Get Your POS Comparison ToolFree Tool
 

The Definitive Guide to Restaurant POS Systems:

Resources, Strategies, and Comparison

A restaurant POS system, or point of sale system, is critical for your establishment.

From the moment guests enter your restaurant to the second they leave, there are endless opportunities to deliver a remarkable dining experience. Staff must be at the ready, food must be expertly prepared, and everything must run smoothly.

An effective, trustworthy, reliable restaurant POS system can automate many of your day-to-day tasks so you can focus more on delighting your customers. But what is a restaurant POS system, and how does it work? How are point of sale systems different from cash registers, and how do you know which one will be the best investment?

Read on for answers to all of your restaurant POS questions as you’re researching the best fit for your restaurant.

BONUS: Download our Interactive POS Comparison Tool to research and compare point of sale systems for your restaurant.

INSTANT DOWNLOAD
1

What Is a Restaurant POS System?

Let’s start with the obvious: the definition of a restaurant POS system.
First, what is POS? POS stands for point of sale, which refers to the time and place - or the point - that a sales transaction is completed.

A restaurant point of sale system includes the POS hardware and hospitality point of sale software that manages a sales transaction, including credit card processing, receipt printing, and more. Restaurant POS systems are built specifically for restaurant businesses, not retail or hotel.

A modern restaurant POS system can streamline your internal operations, connect all of the various personnel involved in making your restaurant run smoothly, and automatically track sales, labor, and inventory metrics. This helps increase revenue, profit, and customer satisfaction while decreasing employee turnover, order mistakes, wait time, and your stress level.

The modern restaurant POS system is made up of two parts:

  • Restaurant hardware
  • Restaurant software

Restaurant POS Hardware

Restaurant point of sale hardware is made for the hustle and bustle of the restaurant industry: industry-grade and hard to break.

At the center of every POS system is the POS terminal, sometimes referred to as the touch screen cash register. This piece of hardware handles everything from ordering food and sending to the kitchen, to customer payment, table management, and more, and often comes in different sizes.

Some restaurant POS systems also offer mobile POS tablets that allow servers to send orders to the kitchen and accept payment and tips at the table. If you don’t own a table service restaurant, the mobile tablets can also allow your cashiers to take orders in the line, or "line bust."

Finally, some fast casual restaurants choose to implement kiosks to give guests control to place digital orders. As 42% of diners would use self-service ordering kiosks if available according to the National Restaurant Association, this is a big opportunity to stand out.

“Tablets were a big thing for me in choosing a POS system. I've always wanted to have mobile technology because of our layout and the distance from our sidewalk tables to the terminal. A lot of labor was required to take somebody's order, travel back to the server station, and type in that order. The Toast tablets eliminate that”

tablet pos
Joe Guenther | Owner, O’Maddy’s Bar & Grille

Restaurant Software

Now that you have restaurant hardware, you need restaurant software, which will make the hardware run. Restaurant management software will help you run your business more efficiently, with both front-of-house (order-taking, payments, and tips) and back-of-house (kitchen ticket fulfillments, in-depth reporting, and inventory) capabilities.

Restaurant POS software can either run on the Android operating system, the Apple operating system (iOS), or the Windows operating system. If your restaurant hardware is an Android tablet - such as Samsung - it will be on the Android operating system. With an iPad, it will be on an Apple operating system. With a computer, it will be on a Windows operating system.

Both systems have their pros and cons. iOS software is easy to use, as it’s a favorite among consumers. However, it’s not very customizable, as Apple requires app updates to go through a rigorous approval process in the App Store. Also, you have just three choices for hardware sizes: iPhone, iPad, or iPad Pro.

Android software might be less familiar, but it is extremely flexible and customizable, so your restaurant point of sale system can feel like an extension of your restaurant operation. The POS team can send updates to your software instantly, and there are dozens of manufacturers and hundreds of Android device models, with sizes as small as a 5" phones but as large as 22" tablets. It is also, in many cases, more affordable than Apple systems.

MORE FROM TOAST

history of pos

The History of POS Systems

Read More

“During our testing phases, we found that franchisees preferred the Android platform since it doesn’t limit the control a restaurant operator can have over their system.”

android pos
Rich Long | Director of IT, Pieology
2

How Do Restaurant POS Systems Work?

