So you have decided to buy a new Point of Sale (POS) system for your restaurant. Congratulations! As the central place where you handle customer service, operations and transactions, a good POS system is at the heart of every successful restaurant.
Choosing the correct Point of Sale system is one of the most important decisions you will take for your business, and one that will affect your operations and service for the next few years. But with so many options in the market, how do you choose?
Here are seven key questions you must ask to make sure you select the right Point of Sale and back office system for your restaurant, café or food service business.
1. Which features do I really need?
Point of Sale systems have gone a long way from being simply cash registers that process transactions and record payments. Today, the Point of Sale is a necessary tool that can speed up operations, streamline labor, increase loyalty, manage inventory, and define the customer experience. It’s therefore unsurprising that the average modern POS system offers a large number of features.
Employee time clock, fingerprint login, mobile POS, customer databases, online ordering, management of recipes and ingredients… these all sound like good features to have, don’t they? And yet, they may not all be as useful to every business – after all, a full-service restaurant has very different needs from a chain of cafés or pizzerias.
Before you go and pick the POS that does it all, stop and ask yourself: what features do I really need? Which functionality would support my business? Map your requirements, and pick a system that fits with your current needs. You will save money and effort threefold: in the development phase, during staff training and daily, as too many options at the POS might end up getting in the way of your staff managing its routine tasks.
2. Is this POS designed specifically for restaurants?
Point of Sale systems are not “one size fits all”. Although some features that are common in retail can adapt to the restaurant industry, stores and food service locations generally have very different requirements.
Make sure that you pick a POS system that was developed specifically for your industry. A solution built for restaurants will enable you to easily handle key daily tasks such as adding/removing ingredients from a dish, selling meal deals and combos (for example coffee and cake offers), splitting the bill, sending orders straight to the kitchen and managing tables – and more.
Don’t settle for a system with which you can perhaps manage, but not succeed. Choose a POS that is designed with your needs in mind.
3. Is it quick and reliable?
The restaurant industry is all about quality and speed. If there’s one thing you want to avoid during the Saturday night rush, it’s having a slow or unresponsive Point of Sale system that delays the service and creates a queue of grumpy customers.
When investigating software solutions, ask:
- Is the interface intuitive, and can it be customized to each staff member’s role?
- Can it easily accept different types of payments, split bills, bills moved from the bar to the table, etc.?
- What features does it have that help speed up the service?
- What’s the average time per transaction?
- What happens if the internet connection goes down? Will I still be able to take orders and process sales – or will I end up having to take orders on paper sheets?
4. What is the investment?
A new POS system is a big commitment, but one that can pay off many times over. Before choosing the option with the lowest upfront investment, make sure you investigate the Return on Investment (ROI) you could achieve.
When analyzing the impact of the new technology on your bottom line, remember to consider multiple factors, including:
- Time spent in staff training: if, like the rest of the restaurant industry, you experience high staff turnover, adopting an intuitive Point of Sale system that makes training of new recruits quick and easy can bring about great savings.
- Reduced waste: does the new system include inventory management tools? You can save a lot of money by ordering the right amounts of food, and using what you have efficiently.
- Loyalty: a system that supports the implementation of loyalty programs and enables you to send registered customers targeted offers and campaigns can help you increase repeat visits.
- Time wasted aligning data: if you use one system to manage sales, another one for inventory, a third one for staff rosters, a forth one for your vendors – and so on, you will end up spending a lot of your time comparing different outputs and trying to make sense of your numbers. A system that integrates all of these functions into one end-to-end platform – and a single data source! – enables you to get more insight from your data as well as simplify your accounting, saving you a lot of hours (and headaches!) in the process.
5. Is the vendor trustworthy?
Not all technology companies are born equal. When choosing a new POS system, consider the provider’s reputation. You don’t want to select (and spend money and time to install, and train your staff on) a random online POS just because it’s from a cheap startup – to then find out, a few months later, that the vendor offers absolutely no support, and that the system will never get updated! As David Gosman, Global Hospitality Segment Manager at HP, warns: “Be wary of new technology providers. A technology platform with no track record shouldn’t necessarily be disqualified, however, you need to recognize the risk that they may be a very different company — or no longer a company — in a few years.”
Pick a company with a proven track record – a business that you can trust will be there in the future, providing you with support and updates when you need them.
6. What if my business grows?
It’s every restaurant owner’s dream to grow the business: increase the number of customers, add a patio, run multiple locations, build a chain – perhaps an international one.
When selecting a new system, make sure that you can easily add new POS terminals, and even open new locations with limited effort. The right system will also enable you to grow by easily integrating to other software solutions. Let’s assume that you decide to expand your home delivery services by partnering up with a third-party service: what if your POS can’t integrate to the delivery app?
If you are thinking about international expansion, it makes sense to investigate whether the system has been translated in different languages, can support multiple currency and fiscalization rules, and is available in different localizations.
A rigid system, that doesn’t allow you to make changes or integrate to other solutions, may be cheaper to start with – but it will have to be replaced once you grow, causing you problems (and high costs) in the long run. When considering an investment in new technology, remember that a POS will be with you for many years – choose a platform that can scale with you and support you not just today, but also tomorrow.
7. Can I speak to one of your current customers?
When reading the marketing brochure, one gets the impression that all point of Sale systems can do everything. They are all flexible, agile, feature-rich – and easy to use, of course!
Don’t just take the vendor’s word for it: during the selection process, it’s a good idea to ask for references. The best software providers will be able to give you a list of current customers. Reach out to these businesses, get their opinions, ask questions, and see first-hand how the POS system works – and whether it would fit your bill.
Still unable to decide? Drop us a line: our restaurant technology experts will be happy to help you find the right solution for your requirements.