Let’s face it, your to-do list is a hundred yards long, and the more decisions you have to make, the more you want to pull your hair out by the roots. Some of those decisions and tasks can be pushed back or even delegated to lower management. However, when it comes time to choose the best POS system for your bar and restaurant, you don’t want to take it lightly.
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.
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
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
This decision mainly depends on:
- 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
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
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
After meeting with your managers and staff, narrow down you choices to 2 – 3 POS systems to choose from. Anything more than that becomes overwhelming. If after the demos you don’t like any of them, then you can book more, but it’s unlikely that will happen.
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.
Not sure what questions to ask? We got you.
STEP 5: 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.
FREQUENTLY ASKED POS QUESTIONS
DO I REALLY NEED A POS SYSTEM?
Yes. Sorry, no beating-around-the-bush-political-answer. If you are serious about running a mega-successful bar/restaurant, this is the heartbeat of your business. This is like asking, “Does our bedroom really need a bed?” You can live without one, but it’s going to be a painful experience
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.