There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes of a restaurant point of sale system. Most importantly, because the point of sale system accepts multiple tender types - credit cards, mobile pay, cash, etc. - the system should be secure.

POS Data Storage

How a POS system handles data is extremely important to your restaurant, especially if you’re running multiple locations. There are three models for data security: back-office, cloud, and hybrid.

Back-Office or Legacy Systems

“Legacy” POS systems store information in a back-office client server, rather than on the cloud.

These legacy systems are named rather ironically. While these systems have made a legacy for themselves in the restaurant history books - they are household names such as Micros and Aloha in restaurants - they require customers to restart the system to make changes to their menu, wait for a support rep to show up in person for any issue, and store all data, literally, in the back office.

This leaves your restaurant vulnerable to liability. With important customer credit card information stored on the premises, you’re opening your restaurant up to the possibility of thieves breaking into your restaurant and stealing your system. Plus, if your computer ever has a virus, all of that information could be compromised. This isn't the case with all legacy POS systems, but it's important to make sure your restaurant POS system is PCI compliant to protect cardholder data.

legacy pos

Cloud-Based POS Systems

Many POS systems for restaurants now operate as a cloud-based system. These systems transmit information over the internet and store data in remote, off-site servers.

It’s not uncommon for the concept of “the cloud” in restaurants to seem daunting and unfamiliar. However, you’re likely already interacting with the cloud in various ways and don’t even realize it. The cloud is, in essence, the internet – a network of servers. When you log in to your email, use Google Docs, or access one of your social media accounts, you’re accessing data from “the cloud,” or web-based servers.

In your restaurant, a cloud-based POS system would enable you to view all of the information stored in your POS from anywhere - on your phone, tablet, or computer - as long as you have access to the internet. In addition, you won’t have to be onsite with access to your back office server to make changes to your system. If you want to make modifications to your menu, for instance, you can do so by logging into your POS platform on any device and all of your changes will be automatically transmitted across all of the POS terminals inside of your establishment in real-time.

Now, what if the Internet goes down? Many cloud POS systems still operate in "offline mode," so you can still take orders, process credit cards, and open cash drawers while your connection is restored. 

cloud restaurant pos

MORE FROM TOAST

cloud restaurant pos

7 Myths About Cloud POS Systems Debunked

Read More

Hybrid

Some point of sale systems are both cloud-based and back-office, meaning that all POS data is stored on a local server and syncs to the cloud. This is known as a hybrid POS system.

With this model, changes cannot be made to the menu, or other parts of the system, unless you are on a connected tablet or terminal. That means that the systems do not provide real-time data and instead have a ten-minute or more delay, and that restaurateurs cannot make remote modifications. It can also require customers to purchase a local server, which increases upfront costs, and perform regular backups to a thumb drive or portable hard drive.

The benefits of a hybrid solution are that, since it’s in the cloud and on the server, you will still have access to all of the POS features if the Internet goes down - a feature some cloud POS systems also allow through an offline mode. However, in some cases with hybrid systems, you will not be able to access payments until the Internet is back up, depending on your credit card processing provider. There is also still a risk that the data stored in the back office can be compromised by hackers and viruses.

POS Security

Data is a powerful tool in the restaurant industry. It’s also often sensitive and classified. The storage and protection of credit card data has been scrutinized in recent events, with hacker attacks in both retail and foodservice establishments. This section will help you understand areas of potential weakness in your POS system and important questions to ask the provider before making a purchase decision.

Encryption

In order to prevent data breaches and fraud, your POS system should encrypt data the moment a credit card is swiped. All sensitive data should also be encrypted when it is stored on your POS server, so it’s nearly impossible for someone to access your database and steal classified data. How does the POS system encrypt data? Identify potential weak points by inquiring how and when credit card data is stored and encrypted in the system.

MORE FROM TOAST

restaurant security

Your Restaurant Cyber Security Plan

Read More

Who has access to the server and the data on it?

Your system should allow you to restrict access to sensitive data. Anyone who is granted access to the data should be required to enter personal login information so you can track who is interacting with your data and hold the right people accountable if something goes wrong. Usually, data access is limited to management. Decide who should have access to data and lock down the system from everyone else (your POS provider should help you).

Who is responsible in the event of a data breach?

