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Restaurant Point of Sale Software: How to Choose the Best Solution?

Category: B2B News
What is a restaurant point of sale software?

A restaurant point of sale software is the core of the modern restaurant business, and it works mainly to seamlessly take, prepare, and serve customer orders. It enables restaurants to deliver great customer experience by streamlining business processes, staff management, and enhancing service.

Selecting a point of sale (POS) solution that suits your restaurant business is very crucial. With the correct restaurant POS, you’ll not only keep your dining floors always busy but also help your restaurant build a good reputation. But with the wrong system, your restaurant could find it hard to gain profits or even just reach the break-even point.

Whether you’re already a seasoned restaurateur or you’re just starting, the point-of-sale solution you select will play a massive role in the failure or success of your food business. But with so many POS software systems out there, it’s simply very difficult to choose which one is best for your restaurant. And this is why we’ve prepared this definitive guide to help you choose the right POS solution the right way.

POS software for restaurant

The current restaurant landscape continues to get crowded. There are over 1 million restaurant locations in the US, and this is why the level of competition has become more intense than ever. While some big-name brands can protect their market turfs, many start-ups and small restaurants are performing poorly, sometimes closing shop.

No wonder restaurateurs are compelled to steadily adapt to the changing preferences of customers as well as learn and relearn how to reach potential clients. In fact, according to the 2019 Restaurant Success Report, one-third of restaurant operators say that one of their top challenges is how to attract new and retain existing customers.

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Top Restaurant Challenges 2019

Top Restaurant Challenges 2019
High operating and food costs: 52

High operating and food costs

%
Top Restaurant Challenges 2019
Hiring staff: 51

Hiring staff

%
Top Restaurant Challenges 2019
Training staff: 35

Training staff

%
Top Restaurant Challenges 2019
Attracting & retaining customers: 33

Attracting & retaining customers

%
Top Restaurant Challenges 2019
Optimizing speed & efficiency: 32

Optimizing speed & efficiency

%
Top Restaurant Challenges 2019
Retaining staff: 32

Retaining staff

%
Top Restaurant Challenges 2019
Laws, restrictions, & government regulations: 23

Laws, restrictions, & government regulations

%

Source: Toast 2019 Restaurant Success Report

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Among customers giving their opinions about current restaurant technology, 73% say these help improve their dining experience. Thus, restaurant operators must continue capitalizing on the various available solutions to help them provide a great customer experience on their tables.

Undoubtedly, among all restaurant technology being used nowadays, POS systems play the most critical roles. This is why another 2019 report found that the top POS priorities among businesses include extending the functionalities of their existing POS solution, compliance with government and payment regulations, and providing omnichannel capability.

With hundreds of POS vendors competing head-to-head to get you, it has become necessary to first do your homework before deciding which system to deploy in your restaurant. There are numerous POS features and other variables to consider. Fortunately, you already have this expert-prepared guide to help you choose the best POS solution for your restaurant.

How to Choose the Best POS Solution 2020

Step #1. Know What Your Restaurant Wants and Needs

This world would be a lot simpler if you only have two to three POS software to compare and choose from. But there are hundreds of restaurant point of sale software in the market today, which is why it’s an overwhelming task to select the one best for your restaurant.

With virtually countless features, tools, USPs, add-ons, etc., that many sellers offer, you could end up with a point of sale system that is only good as a display to customers but can’t provide the services that you require.

Therefore, the first thing you need to is to establish all the things you need from a POS system. The key question here is: How do restaurants use POS systems?

Here are some of the key features and functionalities that a point of sale solution must have to efficiently run a successful restaurant today:

Order Management

What is a POS system? It’s a software whose primary function is to accept, prepare, and serve orders, so this function should be a staple one in any POS solution.

But as things change, people’s behaviors evolve, and technologies advance, your POS’ order management capabilities must also be able to keep up. For example, it could start with new features like splitting bills or even dividing the price of desserts or main entries.

Check also if the system has more sophisticated order management capabilities like allowing waiters to use their tablets to send orders to the kitchen directly.

Online Ordering and Delivery

Gone are the days when quick-service chains are the only ones that deliver food. Today, even the traditional, sit-down eateries have joined the food delivery trend. This means online ordering and delivery is now a great revenue source for any restaurant.

