Restaurant POS Systems: Things Every New Restaurateur Should Know

There are countless ways technology can help your restaurant flow more efficiently. None perhaps is more crucial day to day than a point-of-sale system—or what restaurant staffs across the continent refer to simply as "the POS."

Whether you’ve never used one before, or just want a better understanding of what this piece of equipment actually does, here is everything you need to know about a restaurant POS system.

>>>Pro-tip: Once you've got the basics down, check out Back Of House's free Solutions platform to compare different POS systems using the ratings and feedback submitted by real, independent restaurateurs like you!

What is a POS system?

A point-of-sale system, or POS system, is a piece of technology that serves as a central hub for taking and managing all transactions within your restaurant. It processes and records data for all payments. With that stored info you can also use it run reports to learn more about your customers, your employees and your service in general.

What makes up a POS system?

A POS is made up of two main components, the hardware and the software. Let’s tackle the hardware first. Most POS systems need the following physical components to function:

  • Monitor/tablet: Usually located at a server station or checkout counter, this is where staff can enter orders or transactions. Its also where all payment data is stored and where you can run reports. You can even use it as a hub where staff clocks in and out of shifts.

  • Card reader: This is where you can insert or swipe a credit card for payment. Many POS card readers also come with mobile payment capabilities, which allow for contactless transactions. (Speaking of which: you can learn lots more about mobile payments right here!) Whatever reader you are using, make sure it is EMV-compliant so you are protecting customer payment information to the max.

  • Scanner: If you sell any merch (branded t-shirts, totes, hats, etc.) or takeaway goods (sauce, beer, coffee beans, etc.) you’ll want a barcode scanner to ring up any of those items into your POS. Scanning those items will also allow the POS to help you keep track of what you have in stock.

  • Receipt printer: Many POS now allow for email or text receipts, but it’s good to keep a printer around for when customers need a hard copy.

  • Cash drawer: Unless your restaurant is cashless, you’ll need a drawer to store any dollar bills you receive as payment.

In terms of your POS software, that’s simply the type of POS program you choose to use for managing payments. There are a variety of vendors to choose from when it comes to POS software, many of them also providing their own brand of hardware to go along with it.

Why have a POS system in your restaurant?

As an independent restaurant owner or operator, there are plenty of good reasons to consider using a POS:

  • Consolidates payment information: No double entry or physical bookkeeping. A POS keeps it all together in one place.

  • Organizes orders: Forget about the chaos of managing a mountain of tickets. POS systems organize orders for you and promote better communication between your front and back of house.

  • Tracks inventory: With all items for sale eing entered into a POS prior to service, everyone will be aware of how much is left, be it breakfast pastries or the daily special.

  • Better staff management: A good POS will give you a full view of your staff, from how many people are scheduled to helping you spot peak times where you’ll need more hands on deck.

Top restaurant POS system features

While all POS come with different bells and whistles, here are the must-have features you should look for:

  • Payment processing: This is a given. Without the ability to process payments, the POS is no longer a POS. At the very least, your POS should be able to process credit cards, mobile payments and cash.

  • Reporting: Since your POS keeps track of all your data, it should also have robust reporting abilities. These reports will help you gain a deeper understanding of your business including your daily sales, menu item popularity, restaurant volume and more.

  • Inventory Management: Your POS should allow you to put manual inventory management to bed. With all your item counts entered into your POS, the technology will do the work for you.

  • Customer Management: Having a better understanding of guests is priceless for restaurants. A POS that comes with customer relationship management (CRM) features helps you capture customer contact info, order history and loyalty.

  • Labor Management: We already touched on this a little before, your restaurant’s POS should include ways for you to better manage your staff, giving a deeper insight into shift and employee-specific sales, table turns, etc.

How to pick the best POS system for your restaurant

Okay, so now that we’ve run through all the nuts and bolts of a restaurant POS, you can start thinking about which vendor is right for you. There are a lot of options out there, but ultimately you need to pick the POS that is going to work best for your business. Many of the POS companies will send you information on their product or run you through a digital or in-person demo.

>>>Don't forget: for reviews and feedback from independent restaurateurs on POS systems, check out Back Of House's free Solutions platform!

Questions to ask when choosing a POS system for your restaurant

Here are some questions to keep top of mind and you are having these conversations with potential POS system vendors:

  • Does this POS include the hardware I need? It could be you already have some of the hardware needed to make a POS work, or it could be you have none of it. Depending on the investment you want to make, make sure the POS works with your setup or offers solutions that are not going to cause you extra headaches or dollars.

  • Does this POS come with the sales, labor, CRM, menu and product reports that I need? If the POS can’t run these types of reports in a detailed way, then you are going to miss a lot of the benefits of having this type of technology. Take some time before you speak with vendors to think about where you want more information regarding your restaurant, and push to find a POS that meets those needs.

  • What restaurant-specific features does this POS offer? While not all POS are made just for restaurants, it’s good to ask what every POS can do for restaurants specifically. For one, it demonstrates that the vendor understands your needs. It also shows that the product will work for your type of business. One size does not fit all.

  • Is the POS user-friendly? Meaning, will it be easy for you to train your restaurant staff on this POS. Also, is the user experience intuitive enough for people to use day-to-day without having to refer to a manual. If not, your POS is going to cost you and your staff time and sanity.

  • Does the POS come with strong customer support? Yes, a POS is a piece of technology and so yes, inevitably, something is bound to go wrong. Nothing is perfect but that’s why it’s crucial your POS comes with reliable customer service, ideally something with 24/7 support.

  • How much does the POS cost and are there any hidden fees? Knowing the price of a POS upfront hopefully keeps your restaurant on budget, but also make sure to ask about hidden fees for processing or specific features. This will give a clearer picture of what your total investment could be.

  • Does the POS offer a free trial period? This is one of the best ways to know if a POS fits your restaurant. A test drive will give you peace of mind and hopefully affirm your purchasing decision, risk-free!

And of course, if you have a favorite restaurant POS that has really changed the way you do business? We want to hear about it! Give us a holler:

[Photo: Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels]