What is a restaurant POS?

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Restaurant owners wear numerous hats not just a chef’s hat. Chances are good that you write the menu, order the supplies, plan the promotions, schedule the workers, pay the bills—and when it’s busy, you likely staff the register, deliver the food and bus the tables.

A restaurant Point of Sale (POS) system could be the answer to your needs.

What Is a Restaurant POS?

A restaurant POS is the heart of your restaurant operation, streamlining business processes and enhancing customer service. Its core function is to shuttle orders seamlessly and accurately from order taker to the kitchen. If you’ve ever watched doubtfully as your server tries to memorize your order while you reel off a complicated list of substitutions (leaving you to wonder if indeed the mayo will be left off your sandwich), you’ll understand this main function of a restaurant POS.

And while tracking orders is important for customer satisfaction, it also ensures your inventory is constantly updated—you’ll know exactly how many croissants were sold—and can also help reduce employee waste or theft and even undercharging since the orders and tickets are all accounted for.

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While that seems impressive enough, these multitasking machines can also do much more than track your orders and sales…they can act as critical tools to manage many facets of your business. For example, depending on the product you choose, your restaurant POS can:

  • Process credit cards
  • Handle your loyalty program
  • Administer your customer relationship management (CRM) function
  • Track employee schedules
  • Manage ingredient costs
  • Take reservations
  • Support your marketing
  • Handle online orders
  • And even more

In summary, a restaurant POS can tackle almost any function you can think of that will help you optimize your restaurant operations.

Benefits of A Restaurant POS

The magic of the restaurant POS lies in the data it collects—which you can then use to make better business decisions. And yes, while it can be a workhorse in collecting data—as always, the value lies is in how well you analyze it. You can parse the data points from your restaurant POS to answer these questions:

What are your outlet’s dining patterns?

Analyzing traffic and sales by day of the week, time of the month or even hour of the day can help you manage staffing so that you aren’t turning people away because service is slow—potentially risking their repeat business—or paying your staff to stand there idly. Understanding traffic patterns can help you save money by planning staffing more accurately—and can also boost sales by providing intelligence on when to offer additional discounts to help drive business and possibly encourage sampling that could turn a first-time visitor into a repeat customer.

Who are your repeat customers, and are you treating them right?

While you want every customer to feel special, it’s important to offer extra hospitality to loyal customers who might literally be your bread and butter. While ideally, your staff will recognize them by face, sometimes a new person won’t yet have met them, or a server might be distracted. But your POS’ CRM system will show their history, so you can make sure to note their presence. Making repeat customers feel at home is likely to encourage them to come even more often and bring their friends and families because of the special treatment they receive.

Who are your top-performing employees?

Your restaurant POS can show which of your team members are mastering the upsell or turning the most tables. This allows you to reward them commensurate with their productivity—after all, any restaurant owner will cite employee retention as one of their major issues, so you want to make sure that you are adequately recognizing top producers. This data also can help you identify employees who might need more training so that you can help them understand the value of the upsell or other winning sales techniques. In fact, pairing seasoned and fledgling employees to work together can help affirm to your top talent that their skills are being recognized and allows them to share best practices others can replicate.

Are your promotions hitting the mark?

The data your restaurant POS delivers will indicate which promotions are really driving business and which might be siphoning off dollars that may be better spent elsewhere. For example, maybe you made a large buy in a local travel magazine and it’s yielded very little return, but blanketing nearby offices with coupons brought a windfall. A restaurant POS will track discounts, coupons and other promotions so you can find out which ones were most effective—and with whom. For example which promotions were responsible for driving new traffic and which encouraged new purchases from existing customers?

How is your inventory?

Wasted food equals wasted money, and a restaurant POS can help you manage your inventory better. Look for patterns—do you live in an area where people are turning to fish every Friday? Do you cater to a younger crowd who maybe tends to overindulge on the weekend and then revert to healthy soups and salads during the week? Seeing where you can tweak your buying patterns can pay off big. You also can track whether certain items seem to be dissipating without showing up in sales; in that case, it could be your employees need to be watched a little more closely for potential theft. You also can decipher weather-related trends to stock up on comfort food when the weather is predicted to be blustery or push your specialty drinks if an unseasonably sunny day has al fresco dining booming.

