Point of Sale (POS) equipment is the computer-based order-entry technology many restaurants use to capture orders, record data and display or print tickets. Restaurant servers, bartenders and cashiers can all use POS systems to easily enter food and beverage orders.
The POS acts as a cash register as well as a computer. In fact, the POS can consist of multiple stations, including credit card terminals, receipt printers, display screens, hostess stations and server stations. Having a POS system in place can add convenience, accuracy and save time in busy situations. In fact, is has the ability to perform a multitude of functions, including the following:
- Calculate cash due for every order entered
- Record the method of payment
- Keep track of the cash in the cash drawer
- Create hourly and daily sales reports
- Allow hourly employees to clock in and out
- Calculate labor and payroll data
- Record daily check averages for each worker
- Keep track of menu items sold
- Record information on repeat customers
How Employees Use POS Systems
Keep in mind that some systems work differently than others. User processes will be different depending on restaurant type and service style. The following steps represent the general process of taking an order with a POS system:
- The employee enters in his or her name or user code into the initial touch screen. This allows the worker to access the system.
- The employee begins a new order or check by entering in food items the customer orders. For full service restaurants, the employee is also able to choose a table number and add food to an existing check.
- The POS sends this all order information to the kitchen or bar in the form of a printed ticket or on a digital display monitor.
- The kitchen or bar employees read the order and make the appropriate food or beverage for the waitstaff or other employee to serve the customer.
- In a quick-service restaurant, the employee will read the total charge on the POS display, and collect payment from the customer. In full service, the server will bring a check, wait for payment, then enter it into the POS when the customers are finished.
Where to Set Up the POS
Touch screens can be located in many different places around the restaurant, depending on the layout and the service style. For quick-service or fast-casual restaurants, the POS systems are usually located in a visible place, often close to the front doors of the restaurant. In a full service restaurant, the POS is usually located in a discreet location so as not to interfere with the ambience or the dining experience.
Advantages of Digital Display Systems
Modern POS systems, especially those in large chain restaurants, have digital display components. Technically called kitchen display systems, also known as KDS screens or “bump screens,” the order pops up with clear information as to what food was requested, the time the order was placed, the table number and the server name. When the food is prepared and finished, the kitchen worker will hit a button on the screen, effectively “bumping” it from view and recording the time it was finished. This is an especially effective way to stay organized, communicate the status of orders, and record speed of service information.
Specific POS Configurations
You should purchase a POS for your specific restaurant type, especially if your operation has any special requirements. However, the software can typically be configured to your exact operation specifications such as your restaurant menu items and prices.
Use Your POS to Gather Marketing Data
The POS has the ability to record phone numbers, email addresses or order information, such check average per table or party size. The POS can build a database of customer information. Later, in your direct marketing campaigns, you can use this information to personalize your promotions and tailor them to specific types of customers.
What to Look for in a POS System
Every POS system differs based on its software, hardware and application. When looking for a POS system, do some research online and check out several different companies. You can even request a demo from a salesperson. Make sure the POS system you choose is one that fits your restaurant concept, service style and business needs. After all, this software can take a big bite out of your budget. When choosing the right POS system for your operation, be sure to consider the following:
- Price and quality.
Before you buy, make sure you know your business volume and system needs so you know your money is appropriately spent. POS software can cost $2,000 or more, and the terminals themselves can be up to $5,000 per station. Extra features and add-on options like digital displays or hand-held terminals usually add dollars as well. Warranties can add yet another yearly cost. Always ask sales representatives for price quotes, including all hardware, installation, software upgrades and support before deciding if a POS system is for you.
- Necessary hardware components.
Make sure you purchase both the hardware and the software for the POS system. Hardware includes the touch screen monitor to place at the point of sale—usually at the service counter, behind the bar or at the waiter station. Hardware also includes any necessary network servers, customer display equipment, kitchen display systems and even portable terminals and handheld devices.
- Software to track data.
Software includes all the programs you need for the point of sale, back of the house financial and inventory reports, gift card capabilities and even customer self-service. Software can even use labor data to help you create employee schedules, making a tedious task less time-consuming.
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- Financial reporting capabilities.
Make sure that your POS software allows you to retrieve your financial information in detailed, coherent reports, ideally on the back of the house (BOH) terminal where you can properly analyze the information.
- User friendliness.
A POS system that is confusing or requires extensive training may not be worth the hassle. Not only will it frustrate employees but it will slow down speed of service for customers. Also, be sure the orders are easy to read and understand. In a busy kitchen, there is no time for mistakes.
- Technical support.
It is not a matter of if there will be a problem, but when there will be a problem with your POS system. Hopefully the problem will be minor, but just in case, it helps to know that you have experienced technicians available to help in times of crisis.