Not too long ago, we didn’t use the term point-of-sale system; we called them cash registers. Then more recently, credit card machines moved in next to them.
But the merchant technology took a big leap forward, and the modern point-of-sale system arrived, as computers advanced in restaurants. These point-of-sale (POS) systems wear many hats. POS systems take payments, but they also manage inventory, keep track of orders, record employee time sheets, do table management, etc. They are the critical computer system that restaurants now rely on to do business.
POS systems grow increasingly critical for management functions because they sync with the Internet and allow remote management and system updates. When used effectively, they can add efficiency across the board, including employee tracking, inventory, operations, payment and seating. POS systems tend to be large investments, and because of their complexity, expense and restaurants’ different needs, no one strategy works for every restaurant.
Management Choices Rely on Many Elements
Before we praise the wonders of POS systems, we must acknowledge that a segment of restaurants do just fine with pencil, paper, cash registers, back-room computers and manual credit card machines and readers. But in most restaurant contexts, the old system will not do. The paperwork becomes overwhelming as staff size, customer count and receipt volume increase, so a computerized POS system effectively serves as a full time manager/accountant.If a restaurant isn’t that old-fashioned but can’t afford the fanciest POS systems, you can choose simple POS software. By keeping paper payroll services and inventory control, experienced managers can make due with the gaps in their systems.
For larger operations, full-featured POS systems save money as the extra labor costs would dwarf the expense of the POS system. Imagine a restaurant that needed an extra manager or host all the time to maintain the smooth operation of every table and employee. Larger operations may have to record and analyze the sales of retail products, catering orders, food deliveries, restaurant reservations, table management and drive-through windows, etc. In these cases, POS systems increase overall efficiency.
State of POS Systems
Only a quick summary of the POS-system market is possible. For every mentioned system, remember there are similar competitors that you should investigate. As models change and new features become available, this information will age quickly, so check with a representative for any key changes.
Comprehensive systems, while expensive, save money by handling duties that workers would need to perform in labor-intensive procedures. Restaurant POS systems perform multiple tasks including processing credit-card transactions, taking customer orders and disseminating them to multiple stations, tracking inventory, managing payroll and scheduling tasks, ordering supplies, generating custom gift cards and implementing customer loyalty programs. Complex systems need intensive employee training, but they can be customized to a restaurant’s individual needs.
The top brands of restaurant POS systems work well for restaurant chains, multiple-department operations and hotels. The greater the number of terminals, the more advanced the restaurant POS systems should be to process multiple restaurant applications simultaneously. Micros and Aloha are the dominant players in this realm. These systems require substantial hardware and software investments, but custom sales tools, dining-room management applications and advanced accounting and management software help complex operations run more efficiently.
Newer POS systems are using off the shelf hardware such as iPads while high-end systems normally require buying their proprietary hardware. Restaurant POS systems can operate with minimal iPad hardware, receipt printers and card readers, keeping costs down. The new Breadcrumb system offers a strong suite of services that runs on iPads.
Newer companies are bringing Apple-like simplicity to systems to lessen the training burden and streamline the interfaces. These systems tend to have fewer features and less backend reporting, but they cover nearly all essential functions. Clover by First Data is an example of a POS system that stresses simplicity.
All kinds of new features are becoming readily available. One of particular note are is Aldelo For Restaurants which can take orders in one language and send them to the bar and kitchen in different languages.
Operating Systems and Hardware Requirements
Owners and managers need to analyze their needs to choose the best deployment scenarios. Hardware requirements vary among different restaurant POS systems, and simple systems might run on portable devices or standard personal computers. Networking multiple cash registers, terminals, printers and restaurant locations requires servers, extensive POS hardware, compatible software and touch-screen computers to realize the maximum benefits of these advanced restaurant POS systems.
Critical secondary features play prominent roles in the success of fine-dining establishments, multilevel marketing operations, chain restaurants and major hospitality destinations. Some of these features are not part of the basic system’s cost. Service details and support prove crucial when implementing comprehensive restaurant POS systems.
To many restaurant owners’ surprise, comprehensive systems generate unexpected expenses for hardware upgrades, training, terminals and peripherals. Remember that more complex systems require training workers and managers to operate them, so consider how difficult and expensive it will be to educate the staff.
Some restaurants might only need to upgrade their old systems, add plug-and-play modules or consider buying used systems. However, only original clients receive service and support from most software and hardware vendors.
The Right System
Almost every restaurant compromises on their POS systems because of expense. Now there are systems nearly as simple as pen and paper. Now there are systems that help managers. But each upgrade to a better system can add thousands of dollars of setup costs and monthly subscription fees.
Hundred of providers offer full, partial and software-based systems for restaurant management, so finding the right POS system isn’t a straightforward choice. The best way to go about choosing a POS system is to not make a decision based solely on a demo. You should research a prospective system thoroughly, budget out the costs and assess your needs. You should read people’s written comments and reviews on the Internet, but of course, take them with a grain of salt. Quizzing other restaurant owners and managers might be more illuminating.