The right point of sale (POS) system can help your restaurant thrive.
From customer-pleasing features that increase retention to time-saving tools that optimize your front and back-of-house workflows, adding a POS to your establishment will expand what you and your staff can offer your diners.
Restaurant, however, is a broad category; does a cafe have the same needs as a nightclub? Not really.
While there will always be overlap, every restaurant is different. Not to worry, though—we’ve written this handy guide to help you pick the right POS system for your business.
We’ve broken each checklist down by restaurant type: quick service, full service, bars and nightclubs and cafes and bakeries. Skip to the applicable section and let’s get started !
1. Choosing a POS for a quick-service restaurant
Quick-service restaurants serve high traffic volumes at an elevated speed. They often have large menus, specialized equipment and multiple checkouts operating at once.
These high-production, fast-paced environments need a POS that can keep up. While the ability to customize floor plans on-the-fly is nice to have, a quick-service restaurant may not benefit as readily as a full service establishment would.
Instead, quick-service restaurateurs should focus on features and integrations that streamline the ordering and fulfilment processes.
Speed may seem obvious, but streamlining every aspect of your business goes deeper than making sure your kitchen display system (KDS) is easy to read—don’t discount how important it is for your KDS to integrate with your POS!
To operate at a high speed, look out for these features:
- Quick ordering. Your chosen POS should have an easy-to-understand order screen that employees can learn quickly.
- On-the-fly edits. Run out of an item? Your POS should allow you to quickly update your menu anywhere, ensuring employees know exactly what guests can order.
- Menu modifiers. Quick-service means combos. Look for a POS that lets you pre-program your combos so employees can input orders faster.
- Offline mode. Cloud-based POS systems give you mobility and flexibility—but if your chosen POS doesn’t have an offline mode, your restaurant will be down for the count during any WiFi hiccups. Ensure you can activate an offline mode with automatic syncs once the connection is back.
80% of restaurants fail in the first five years, typically for completely preventable reasons. Investing in your customer experience helps keep you surviving and thriving.
To deliver awesome customer experiences at scale, look for these features in a POS:
- Loyalty and CRM. Loyalty programs increase customer retention. If your POS has an integrated loyalty program, any efforts you make on that front will be even more effective.
- Seamless service. Whether someone has worked for you for a day or a year, your POS should help them personalize their service to the customers they’re serving. Look for a POS that stores customer information that’s easily accessible by servers and hosts.
- Self-serve kiosk support. People hate waiting and love having control, so why not let them place their orders themselves with a Self-Order Menu. What used to be reserved for big players like McDonalds is now affordable for quick-service restaurants of all sizes.
2. Choosing a POS for a full service restaurant
From high-end fine dining to family-favorite establishments, full service restaurants have varied needs—but there is significant overlap when it comes to what is the most important. While speed will always be a factor for any restaurant, features that enhance the dine-in experience should be a priority when you pick your POS.
Online delivery is expected to grow at an annual rate of nearly 10% until 2023—your chosen POS should enable online ordering and make the dining experience seamlessly memorable. To grow, you need to be able to gather and act on data about your restaurant. The right POS should enable that with online ordering capabilities.
Customer loyalty for a full service restaurant means more than just having the best dishes in town—though that is important! Your POS should enable your waitstaff to serve up better experiences than before.
- Course firing. Your POS should let you send orders to the kitchen or bar as needed—or it should let you fire specific courses to serve tables exactly how they want to be served.
- Bill splitting. Depending on the group, diners may want to split items across bills, transfer items between seats, checkout one seat early—however they want to pay, your POS should be flexible.
- Mobile ordering and payments. The POS you choose should let you equip your waitstaff with tablets, add photos and descriptions to your menu and enhance the ordering experience—and have those same tablets manage the bill for a streamlined process.
- Online ordering. The rise of delivery sites means diners expect to be able to order out from anywhere. Don’t give them a reason to pass on you—ensure your POS has the right integrations.
Adding a POS to your restaurant should decrease the amount of work you need to do, not increase. Look for features that let you check in on the health of your business. Customization is also important!
- Restaurant reporting. From revenue reporting to hourly activity and top menu items, having access to the data your POS is collecting will help you optimize your restaurant, from hours your employees work to the menu items you should snip.
- Floorplan customization. If you can’t adjust the floorplan, this isn’t the POS for you. Being able to adjust it to reflect your real restaurant will help waitstaff avoid any confusion and speed up service, even if there is a shift change mid-meal.
