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How to pick the perfect POS system

5 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

In the market for a new POS system? Jeff Riley, CEO of Dinerware Inc., recently spoke at the NRA Show as part of a panel on Tech 101 for restaurants. I thought it was worth catching up with him when I wasn’t distracted with the cool gadgets and flashy technology. Here’s what your restaurant needs to know to choose a system that will benefit it the most.

At the NRA Show this year, you said that picking out a point-of-sales system should not be a quick decision. What should restaurants take into consideration?

Finding the right POS system is one of the most critical operating decisions a restaurant faces. The more thought and planning that goes into the selection process will result in a tremendous impact for your overall satisfaction with the system. The right POS system will be easy to use, and minimize the number of screen touches required to perform common functions. It will also be flexible in supporting the guest experience envisioned by the operator. Servers and cashiers should be productive with the system during their first shift using it. Managers and owners should be able to make menu changes and perform other administrative tasks without requiring assistance of any kind. Don’t be sold on features if they aren’t critical to your operation. The right POS system will be flexible enough to accommodate your needs as they evolve. It will also be open to support whatever customer marketing strategies you identify over time.

How should restaurants prioritize these options?

In my opinion, ease of use is the single most important criteria of all. Like with any computer-based system, the easier it is to use, the more valuable it will be. Managers and owners will get more accurate data if their staff is properly selecting menu items instead of open food items. Theft and loss prevention will be easier to achieve if user security levels are understood and easy to administer. And workflow throughout the restaurant will become much more streamlined when the right information is provided to the right people at the right time. Having an open architecture to support customization and third-party integration is also critical. Who can foresee which of the many customer marketing and loyalty solutions will evolve into the right mix for the future? Without the ability to change these decisions easily, a closed POS system will lock restaurants into decisions they may want to revisit.

What defines ease of use for a POS system?

Here’s an acid test. If I can sit down in front of a POS system and figure out how to create and edit a ticket through its life cycle without someone telling me how, that is a good indication. If, as a manager, I can go into the menu editing interface and add a new menu item complete with pricing, choices (or modifiers), print routing to the kitchen, and screen layout control on the order management side, then that is a really good indication. If I have to ask a technician to do anything (other than fix or replace broken hardware), that may be the best indication of all.

Where is POS going? How does social media and mobile play into choosing a system?

Instead of thinking of your POS system as a group of networked touch-screen terminals inside your restaurant, think of it as the way you manage all of your menu offerings and prices (and policies) for anyone to access from anywhere. Employees should exist [to] enhance the guest experience, not simply to be order takers and payment collectors. Increasingly with these new super phones and social media sites, customers are able to order your food and share your restaurant experience with their friends and family, whether it is by making a reservation for a formal dinner for a special occasion, organizing a group lunch order over the Web for delivery, or finding your restaurant while in an unfamiliar area to them and enabling them to place an order on their iPhone, Droid or BlackBerry. The POS system (or at least a selected portion of its data) needs to be accessible to all forms of Web crawling engines, social media sites and consumer mobile devices in order for restaurateurs to realize their potential to capitalize on these new consumer technology trends.

What else should restaurants think about before making a decision?

In the end, the selection of your POS system represents a decision to trust the POS provider (whether it is a local dealer, a corporate vendor, or yourself, if you are saving money by buying the components independently). Have a list of questions ready for them, review the contract language they offer, check on their references (find your own references, not just the ones they suggest), and ask about the service offerings available and ongoing fees to make changes and support future expansion and marketing plans. Make sure you consider not only the upfront costs, but also the ongoing costs of supporting and maintaining the system. Gone are the days of high-priced support and maintenance contracts. While good support is critical, the need for support should occur very infrequently.

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