Not all POS systems offer this feature, which will compel you to integrate with a third-party provider like UberEats and GrubHub to provide this service to your customer. But this would mean increasing your price to pay for that service.

So it’s best to find a vendor like Toast POS that offers an online ordering system to help you increase your revenues without forcing your customers to pay more to cover the third-party commission.

Toast POS

An award given to products our B2B experts find especially valuable for companies

Try out Toast POS with their free demo

Inventory Management

Monitoring your inventory manually is not only time-consuming and difficult, but it also makes one vulnerable to mistakes. And mistakes are often costly.

Many POS allows integration with third-party inventory management software. But some advanced POS solutions now offer built-in functionalities like vendor tracking, purchase order management, and low-stock notifications. If you need these capabilities, then include inventory management in your list of requirements.

Toast POS inventory dashboard

Toast Inventory offers the needed visibility into restaurant inventory that can help you streamline kitchen operations and minimize waste.

Menu Creation

To survive in today’s competitive environment, restaurant menus should be changed frequently, if possible. This is why menu creation and management is now a necessary POS system function.

Be it menu changes due to season or new products; this feature should be provided by your POS to help you take advantage of every sale opportunity.

Table Management

Numerous POS solutions offer some basic table management features. Some provide more advanced and robust table management capabilities, which include offering seat arrangement.

The bottom line is that you must know the extent of table management your restaurant requires and look for a point of sale system that provides the same functionality.

Loyalty Program

Look for a user-friendly, innovative restaurant loyalty program that will help you boost customer frequency in your place. This is because loyalty or rewards programs are designed to help you know your restaurant guests more to boost repeat business. 

While many POS systems offer extensive integration with third-party loyalty solutions, it’s best to have a platform with an integrated loyalty/rewards program.

Reservations

Just like table management, restaurants are increasingly requiring the capability to manage their table reservations. Although this used to be offered only by advanced POS solutions, more and more vendors are now providing this feature mainly to enhance the guest experience. 

Some vendors already offer online self-reservation, such as by integrating with large online networks, to hasten the process and further boost client satisfaction. An excellent example of this is Toast POS’s integration with OpenTable.

Reporting

Just like any widely-used technology-based business tool, a POS system must have reporting capabilities to help restaurants make the most of both customer and operational data to support planning and decision-making.

You must carefully check the reporting features of a POS system before selecting one to ensure that it covers the items and metrics that your restaurant already uses.

Toast POS Reporting dashboard

Toast POS offers a quick overview of a restaurant’s operations, such as sales summaries, total orders, etc.

Third-Party Integrations

Finally, when examining the restaurant POS features, be sure to check out its API integration capability. This is critical because even the most-advanced POS will still have limited potentials if it cannot work with other business and third-party online systems.

The most efficient restaurant POS systems today are those that are robust yet highly flexible to work with other solutions to ensure that every business concern, task, and process is properly addressed.

Step #2. Set Your Budget

You have gotten past the part, “How much does a POS system cost for a restaurant?” Nevertheless, you must still have a handful of questions at this stage. What POS systems do restaurants use? How do I set up a restaurant POS system? Yes, these are important questions that must be answered. But it is best to know first how much you are willing to spend on your POS platform.

Do this step first before you hit the ground running when chasing that top-of-the-line POS you’ve been raving about. Preparing a budget in advance offers numerous advantages. It doesn’t only keep your roster of candidates but also allows you to remain focused and avoid being distracted by unnecessary or impractical offers.

It’s good that point of sale systems are now using the SaaS business model, particularly when they started offering cloud-based POS solutions. With a monthly subscription, these software platforms are now far more affordable than their highly expensive predecessors. Also, 6 of every 10 businesses already intend to shift to a cloud-based POS.

Moreover, cloud-based POS systems, which commonly use a small Android tablet or an iPad, are far cheaper and easier to use versus those large, more expensive cash registers that use legacy POS systems.

Legacy POS vs Cloud POS vs Toast POS comparison infographic

How much does a POS system cost for a restaurant?

A number of factors affect the overall restaurant POS cost. These include:

  • the number of locations you operate
  • the number of stations/terminals
  • if it is web-based or on-premise
  • whether it offers proprietary POS hardware
  • if handheld devices are used on the floor for taking orders and payments

It’s also good practice to always take a proactive mindset to think of the future of your restaurant business. This will also be important: when looking for a POS system, choose one that can stay with you for a long time. It should be a platform that will see you grow, not one that is designed for a short-term or seasonal engagement.

