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The Most Underused POS Features and Why You Shouldn't Miss Them

You’re paying for your point-of-sale (POS) system. Why not use it to its full advantage?

The majority of modern POS systems allow you to do far more than just punch in orders and ring up customers. Newer platforms are now rich with features designed to help you to improve efficiency, revenue, and profitability – but only if you put them to use.

We asked experts and vendors to share the POS features they see being most frequently underutilized, and why they shouldn’t be missed. 

(Not sure if your POS provider offers the following features? While the following are all fairly common features, simply call your provider to find out what’s included with your platform.)

Inventory Management 

Restaurants have always operated on thin margins. But it’s becoming increasingly important to consider waste to cut costs at every opportunity possible. 

“If we aren’t managing our inventory with the aid of technology and on a regular cadence, we are doing ourselves a disservice,” says Ben Simmons, co-founder of online ordering and payment platform Table Needs. “Do you know your target food cost? Your POS may not be able to tell you what your targets should be, but it can assist in consistent tracking to waste less and keep fresher ingredients.”

Most POS software includes tools to monitor product and ingredient stock levels, with downloadable reports and alert features. “Implementing a system of data mining to ensure that only items and amounts that are most likely to be sold during any given service are prepared, coupled with an item countdown, will help reduce end of night wastage,” says Omer Choudhary, owner of restaurant software solutions company Truffle.

Choudhary also recommends implementing a food donation routine and tracking it on your POS. “Despite best efforts, there will always be some food left at the end of every shift,” says Choudhary. “The benefits [of donation] are threefold – requiring your restaurant dumpster to be emptied less, [which] saves money, two, allowing you to write off all donated food during tax season, [and] three, knowing that the calories and effort that went into growing, shipping, and preparing your food were not wasted.”

Product Mixes (PMIX)

Similar to inventory management, a PMIX can help you plan ahead and prevent waste. The item-by-item menu sales report lists the number of every single item you sold in a given day, along with sales revenue.

“Many legacy POS systems would track PMIX, but very often that data lived in a downloadable spreadsheet that rarely got utilized,” says Bryan Solar, Square’s head of restaurants. “Modern POS’s make PMIX instantly available and easily digestible.”

Some consider the PMIX the most important report in your POS system, allowing you to interpret which dishes are true customer favorites and which might be contributing to waste. This is pivotal for making informed menu changes and engineering overall smarter menu designs.

Staff Scheduling and Labor

Managing staff and schedules is often one among the most difficult tasks for any business. But having a POS system with advanced staff management tools can assist you with not only details like scheduling, but also with making sure your labor costs are aligned with your current business goals. 

“Having a good balance to your food and labor costs can mean the difference to growing a single location into a franchise or bankruptcy,” says Choudhary. “Utilizing your POS reporting system to get an overview of these costs is a simple effective way to discover where you can ‘trim some fat’ on your staff during down time.”

Some POS systems, like Lightspeed, actually turn your data into staff report cards.

“[Our] POS provides a ‘server scorecard’, identifying how your guest-facing staff performs in terms of overall sales and tips, so you can make sure you’re optimizing every shift,” says Lightspeed general manager of hospitality Peter Dougherty. “Soon, the Lightspeed POS will also track your labor costs and compare them to other time periods – year-over-year, etc. – so you can make sure you can make efficient cuts on the floor as needed to keep your sales in the black.”

Data on your POS can also make it easy to identify your busy and slow periods, which helps in making important decisions on operational hours and staffing during those hours, as well as determining delivery and pickup windows. 

Kitchen Display Systems

If your current POS system brings a Kitchen Display System (KDS), you’re likely already using it. But if you’re one of the many restaurants still operating on the “paper ticket” method to run your kitchen, it might be time to upgrade.

A KDS is a digital order viewer that replaces your kitchen printers, and allows you to view, track, and fulfill orders via digital tickets in your back of house. By design, this seamlessly improves communication between the front and back of house.

“If you think of the kitchen as the heart of a restaurant's engine, a KDS is how restaurants can supercharge that engine by creating instant visibility to the status of the line,” says Solar. “This means no more customers who accidentally were waiting far too long for an order, and no more guesswork at the end of a shift about how the night went based on order flow.” 

With the hard data a KDS provides, you can make informed decisions to improve future performance, too.  

Marketing

Many POS platforms offer email marketing capabilities, and an increasing number of providers are beginning to offer text marketing campaign features, too. These serve as effective ways of reaching your customers outside of the restaurant – and to remind them to drop in for a visit.

“If you have the ability to blast out a text, email, or social media message to your customers about your specials or promotions, or just to remind them that they can order their lunch or dinner online and schedule it ahead of time, do it,” says Simmons. “Many owners don’t know what to market. Market your product, [or] use your online and scheduled ordering, and market that. After all, [customers] won’t use it if you don’t remind them that it exists.”

Integration Tools

POS integrations can span all sorts of business functions, from customer loyalty programs to payment processing to reservation software to delivery management and tracking. When you integrate your POS with other third-party platforms, this allows for seamless data sharing, enabling you to consolidate and control all aspects of your business from one single place. As a result, POS system is transformed into a highly powerful and essential tool.

Among the most popular integrations is simply an online ordering integration, enabling customers to place carryout orders online version, sending tickets straight to the kitchen, versus the traditional method by phone, “We’ve found that the average ticket size increases when orders are placed online,” says Samir Zabaneh, chairman and CEO of restaurant management system TouchBistro.

Zabaneh recommends coupling your online ordering integration with a loyalty program integration. “Restaurants are missing a major source of revenue from repeat business without an integrated loyalty program,” says Zabaneh. “Repeat customers love a robust loyalty program, especially one that is fully integrated with online ordering so it is easy for them to use their loyalty benefits.”

There are plenty of other integrations of which you can take advantage, and connecting different solutions together will generally help you increase efficiency and run a smoother operation. But before integrating any third party platforms, it’s a good idea to first call your POS provider to make sure they don’t offer a similar service.

“This will save you time and money as well as ensure that you don’t need to call two different companies if things stop working properly,” says Choudhary.

POS Staff Training

Many POS providers offer extensive training embedded right into the product. This can save you time on training staff on how to use your POS platform, and it also allows your leadership team to learn the ins and outs of the features you have at your disposal. Embedded videos and training programs are a sign of a strong POS system, says Simmons.

“You should look into whether or not your provider has put the time and resources into creating this. If they have not, consider a new provider,” he says.

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