Point Of Sale Systems for Restaurants – an introduction

One of the questions any restaurant manager has to ask is: which Point Of Sale (POS) system should I use? In the US, there are dozens of point of sale systems that are available, many of which cater specifically to the restaurant industry. Each of the major systems claims to have the easiest interface, the best integration with reservation, the most sophisticated software, and a host of other features. To add to the confusion, POS systems that work wirelessly on the iPad and other tablets are now available. This is not a light decision to make, as not only can POS systems cost thousands of dollars to install, they will play key role in the smooth running of your restaurant or bar.

Here is a summary of some of the more popular brands that are available in the market, as well as some innovative additions.

Micros

Micros is the 800 pound gorilla in the market. As NASDAQ-listed company with over US$900m of revenues, Micros is one of the market leaders in the US and offers a wide range of POS systems for restaurants. When you buy a Micros POS system, you might get better software updates, warranties, training and scalability. Or you might not, but I’m pretty sure Micros didn’t get to be as big as it is without putting a serious amount of investment in its products. Micros also offer integration with other services, such as OpenTable’s reservation, which is helpful if you use OpenTable. Another side benefit is that, given Micros’ popularity, new staff are more likely to be familiar with the system (although most POS systems function in similar ways).

Aloha

The other big player in the market, Aloha POS systems are made by Radiant Systems, another NASDAQ-listed company but this time with just over US$300m of revenues. Nevertheless, Aloha is a very popular system, and offers similar benefits as Micros, in terms of being a very large provider of POS systems. A very popular provider, Aloha also offers OpenTable integration. There is not much more to add here (except this video demonstrating the waterproof qualities of an Aloha system).

While there are many iPad POS apps available, we chose to cover Revel Systems as it specifically targets restaurants. Compared to tradition equipment based POS systems, iPad-based systems can be far less expensive to set up and run. Some offer you the freedom to select your own hardware, which can save money. Not to mention they just look cooler and take up less space.

On the surface, it seems that Revel Systems POS has all the features you would expect from a traditional POS system. One major benefit is that the back-end of the POS system is implemented is cloud-based, so there is no need for an on-premises server running the usual required databases and transaction reporting. However, some users might find that the systems is not as fast as they would like (not to mention that the iPad is not super waterproof, something that might be useful in a bar).

Overall, the major POS makers are in a strong position and probably a good choice for a few years to come, although they may be missing a slice of the pie because their systems remain quite expensive. Time will tell whether the POS systems will trend towards more versatility, mobility and frugality. Social media is also poking its head into this market, as restaurants try to convert social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare into money-making tools.