what to look for in a restaurant pos system - man standing in front of a pos system in a restaurant

What do you need in your restaurant POS system?

Sunday, November 02, 2014
The point of sale system (POS) you choose for your restaurant is so much more than a simple cash register. Not only is a POS system the hub for credit card processing at your restaurant, it's also the nerve center of your business—an all-in-one solution that manages the sales transactions and the end-to-end workflow, which makes running the business easier and more efficient.  This means that the system you choose for your restaurant – whether you're a full-service restaurant, a restaurant that only offers takeout or delivery services, or a food truck – is critical to your success. In this article, we’ll talk about the specific features you should consider to find the best restaurant POS system for your business.

Covid-19 accelerated the POS digital transformation

Restaurateurs, more than any other industry in the US, pivoted their business models to accommodate COVID-19. Restaurant owners like you found heat lamps and moved tables outside, scaled up take-out menus, reinvented the concept of curbside delivery and integrated your system with online ordering and delivery platforms.

In short, almost 90% of restaurants in the US weathered the storm and are still in business, including yours. The industry's flexibility in meeting the demands of these challenges is largely due to high-performing POS systems. So if you're thinking it's time to upgrade your system, or you're new in the business, remember this: a comprehensive restaurant POS system is the one tool that touches every aspect of your business. When researching, make sure you consider everything your POS should do – and that goes far beyond just taking sales.

Core Features for Your POS System

Today's sophisticated POS systems combine payment processing and restaurant management into one comprehensive software package. 

The core features in a POS system manage both front of house and back of house operations so that your entire business management is streamlined into one single software system. From floor plans to table management and kitchen management, you want a simple, customizable platform that is quick to deploy, scalable (scalable here does not just refer to growth, more on that later), and updates automatically. Finally, you need to access all the data from your devices, no matter where you are.

Payment processing is no longer the primary POS function

There was a time when point-of-sale meant a cash register and actual money at checkout. 

But more often, when you process payments at checkout, they'll be with credit cards or debit cards. You'll want to make sure your restaurant point of sale system can accept all kinds of different payments, including contactless payments.

From cash to credit cards and gift cards to virtual wallet payments like Apple Pay and Google Pay, a good POS solution lets you accept all of these payment methods. You'll also need a card-not-present capability to accept payments from call-in orders. Your system also has to process EMV chip-enabled, magstripe, and contactless cards.


POS reports streamline all aspects of your business

POS reporting is where your system functions as a critical business tool. Your success depends on the accuracy of your reports, and an all-inclusive system keeps granular records so that you get targeted, in-depth data into food and drink sales, profit margins, and even hourly breakdowns of food-to-beverage sales. This reporting agility means that you can access these reports in real time, giving you the information you need for tasks like scheduling and invoicing in the short term, and inventory management for long-range planning.

Employee and payroll management allow up-to-the-minute scheduling

POS systems are a great tool for payroll and employee management. However, the best systems go a step further and allow employee access on their mobile devices. They can log in and find open shifts, request schedule changes, and view schedules. Whenever they need the information, it's there. Modern POS systems also track cash and credit card tips for payroll, and as a bonus for employees, keep them up to date on those future tip earnings. 

Customer engagement—keep them wanting more

As the old saying goes, leave them wanting more. For a small business in the foodservice industry, this means keeping your customers engaged with your restaurant long after you drop off the delivery on the doorstep. 

There are many ways to interact virtually with your customers that it's almost impossible to list them all here, but the most popular options are loyalty points, skip-the-line ordering, and coupons or discounts. The best restaurant POS software goes further with customer retention management (CRM) and delivers intelligence on individual customers. Tracking dietary requirements, buying patterns, and order history customizes their dining experience—knowing a customer does not want ketchup and acknowledging that tableside is a huge way to build loyalty to your business.

When you can turn data into revenue with small touches like this, it's a sure thing you've invested in the right POS system. 

What are the Key Factors When Choosing a Restaurant POS System?

POS software comes with lots of options

If you're in the market for new POS software, there's no doubt that you’ve been asked to try out a free demo, try this plan, “we’re the best software out there,” and so on. There are many good options for your business; the trick is in drilling down to the one that meets your unique needs, now and in the future. Although a POS primarily processes credit cards, your business may need an all-inclusive system.

These are the must-have options for any POS system.

Contactless POS options

If you’re not familiar with contactless payment options, they’re a secure way for consumers to make purchases from your business. The technology behind contactless payments is near-field communication (NFC), which uses radio frequency identification (RFID) to signal the payment terminal to accept a payment from a mobile device or NFC payment credit card.

Since the Covid pandemic, a contactless system is almost necessary for any restaurant with in-person dining or a thriving takeout business.

Online ordering is easy

If there's one positive impact of Covid on the restaurant industry, it's the rapid shift to more restaurants accepting online orders. With so many restaurants moving to the takeout and delivery models, it's critical that your point of sale software has an intuitive user interface and integrates with the various food delivery apps. It's also critical that card information and credit card transactions are secure.

