Here’s a strange way to start a conversation about restaurant POS systems, but bear with me…
Restaurants have always been under public scrutiny. Since serving food to the public became a form of business, customers have always critiqued restaurants’ levels of service, in addition to obvious factors like food quality and so on.
It’s understandable considering how intimate of a thing we all consider “dining.”
Traditional ways of dining normally involved immediate family gathering around the dinner table every night and sharing their day with one another. It’s a very personal event and it must go smoothly in order for the atmosphere to remain comfortable and relaxed and for everyone at the dinner table to feel at ease and able to enjoy the food being prepared.
Traditional point of sale systems were essentially a register with very basic functions and a cash drawer at the front desk of the restaurant.
These “old school” registers weren’t much more advanced than were traditional typewriters.
They were large, clunky, had a bunch of buttons… You’ve seen them, right? They came equipped with basic addition/subtraction functions.
Because of this and the sheer size and weight of them, most restaurants only had one. Which meant customers had to bring their bill to the front checkout desk to pay for their meals.
While this may have been the accepted method of the time, they also didn’t really have any other options available to compare it to.
In other words, they didn’t know any better.
This method also had the tendency to add chaos to an already hectic restaurant atmosphere. Customers trying to pay and leave had to make their way through incoming customers trying to get a table.
It had the potential to create the outward appearance of mismanagement for incoming guests as well.
For guests attempting to leave after their meal, no matter how enjoyable a dining experience was for them, their overall dining experience often was tainted by this “pay on your way out” method and the fight to get out the door.
Restaurant POS systems largely eliminated this hassle for the customers, and also helped restaurants run smoother and more efficiently.
They eliminate the fight at the door and allow customers to relax and pay when they’re ready to pay. It also helped the staff to make a last good impression on guests.
Servers could keep better track of their paperwork, too, because they conducted the transactions from start to finish.
What are POS systems?
POS stands for “Point Of Sale” and it refers to the moment in the dining experience when the customer is ready to pay for his/her meal.
An actual POS system is the modern day equivalent of the cash registers of old. They include all the traditional cash register functions, like adding and subtracting. But they also track and itemize inventory (in this case, food).
Systems vary by model and manufacturer, but the basics for all of them are, well… the basics; they’re the same in each system.
POS systems for restaurants are not unlike those found in retail stores or coffee shops. In fact, nearly every type of business uses one form or another of POS systems.
Training your restaurant staff on how to use POS systems has become exponentially easier in the last few years.
A lot of them are touch screen and have primary function buttons which are displayed in colorful, easy on the eyes pages. Scrolling through items and pages is especially easy and menus can be split up on different pages.
For instance, you can designate each portion of your menu to its own page.
Appetizers has its own page with pop up pages for modifications of those items. The same for your cocktail/bar, dinner, and dessert menus.
Most POS software is easy to use and the information is presented clearly and command prompts are displayed in a way which makes sense to the user and also coincides with natural movements.
POS systems normally come equipped with a few basic items…
- The touch screen or computer display,
- a cash drawer for keeping cash and credit card slips/checks,
- a keyboard for data entry (if not a touch screen system),
- a credit card/debit card swiper,
- and a printer for printing customer receipts.
If you decide to have one central station for the cash drawer, as is common practice for most restaurants, with several other stations for the servers to access the POS, you can purchase additional touch screens to be installed at various other places throughout your restaurant.
This is a much cheaper option than buying several POS with all the extra gadgets and it is a much quicker and more efficient way for your staff to operate. The more stations are available, the quicker they can get their orders in or retrieve your customer’s bill for them.
POS systems come with built-in back office functions. Some offer more than others, but most all of them have certain functions like clock in/clock out functions for your employees. You can edit their time punches through your back office function.
You can also view and print sales reports using your back office functions. This is very helpful in keeping track of what items on your menu are “hot” right now and which ones are not.
Also helpful is the ability to track your restaurant’s sales trends over a period of time. Most POS systems will keep track of daily as well as weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly sales.
This kind of advanced reporting is vital to maintain a thriving business.
POS systems are also especially helpful in tracking your inventory levels.
Since every item sold is run through the POS system, it keeps an accurate account of your back stock levels and lets you know what you need to replenish.
No more counting everything by hand. It does the work for you!
Restaurant POS systems integrate with your restaurant’s accounting system also. They keep track of each credit card transaction and show you how much your restaurant made from each one.
You can view and print out financial reports for designated periods. This is especially helpful when it’s time to do your taxes.
POS systems have come a long way from the antique cash registers of past generations. While they aren’t the only option available to you, they are definitely the quickest, easiest, and most efficient to use.
The additional back office features alone can significantly cut down on your workload and help you focus on more important things. This increases your productivity, and decreases your money leakage.