How to Choose the Perfect Restaurant POS System [5 Steps]

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Believe me, I know, choosing the best POS system for your restaurant is like picking out a wedding dress (or a husband) for a woman. You want to get the perfect one, but there are so many to choose from (both dresses and husbands) and you just don’t want to fuck it up. Regret is not a fun life partner. But I’m here to help, so whether you own/manage a bar, restaurant, club, lounge, café, food truck, hotel, golf club…you get the point. I’m going to help you find a great restaurant POS system that you will actually be excited about.

Now, if you’re still on the fence and you’re like “Do I really need a POS system?” the answer is F-YES you do! I’m not a beat-around-the-bush-political-answer type of guy. This is like asking, “Does our bedroom really need a bed?” I mean, you can live without one, but it’s going to be a painful experience.

Your POS system is the central nervous system of your restaurant. Everything runs through it, at every second of every day, and assuming you have a decent one it should include things like: ordering, menu management, accounting for labor, payroll, sales, scheduling, to-go ordering, comps, discounts, rewards and loyalty program, table and customer management…the list goes on and on. So in this article I’m going to help guide you to the best one. If you want, you can also jump over to my other website at Bar Patrol and check out The Top 5 POS Systems of 2021. There I give my top 5 favorite restaurant POS systems broken down by category. Plus there are some great discounts you can get for each.

It’s an Investment, Not an Expense

In addition, choosing the best POS system for your business can and will save you a boatload of money, simply based on the insights and data that is collected. Your ROI (return on investment) will be worth taking the time to do a little research and find the perfect POS system for your bar and/or restaurant.

So whether you’re choosing the best POS system for a fast food restaurant, or you want to know how to buy a POS system for a full-service restaurant, this guide will walk you through that process.

What is a POS System?

I imagine at this point you are aware of what a POS system is. If so, skip to the next section. However, if you’re a newbie, here you go:

POS stands for Point Of Sale. In its most basic form, this is where your servers and bartenders ring up food and drinks. As mentioned, this is the central hub of your bar and restaurant.

All sales and reporting will go through this system so you can see exactly what is going on in your business, including sales, accounting, labor, inventory management, purchasing. Some systems, like Upserve, can even tell you who is coming in (as in “Bob Johnson), how often and how much they are spending so you can see who your best customers are and what they are ordering.

The scary thing is, research shows that nearly half of independent restaurants still do not have a POS system. That’s crazy when you think about all the benefits that a restaurant POS system provides.

Where to Begin When Choosing a POS System

best restaurant pos system

Ok, so now we know what a POS system is and what it can do, now how do we choose one? Yes, it can seem daunting, but don’t worry your pretty little head. We’re going to help guide you so you can narrow it down to just a few options so you don’t stab yourself in the neck with a pencil from overwhelm.

Just follow this simple 5-step plan, and by the time you’ve completed step 5, you will have decided on your new POS system, which means you can move on to the next task on your list (blech!).

STEP 1: DETERMINE THE FEATURES YOU NEED

how to choose a pos system

Many of the POS systems out there have similar features, but some simply do them better than others. Some of those features are online ordering, menu management, accounting for labor, payroll, sales, scheduling, to-go ordering, comps, discounts, rewards and loyalty program, table and customer management…the list goes on and on, so you’ll need to decide which features you need the most, and not just the features that sound cool.

Now, the 5 main factors you need to think about here when deciding on the best POS system for you are:

  • The size of your bar/restaurant
  • Your sales (how busy are you)
  • Your preferences (for instance, is it important for your servers to have hand-held devices so they can do table-side ordering, or are you fine with a kiosk?)
  • Robustness in capabilities and reporting
  • Support

Having great customer support is so important when choosing a pos system because you will have questions and issues that arise on a consistent basis, and if they aren’t there when you need them, you’ll eventually stick a pencil in your neck and bleed out on the floor. And that’s not good for business.

Basically, the bigger the operation, the more robust your POS system needs to be for gathering insights, data, running your staff, and being able to provide a great customer experience for your guests.

My #1 POS system for full-service restaurants, if you care to know, is Upserve, followed closely by Toast. For smaller to mid-range, Rezku and Lightspeed are both amazing. The best POS system for pizzerias is definitely Thrive POS. You can schedule a free demo with any of them if you wish. It’s really the best way to do your research, ask them questions and get the system you want.

Basically what you want to look at is the bigger the operation, the more robust your POS system needs to be for gathering insights, data and being able to provide a great customer experience for your guests.

STEP 2: GET FEEDBACK FROM YOUR TEAM

best restaurant pos system

By not communicating and getting feedback from your management team, you are missing out on viewpoints and ideas you may have never thought of.

Your team works in the restaurant day in and day out, and they are usually using the POS system far more than you. That means it’s important that you choose a POS system that they are going to like using on the floor as much as you are going to like having great analytics and backend features.

This especially includes speaking with your servers and bartenders. So after that meeting with your managers and staff, I want you to narrow down your POS choices to 2 – 3 POS systems. Anything more than that becomes overwhelming and unnecessary.

