Selecting a Point Of Sale (POS) system for your restaurant can be one of the most important operational decisions you will make. There are literally hundreds of different POS systems to choose from. While all systems try to serve the same basic purpose when it comes down to functionality, reliability, performance, and capability, no two systems are alike. There are many routine factors to consider when buying a POS system. Price, warranty, technical support, future enhancements, and after purchase care are just a few to mention. However, the focus of this article will be on the more important but less commonly used software features that make all the difference in creating and operating a thriving restaurant.
Ease of Use
One of the most important aspects of any POS software is its ease of use. Listed below are some features & functionalities one should consider.
- Live System Changes – It’s Friday night at 7 PM and you need to make a menu change or add a happy hour discount. Can you make this change at any one of your stations and have the rest updated automatically within seconds without any restarts? Some programs can do this, but many require you to go to the back office and restart the entire system. Live system changes managed through a quality POS system allow you to efficiently run your business from any station.
- Terminal Flexibility – It is best to get POS software that is setup to respond to the user and not the hardware. This allows management and staff members to perform any actions at any station, whether it consists of menu changes, employee logins, or running reports. This would also allow staff members with certain job types, such as a bartender, to use any other station besides the one behind the bar in cases where the wait staff may need their help during peak times.
- Menu – When it comes to menu configurations, are you able to easily create menu items in a matter of seconds without having to create a button, place them on the menu, then assign the item to the button in a complex, multi-step process? Let’s say you have a group of three people who have ordered a bottle of wine and they all want to share the cost. Efficient POS systems allow you to share the cost of a menu item in any proportion and split it out in any way among any number of guests. Lastly, you should focus on how choices or modifiers are handled. If a server creates a ticket and mistakenly selected chives for the baked potato, they should be able to change the modifiers without having to start all over.
- Menu Firing – Many systems allow the food to be held and released to the kitchen by the server, giving them control over the order timing to ensure that each course is prepared and delivered at appropriate times.
- Discounts – When implementing happy hours & discounts, you should be able to create these options easily within minutes. Those happy hour sales numbers should also then flow into your reports automatically. Some systems require you to set price levels for each item, create a schedule, and if you want reporting on those sales, to create special menu items.
Most restaurants cannot survive without a loyal, repeat customer base. Many systems have a customer database that allows you to take advantage of that data. Two features that can be very beneficial are built-in loyalty and order tracking. The loyalty feature normally allows you to give out points, credits, or free food. By storing their previous orders, known as order tracking, servers can order a customer’s “usual” with just the touch of a button. You can also run reports that enable you to know who your most profitable clients are and to market to them directly.
It is a relatively new concept but some POS systems are now able to offer tableside ordering via handheld devices like an iPad. The technology may come at an extra cost, but for many restaurants it would pay off through improved server efficiencies, less errors, faster food delivery, and better overall customer experience.
For restaurants that take reservations, many POS systems are able to handle this within the software instead of using a third party provider. These systems usually allow your customers to create a reservation online or place a call into the restaurant where the staff would enter it directly into the POS.
One of the newest POS features is the ability for a restaurant to take an order online. Some systems already offer this for an extra fee. For now, the consumer market is in the early stages of embracing the concept, but it is growing in popularity and should be much more popular in the coming years. You should simply ask the POS provider you are considering if they will have this feature available in the future if not already.
How much flexibility does the system have in terms of upgrades and expansions? Can you easily add additional stations as your business grows? What if you decide to add tableside ordering or online reservations? Are those features currently available? These are all questions one should ask when considering a POS system.
There are two basic ways POS software handles the printing of the menu items. If the software prints based on the ticket itself, the entire ticket will be sent to one particular printer regardless of what it is. If the software prints based on the menu items, the alcohol would go to the bar and food would go to the kitchen, regardless of what is ordered on the ticket. Obviously, the latter setup is most ideal.
Bars – Liquor
For businesses with a bar, there are several important features you should expect from your chosen POS system.
- Fast pay – This is the ability to quickly ring up an order with only a couple touches. For example, someone orders a beer and gives you a $20. The server selects the beer item, touches $20 as one of the dollar denominations that shows up, and the drawer pops open showing the change due. This feature is also very useful for any type of fast food or QSR restaurant.
- Tabs – Most, but not all, systems are ticket based. Whenever a server adds a menu item, a virtual ticket is created that can remain open indefinitely or until they are ready to close their tab.
- Repeat – Some systems have a repeat feature that allows you to reorder items on a ticket, such as another round of shots, with only a press of a button.
- Job Types – Can the system handle job types? For example, you only want alcohol items to show up for the bartenders, while servers see only food items. Setting up this kind of system ensures that staff are not bothered with menu buttons that are not related to their tasks at hand.
- Credit Card Hold – If you want your customers to be able to open a tab, it is best if the software can store the credit card data. This allows you to swipe the customer’s credit card and give it back. When they are ready to close their tab, they simply sign for it.
No one likes to plan for the worst, but there are many unexpected disasters that can happen to any restaurateur, such as power outages or hardware failure. When this does happen, how will it affect the data in your POS system? There are many different types of databases being used by POS companies. SQL for example, can easily recover from most disasters without much intervention needed from technical support or any loss or corruption of data.