If PCI compliance is important to you, make a point of asking POS providers to prove that they are certified. Every POS provider should have strict security measures in place to protect your establishment from fraud, viruses, and data breaches, especially in the event of third-party delivery and off-premise dining. If legitimate security measures are in place, providers will likely agree to take full responsibility should any data be compromised.

3

How to Use a POS System in a Restaurant

A POS system that is optimized for taking orders and payments should be almost mindlessly simple to operate. The user interface should be both simple and intuitive. With modern technology, there’s no benefit to putting up with clunky interfaces.

Your staff should never have to dig through the interface in order to find the menu or payment option that they are looking for. When guests are ready to pay, servers should be able to complete the transaction in seconds with just a few simple clicks. By prioritizing ease-of-use, staff can be engaged with guests as they take orders and accept payments rather than struggling with “the freaking POS system.”

Want to learn how to use a POS system in a restaurant? Here are some ease-of-use musts:

Speed & Volume

When you’ve got a line out the door for brunch reservations or running a busy nightclub on New Year’s Eve, things need to move fast! As your business grows, your POS software should be able to keep up. How does the restuarant POS system you're evaluating handle volume?

Ensure that your modern POS system will be able to scale with your business and help you get through the line faster so you can serve more guests. Ask the POS provider about their other customers that handle the volume you expect. Use referrals as a way to validate the scalability of a system.

MORE FROM TOAST

How Flour Shaved Minutes Off Wait Times

Read More

Restaurant Server Training Tips, Techniques, and Best Practices

Read More

Flexibility

The restaurant environment is extremely fast-paced and often unpredictable. A POS system should be able to adjust and accommodate changes on the fly. If a guest wants the house salad, but does not want tomatoes and would prefer Italian dressing rather than Greek, servers should be able to make all of the desired modifications quickly and easily on the POS interface. This is called conversational ordering. Great POS systems will let you color-code items or perhaps place them strategically in different tabs so they are easy to locate.

Servers should also be able to easily split checks. Advanced systems will allow staff to split checks by seat number and by individual menu item.

If your servers are happy with the flexibility and customizability of the system, you’ll have faster, more accurate service and a happier staff. Customers will quickly be able to make their payments and be on their way and servers will see larger tips come their way.

online pos

Multiple Tender Types

According to study by Javelin Strategy and Research, only 23% of all purchases will be made using cash by 2017, so it’s important that your POS system accepts many tender types including check, all major credit cards, and restaurant gift cards.

On that note, listen to your customers! If you’ve received requests for alternative payment options like LevelUp or Samsung Pay, be sure to investigate that type of flexibility as well.

Workflow Integration

No two restaurants are the same. When you implement a modern POS system, it will seamlessly integrate with your restaurant’s specific operations. When deciding which POS to bring into your restaurant, think about how the system will connect different roles and processes to help decrease errors and waste.

How will the POS process orders in relation to the setup of the kitchen? Maybe kitchen orders need to be split between different prep stations. Salad, for example, should go to the cold station, sliders should go to the grill station, and both should come out at the same time.

Maybe a manager is required to approve voids, comps and discounts before they are accepted. The POS system should require these actions before approving transactions. With a modern POS system, there’s no reason the POS operations can’t be totally customized to your restaurant’s operations.

4

What Are Common Restaurant POS Features?

A modern POS system is more than a fancy calculator. Because POS systems process many different tender types - credit and debit card, cash, etc. - they have access to data that could revolutionize the way you do business. Here are a few common restaurant POS features besides being the place where purchases are made:

Reporting

Reporting is one of the most important aspects of a POS system. While the front-of-house features should be designed to improve workflow organization and efficiency, a POS system’s reporting capabilities should be optimized to help cut costs and uncover little tweaks you can make to improve your bottom line.

The POS system you select should offer robust reporting features that automate the process of tracking and organizing your sales, labor, and inventory data.

You don’t have to be a data junkie to grasp and get value from these reports. With the latest technology, there should be no manual labor required to track and report on data that has been entered into the system. Detailed, customizable reporting will allow you to spend more time identifying the areas that require improvement.

With the latest technology, there should be no manual labor required to track and report on data that has been entered into the system. Detailed, customizable reporting will allow you to spend more time identifying the areas that require improvement.