STEP 3: THINK ABOUT YOUR CUSTOMERS

Your customers (or guests, as we like to call them) are the only reason that you have a business and a job. Making them happy is your #1 priority and choosing the right POS system is no exception.

I can hear you right now through the screen: “How is my POS system going to make my guests happy? They don’t use it.”

Good point, but here’s how. A quality POS system has features in it that allow you to provide a great experience for your guests. They include:

  1. A Restaurant Loyalty Program – This allows you to gather information about your guests so you can re-market to them. But the main benefit is that in order for your guests to gain more points so that they can get discounts or freebies, they have to come in more. The more they come in, the more deals they get and the more sales you get. In addition, they bring friends and the restaurant sales go up and up.
  2. Splitting Checks and Transferring Tabs – Seems like a small thing, and even though servers aren’t fired up on split tabs, to have a POS system that seamlessly makes it easy to split checks and transfer the tab from the bar to a table makes your guests extremely happy.
  3. Holding Items to Order – This is an indirect benefit to your guests. When your servers take orders for both appetizers and entrees, with this feature they can enter the appetizers and place the order, and then enter the entrees but put them on hold to better time out when they come out from the kitchen. By doing this, the server can see the orders that are on hold and they don’t forget to order them. Thus creating happy guests instead of angry guests.
  4. Table-side Ordering and Payments – Hand-held POS are the wave of the present, not the future. The best restaurant POS systems have hand-held devices (iPad POS or Android POS) so the servers can take orders right at the table. This cuts down on ordering mistakes by a large percentage. In addition, the hand-held POS systems are also able to run credit cards right at the table so the guests don’t have to wait for their bill.

See what we mean? Having a quality POS system ensures that your guests are taken care of and aren’t waiting for their food or checks.

STEP 4: DISCOVER YOUR BUDGET COMFORT ZONE

I know, I know…for most people this is step #1. Pricing and cost is almost always the first thing that pops into business owners’ minds when it comes time to purchase something for their bar or restaurant.

But here’s what I want you to consider: there are plenty of products and services that base price on brand popularity, as well as the robustness of the product or service. In other words, the more it can do, the more costly it is.

And that is certainly no exception in the restaurant POS industry. Basic electronic point of sale systems will cost less, and the more complex ones will cost more.

However, the question you should be asking yourself (and your sales rep) is: how much return on investment will my POS system give me?

Does it have the necessary features and capabilities to drive sales and give me the customer insights I need to make smart decisions?

Will it save me time with the efficiency tools provided, such as scheduling, ordering and reports analysis?

The point being, before you simply look at how much a POS system costs and rank them from cheapest POS to most expensive, you need to make sure to research the top restaurant POS systems. Then do step 4, which is to schedule demos.

Upserve POS is by far our favorite simply based on the customer insights and data mining it can do. For your money, there isn’t another POS system on the market that provides a better return on investment. But in the end, you need to choose the best POS system for your bar and restaurant because it’s your business and nobody else’s.

STEP 5: SCHEDULE DEMOS

best pos system

I know blocking out time to book demos to learn more about the POS systems you are considering is causing you to hyperventilate, but this isn’t like choosing whether to go with Coke or Pepsi. This decision is IMPORTANT, and you need to take it seriously.

Plus, you’d be surprised how much time it will save you to simply sit down for 20 – 30 minutes and see how the system works. Visual learning is powerful and will help answer many of your questions. Most of them will do a screen share with you, and visual learning is powerful when it comes to helping you understand what you’re getting and how it works.

During this time, make sure to ask as many questions as you can so you get all the answers. If the POS sales rep is vague at all, then it’s probably not the best system for you.

Again, listed my top 5 POS systems above, but I also want you to know that if you use those links, you will actually get TheRealBarman POS deal just because you and I are friends. Yes, I am an affiliate for each of the POS companies them, full transparency as always. But I’m only affiliate for them because they are the best. I never recommend anything that isn’t great for my peeps.

There are different deals for each company, but if you schedule a demo through those links, you can get deals like $500 off or $700 off. So don’t miss out on saving money. You can also go watch my video for The Top 5 Restaurant POS Systems of 2021 here that I mentioned if you wish to get a better overview before you book a demo.

FREQUENTLY ASKED POS QUESTIONS

DO I REALLY NEED A POS SYSTEM?

Wait, I thought I already answered this. If you are serious about running a mega-successful bar/restaurant, this is the heartbeat of your business. Don’t hesitate, just do it.

HOW MUCH DO POS SYSTEMS COST?

As with any product that has dozens of different companies and brands building it, this is going to vary quite a bit. We want to remind you that while looking at the cost is important, going with the less expensive brand can cost you more money in the long run.

WHAT TYPE OF POS SYSTEM IS BEST?

Again, this is a matter of preference, but we love the POS systems that include hand-held devices or tablets so your servers can provide table-side ordering and check-out. The old legacy systems are more clunky, both physically and in the backend of the admin. Most of the systems with iPad POS or Android POS are extremely user-intuitive, and work in the same way other features work on your phone or tablet.

Best of luck to you in your search. I know you’re going to find a system that is perfect for you.

Cheers,

Dave

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