A successful restaurant is a well-oiled machine comprised of a seemingly infinite number of moving parts that all work together to create and serve hundreds of meals per week. In order for everything to flow just right, many components must be in place. One of the least recognized is an effective point of sale (POS) system. In effect, this is the technological nerve center of your establishment, so take some time to think about what criteria you absolutely must have when you look to purchase the best system for you:
- Ease of use. What’s the use of spending big bucks on a system with all the bells and whistles if you and your staff can’t operate it reliably and effectively? Don’t purchase a system that is too complicated to use. If it requires staff to click through several screens to make an order or too many peripherals such as a mouse or keyboard, it might create more problems than it solves. One real training time-saver is to purchase a POS system that utilizes a touch screen. Your staff are most likely well-acquainted with this way of interacting with technology, since most of them have smartphones. With one jab of the finger, an item can be selected with ease. Sure, there is a learning curve; however, it can’t be too steep. If a few days of work with your staff and the company’s customer service representative do not leave you feeling confident in your mastery of the product, look elsewhere. Most vendors offer a free trial of their POS systems. The best way to see if it is the right one for you is to give it a test drive in the same way you would take a car you want to purchase for a spin. Make sure the key players on your staff are there for the trial and take their opinions and impressions into consideration once the trial is finished. Remember that no question is too elementary. Keep asking in different ways until you are satisfied that you understand.
- Integrates with other software and systems you already have in place. Getting a new POS system doesn’t mean you also need to jettison your other software, including your kitchen printers and financial tools. You should be able to find POS software that plays nicely with what you already have in place. An integrated solution will be able to link all of your current software and accounting tools together. Why reinvent the wheel?
- Excellent customer service. Contrary to popular belief, customer service is not dead. Your POS company should provide you with all of the one-on-one support and tools you need to get your software and staff up and running in a timely way. Don’t feel guilty about utilizing these services; they are part of the package. One way to assess the responsiveness and reliability of the POS company’s customer care is to utilize it during the trial period. Keep track of how long it takes them to respond to you when you call about a problem. Check their website to see if it provides video tutorials for trouble-shooting, frequently asked questions and user tips. Finally, make sure customer support is available during the hours you will need it. If your restaurant is like most, it is open on weekends and late into the night. Invariably, problems will crop up during this time frame, so be sure that help will be accessible if you need it.
- Inventory management. As you already know, the inventory you have in stock is nothing more or less than cash. If it is mismanaged, under or overestimated or spoils on the shelves, you will lose out. Therefore, you should look for a POS system that helps you to get and keep a handle on your inventory: what you have, what you need and when you should order it.
- Theft prevention. Of all the problems rampant in restaurants, this is perhaps the most common. A good POS system can be your silent partner in preventing employees from taking advantage of you. Get a system that provides you with detailed reporting.
- Flexibility. You know how quickly technology is changing, and that holds true for the POS industry. Therefore, you should choose a system that is upgraded on a regular basis. Also, be sure that it has several technology partners that integrate with it. If this is the case, chances are good that you can interface with new technology when it comes down the pike if you decide that it is best for your restaurant.
- User reviews. It is all too easy to get drawn into slick sales tactics and glitzy websites. That’s why it can be very helpful to read through the reviews of businesspeople like you who have actually had experience with the POS system and the company that sells and services it when it is in action. Remember to keep this customer feedback in perspective. There will always be individuals who will give a product the highest rating, regardless of their true experience. By the same token, other consumers tend to drastically devalue virtually everything. That’s why it is important to read a large cross-section of reviews and look at the big picture.
Choosing the right POS platform for your restaurant is not a decision to be taken lightly. Consider all of these factors carefully before you take the plunge. Because your POS system can be one of your best allies in building your success, select it as carefully as you would your most prized chef.