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Startup Restaurant Shopping List: POS & Payroll

By David Liu

Smart purchasing decisions in the planning stages of your restaurant startup can set you up for success as you open for operations. So what do you really need when opening a restaurant? Here's your POS shopping list:

POS systems are probably the most highly-researched purchase for new restaurant owners, and with good reason- the right POS, or point-of-sale system can streamline business operations and perform a variety of functions. POS systems allow servers to input order information quickly and easily, record transactions for customer payment, and even calculate and assign gratuities to wait and host staff.

The cost of the system will probably be chief among your concerns- many business owners get "sticker shock" when they learn that a high-quality POS system can run into the tens of thousands of dollars or more. Choosing the right POS system can also be a lengthy process, especially once you evaluate features, system options, and hardware choices. Keep in mind that the right system is an investment in the future of your business- most restaurateurs are able to recoup the expenses associated with a POS system within the first year of operations.

POS systems don't need to be purchased outright- they can also be leased from a POS dealer for a set monthly payment. Though leasing can be attractive because there's less outlay of startup capital, keep in mind that the overall system costs will probably be higher in the long run. Most lease contracts don't include certain repairs or software upgrades, and you may be on the hook to purchase the equipment when your lease ends. Purchasing carries with it specific tax advantages- you might be able to deduct some or all of the system cost, depending on your situation. The decision to lease or buy should definitely be discussed with your accountant or financial planner before you sign a purchase or lease contract.

Employee Scheduling/Payroll Software

Employee costs are one of the main expenses for new restaurant owners, following closely behind equipment purchases. Different states have different wage laws that apply to food service workers, so it's important to have a system in place that accurately tracks employee hours worked and tips earned. Use corporate payroll solutions as examples and take what will apply to your business.

Many POS systems allow you to manage employee schedules and wages- for example, employees can "clock in" using the same touch screen they use to input customer orders, and enter the "tip" amount as an attachment to each customer check. You can also use a free, downloadable scheduling program like DRoster, or a purchased or hosted solution like ScheduleFly, TimeClock Plus, or Payroll Café. Most small business payroll services offer service packages designed to specifically serve the restaurant industry.

Getting the right equipment for your startup restaurant at the beginning of its growth saves you money in the long-term because you are able to assign costs across a 10-15 year plan instead of a 3-5 year. Restaurant POS systems are completely scalable to your business. Whether you operate a fast food chain or a full service fine dining establishment, you should be able to benefit from quicker inputs, employee scheduling and transparent reporting. After your purchase of POS systems and payroll services you will be able to cross another item off your startup restaurant shopping list.

David Liu is a writer based in San Diego, California. He writes extensively for Resource Nation, an online resource that provides expert advice on purchasing decisions for telephone systems, merchant services and POS systems.

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