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What Should You Consider When Selecting Point-of-Sale Software?

By Randy Bragg

POS System Identifying the best point-of-sale (POS) software for your restaurant can be very confusing and frustrating. Individuals who are responsible for purchasing POS software need to take into account two key factors before they begin their software search.

First, there are many different types of establishments within the hospitality/restaurant industry including quick service, family dining, fine dining, delivery-dependant locations, full service bars, bars and nightclubs. Each type of establishment has unique needs in regards to POS software. However, a buyer must recognize that their business model may change over time and thereby alter the requirements of a POS system. For example, a pizza place based solely on delivery may decide to expand and offer table service. This would completely change the needed functions of a POS system.

Second, buyers must remember that certain POS software specializes in different types of establishments while other software provides a full spectrum of functions. There are pros and cons to both types of software. Specialty software may be cheaper initially and provide stronger functionality in certain areas. However, even a minor change to the business model may require a complete change in software. On the other hand, more complex systems can handle almost any situation but they may be more expensive, harder to use and more difficult to maintain.

With these two issues in mind it is important that buyers first identify which functions they will need their software to perform. The primary functions of POS software to be considered are:

Customer Reports - The ability of the software to allow the user to design customized reports and queries. Does the software allow for customized reports or only pre-formatted and designed reports?

Database Type - Which database type is the software using? Is it using a database with easy import and export functions or is it written on a proprietary database that will require technical support every time an import or export of data is needed?

Delivery - The ability of the software to process delivery orders. Basic functions should include tracking orders by customer, last order recall for the last five order minimum, caller ID and the ability to set deliveries for pre-set times.

Dispatch - The ability of the software to assign delivery orders to drivers, check the driver out, time the deliveries and check the driver back in and cash them out. Additional functions may include the mapping of the most efficient delivery route for the driver.

Dynamic GUI Interface - The ability to design and build the front-of-house interface in a customized way including the color coding of buttons, sizing of buttons, shape of buttons and location of all major portions of the screen. Does the program allow for the end-user (the manger) to make the majority of these changes without the need to call technical support?

Front of House Operational Functions - The front of the house operating screens needs to be able to handle the following functions based on the establishment's needs:

  • Split & Merge Checks
  • Split & Merge Items
  • Voids
  • Comps
  • Discounts
  • Last order reorder
  • Hold order
  • Fire order
  • Track discount, void and comp reasons

Gift Cards - The ability of the software to issue, track and accept internal gift cards as well as process and maintain a gift card program for multiple sites without a third party vendor involved.

House Accounts - The ability of the software to track, accept and maintain house accounts including enforcing credit limits and printing statements.

Human Resources - The ability of the software to maintain all basic HR information so that duplicate entry is not occurring with another accounting program. The ability to integrate with the accounting and/or payroll software should also be considered. Can the HR module track job requirements and ensure employees meet these requirements prior to working in a specific job?

Inventory - The ability of the software to maintain a general inventory of items, track vendors and generate purchase orders.

Inventory/Liquor Inventory (Detailed) - The ability of the software to provide a detailed inventory system including the tracking of ingredients and full liquor inventory.

Menus - The ability to set up and alter menus with ease and the ability to have multiple menus in affect at one time, or on designated days and times. Also, can menu prices be easily changed?

Modifier Groups - The ability to set up and alter modifier groups with ease including items, prices and how many modifiers are allowed for no charge.

Online Ordering - The ability of the software to have a fully integrated system to allow customers to order online and for this order to be transferred automatically into the POS as if the order were placed on site.

Scheduling - The ability of the software to maintain a comprehensive schedule for all employee shifts by department and job. The capability of the software to limit employee log in, log out and time clock functions based on this schedule. The ability to track and enforce meal breaks as needed and allow for both paid and unpaid meal breaks.

Table Reservations - The ability of the software to take and maintain table reservations.

Table Service - The ability to provide a table service interface and the ability to customize this interface and place and track all orders by table and seat. Other functions include: split checks by seat, delay orders by seat or item, and the associated reports.

Time Clock - The ability of the software to clock all employees in and out of shifts, monitor total hours and compute overtime hours based on federal and local laws. The ability to allow edit, additions and deletions but to also maintain a tracking record for the Department of Labor if needed.

Once the buyer has a comprehensive list of functionality needed, they can move on to the research, testing, evaluation, comparison and actual purchase of a POS system.

Randy Bragg is CEO of Brownstone Technology Solutions. BTS specializes in integrated systems for the restaurant and bar, hotel and motel, retail and manufacturing industries.

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