Here are three types of reports for restaurant owners and managers:

Restaurant Sales Reports

All POS systems are capable of reporting net daily, weekly, and annual sales. Modern POS systems can run real-time reports on individual menu items and menu categories. With these insights, you can determine which specific menu items are generating the most profit and which ones create more waste than revenue.

For example, your reports could tell you that the bacon burger is selling out every week, but only two salmon entrees have been ordered in the past month. This data would tell you to order more bacon and fewer filets or to take salmon off the menu altogether.

Data should be actionable. With easy access to detailed reporting, you will be able to make better decisions when you place food orders and update your menu.

restaurant sales

Labor Reports

Labor is likely one of your biggest overhead costs. According to a 2014 report by the National Restaurant Association, about one-third of restaurant sales revenue goes toward salaries and wages.

To maximize margins, it’s important to understand how that labor is divided and how it’s impacting your bottom line. Look to your POS system to track labor costs and provide reports based on role and individual employees. This insight will allow you to identify changes you can make to your employee scheduling to cut labor costs (especially during your slowest hours) and increase profit.

Inventory Reports

If your sales reporting can track the sales of individual menu items, you will be able to easily compare the actual sales of specific menu items with your inventory levels to ensure you always have the right stock on hand. The data in your sales reports will also help you forecast future supply more accurately so you can decrease waste and cut costs by eliminating unnecessary spending.

Consider how you are keeping track of inventory today and how that method could be improved. It’s possible that the POS you’re researching has features to expedite and simplify this process. Whether it’s an indirect inventory comparison against sales numbers or a full inventory management feature down to the garnish, make sure you understand how your POS keeps track of supplies.

Customer Reporting

What happens to the customer data that’s entered into the POS? Whether you’re using a cloud-based or traditional system, that data is stored somewhere. POS systems have the ability to collect customer data and create a history of activity over time.

Your POS should store your guests’ contact information and detailed order history so you can better serve them in the future. With advanced cloud-based POS systems, this information can be used to identify regular customers and to send them personalized rewards when they visit your restaurant or in conjunction with a loyalty program.

restaurant marketing

Customer Engagement

People have an endless number of options to choose from when they are looking to dine out. If you want to encourage guests to return to your restaurant, you need to be visible to them beyond your restaurant’s walls, provide personalized service, and show your regular guests how much you appreciate their business. If you don’t nurture your existing customers and encourage repeat business, your competition will. According to a 2014 report by eMarketer, 67% of businesses using personalized marketing campaigns reported increased sales as a direct result of their efforts.

Believe it or not, your POS system has the potential to drive these personalized campaigns. Here are some common customer and guest engagement add-ons that many modern restaurant POS systems support.

Loyalty Programs

If you think you may want to incorporate a loyalty program at some point in your restaurant’s future, then choosing a POS system with an integrated loyalty program is essential. How will you keep customers coming back to your restaurant? How will you create loyal regulars who will eagerly promote your brand?

With a loyalty program aligning with your data analysis, gift card program, and customer database, you will be able to interact with customers more wisely and profitably. Even better, when a customer is close to unlocking their loyalty reward, they spend 39% more than usual. Why pass up on the opportunity to not only incentivize eager customers, but also incorporate this feature with an all-in-one POS system?

POS systems with integrated loyalty programs make collecting rewards and points easy for the customer. Modern POS systems even link each loyalty account to the customer’s credit card, so they automatically earn points (which they can view online) whenever they come in. Finally, restaurants can customize rewards instantly on the POS system.

Here are some questions to ask when evaluating a restaurant POS system's rewards program:

  • When can guests opt in to the loyalty program? Is it built into the payment process?
  • Is loyalty connected to the customer’s credit card, or do they have to carry around a card with them to add and redeem points?
  • Can you customize loyalty rewards in the POS system?
  • Can customers track their balance online?

MORE FROM TOAST

How to Improve Your Gift Card Program

Read More
gift card program

Why Guests Pay 46% More with Restaurant Loyalty Programs

Read More

Gift Cards

A 2016 study by Toast found that people spend 72% more with restaurant gift cards, especially at full-service restaurants. When digital and physical gift cards are integrated in your point of sale system, you will increase check average and garner more repeat guests at your restaurant.

You may be accustomed to using physical gift cards, but digital gift cards allow customers to use their phones to cash in on their gift card money. The modern POS system will scan the code from their phone, and guests can check their balance anytime using the link stored on their phones.

