Today, I am going to help you discover the best restaurant POS system for your business, whether it be a bar, restaurant, club, lounge, café, food truck, ice cream shop, hotel, golf club (you get the point).
Remember, when it comes time to choose the best POS system for your bar and restaurant, this is not something you want to take it lightly. So if you’re still on the fence and you’re thinking, “Do I really need a POS system?” the answer is “F-YES YOU DO!”
There’s no beating-around-the-bush-political-answer here. This is like asking, “Does our bedroom really need a bed?” Sure, you can live without one, but it’s going to be a very uncomfortable and unnecessary experience.
This is because your POS system is the central nervous system of your restaurant. Everything runs through it, at every second of every day. All your sales, all your labor and data. And assuming you have a good one, it should actually help make you money by saving you time, as well as giving you insights and data that will provide valuable marketing opportunities.
It should also do other things like: online ordering, menu management, accounting for labor, payroll, sales, scheduling, to-go ordering, comps, discounts, split checks, transferring tabs, rewards and loyalty program, table and customer management. The list goes on and on, and all of these features help you run a better business.
Your Restaurant POS is an Investment, Not an Expense
When choosing the best POS system for your business, you need to remember that the right one is actually going to save you time and money. If you view as an expense, you’re going to end up choosing one that is cheap and inadequate that causes you more trouble than it helps. Simply based on the insights and data that is collected, your POS systems should provide a healthy ROI (return on investment) that will make you happier than a Teddy bear in a child’s arms that you have it.
Restaurant management mastery begins with seeing the big picture when it comes to running a successful restaurant and making money. Viewing investments as expenses is a rookie move. Just sayin’.
What is a Restaurant POS System?
Perhaps we should have started with this, but I imagine at this point you are aware of what a POS system is. If so, skip to the next section. However, if you’re a newbie, here you go:
POS stands for Point Of Sale. In its most basic form, this is where your servers and bartenders ring up food and drinks. As mentioned, this is the central hub of your bar and restaurant.
All sales and reporting will go through this system so you can see exactly what is going on in your business, including sales, accounting, labor, inventory management, purchasing. Some systems, like Upserve, can even tell you who is coming in (as in “Bob Hillman”), how often and how much they are spending so you can see who your best customers are and what they are ordering.
The scary thing is, research shows that nearly half of independent restaurants still do not have a POS system. That’s crazy when you think about all the benefits that a restaurant POS system provides.
Where to Begin When Choosing a POS System
Ok, so now we know what a POS system is and what it can do, now how do we choose one? Yes, it can seem daunting, but don’t worry your pretty little head. We’re going to help guide you so you can narrow it down to just a few options so you don’t ram your head into a telephone pole from overwhelm.
Just follow this simple 5-step plan, and by the time you’ve completed step 5, you will have a good idea of how to choose the perfect restaurant POS system for you, which means you can move on to the next task on your list (blech!).
You can also check out my top 5 restaurant POS systems of 2021 here, broken down by category of restaurant and size of your business.
When you’re ready, move on to the 5 steps here for how to choose the best POS system for your restaurant.
STEP 1: DETERMINE THE FEATURES YOU NEED
Many of the POS systems out there have similar features, but some simply do them better than others. This decision mainly depends on 5 main factors:
–The size of your establishment
–Your sales (how busy are you)
–Your preferences (for instance, is it important for your servers to have hand-held devices so they can do table-side ordering, or are you fine with a kiosk?)
–Robustness in capabilities and reporting
The bigger the operation, the more robust your POS system needs to be for gathering insights, data and being able to provide a great customer experience for your guests. Also, nothing is more important than the last factor listed there: support.
Having great customer support is so important when choosing a pos system, because you will have questions and issues that arise on a consistent basis. Many POS companies will simply disappear once you sign-up, which will eventually cause you to stick a pencil in your neck from frustration and bleed out on the floor. And that’s not good for business.
STEP 2: GET FEEDBACK FROM YOUR TEAM
By not communicating and getting feedback from your management team, and even your bartenders and servers, you are missing out on viewpoints and ideas you may have never thought of.
Your team works in the restaurant day in and day out, and they are usually using the POS system far more than you. That means it’s important that you choose a POS system that they are going to like using on the floor as much as you are going to like having great analytics and backend features.
After that meeting with your managers and staff, I want you to narrow down your POS choices to 2 – 3 POS systems. Anything more than that becomes overwhelming and unnecessary.
STEP 3: THINK ABOUT YOUR CUSTOMERS
Your customers (or guests, as we like to call them) are the only reason that you have a business and a job. Making them happy is your #1 priority and choosing the right POS system is no exception.
I can hear you right now through the screen: “How is my POS system going to make my guests happy, Dave? They don’t use it.” Good point, but here’s how. A quality POS system has features in it that allow you to provide a great experience for your guests. They include:
A Restaurant Loyalty Program – This allows you to gather information about your guests so you can re-market to them. But the main benefit is that in order for your guests to gain more points so that they can get discounts or freebies, they have to come in more. The more they come in, the more deals they get and the more sales you get. In addition, they bring friends and the restaurant sales go up and up and up and up. You see where this is going.