Step #3. Determine What the Best POS Systems Can Do

Yes, it’s crucial to understand the particular demands of your restaurant. Besides, no two restaurants are the same, and your business plan is likely as one-of-a-kind as the food and drinks you sell.

There are, however, basic features and tools that the majority of restaurant operators require for payment processing. Experts consider this functionality as a good benchmark for success when searching for a POS system to use.

Of course, particular features will be an extra benefit. However, having these functionalities are also mandatory nowadays. Here are some helpful questions to ask. If a system cannot provide the feature, you must remove it from your list.

Is it easy to use?

Your POS system should allow you to seamlessly accept, prepare, and serve orders, whether in-house or online. It should also enable you to automate other important tasks in your operations. 

However, if it’s a highly complicated software with a similarly intricate piece of hardware that always forces you to consult the user’s manual every time you use it, that POS is not worth keeping. It should be simple and easy to use so that you can focus more on growing your business.

Does it integrate all or most of your business workflows?

Is it capable of accessing information from your suppliers and network partners to automatically update order and inventory data? If your business needs this functionality, but a potential POS doesn’t offer it, then omit it.

Search for point of sale systems that can automate the most number of tasks and processes as possible. You don’t want to waste precious time and effort transferring data from one application to another, which also gives room for error.

Likewise, since it’s impossible for a single vendor to provide everything you will possibly need, look for one that already offers seamless integration with partner software providers. Toast POS is a good example of this, which also offers restaurant-grade hardware.

Toast Restaurant Technology Landscape infographic

The Restaurant Management Software Ecosystem in 2020 (Source: Toast POS).

Can you use it anywhere in the country?

You could have an elegant storefront with an integrated checkout counter. However, what if you were invited to run a food stall in an upcoming week-long event that will draw in thousands of guests from within and outside the United States? Can you quickly set up the stall, with a mobile POS that functions anywhere your food business goes?

You need a point of sale platform that offers you the flexibility and freedom to accept payment from any place in the US. If the POS solutions you consider prevent you from doing that, they may not be a good choice.

Does it offer good customer support?

Along with all the capabilities to address every customer demand and preferences, your point of sale should also help you communicate with your teams, anytime, anywhere.

A restaurant business doesn’t only function when it’s open to customers. The POS you’ll deploy should also be able to accompany you during early mornings and late nights. It should provide quick, 24/7 support to any problem or question you might have.

Does it monitor metrics and analytics?

As a restaurateur, you must monitor a myriad of valuable information involving customer and supplier transactions, including staff performance, work hours rendered, etc.

A good POS solution will not only let you perform these important business transactions but also enable you to monitor KPIs, which will be crucial in making the right decisions. But if you can’t access these data-driven analytics, then that point of sale is not a suitable choice.

Toast POS staff management dashboard

A sample Toast POS staff management dashboard.

What is the pricing scheme?

If a point of sale vendor doesn’t provide clear and straightforward costing, be suspicious. You and your restaurant deserve something better than a solution that will charge you with hidden costs and misleading fees. Here is where calculating the total cost of ownership (TCO) of a POS system becomes handy.

A TCO considers every possible cost related to the use of a point of sale system during a certain period. When you calculate for the TCO of a POS, prices of different systems initially start almost the same but will greatly vary once the TCO is calculated.

Legacy POS vs Cloud POS vs Toast POS comparison infographic

A sample analysis of the total cost of ownership of POS systems for restaurants of varying sizes. It takes into account software and hardware costs, including the associated transaction fees per option.

Step #4. Remove What You Don’t Need

It is easier to pinpoint which among your point of sale candidates are the most viable if you zero in on the most important ones. This will allow you to limit your attention to just a few choices, making it more manageable to dig deep into their finer details.

Once you’ve figured out what things a point of sale system must do for your restaurant, you can remove less important or less urgent options more quickly. Here are other questions to ask as you further reduce your list of potentials:

  • Does the POS vendor have a good track record in the restaurant business?
  • Is the point of sale vendor financially sound? Will it still operate in the long term to support you?
  • How does the POS vendor fare in its customer reviews? Do its positive reviews surpass the negative or vice-versa?
  • Is the company involved in any previous or current legal issues?