Digital gift cards simply require guests to provide their email or phone number (which is automatically stored in the customer database) and select the amount they want to purchase. The digital gift card will be emailed or texted to the intended recipient. If purchasing a digital gift card for a friend, customers can select the amount, include a personalized message, and choose if they want the gift card emailed or texted to the recipient immediately or at a later date and time.

gift card programs

Whether a customer uses a digital or physical gift card, however, modern POS systems will store their information in a gift card report. Restaurateurs can examine all gift cards sold and transactions processed. This report can be used to analyze all active cards, including purchased date, initial value, most recent transaction date, the server who processed the last transaction, and the remaining balance, all broken down by card number or account ID.

Ask these questions about the POS gift card program:

  • Are gift cards digital or physical, or both?
  • Can you text or email gift cards to recipients from the POS system?
  • Can guests buy digital gift cards online?
  • Can guests check their balances online?
  • Can you transfer gift card data from your old provider to your new provider?

Online Ordering

In a 2013 study by Statista, 24% of respondents said that they order delivery or takeout food from restaurants two to three times per week. Running a restaurant is rarely just a brick and mortar operation. For both pickup and delivery, restaurants now utilize online ordering software to appeal to a wider audience, lessen the amount of time employees spend on the phone, and streamline the entire ordering process.

Your restaurant should look for a POS system that has online ordering capabilities integrated into the software. Most third-party online ordering services charge extremely high fees and take up to 13% of each online order. By bundling your online ordering platform and POS system, you can avoid those hefty fees and instead pay a fixed fee and simplify your ordering process at the same time, so all online orders go automatically to the kitchen.

Ask these questions about your POS online ordering system:

  • Do online orders sync with the kitchen printers or screens?
  • Does the system store customer info and order history for future orders, allowing customers to create accounts?
  • Does the system process online gift card purchases?
  • Does the system accept multiple tender types like gift cards and all major credit cards
  • Can guests schedule takeout or catering orders for future pickup?
  • Will the online menu update automatically when changes are made to the in-store menu?
5

Who’s Affected By Modern POS Systems?

When a restaurant implements a new POS system, everything changes. As Ben Kaplan from Barbara Lynch Gruppo puts it, “In many ways, the POS system is the heartbeat of the restaurant.”

“In many ways, the POS system is the heartbeat of the restaurant. We rely on it to give our customers a valuable experience.”

restaurant operations
Ben Kaplan | Director of Operations, Barbara Lynch Gruppo

Depending on your role at the restaurant, and depending on that restaurant’s concept, the POS system can affect the way you work - for better or for worse.

restaurant positions

Benefits of Restaurant by Role

Every restaurant has wildly different roles, but the core staff usually looks like this: owner, manager, server or cashier, chef, and guest. Each stakeholder will have a specific set of feature needs from a point of sale system. When convincing these members to get on board with your decision, here are some features to hammer home. (P.S. Download our POS Comparison Sheet and check off each benefit as you’re researching!)

BONUS: Download our Interactive POS Comparison Tool to research and compare point of sale systems for your restaurant.

INSTANT DOWNLOAD

Restaurant Owners

As a restaurant owner, the restaurant POS system can increase your visibility into the goings-on of your business - or greatly inhibit it. Many owners want to spend less time in the restaurant, but need to be there to make sure the kitchen doesn’t set on fire. The benefits of modern POS systems for restaurant owners are:

  • Access to real-time data anywhere, anytime
  • Easy menu updates - that update the online ordering website as well - from any device
  • Secure data storage
  • In-depth reporting on sales, inventory, customer behavior, product mix, etc.
  • Revenue-generating add-ons such as gift cards, loyalty programs, or online ordering

Restaurant Manager

Restaurant managers are on the ground, actively tuning in to the servers and cashiers and making sure operations are running smoothly at all times. Therefore, they may not be as in tune with the data; they just want something that will make their lives (and their team’s lives) easier. Here are a few features restaurant managers will look for in POS systems:

  • Labor management features including role-based and user-based permissions
  • Employee clock-in and employee scheduling
  • Employee productivity reports
  • Easy inventory reporting
  • Manager log book

