolen cards, as well as the liability of large, unpaid checks due to insufficient funds. You can also customize the amount that you preauthorize, only allowing cards that have a certain amount — whether it's $1, $50, or the exact amount on the check — to be used.
Plus, because preauth only requires one tap, bartenders can speed up service, spending less time at the point of sale system and more time making drinks.
Nightclub or bar POS software with preauthorization will also immediately tokenize and encrypt customer credit card information when it's swiped, so no sensitive information is stored on the device.
4. Easy Menu Management for Daily Drink Specials and Happy Hours
At a bar or nightclub, a menu might change daily.
Drink specials, happy hour specials, and pitcher specials — not to mention weekly inventory changes from your beer and liquor vendors — make your menu a living, breathing entity.
So why should you have to restart your system to change a menu item? Why should you have to be at the bar to get into the menu management software?
With a cloud-based bar POS system, you can add your specials on your phone, while lying on your couch at home. Or, if you're suddenly out of a keg, you can 86 an item with the tap of a button, and communicate that change to every bartender or server, so they know immediately not to take orders for that beer.
5. Suggested Tip Percentages
Bartenders and servers can make a ton of money on tips — and for good reason. For most bartenders, tips make up a very significant part of their livelihood.
As a restaurant owner wanting to keep your bartenders happy and put more money in their pockets, you might want to implement suggested tip percentages to help increase the amount of tips your servers and bartenders get.
On the check, or a handheld POS device, you can suggest tip percentages to customers so they don't have to do the math, and then they'll be more likely to tip. The most popular options for suggested tip percentages are 15%, 18%, and 20%.
6. Detailed Customer Reporting & Sales Reporting
One of the biggest challenges for bars and nightclubs is getting customers through the door and coming back for more. It becomes a lot easier with the right bar POS software.
Nightclub and bar POS management software that has a built-in customer relationship management (CRM) system enables you to collect guests’ contact information and detailed order history any time customers pay with a debit or credit card. This information can be used to create a contact list that can then be used to notify customers about upcoming promotions and events without having to hire a promoter or marketing professional.
By storing customer data using a great bar management software, you can identify and reach out to your biggest spenders for big nights like New Year’s Eve and invite them to book tables before anyone else.
A great bar POS system also allows nightclub owners and managers to see exactly how their business is performing in real-time, from anywhere. Cloud-based POS solutions that offer enterprise reporting give owners and managers secure access to detailed sales, inventory, and labor reports across all of their businesses or segmented for each location.
You can even drill down into reports to see more in-depth information such as a specific employee’s productivity or the sales of a particular menu item. If you already own multiple businesses or plan to expand in the future, this feature will prove invaluable to you as you look to manage and understand all of your various operations and how each is contributing to your bottom line.
7. Mobile POS Hardware
When staff members spend more time with your guests, your bar or nightclub’s efficiency and reputation drastically improve. Mobile POS systems that utilize handhelds eliminate the clunky technology that typically stands between staff and guests. Equipping your bar service and table service programs with these handheld devices will allow your staff to provide guests with the best possible service.
Using handheld bar POS systems, employees can quickly and effortlessly accept orders, process payments, and complete transactions all while interacting with their guests. Customers can even tip, sign, and request digital, text, or email receipts right on the handheld POS interface.
This not only means that you’ll be able to serve more guests in a shorter amount of time, but also that your staff members can spend more time interacting with your guests and VIPs instead of maneuvering back and forth through the crowd to access a central payment terminal.
8. User Access Permissions
Many POS systems allow owners to customize user access permissions to control the information their employees can access and the actions they can complete using the system. There are two primary ways to control user permissions: job-based permissions and individual personnel permissions.
Job-based permissions allow business owners to set specific, default configurations for all of their employees based on their roles. For instance, you can set up job-based permissions so your bartenders and servers cannot provide voids and comps without a manager's approval.
Individual personnel permissions are configured and assigned to specific employees. If one of your bartenders is being trained for a management position, for example, and you want to provide her with access to your labor reports, you can do so without assigning default permission to all of your bartenders. This lets you know that your data is secure and that your staff members are only capable of performing actions that you have approved.
9. Cash Drawer Management
Approximately 95% of all businesses experience theft at some point. Employee theft at bars and nightclubs is particularly high due to the large volume of cash flow. According to Bevinco, bars can “lose roughly 20% of their inventory to free drinks, over-pouring, and theft unless it is managed in a very specific way.”
In addition to helping owners and operators detect theft through detailed sales and inventory reporting, some bar and nightclub POS systems also offer cash drawer management to further protect against theft. These systems offer functionality like the ability to track multiple cash drawers separately, the option to tie specific cash drawers to individual employees, and even the implementation of blind closeout capabilities.
Blind closeout requires employees to reconcile cash at the end of their shift without notifying them of the exact amount that they are expected to return. The blind closeout feature makes close-of-day tasks far less time-consuming for managers while also providing employee accountability and financial security.
10. Bar and Liquor Inventory
Liquor costs in the restaurant and bar industry are typically 18-20% of total liquor sales. The more you can optimize your liquor cost percentage, the more money your business will make.
With real-time restaurant inventory software, you can track your food inventory, suppliers, units, and prices on your computer, phone, or tablet so you know what to reorder and when — without having to spend long hours updating a spreadsheet.
Plus, tracking inventory in a bar has its advantages — namely, noticing situations where bartenders are over-pouring or giving away too many free drinks. Inventory variance reports compare your actual inventory to your theoretical inventory so you can diagnose where your variances are — waste, over-pouring, theft — and start improving processes and training.
Your Bar Needs the Best Technology
The features of bar POS systems are unique even when compared to other restaurant concepts. Preauthorization, ability to split checks, and customized happy hour and drink specials are some of the most valuable features for bar POS software and will make a busy night in your bar a breeze.
With so much happening in a bar or nightclub, it can be easy for things to fall through the cracks. An optimized bar POS system will help your spot — streamlining operations, better understanding customers, and allowing staff to provide the best possible service to all of your guests.
At the end of the day, reliable bar POS software will both improve your business's bottom line while helping your establishment become one of the hottest venues in town.