06252017

How to Choose the Right POS System for Your Restaurant

Photo credit: Syda Productions/Shutterstock

Opening a restaurant can seem daunting. There are many choices to be made from staff members, menus, and decor. But with this guide, choosing the right POS system for you should be easy. We’ll break down the different types and how to know which is right for you.

You’ve hired the right kitchen team. You have a great group of servers. Your front-of-the-house staff is in place. The dining room is perfect, and the bar looks terrific. You have quality kitchen equipment in place, and it’s set up perfectly so every service can run efficiently. Even your public relations efforts are bearing fruit — there’s a buzz about your place that is exciting.

Great job! But have you overlooked a key component in the success of your restaurant?

If you haven’t put much analysis into a Point-of-Sale (POS) system, you could render all your other good decisions moot. Fact is, choosing your POS system. You need one that works well for your establishment and your employees, allowing them to provide the kind of first-rate service today’s diners demand.

When your POS is slow or works clumsily, everyone winds up frustrated, from the front-of-the-house hosts to the cooks in the kitchen. And a frustrated staff won’t deliver a great experience for your customers. We all know how competitive the restaurant business is and just a few missteps can cost you, customers, forever.

What should you focus on when it comes to choosing the right POS for your establishment? We highlight the key features you’ll want to consider when making your selection.

1. Is it fast and intuitive?

The world moves fast these days — and it seems restaurants need to move even faster. Your POS software not only needs to deliver blazing speed, you want to make sure that it’s easy to use. The more quickly your staff becomes comfortable with it, the speedier they’ll be able to operate it.

If you’re an established restaurant that already has some POS software you want to continue running, make sure anything new can be integrated easily. For better or worse, we live in an instant gratification society. When customers are in your restaurant, longer than expected wait times will keep them from being repeat customers.

2. Does it track inventory for you?

If there’s any part of running your business you’d like to make easier, it just might be tracking inventory. It’s unglamorous and not a whole lot of fun — but it’s essential to success. The right POS system might not solve everything, but it certainly can help. Many of the best ones will track your ingredient orders and usage, let you know if it’s time for re-ordering, and keep a running tally of what has been sold. It lets you keep your finger on the pulse of the operation. Many can even be programmed to re-order items automatically.

3. Does it have credit card processor capability?

This advice may seem obvious, but not every POS system works with every credit card processor. The time to ask about that is before the system is installed. The last thing you want to do is slow operations down and be forced to create some workaround process because your POS system and your credit card processor don’t like working together.

4. Can it give you a snapshot?

The best operators are always crunching the numbers — what’s moving, what do we need more of, what should we take off the menu, what food costs are going up, what’s going on with labor costs. You want to make sure your POS software not only provides all the information you need but makes it easy, too.

In fact, your POS software might be an even more valuable tool than you realize — many of them can take on tasks like tracking new versus returning customers, provide a valuable overview of the popularity of all the items on your menu, reveal maintenance costs, and even help you get a handle on the costs associated with your kitchen tools and appliances.

In other words, it’s not just a way for your wait staff to punch in orders — a fully utilized POS software system is like an extra set of eyes on your restaurant, constantly analyzing operations.

5.  Does tech support deliver on its promises?

Few things throw off a restaurant as much as POS software going down. Of course, you must expect that it will happen at the worst possible moment — like Friday night at eight o’clock. Talk about frustration. Everyone will be annoyed — servers, kitchen staff, and, most importantly, customers. While you know a lot about running a restaurant correctly, and can probably fix your kitchen equipment yourself if push comes to shove, you’re probably not a back-end software expert.

That’s why support that’s 24/7 is critical. We all know that restaurants don’t run on bankers’ hours, so make sure your POS software support operates that way, too. Are there dedicated people available at all times to help you fix problems quickly and efficiently?

System support isn’t just essential during times of crisis. You want a POS software partner who makes the installation and training seamless as well, so it’s set up appropriately and your employees are completely comfortable with using it. What’s more, they need to be available for guidance through any updates or changes you may want to make as your restaurant evolves and to help with any credit card transaction issues.

Smart POS Software Means a Smooth Operation

You don’t need us to remind how difficult success is in the restaurant business. You already know the failure rate is daunting, and that running a restaurant is a challenge which is met successfully by only the very best. Fact is, in a market like New York City where competition is especially fierce, 80 percent of new restaurants will close in less than five years.  

So why do some restaurants slip into the annals of history while others endure and become local or national institutions? Well, there’s no secret recipe — food, service, atmosphere, location, buzz — there are hundreds of ingredients when it comes to creating a successful, long-running restaurant.

That said, you can make operations easier, more intuitive, and less time-consuming by choosing the right POS software. After all, you operate a restaurant because you love providing food and hospitality, and you love the business challenge of making it successful. You didn’t get into the industry because you wanted to become a computer software expert. When you choose the right POS software, it will do a lot of heavy lifting for you and leave you with more time to focus on the parts of the business that you love and do well.

Whether it’s through smooth daily operations or assistance in times of crisis, your POS software is one of the most critical ingredients in the success of any restaurant. Choose yours wisely, and you’ll be on the path to becoming an institution — and not an afterthought.

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