MORE FROM TOAST

pos analytics

Restaurant POS Analytics in One Place: Access from Anywhere

Read More

Restaurant Servers & Cashiers

Even though the restaurant owner and manager are usually making the decision to purchase the POS system, they aren’t usually the people using it day in and day out. Those are the servers and cashiers. The happier your employees, the more successful your restaurant will be, so make sure to look for these features in a POS system for your restaurant:

  • Easy order-taking - less taps to send an order
  • Ability to split checks by number of guests, items, and individual items
  • Suggested tip percentages
  • Tableside (or line-side) ordering and payments 
  • Table management capabilities
  • Cash management capabilities

Chefs

Even though the definition of a point of sale is the point where a transaction takes place - so inherently, the front of house - the point of sale system affects both the front of house and the back of house. Here are some features that chefs, line cooks, and runners might benefit from in a restaurant management system:

  • Kitchen display systems integrated with the point of sale system and the online ordering system
  • In-depth inventory management capabilities from menu items to ingredients to portioning
  • Food cost, inventory variance, and menu engineering reporting

Guests

You might not think your guests are affected by the point of sale system. After all, they’re not tapping it and sending orders, are they? No, but there are several features that could impact your guests in the long run, and actually turn them into repeat guests. Here are a few:

  • Tableside (or line-side) ordering and payments
  • Ability to split checks by number of guests, items, and individual items
  • Physical and digital gift card programs
  • Loyalty programs that don’t require a card to carry and allow you to track the balance online
  • Online ordering and delivery programs with mobile-friendly websites and order-ahead capability
  • Options for digital (text or email) receipts, paper receipts, or no receipt
  • Acceptance of all credit and debit cards, cash, and in some cases, Apple Pay or Samsung Pay

BONUS: Inside our 2nd annual technology report – tracking the future of technology in the restaurant industry.

DOWNLOAD REPORT
pos for restaurants

Benefits of Restaurant by Type

Depending on the type of service your establishment offers, you will likely prioritize different aspects of a POS system’s functionality. Here are some things to consider for different types of restaurants

Fine Dining & Casual Dining

Full service restaurants need a POS system designed to help improve customer experience and increase table turn times. More tables served in a shift means maximized revenue. Your POS system should have features specifically designed to help you decrease the time it takes to fire orders and to complete the payment process after guests have finished their meal.

Features to look for:

  • Digital receipts via email and/or text
  • Tableside tablets, so guests can pay, sign, and tip at the table
  • Easy check-splitting by guest and menu item
  • Orders fired directly to the kitchen display system
  • Suggested tip percentages
  • Easy menu management
  • Acceptance of multiple tender types

MORE FROM TOAST

handheld pos

The True Value of a Handheld Restaurant POS System

Read More

Quick Service & Fast Casual & Pizzeria Restaurant

Speed is particularly important if your business offers quick service or fast casual service. According to a 2012 report, Chipotle serves one customer every 11 seconds during peak lunch hours. Wendy’s processes drive-thru orders at an average of just 134 seconds.

Choose a POS system based on its optimization for volume, speed, and accuracy. More customers processed daily means increased revenue, so self-ordering kiosks can be greatly beneficial to QSRs. The POS system should have features in place designed specifically to help reduce the time it takes to get customers through the line.

Features to look for:

  • Quick and optimized ordering screen
  • Kiosk ordering capabilities for faster self-service
  • Ability to handle volume
  • Integrated online ordering and delivery programs
  • Digital receipts via email and/or text
  • Capable of turning the tablet so customers can sign for their meal directly on a tablet interface
  • Customer-facing screen so customers can see what’s being rung up
  • Ability to fire orders directly to kitchen screens and/or printers
  • Acceptance of multiple tender types
  • Suggested tip percentages upon checkout

Bars & Nightclubs

Bars and nightclubs need to be able to handle large volumes and fulfill drink orders quickly. You need a system that is easy to use, designed to handle volume, and makes it easy to customize every type of whacky 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.

Features to look for:

  • Preauthorization for credit cards, authorizing that a card has a certain amount of money on it before ringing an order through
  • Digital receipts via email and/or text
  • Easy check splitting by guest and menu item
  • Acceptance of many tender types
  • Easy menu management for daily drink specials and happy hours
  • Suggested tip percentages
6

How to Research Restaurant POS Systems

You’re convinced that your restaurant needs a restaurant POS system. Now, however, you’re plagued with the decision: Which one?

