POS Systems for Bars and Nightclubs: 10 Must-Have Features

By: Allie Tetreault

10 Minute Read

Apr 09, 2018

Bar Pos System Bar Management Software
pos systems for bars

In the nightlife industry, true success is not 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 done by consistently providing exceptional service.

Your nightclub or bar POS system must integrate seamlessly into that experience.

In most major cities, customers already have so many nightlife venues to choose from, so it can be difficult for new bars and nightclubs to break into the scene and attract the highest quality crowds.

The right bar management software can help owners and operators increase their profit margins and better understand both their business and their customers. More importantly, however, the right POS system for bars can also enable staff to provide top-notch service that delights customers and ensures that your business always remains ahead of the curve.

If you're searching for a new bar or nightclub point of sale system, here are 10 must-have bar POS features to ask about.

In the market for a new bar POS?
Download the Bar POS Comparison Sheet to see which system is best for you.

10 Features of POS Systems for Bars That Make a Big Difference 

1. Customizability 

Ask a bartender about the wackiest drink order they've ever concocted, and they'll probably list off a slew of cocktail combinations you've never even heard of.

The skills needed to make those drinks are one thing - 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 another.

You need a system that is easy to use, designed to handle volume, and makes it easy to customize every type of drink combination your guests can dream up. Customization is key. It shouldn’t be too difficult to enter a mojito with vodka instead of rum, basil instead of mint, and a pink straw instead of a green one.

2. Moving & Splitting the Check

"Oh, by the way, could we split the check?"

As a bartender or server, this could be one of the more grating requests a customer could make. It could mean you have to remember what everyone ordered, go back into the system, and print several checks for each person. It might also mean your guests have a spurring debate about who's going to cover the nachos everyone partook in.

Maybe slightly less annoying - but still annoying nonetheless - is a customer who orders at the bar while they're waiting for a table, and leaves without closing out.

Find a bar POS system where moving checks from the bar to the table and splitting the check should never be a problem. Guests at bars are more likely to want to request to split the check; with the right technology, you can make this process fast and easy for everyone involved.

3. Preauthorization of Credit & 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 due to fake and stolen cards, as well as 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 those wacky drink combinations.

Nightclub or bar pos software with preauthorization will 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 & Happy Hours

At a bar or nightclub, your menu might change every day.

Drink specials, happy hour specials, pitcher specials - not to mention weekly inventory changes from your beer and liquor vendors - makes 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 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 those orders.

5. Suggested Tip Percentages

Bartenders and servers can make a ton of money on tips - and for good reason.

In a way, many mixologists are starving artists - dedicated to their craft and earning money based on their performances. When you're paid $2 to the hour per subminimum wage, tips can be your livelihood.

Related Post:So, Just How Much Should Restaurants Pay Employees?

As a restaurant owner wanting to make your best bartenders happy, you might want to implement suggested tip percentages to help increase the amount of tips your best servers get.

On the check - or on the mobile POS tablet - you can suggest tip percentages for customers, so they don't have to do the math, and so they'll be more likely to tip. Most popular options are: 15%, 18%, and 20%.

6. Detailed Customer Reporting & Sales Reporting

One of the biggest challenges for bars and nightclubs is getting the biggest spenders through the door. Nightclub 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.

By storing customer data, you can reach out to your biggest spenders on New Year's Eve and invite them to book tables before anyone else. A great bar management software does this.

Related Post:The Top 10 Restaurant Data Reports for Your POS Software

A great system also allows nightclub owners and managers to see exactly how their business is performing in real-time, from anywhere. Cloud-based POS systems 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 individual location.

Reports can even be drilled down to see even 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 the clientele, the venue’s efficiency and reputation drastically improve. Mobile point of sale systems that utilize handheld tablets, like Toast’s 8” tablets, eliminate the clunky technology that typically stands between staff and guests. Equipping your bar service and table service programs with these mobile tablets will allow your staff to provide guests the best possible service.

Related Post:The True Value of a Handheld POS System

Using handheld POS tablets, 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 tablet POS interface.

This not only means that you will be able to serve a greater number of guests in a shorter amount of time, but also that your staff members can spend more time interacting with your guests and VIPs via bottle service 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 that their employees can access and the actions that 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 roles. For instance, you can set up job-based permission 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 a default permission to all of your bartenders. You can know that your data is secure and 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 one point in time. Employee theft at bars and nightclubs is particularly high due to the large volume of cash flow. According to Bevinco, “a global leader in profit management for bars and eateries,” the vast majority of bars lose greater than 20% of their sales to various forms of employee theft.

Related Post:8 Ways Your Staff is Stealing From Your Restaurant Right Now

In addition to helping owners and operators detect theft through detailed sales and inventory reporting, some bar POS system solutions also offer cash drawer management to further protect against employee 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 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 & 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 late hours updating a spreadsheet.

Related Post:Bar Inventory Basics: How to Do Liquor Inventory

Plus, tracking inventory in a bar has its own advantages - namely, catching theft and situations where bartenders are pouring one out for their friends. Inventory variance reports compare your actual inventory to your theoretical inventory so you can diagnose where your variances are— waste, overpouring, theft — and start improving processes and training.

What Are Your Must-Have Bar POS Features?

With so much going on, it can be very easy for things to fall through the cracks or to get overlooked. An optimized POS system for bars will help streamline operations, better understand customers, and allow staff to provide the best possible service to all of your guests.

At the end of the day, this will both improve the business's bottom line while also helping your establishment become one of the hottest venues in your city.

What are your must-have bar POS features? Share in the comments below!

This blog was initially published in February 2015 by Sam Kusinitz and has since been updated with new information.

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