Inventory management. Good inventory management isn’t just important for quick-service—every restaurant type needs a comprehensive eye on their ingredients and stock.
3. Choosing a POS for a bar or nightclub
When picking a POS for a bar, you need a system that can keep up with fast-paced, high-energy periods.
Bars and nightclubs have a few unique considerations. They’re often much louder than other restaurant types, with music, live bands and lots of excited socializing patrons. Any POS you select should help your staff keep orders accurate even in a noisy environment. In other words, it needs to be easy to navigate with visuals alone.
High-energy? Be highly reactive. Make sure the POS you choose enables your employees to be efficient behind the bar and on the floor.
- Mobile ordering and payment. Select a POS that allows waitstaff and bartenders to enter orders and take payment from the same screen—and make sure it’s mobile so they can do all this from anywhere. You should also ensure that your POS allows your staff to open and manage bar tabs efficiently.
- Course firing. If your bar has a kitchen, this feature is as important as it is in a full service restaurant. You’ll want to be able to fire courses as needed.
- Offline mode. Keep the party going, even when the WiFi goes down. Any POS you choose for your bar or nightclub should have an offline mode.
Your POS should help you optimize your business, with both the day-to-day and the long-term health of your bar or nightclub in mind.
- Floorplan customization. Bars are hectic. If you have staff that provide table service at your establishment, make sure you can adjust your floorplan in your POS to support large, unexpected groups.
- On-the-fly edits. No more mint for the night? Make sure your POS allows you to quickly edit your menu to reflect that.
- Business intelligence and reports. By selecting a POS with built-in reporting, you can start optimizing your opening hours, on-call staff, drink specials and more with concrete data.
4. Choosing a POS for a cafe or bakery
Cafes and bakeries have a lot in common with quick-service restaurants—high traffic volumes and speedy service expectations impact your specific needs.
Cafes and bakeries can have different busy periods, though, and while they do have a significant portion of customers who order to-go, the dine-in experience is important. Any cafe POS system should have robust customer loyalty features.
Want to establish a loyal base of regulars that see your cafe as part of their daily routine? Invest in a POS with built-in customer-pleasing features to increase retention.
- Loyalty program. Cafes defined the traditional loyalty points program experience—don’t invest in a POS without integrated loyalty features.
- Mobile ordering and payment. Equip your staff with tablets that can take orders and payments for sit-down customers, which will speed up the line for those on the go.
- Customer-facing display. Invest in a POS that supports customer-facing displays as a way to cut through any confusion during busy, noisy rushes. Transparency is key.
Help your staff tackle morning rushes and busy periods with a POS that includes efficiency features and integrations. Built-in menu modifiers should be a consideration, but that’s just the beginning of how a POS can help.
- On-the-fly edits. Quickly edit your menu from anywhere, with just a few clicks. Look for a cloud-based POS with features that untether you from the back office.
- Quick training. Any POS you add should be easy to train new employees on—bakeries that see seasonal rushes should take this particularly seriously.
While the features we covered above are certainly extensive, it doesn’t stop there. Regardless of what type of restaurant you run, there are key features that help you reduce cost of goods sold (COGS) and labor costs, and ultimately grow your business.
- Your POS should enable success, not hinder it. Look for a POS that makes opening and managing multiple locations simple with centralized databases.
- Business intelligence. Data is king—your POS should include analytics and reports such labour reports, hourly, daily and weekly revenue reports, and category popularity reports are particularly useful for quick-service restaurants.
- Customer loyalty. Your POS should do more than take orders—it should help you convert customers into regulars with integrated loyalty program.
- Quick training. Any POS you invest in should be easy to use. If you can’t quickly train new staff on it, you need a new system.
- Cloud-based software. Selecting a cloud-based POS means you can manage your restaurant anywhere.
- 24/7 support. Glitches can happen, but you never want them to happen when your POS provider’s support is offline. Look for a company that has your back with 24/7 support.
- Inventory management. If you’re not monitoring your stock, you could run out of a key ingredient your cooks or customers count on. Any POS you pick should include important inventory management features such as reorder points.
How to choose the right POS for your business
Ultimately, what features you need the most will depend on your unique business model—no two restaurants are the same. Pick a POS that works for you. Make a list of your biggest pain points and must-haves—and never compromise. Your POS is your partner.