There are hundreds of POS systems out there, but only a handful are built specifically for restaurants, and only a select few will have all the features you need.

Follow these steps to make sure your restaurant point of sale investment doesn’t go to waste, and download the POS Comparison Sheet to start comparing which point of sale systems you’re evaluating check off which boxes.

Identify Your Feature Needs

Before you start researching POS systems, create a clear outline of your biggest challenges and the tasks that require the greatest time commitment. This will help you identify the primary ways a POS system can help your restaurant improve. Try to find a system that meets most (if not all) of your many technological needs in this industry.

There are many aspects of your business that could be simplified in smart, efficient ways - inventory and labor tracking, customer relationship management, and credit card processing safety can now all be controlled by one program thanks to the features and the capabilities of the modern POS system.

Think about the questions posed below and complete the checklist to identify your priorities:

What are your biggest challenges?

  • What complaints do you typically hear from guests? From staff?
  • How many dishes are sent back to the kitchen each week because they’re incorrect?
  • Can you ensure that your menu items are up-to-date both online and in-house?
  • Can you easily report on sales and inventory?
  • How much food is wasted each week?
  • Follow-up: How sure are you of this number? Is your inventory system accurate?
  • Do you know your best and worst-selling menu items?
  • Are you confident that staff members are taking only their fair share of tips?
  • How do you know employee payroll is updated and accurate?

What are your most time consuming tasks?

  • Closing out at the end of the day
  • Making changes to the menu
  • Tracking inventory and sales
  • Updating online ordering
  • Processing guest payments
  • Looking up and voiding inaccurate payments
  • Auditing employee time cards
  • Troubleshooting system failures

What are your requirements?

  • What is your budget? (per month and per year)
  • Do you want tableside mobile ordering capabilities?
  • How many terminals, printers, credit card readers, and cash drawers do you need?
  • Should kitchen tickets be paper-based or on display screens?
  • Should guests be able to receive digital receipts?

These questions are designed to get you thinking. If the answers scared you, this may be the result of an inefficient and dated POS system that demands replacement.

Take some time to really consider the aspects of your restaurant that are not working or that you feel could be improved. Think about how each POS system would address these issues and simplify your most time-intensive tasks.

Before you make your selection, make sure that you can clearly explain the different ways the POS system will help you overcome your biggest challenges, save you valuable time, and help you improve your bottom line.

BONUS: Download our Interactive POS Comparison Tool to research and compare point of sale systems for your restaurant.

INSTANT DOWNLOAD

Ask About Services & Support

Before you start researching POS systems, create a clear outline of your biggest challenges and the tasks that require the greatest time commitment. This will help you identify the primary ways a POS system can help your restaurant improve. Try to find a system that meets most (if not all) of your many technological needs in this industry.

Remember - this is the guide to buying a modern POS. There are now aspects of your business that could be simplified in smart, efficient ways - inventory and labor tracking, customer relationship management, and credit card processing safety can now all be controlled by one program thanks to the features and the capabilities of the modern POS system.

Think about the questions posed below and complete the checklist to identify your priorities:

Who will help you set up your system?

Some POS systems are plug and play; the vendor will send you a box with the system inside, along with directions on how to plug it in, and you can get started.

Other POS systems not only ship the hardware, but also send teams of implementation specialists to hardwire your system, connect to your wifi, and handle any issues the first day that you’re live with the system. They’ll even send training specialists to train your team on how to use it.

Finally, some vendors offer both options, with different price points associated. If you own a mom-and-pop restaurant, and the owner was a hardware engineer back in the day, you may want to save money by opting for the self-install. However, if you have a restaurant with over 1000 square feet and 20 staff members, you might want to consider paying for installation and onboarding.

MORE FROM TOAST

pos comparison

POS Comparison: Picking the Right System

Read More

How can you reach support when you have an issue?

There are typically two ways to contact your POS vendor when you need support: email and phone. If the POS vendor does not offer phone support, it will be difficult for you to get immediate help if you have a crucial issue. If your system goes down during your busiest hours and you can’t get the help you need right away, it can negatively impact customer happiness and devastatingly impact sales.

What are support’s hours? Can you reach them on nights and weekends?

