How to Choose a Restaurant POS System?

Ever since Square made it possible for small time businesses to easily take credit cards, merchants have begun to take notice of new possibilities for the way they take payments. Cloud-based POS software is exploding in the market, and with so many options to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start. This quick guide will help you narrow your focus to make sure that you’re not wasting time looking at the wrong apps.

  1. Dont even think about hardware. Historically, a hardware dependent POS forced you to take whatever hardware you had or needed to buy into consideration. This is an obsolete way of making software decisions. With affordable bandwidth flowing around the world, theres no need to take on the responsibility of buying servers and maintaining them. Run your software as a cloud service and let someone else handle the computing. Youre trying to run a restaurant.
  2. Define your needs. Even within the seemingly narrow space of the Restaurant POS category, there are a variety of offerings catering to many different needs. Some may be geared towards a coffee shop with a limited menu, and some can be designed around full service kitchens that needs to track ingredients, not menu items. Still others take a modular approach by offering software that can be expanded through add-ons developed in-house or by third parties. Some areas to consider as you define your requirements (this should by no means be considered a definitive list, but a suggestion for starting points as you determine your requirements):
    1. Payment/Accounting If youre happy with your credit card processor, youll want to make sure the new POS will integrate with them. The same goes for your accounting software. Its also crucial to make sure the POS supports the new EMV security standard. By October 2015, merchants are going to need to be ready for it or risk liability for data breaches.
    2. Inventory What do you need to keep track of? How detailed do you need to get to manage your inventory?
    3. Order Flow Do you offer table service? How do the orders get to the kitchen? A wireless, tablet-based system can manage the flow of information, from table to kitchen and back again.
    4. Reporting Always make sure the type of reporting a system offers would actually be useful to you, and that you have the ability to filter results based on your own criteria.
    5. Customer Relationship Management You might not think you need this, but odds are you do. Besides, any POS worth its monthly price is going to include ways to get customer information and store it.
    6. Other Restaurant Related Features to Make Sure Of There are tons of little things that you dont want to forget about: tipping capabilities, split payments, open tabs, table management, ability to add modifiers to orders, and item variants (S, M, and L, e.g.), to name a few.
    7. Support Is it available during the hours youll need it?
    8. Offline Support Will it work even when youve lost connection?
  3. Think about your budget, but dont overthink it. Conventional wisdom has it that your POS budget is somehow related to your revenue by way of a percentage (for example: many think you should spend 1% 2% of your annual take). This is a recipe for overspending. A POS is no longer an investment in hardware and software and support; its just another service coming in over a wire. Youre not going to spend more on electricity just because you earn more revenue. Theres no $10,000 a month cable package for people who make $7 million or more annually. You need some kind of POS, so this service is a necessary expense. After youve narrowed your search to some options, figure out what each will cost—upfront and then monthly—and plug the numbers into your business plan. Then work through a reseller and negotiate a better deal. If the numbers dont work out, the problem may be with your business plan, not the POS.
  4. Figure out a 5-year plan. Maybe youre starting small, and plan to add services and space as it becomes possible. A quick serve coffee kiosk can grown into a full service cafe just by knocking down a wall and cleaning up the debris. Having a POS that can grow with you prevents you from having to go through all this again. A vendor thats forged strong partnerships with other developers and shares its API freely will give you the greatest degree of future proofing possible.
  5. Take a test drive. Once youve narrowed your search and gone through some pricing exercises, determine which 2 or 3 options are your favorites, and then just try them. Ive only seen one cloud POS company that doesnt offer a free trial, and even they will if you ask them nicely. Test the software for ease of use. How is it configuring the POS for the first time? What about adding inventory and ringing up an order? Is the layout intuitive? You can get a pretty good feel for a POS just by monkeying around with it for a few hours.
  6. Test their support, too. Assuming youve verified that technical support is available when you need it, and that your test run went smoothly and youre satisfied with the stability/utility of the software, this is still a crucial step. Make sure their support is worthwhile. Make up a problem. Ask them how to do something. Call or e-mail or both. Just because all looks good now doesnt mean something wont break in the future, and its good to be sure youll have a competent and responsive support team to reach out to. Dont forget to look through their support website, too.
  7. Make a decision. There is no universal wisdom to picking your final choice. If youve followed all the steps, chances are there will be one standout.