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What To Look For In A Restaurant POS

By Anand Srinivasan, Hubbion

There are over a million restaurants in the United States today that bring in sales close to $800 billion annually. Bars and restaurants alone are estimated to contribute nearly 12% of all retail sales in the United States. Given the sheer size of the market, there is a need for industry-specific tools and software applications.

A good example of this is the hand-held server tablets that restaurants use to take orders. Studies show that nearly 68% of customers believe that the use of such devices help with improving restaurant experience. The same goes for a point-of-sale device used to process a restaurant transaction. Unlike a retail POS, restaurants need their devices to not just process a transaction, but also to enable other needs like handle tips, split checks, process online orders, and so on.

This is just one factor to consider. Here is a list of things a restaurant owner must consider while choosing a POS provider.

Factors determining your purchase

At the outset, a POS that provides the best features at the most affordable price is what you should be going for. However, there are other parameters to consider. For one, how many locations does your restaurant operate from? Also, do you have more than one sales channel (Online, takeaway, etc.).

A standalone restaurant with just a dozen tables and no online channel may want to go with a POS with no-frills. But that may not be ideal depending on your growth strategy. Do you plan on scaling your business to multiple locations over the next year or two? Or, can you possible accommodate more tables in your current location in future? In such instances, you should choose a POS that is highly scalable.

Finally, it also comes down to the budget and user-friendliness of your tool. Traditional POS tools require in-house infrastructure to process payments. The costs to own and maintain such an infrastructure may be higher than opting for a cloud-hosted alternative (that is typically subscription-based). A cloud-hosted solution is also more user-friendly since traditional tools are only updated periodically - software bugs in the application may not be fixed until the next update.

Features that make a POS provider great

A point-of-sale software is not just about executing a transaction. It also needs to serve as a gateway to other business functions like marketing and operations. A great POS application enables an organization to perform a host of other actions besides just transactions. Here is a short list of features that make a POS provider great.

Analytics: Your POS application should provide you with comprehensive reports related to sales, customer count, tax, and so on. This helps a marketer dig deeper into the product mix to see what product categories bring the most revenue, what your best days are, who your best servers are, and so on.

Cost centers: Customers return food for several reasons - the order was incorrect, the preparation time was too long, the waiter did not enter the input the right quantity, and so on. Understanding the reasons contributing to the highest number of comps, and the servers who are responsible play an important role in understanding the reasons for such costs, and how to minimize them in future.

Demand management: Restaurants run out of ingredients all the time. A POS software should be able to monitor orders live and alert the manager or the waiter when an item is likely to be unavailable. In addition to making demand management easy, this also improves customer experience.

Customer analytics: The success of a restaurant is measured by the number of repeat customers it has. The ideal POS should have features built in to identify the customer as a new or repeat visitor and also help understand other factors determining their patronage like the food items they love, the time of the day they prefer to visit, and so on. Your POS should also be able to tie-in with your offline marketing campaigns like loyalty programs, discount coupons, and so on.

Backend Management: A restaurant POS is not just about handling the payment for a customer's order. That part of the transaction can be handled by any of the generic POS tools in the market today. A restaurant has unique needs that go beyond this. Backend management is a critical need that enables a smooth operational experience and improves kitchen turnaround. For instance, your restaurant could integrate your POS with a server tablet to let customers place their orders directly into the system that gets fed to the kitchen. This minimizes communication errors and lets the kitchen maximize productivity.

Every restaurant has a unique need depending on their product mix, size, customer demographic, and budget. There is hence no 'one size fits all' product that can meet these requirements. It is important for a restaurant manager to identify their unique requirements and acknowledge future scalability concerns before picking a POS that is best suited for their business.

Anand SrinivasanAnand Srinivasan is the founder of Hubbion, an online collaboration tool for small businesses.

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