Most restaurants don’t operate on a 9 to 5, Monday through Friday schedule. Saturday and Sunday are likely your busiest days of the week. If you own a nightclub, you’re establishment is open well into the early morning hours.

Before you make the decision to purchase a POS, understand when you will have access to support and how that will impact your operations if you need help outside of normal business hours.

Can you be assisted remotely or do you need to have an IT person on-site?

If you have a modern POS system, the vendor can almost always provide support remotely by securely accessing your POS information in the cloud server. If you choose a traditional legacy system, it’s more likely that on-site help will be needed because the data is stored on a back-office machine, which can cost time and money that you can’t afford to give up.

Make sure you fully understand what costs, if any, are involved with sending someone on-location to troubleshoot your system.

What is included in support?

Some POS providers offer different types of support plans. These plans are similar to an insurance plan, designed to only cover specific issues. Read the fine print and carefully review what is covered by your POS provider’s support team and how you can get the support you need for potential issues that are not covered in the plan.

Understand POS Pricing Models

Budget considerations were one of the first things you considered when outlining your requirements. While you should certainly make sure that you have the budget to afford the POS system and shop around to get the best deal possible, functionality, scalability, and overall quality should be top concerns as well.

There’s a lot more to POS pricing than what is paid on day one. Here are a few things to consider when buying a restaurant POS system.

Upfront Costs

No matter what, there will be upfront costs associated with the purchase of a restaurant POS system. However, under some pricing models, those numbers could be astronomically different

  • Traditional Model: Traditional systems and some large modern POS systems require you to purchase the system upfront. The upfront cost ranges from as low as $3,000 to as much as $50,000. As a result, you are not required to pay monthly fees. These systems also charge a software licensing fee that generally costs between $500 and $1500 a year. Whether the hardware is included in that upfront cost varies by provider.
  • Software as a Service (Saas) Model: The SaaS model associated with modern systems requires monthly payments on a subscription basis. This “pay as you go” subscription model for POS systems typically ranges from $50 to $500 in monthly installments. In addition to a one-time installation fee, you would also need to purchase the necessary hardware to support the cloud-based software.

MORE FROM TOAST

pos system cost

How Much Should a Restaurant POS System Cost

Read More

Long-Term Costs

Over time, you may pay more to keep your point of sale system up to date. Every provider is different, but these are some common long-term costs associated with POS systems.

  • Additional Features and Packages: Many POS providers offer add-on features at an extra charge. If there are any specific features that you think you may need in the future, make sure you are aware of the costs associated with those features before you make a purchase. Consider a system that will not only be able to accommodate your needs now, but also scale with your business as it grows. Be sure to factor in the cost of new locations, a loyalty program, online expansion, more staff members, etc. Think long-term so you don’t  find yourself juggling a different vendor for each additional feature or module.
  • Updates: System or software updates can be a significant long-term cost, particularly if you decide to purchase a legacy POS system. Since legacy systems are not cloud-based, updates require an IT worker to be on-site. This can cost as much as 20% of the original system, but may only be needed once per year. Cloud-based systems typically release updates and bug fixes more regularly, meaning more up-to-date software. Better yet, the updates are automatically downloaded to all connected devices via wifi with no need for an on-site technician. Usually, cloud-based providers do not charge additional maintenance fees. Educate yourself about the cost associated with system updates and how frequently updates are required.
  • Optional Potential Fees: Many POS companies offer quotes that are confusing on purpose. Review your quote with a fine-tooth comb for: support fees, installation fees, training fees, menu setup fees, credit card processing fees, and more, and make sure to ask your sales rep why they chose to include each fee.
7

How to Work With a Restaurant POS Provider

Working with a Provider

When you purchase a POS system, you are also entering into a potentially long-term relationship with the POS provider. The vendor will likely be responsible for completing the installation, training you and your staff, making updates to the system, and providing long-term support.

As is true for any partnership, it’s important to pick a POS vendor that you feel is trustworthy and will work to make your business successful. Choose a vendor who is dedicated to providing the best POS system and service possible and is constantly innovating - not one that could fold as a company.

There is no way to guarantee that your POS provider will prove a reliable and dedicated partner, but if you pay careful attention to how you’re treated throughout the buying process and make a point to talk with some existing customers, it’s possible to get a sense for how the company treats its customers.

pos provider