Choosing the Right POS System
Choosing the Right POS System for your Concept
A POS system is the most important piece of technology in your restaurant and choosing the best POS system for your operation can be one of the most difficult decisions that you make. There are more than 70 POS systems on the market today and many of them are so similar it is hard to tell them apart. Choosing the right POS System is a bit like buying the right pair of shoes. When you go to the shoe store, there are hundreds to choose from – every design, color, size etc. However when a POS company comes to your restaurant, chances are, they only have one shoe and they are going to do whatever is necessary to make it fit. Here are some guidelines that should help you make the best decision for your restaurant.
The answer to the question, “Why POS?”
The right POS system will help manage your money, protect you from theft, identify sales trends and manage food and labor costs. Your POS system needs to offer robust reporting and the ability to export data into an excel or .csv format for use by other technologies and systems. A good reporting tool will help you decrease labor, food and beverage costs and help engineer the most effective menus possible.
Give Yourself a Choice
Don’t consider just one system. Make sure that you look at two or more so you have the ability to make a comparison – otherwise, how will you know which is the best fit?
Who is Flying Mothership?
There is a trend today that POS companies are being purchased by Credit Card Processing/Merchant Services companies and Broadline Distributors like Sysco and GFS. Be careful that selecting a POS system doesn’t lock you into a relationship with other companies or give competitive companies access to your information. Be sure to read the Terms and Conditions very carefully. You also need to watch out for the “Razor & Blades” strategy: Providers may offer POS systems/equipment for a cut rate price (or free) but what they are doing is locking you into a long-term relationship and charging you more for products like Credit Card Processing and Food.
Pricing – The Devil is in the Details
It is true that “You get what you pay for”. The trick is making sure that you only get what you need. Remember to be sure to look at the long term costs. You need a hardware/software partner for the next 15 – 20 years. What is going to happen when a printer breaks, or your touch screens stop working? In your pricing model, plan on replacing a station (terminal) every 3-5 years. – Be sure to ask for support pricing and make sure that any price comparison model that you do extends out for 10 years
Along those same lines, be very aware of what you want your POS system to do for you. Here is a list of some of the ancillary services that may be offered:
- Employee Scheduling
- Labor control and processing
- Table Management
- Email Marketing
- Gift Cards
- Loyalty Programs
- Online Ordering
Most restaurant owners believe that they are going to use many of the listed features, however, the truth is that most of the time these services are time intensive to set up and difficult to maintain. A POS system should manage the day to day transactions, keep track of payroll and offer great reporting. There are great best of breed solutions available to handle the rest.
Beware of the “Self Install”
POS systems are complicated and in order to get the most out of them, they must be setup and programmed correctly. Some companies keep costs down by providing self installation and/or self setup. “Self Install” usually means “self support” with a phone backup. Restaurant operators need to be able to focus on running the restaurant, not managing technology. If a company offers self-install, this may indicate that you should not expect customer support later on when you need it.
3 Things to do Before Making a POS Decision
There are three things that you can do to simplify the decision making process:
- Pencil out the 15 or 20 year cost of ownership. Be sure to include all fees, licensing and hardware replacement costs (plan on replacing one terminal/printer/cash drawer every 4 years).
- Call the Customer Support Number for the POS companies that you are considering and see what happens. Be sure to call during “off” times like Midnight on Thursday or 9 am on Sunday. Chances are, that is when you are going to have problems.
- Ask for a reference, but not just any reference. Ask your sales rep for locations that have experienced problems in the last 30 days. At this point, you should be focused on what happens when things don’t work. Ask the right questions, to keep from being surprised later.
Choosing the right POS system can be a daunting task. Utilizing the guidelines listed above should make the task less cumbersome.