Other benefits of a restaurant POS abound, including the ability to:

  • Adjust the menu: Menu upgrades or price changes are seamless with a restaurant POS—and you can make the change universally across your footprint or customize it by location; for example, keeping prices higher in a downtown location and lowering them at a vacation destination offseason.
  • Bolster your marketing: You can use your restaurant’s POS to build a mailing list of customer addresses and emails (always ask them to opt in), but many customers appreciate being on the mailing list and/or receiving their receipts by email. By analyzing purchase patterns in your CRM, you can target your marketing outreach; for example sending a “kids eat free” promotion to families to tweak traffic during a historically slow daypart or a “buy one, get one” latte and muffin offer to office workers, encouraging them to bring a buddy on their next coffee break. It can handle your birthday club, alert a customer when a favorite menu item is back and more.
  • Optimize scheduling: Not only do you want to make sure that customers are adequately served, you want to make sure that employees are being treated fairly. A restaurant POS can help you make decisions about which dining areas and times are most lucrative, so you can spread the love with the best shifts, and/or tweak the scheduling so that newbies aren’t overwhelmed during a critically busy period.
  • Ease online ordering: If you’re not capitalizing on the online ordering crazy, you’re losing money. A restaurant POS can streamline the system, reducing the opportunity for error and speeding up the process—both important components of customer satisfaction.
  • Offer multiple forms of payment: Customers today want to pay the way they want to pay—whether it’s by credit card, mobile wallet or good ol’ cash. A restaurant POS makes it easy to handle any of these with ease. After all, the last thing you want to do is make it hard for your customers to give you their money.
  • Improve security: A modern restaurant POS will offer a variety of ways to protect your data—and that of your customers. Look for systems that adhere to EMV standards to secure cardholder information and have up-to-date anti-virus software to protect your establishment from malware and data breaches.
  • Provide better customer service: Really, every advantage above leads to this: A restaurant POS will offer an improved customer experience. Not only is your customer going to be happy to have their sandwich sans mayo (as per our example up top) thanks to the accuracy of a restaurant POS, they’re also going to be delighted by the speedier transactions it provides, coupled with a more personalized experience. And with your employees freed from many mundane tasks such as reconciling orders or figuring out promotions, they can focus more on direct customer service benefits.

What Does the Restaurant POS System Buying Process Entail?

Ready to bite? It’s a smart move. Now comes the task of choosing the right system for you.

There are multiple types of restaurant POS, all with different capabilities and price points. Some are designed to be cost-effective for a small one-store bistro or food truck, while more sophisticated ones are better equipped to handle the demands of a multi-chain company.

Your first step to choosing a restaurant POS should be to investigate the functionality each system offers and figure out which bells and whistles are crucial to you—and how much they are worth in terms of dollars vs. time.

For example, if you spend every month laboriously creating and tracking promotions, then you should make sure your POS makes it easy to handle this function. If you provide table service, look into a mobile POS (mPOS), which speeds up service and lends a modern air to your establishment—and requires a lot less training since it is so intuitive.

There are many comparison sites online that can help take the legwork out of determining the best restaurant POS for you.

As you evaluate your choices, make sure that you understand the total cost of ownership. This will include:

  • Software: This is what runs the system, tracking orders, handling payments and collecting data; typically you’ll pay a monthly fee per device, which will fluctuate depending on what features are offered, such as online ordering or loyalty programs.
  • Hardware: This is the physical component, whether a fixed terminal or mobile tablet, and then the routers, card readers, display screens and printers that are needed by your establishment. Talk to your POS provider about whether they offer hardware bundles and determine if that is a better deal than sourcing it yourself.
  • Training: This is often—but not always—included by your provider so find out how much they offer. And then you’ll also want to factor in the staff time to master the system.
  • Transaction fees: While not technically a direct POS cost, these are the costs that you bear when customers swipe a credit card. Often your POS software provider can act as the merchant account provider, but you’ll want to weigh their costs and benefits against your existing merchant account.
  • Repairs and support: If your restaurant POS is down, so too, most likely, is your restaurant, and there goes your revenue out the window. You’ll want to find a system that’s reliable and that offers dependable customer support. Talk to providers about how they handle outages and any back-up plans they recommend.

As we enter an era where data is king, your restaurant can be at a disadvantage if you are not using the tools to harness data that can optimize your operations and streamline all your functions. With a restaurant POS, you can be sure that you are leveraging all potential inputs—leading to happier customers and more satisfied employees.

Want more tips if you’re in retail? Check out our guide for managing a retail store.


This article originally appeared on the QuickBooks Resource Center and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

Featured Image Credit: ablokhin / iStock.

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