Evaluating and shopping for a new restaurant POS system can be a challenging experience for anyone. There are so many point of sale solutions on the market these days that you might not even know where to begin.
One thing is for sure; you don’t want to wait until the last minute to purchase your new POS system. You want to give yourself plenty of time to research and compare the functions and features of the different systems you’re considering buying. Also, it can take some time to get your system installed and for you to learn the POS software, so expect the process to take at least 3-4 weeks in general.
When comparing point of sale systems, you’ll want to make sure the system is the best fit for your restaurant concept. For instance, you might not want to purchase a POS dedicated for a small quick service cafe if you’re running a busy restaurant and bar. The two different systems may look the same with a touchscreen display, but the front of house and back of house software could be completely different.
Not all POS solutions are created equal; so for this reason, we have put together a list of the top 10 features you must have in a restaurant POS system.
1. Speedy Interface and Quick Checkout
One of the most important features of a restaurant or bar POS is to have speed. When you get busy on a Friday or Saturday night, you can’t afford to have a lagging system. Many of the tablet systems on the market today are dependent on your internet bandwidth speed. So if you have slow internet, chances are you’re going to have a slow POS too.
So be sure to find out if your system is a local hardwired type, internet based, or hybrid (local and internet). A local or hybrid system will typically be more reliable for a busy restaurant as opposed to an Internet-based point of sale. So choose carefully to get the most speed for your operations.
2. Easy to Manage
There are systems on the market that can do everything imaginable to manage your restaurant or bar. The challenge is finding a happy medium between features you need and the features you don’t need. The reason is, you might want the Cadillac of all systems, but do you need hundreds of features you may never use? Generally speaking, the more you spend on a system, the more challenging it can be to manage it.
As examples, with some of the big brand name systems on the market, they can be very complicated to program and use, so you’ll need a professional to install and train you. However, if you’re a DIY type, you may want to choose an easier system you can setup and use out of the box. So keep in mind the management side of the system in your research.
3. Easy to Use
As mentioned earlier, not all POS software is created equal. So in your research, you’ll want to consider ease-of-use of the software configuration and operations.
The best way to do this is to see or take part in a product demonstration. Most POS software companies will offer a remote or onsite live demonstration of their products. And some will provide software demos you can download on your computer or tablet.
What you want to look for is how easy is it to do basic tasks like place orders, send tickets to the kitchen, split checks, reorder drinks, quick check out, etc. It may take a little time to learn the software configuration since they’re all a bit different, but you’ll want to make sure that the layout is intuitive and it’s easy for you to accomplish simple tasks. If you can’t figure out, chances are your staff won’t either, so find a system that is easy to use. Another tip is to find other restaurant owners that have the same system you’re looking at and see if they’ll let you see the system in action.
4. Inventory Control
Some may disagree with this being a must have feature, because keeping inventory is the bane of existence for restaurateurs, but if you want to know how much food you have on hand, your food costs and profit margins, you’re going to need inventory control.
Most quality POS systems will have some inventory control built-in to the software, so there is no excuse not to use inventory management. It can be as simple as deducting count from your inventory numbers when you make a sale. If you want or need to get granular, most systems will have 3rd party integrations that can use more powerful stock platforms designed specifically to keep track of your product.
The bottom line, however, is to make sure your system has the inventory management features you need or has options to integrate into a vendor system that performs those functions appropriately.
5. Quality Reporting
Having quality reporting is a no-brainer, but your choice in a system must have the reports you need to run a successful business. These are your Key Performance Indicator (KPI) reports that all restaurants need like sales by item, time, and department, employee labor, sales vs. labor costs, and seating performance, as a few examples.
Most systems have the KPI reports pre built for the software, but you might also want to make sure the system you choose allows for custom reports or 3rd party integrations if you need to get more granular or need specific reporting information. Also, you’ll want to make sure you have all the auditing reports required to keep solid track of your sales and taxes, and to keep your accountant happy.
Here’s a little tip to make life easy. With a system that has cloud reporting, you can setup a remote access account to your reports, so your accountant has access to your financials. This eliminates steps of exporting reporting data to your accountant.
6. Easy to Setup and Configure Menu
Another no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at the complexity of some systems to change a simple menu item or price.
Before you purchase anything, find out how easy it is to add or change a menu item. With some systems, after you change a menu item, the entire server and workstations have to be restarted for the changes to show up. Who has time for that? Trust me on this one, during your demonstration as mentioned in number 3 above, ask the POS dealer or trainer how hard is it to update a menu item.
If it takes more than five minutes to make a simple menu adjustment and if they have to reboot the system to see the change, run for the hills. The newer point of sales today have straightforward and intuitive interfaces to make quick menu adjustments, and you’ll want that feature. Because when you decide to change the daily special price, you don’t want to have to call support and wait on hold for 30 minutes to make a simple update to your system.
7. Table Management and Reservations
Any quality POS programmed for bars and restaurants should have built in table management and an option for reservations.
If you’re doing table seating, you obviously will need this feature, and it’s essential for managing your front of house operations. You’ll want to know the status of your tables at any given time. For instance which tables are occupied, being cleared or are available. The program should also tie into a reservation system that can quickly update your table status based on customer reservations. This integration creates a seamless experience for managing your tables and seating arrangements.
Quick tip, when doing your software demo, ask the trainer how the seating and reservations work and have them show you the feature in detail.
Not all POS software has reservations built in, so you may have to use a 3rd party software like OpenTable for reservations.
8. Comprehensive Training
To get the most out of your new point of sale, you’ll want to make sure you get properly trained on all the functions and features on the front of house and back of the house.
Not all systems will come with training, so you need to be sure to ask if training is included. Some POS companies may have basic training videos online. Other companies may have a trainer that works with you remotely. Or your POS dealer may provide training onsite. Either way you go, make sure your system has the adequate training you need to get running smoothly.
You don’t want to get to your “go live” date and not have all your staff trained and up to speed on the operating procedures. That’s why it’s important to get your POS installed several weeks or longer if possible before going live, so you get all the kinks worked out and properly train yourself and your staff.
9. Support From Heaven
Quality service and support can make or break your business or at least determine your frustration level. Here’s one of the best tips we can offer. When researching your POS, don’t call the sales number first, call the support number first. Here are some points to question. How quickly do they pick up the phone? Have you been put on hold right away? When you get someone on the phone, are they friendly and helpful? Let the support person know you’re researching their product and ask them what they like most about the product they support AND ask them what’s the biggest complaint they receive about their product.
Doing this simple task first helps to weed out the providers with slow, weak or rude support. And if the support person is helpful, which they should be, they will answer your questions and will provide you insight into the product you’re thinking about spending your hard earned money and time on. After you have completed this task, verify that they have 24/7 support and confirm your software and hardware warranty terms and conditions.
10. Marketing Tools
Having the resources and tools that you need to help market and grow your business are just as important as collecting money from customers. You want features in your POS that is going to help you grow your revenue and keep customers coming back. Features like loyalty programs, gift cards, customer rewards, messaging tools, automatic promotions based on customer’s purchase activity, and special promotions to drive traffic during slow times.
Again, not every restaurant POS system will have marketing tools built into the software. However, most will integrate with 3rd party providers that do this well. So when you’re evaluating POS features, be sure to find out what marketing options are available. And if not, see what 3rd party marketing companies integrate into the POS.
In summary, it might come as a surprise that not all of the top 10 must have restaurant POS features are hard coded software features; they are requirements like having a fast system, easy to use interface, quality service and support, proper training, and marketing options. We hope you have enjoyed this top 10 list and we encourage you to share with others if you found it useful and helpful.