Choosing the right point of sale system for your restaurant can seem like a daunting task. Should you just go with the brand you’ve heard of, or maybe the one your friend recommended? How do you get competitive credit card processing costs and the right solution?
When choosing your POS to take credit cards and manage your business, there are two ways to go about it. The right way for you depends on what’s more important to you: specific features, or price. If specific features are more important, then you’ll want to find your POS system first. If low cost credit card processing is more important, you’ll want to choose a processor first, and then select your POS system from the options available through that processor.
Let’s take a look at each of those options in more detail.
Choosing a POS System by Features
The good news is that many POS systems have plenty of features that restaurants need. Options like splitting checks, adding gratuities, and sending orders directly to kitchen printers for cooks are commonly found in most point of sale solutions. You’ll really only need to search for your POS system by feature if you need something more specialized.
So what features are a little less common, and worth looking for specifically?
- Online Ordering and Delivery
If you run a quick service restaurant that wants to allow online ordering or if you offer delivery services, you’ll want to check for those options. While many restaurant-specific POS systems will offer those choices, not all systems do.
- Ingredient-Level Inventory Tracking
Many POS systems include inventory tracking options, but often it’s for a finished product or SKU. Restaurants need to be able to track inventory down to the ingredient level, or keep tabs on how many pours are left in a bottle of alcohol. Features like this are one of the best reasons to look for a restaurant-specific POS system.
- Dynamic Pricing
For restaurants that offer special pricing during specific times (such as happy hour discounts or half price appetizers on particular weeknights) dynamic pricing is a feature that can save your staff time and help eliminate pricing errors. With dynamic pricing, the POS system enforces a timeframe that you choose and automatically adjusts pricing for that time period. Your employees won’t need to remember the special prices or check the time when ringing in orders.
- Item Modifier Capabilities
On the same item, Table 1 might want to hold the mayo while Table 5 wants extra mustard. Item modifier capabilities allow your servers to quickly enter the correct order by modifying the existing menu item, making it easier for your kitchen staff to get the order right for your customers.
Tableside ordering and even paying at the table is an increasingly popular option for restaurants from quick service to fine dining. If you’d like to offer that, you’ll need to look for a tablet-based point of sale system. There’s a lot of them out there, so it won’t be difficult to find one, but be sure to check with which operating systems the POS software will work. The last thing you want is to have Apple iPads ready to go only to find out you’ve purchased Android-compatible POS software.
If any of those features are on your “must have” list, it’s worth checking into POS system features first. A great way to do your research on POS systems is to use a product directory, which offers an entire category dedicated to profiles and reviews of POS systems. You can get all the info you need on dozens of systems all in one place.
Choosing a POS System by Cost
It’s no secret that credit card processing isn’t cheap, but you can help keep your costs low by finding a competitive processing solution first, and then choosing from that processor’s supported POS systems. Choosing your processor first gives you a big advantage for securing the lowest costs. More competition means better pricing for you. Additionally, many processors support several different POS systems, so it’s likely you’ll find one that will suit your needs and still benefit from competitive pricing.
When looking for a credit card processor, it’s almost always in your best interest to choose one that offers interchange plus pricing, the most transparent method of pricing and a model that can set the stage for securing low costs. You should also insist on no cancellation fee, and avoid leasing equipment.
Once you’ve received quotes from processors, you’ll need to inquire about the POS systems they can support. The good news is that many systems are universal, so if there’s one you like, multiple processors may be able to support it. After you’ve found your processor, you can go through the same steps of looking for specific features of systems with the added benefit of limiting your research to the systems that are available through your processor.
POS Systems with Specific Processors
Some POS systems require you to have a merchant account with a specific processor in order to use the system to take credit cards. There are pros and cons to that kind of integration.
In the pros column, there may be less initial set up work, and it requires a little less research. In the cons column, you’ll have much less negotiating power to find the lowest processing costs, and if you ever decide to change processors, you’ll need to get a whole new POS system. When making a decision on a POS system for your restaurant, be sure to consider worst case scenarios: if you need to switch processors, will you have the money to purchase new equipment and the time to retrain staff? If the answer is no, a POS system that requires a specific processor may not be for you.
Last but not least, when choosing a point of sale system, be sure to carefully read any contracts or agreements. If you try a new system and find it’s not quite what you thought, the last thing you want is to be locked into a long, expensive contract.
Follow these tips, and you’ll be well on your way to choosing a point of sale system that’s perfect for your restaurant.