Splitting Checks and Transferring Tabs – Seems like a small thing, and even though servers and bartenders aren’t fired up on split tabs or transferring bar tabs, to have a POS system that seamlessly makes it easy to split checks and transfer the tab from the bar to a table makes your guests extremely happy.
Holding Items to Order – This is an indirect benefit to your guests. When your servers take orders for both appetizers and entrees, with this feature they can enter the appetizers and place the order, and then enter the entrees but put them on hold to better time out when they come out from the kitchen. By doing this, the server can see the orders that are on hold and they don’t forget to order them. Thus creating happy guests instead of angry assholes.
Table-side Ordering and Payments – Hand-held POS devices are the wave of the present, not the future. The best restaurant POS systems have hand-held devices (iPad POS or Android POS) so the servers can take orders right at the table. This cuts down on ordering mistakes by a large percentage. In addition, the hand-held POS systems are also able to run credit cards right at the table so the guests don’t have to wait for their bill.
Does that make sense? Having a quality POS system ensures that your guests are taken care of and aren’t waiting for their food or checks.
STEP 4: DISCOVER YOUR BUDGET COMFORT ZONE
I know, I know, for most people this is step #1. Pricing and cost is almost always the first thing that pops into business owners’ minds when it comes time to purchase something for their bar or restaurant.
But instead of asking “How much is this going to cost me?” I want you to ask yourself some more important questions, like: How much time will it save me? How much easier will it make my life? And the entire staff’s life? How much return on investment will I get from it? Does it have the necessary features and capabilities to drive sales and give me the customer insights I need to make smart decisions?
The point being, before you simply look at how much a POS system costs and rank them from cheapest POS to most expensive, you need to make sure to research the top restaurant POS systems.
STEP 5: SCHEDULE DEMOS
I know THAT blocking out time to book demos is causing you to hyperventilate, but this isn’t like choosing whether to go with Coke or Pepsi. This decision is I-M-P-O-R-T-A-N-T. You can tell because I put “important” in all caps. And I even took time to put hyphens between the letters, so TAKE IT SERIOUSLY.
Plus the demos are free and there’s no obligation to do anything. They are just there to help you.
You’d be surprised how much time it will save you to simply sit down for 20 – 30 minutes and see how the system works. Most of them will do a screen share with you, and visual learning is powerful when it comes to helping you understand what you’re getting and how it works.
During this time, make sure to ask as many questions as you can so you get all the answers. If the POS sales rep is vague at all, or can’t answer your questions, then it’s probably not the best system for you.
***SPECIAL BONUS SECRET SAUCE
To help you out, I also have some special deals for you to save money with any of the top 5 restaurant POS systems on this list. If you click on any of the links below to schedule a demo with any of the top 5 on the list, you will get a special deal just for being my friend.
Full transparency as always, I am an affiliate for these companies (which means I make a small commission, which I appreciate very much), but I’m only affiliate for them because they are the best. I never recommend any product or service to my audience that isn’t great. That would give me a bad reputation and then mobs would come after me with pitchforks, and those things are very ouchy.
Top 5 Restaurant POS Systems + Demo Links & Special Offers
Upserve POS (Ranked the #1 POS System Overall) – Click here to get a demo and get $500 off if/when you sign-up
Toast POS (Best POS System Runner-Up) – Click here to get a demo (deals vary)
Rezku POS (Best Hidden Gem POS) – Click here to get a demo and get $700 off if/when you sign-up
Lightspeed POS (Best POS for Small to Mid-sized restaurants, and Hotel Groups) – Click here to get a demo and get 20% off your subscription for an entire year
Thrive POS (Best POS for Pizzerias) – Click here to get a demo and receive a free Android Silk station
QUESTIONS TO ASK THE POS REP DURING THE DEMO
During your demo, don’t sit there like a scared high school student in the back row of chemistry class. Make sure to ask all the right questions so you can feel good about the pos system you are choosing. These questions should include (but are not limited to):
Is it restaurant specific (as opposed to multiple industries, like retail)?
Can you walk me through the features?
How user friendly is it? Can you show me?
Can I use it on mobile devices (tablet) or is it just a kiosk/station?
Does it work for both iOS (Apple) and Android, or just one of those?
Does it have table-side ordering and checkout?
Does it have offline mode (in case the wifi goes out)?
What hardware do I need?
What reports can I run?
What integrations do you have?
What does the support look like?
How much does it cost (including the hardware, set-up and monthly subscription)?
Is it a contract? How long?
Do I have to use your payment processing? If not, what are my options?
In the end, you need to choose the best POS system for your bar and restaurant because it’s your business and nobody else’s. I wish you the best on your quest. I’ll see you next time.