You must ensure the point of sale system you select will come from an authentic, sustainable organization. This way, you’ll be guaranteed to do business with the vendor for a long time.

However, if a vendor fails to pass this test, it’s not worth the risk of doing business with such a vendor. It could even endanger your entire restaurant business, all because you partnered with the wrong vendor.

Step #5. Evaluate Your Vendor Shortlist

After you’ve brought down your list to around three to four vendors, it’s time to closely examine each point of sale system. Do the following:

  • Contact each POS vendor for the complete details of their software offering.
  • Talk to their sales agent and request for a  basic rundown.
  • Listen carefully.
  • Take note of your conversation.
  • Ask for further clarification, if needed.
  • Ask for actual use cases or sample experiences of their business users.
  • Evaluate also if they’re excited to partner with you or just to close the sale.
  • Continue asking questions until you’re satisfied.

At this stage, you’ll likely be left with one or two final candidates. But more than narrowing down your list, the more important objective here is for you to know more about the product, the vendor, and how it deals with potential clients like you.

POS Comparison Tool dashboard

Toast offers a free, POS Comparison Tool that can be customized to your specific research needs, in one Excel spreadsheet.

Step #6. Avail a Free Trial or Schedule a Demo

After connecting with your potential providers, you now need to actually experience the POS products they offer.

Request for a free trial so you can test drive and have hands-on experience in using their POS system. You can also arrange for a product demo that provides a structured approach to using the product. It is best to avail of both offers to provide you with as much information as possible.

What are the benefits of a free demo or trial?

Aside from knowing how to actually use the software features and advantages, another benefit of both a free trial and demo is that you can establish how they respond to your request for assistance. With this, you’ll see other aspects of the POS system, those you won’t normally see from reading knowledge base and watching tutorial videos.

When driving a new car, the most experienced drivers will still take some time to get used to driving it. It’s the same case with restaurants trying a new POS: there will always be a learning curve to address, even if they’ve already used the same tool for their operations.

Detailed Toast POS Review

Does Toast POS meet this guide’s requirements?

  • Toast POS offers the features and functionalities covered in this guide and much more.
  • This POS system is very affordable and even offers 0% for all software, hardware, and installation solutions.
  • It is easy to use, supports wide integration, available across the US, offers award-winning support, and provides robust analytics.
  • Toast, Inc. is a multi-awarded, innovative, fast-growing company.
  • Aside from providing extensive product/service info, the vendor even offers a free POS comparison tool to help prospective clients.
  • It offers a free demo. A Toast specialist will contact you within 24 hours to arrange the schedule.

Step #7. Decide which POS System to Choose

Consider your demo and/or product trial as your chance to match the point of sale system against your checklist of features and functionalities. Take note of their strengths and weaknesses, write down key observations and questions to clarify gaps.

The moment you’ve completed the trial or have satisfied your evaluation, ensure that all your questions are answered clearly by the vendor. Get more information as needed. Read unbiased reviews from top review sites. Never leave out anything, especially important ones.

And once you’ve completed all your testing, research, data gathering, etc., it’s time to decide which POS solution to choose. The right point of sale system is the one that can cover all your fundamental and other additional requirements.

A Final Point

There you have it, a seven-step process designed to help restaurant and foodservice operators better select the right point of sale solution for their business. Although we’ve tried to cover as much ground as possible, our actual purpose in preparing this post is only to guide you POS buyers.

Some unique, context-specific variables will manifest when you undertake the selection process. And it’s up to you to make the right call once the situation presents itself. But with this expert-based knowledge, you’ll likely make the correct call.

Remember, doing your homework and actually testing a POS system is the best course of action. There’s no secret formula or trick to replace that.

And by the way, if you’d like to cut to the chase and try a leading POS solution that millions already use and trust today, Toast POS is indeed a viable option. This all-in-one point of sale and restaurant management suite has consistently scored high in all our software tests and verified user reviews. Check it out now.

Jenny Chang

By Jenny Chang

Senior writer at FinancesOnline who writes about a wide range of SaaS and B2B products, including trends and issues on e-commerce, accounting and customer service software. She’s also covered a wide range of topics in business, science, and technology for websites in the U.S., Australia and Singapore, keeping tabs on edge tech like 3D printed health monitoring tattoos and SpaceX’s exploration plans.

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