Mobile device and tablet POS integration

Going digital with ordering capability is only the beginning, your POS system also needs to include online reservations, menus, and payment options for any digital device. Total integration also includes QR codes rather than printed menus. There are two great advantages to going to codes for your primary menu option. One is that you have the flexibility to change the menu in real time if you run out of some menu items during service. The other is that you save on printing and paper costs.

For quick-service restaurants, consider offering kiosks that contain touchscreen self-service tablets. This user-friendly option can automate and streamline the customer experience, with their orders going directly to the back of house.

To provide an even higher level of service, your business may consider tableside ordering on a touchscreen-enabled Android or iPad POS system. Customers can also pay at the table with some mobile POS systems, ensuring a more secure credit card transaction at their fingertips. While you're making your POS must-have list, make sure there's a digital tipping option.

Another thing you need is online payment processing, rather than the customer having to pay when they pick up the order. Mobile payment options drive more customers to you, as does accepting all major credit cards, debit cards, and digital options like PayPal and Venmo. 

Customer Rewards and Engagement

A thorough customer engagement platform provides the analytics that assess the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. Are you spending in the right places? Where are the areas where you can improve your overall performance? 

When the data you collect is collated, it provides intelligence about building custom marketing offers, like discounts and promotions, via email or text. 

Your online reputation is your lifeline, and in the age of social distancing and impersonal communication, it's essential that your social media interactions reflect a positive image. The data analytics your POS system collects gives you valuable insight into not only your performance but also measures your social profile against your competition. 

Finally, your software should assess your strengths and the areas where you can better perform to grow your revenue. 

You can use all this data to build discounts and loyalty programs that hit individual sweet spots—literally. Text a free dessert coupon that's good with a weekend family meal in the mobile app and catch the not sure what to do for dinner crowd.

Scalability is about more than growth

Sure, growing your business is the whole point of opening your doors. But POS system scalability is not just about adding tables or locations; although ease in scaling up is a serious consideration when you're researching system options. Scalability also refers to agility—how quickly you can adapt to changing customer needs. 

A POS system that connects the dots between industry changes, like the popularity of outside dining or takeout, and the down-to-the-minute operations of the business, provides you the framework to know exactly how to scale the business every day. Scalability also means controlling inventory by tracking historical data to predict sales and inventory accurately.


Payment processing should not cost a fortune

One of the biggest caveats when you're system shopping is this: are you free to choose your own payment processing, or payment gateway, provider? 

Read the fine print for hidden fees before you sign up for any merchant services, and remember that if a POS system's pricing seems too good to be true, it probably is. 

Another consideration is how many business days does it take for transactions to hit your business account—cash flow is important and savvy restaurateurs like you should work to find the most economical way to get your money quickly.

Processing fees differ with every vendor. Visa and MasterCard have the lowest fees of the major credit cards, since American Express transaction fees tend to run about a percentage point higher. That said, in today’s environment, customers expect businesses to accept all forms of payment – including Amex. 

Daily operations management

A good restaurant POS solution also contains critical management features to keep your business moving. Payment processing, daily reports, inventory tracking and inventory management, payroll, cash flow, and customer loyalty programs are part of the big platform universe. Besides the ability to perform all the above tasks, a POS system should easily integrate into your existing systems so that you don't lose any data. When evaluating a POS system for your restaurant, it’s important to consider these integrations. If the POS system you like doesn’t integrate with your current solutions, how costly is it to switch those systems?

How Much Does a Restaurant POS Cost?

It's almost impossible to quote the costs of a POS system because there are so many factors that ultimately determine the final number. Most systems are built on an annual contract, broken down into a monthly fee but billed annually. Typically, there are some hardware costs you'll incur, things like tablets, card readers, cash drawers, receipt printers, kitchen display systems and more. You can buy some equipment, like mobile phones or tablets, or lease the equipment from the developer. In all honesty, leasing from the software vendor is the smartest move since you'll have POS hardware options specifically designed for this unique system.  Many restaurants choose systems that utilize iPads or other tablets. Taking up less space than a traditional POS system, they offer the same functionality in a smaller footprint.

Why you need a POS System for your Restaurant

If you're wondering why you need a restaurant POS system for your business, it's because the foodservice industry has unique challenges in its day to day operations. Other retailers buy their inventory at regular intervals. You buy it every day. Your staffing needs are more fluid than generic retail—the Final Four or Super Bowl doesn't always send people flocking to shoe stores. 

A restaurant POS system is built to manage the challenges unique to the industry and improve your bottom line. The right system not only streamlines your daily operations but can manage your long-range growth. A system with add-on integrations gives you the flexibility to stay with one platform so you can scale up as needed and adapt to a changing dining landscape.

Ready to work with a payment processor who can help design a POS system solution for your restaurant?

Heartland is the point of sale, payments and payroll solution of choice for entrepreneurs that need human-centered technology to sell more, keep customers coming back and spend less time in the back office. Nearly 1,000,000 businesses trust us to guide them through market changes and technology challenges, so they can stay competitive and focus on building remarkable businesses instead of managing the daily grind. Learn more at heartland.us.