Business tips

How to choose a restaurant POS system.

By Ryan Gibbons on
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If you own a quick-serve restaurant or a food truck, one of the most critically important decisions you will make is what point of sale (POS) system to use. Once you recognize the many benefits that this unique combination of software and hardware will bring to your stationary or mobile eatery, you’ll be able to search through your various options to find the one that is best for your particular establishment and patrons. 

What is a point of sale system?

In its simplest form, a point of sale system enables you to accept credit and debit cards from your customers. In today’s fast-paced society that is rapidly gravitating toward cashlessness, it is no longer an option for most restaurateurs or food truck owners to refuse to take plastic. After all, every satisfied customer can bring several of their friends and you can’t afford to lose people because you don’t offer 21st-century payment options.

The reality is, your point of sale system should do far more than just assist you in accepting card payments. It should contain numerous features designed specifically to streamline your business functions and enhance your productivity. In the fast-paced environment of a quick-serve restaurant or food truck, you cannot possibly have time to gather details about customers by hand, but your POS can take on the task for you. With very little effort on your part, it can deliver invaluable information such as diners’ names and contact information, that you can then use to send out email blasts and promotions to bring these satisfied customers back again and again. 

Furthermore, your POS contains tools that can streamline other operations such as staff timesheets, inventory management, food sales trends, and financial reporting. In short, having a good POS solution on board is like hiring an expert, multi-talented partner who is on the job whenever you need them.

Keeps lines moving quickly.

Whether you run a quick-serve restaurant or a food truck, the fact is that most of your customers are looking to get the food they love as quickly as possible. The last thing these people want is to stand in a long line for any length of time. One of the most common situations that hold up a line is the payment process. No doubt, you have experienced numerous situations when people are forced to wait, with mounting frustration, as delays add so-called “friction” to the checkout process. 

With the right POS system in place, transactions are much faster, leading to much less chance of a bottleneck. If your system allows for NFC contactless payments that customers can make using their smartphones and built-in digital wallets, the process can move along even more quickly.

Real-time sales management.

Thanks to your POS solution, you should be able to use your tablet or smartphone to check sales trends at any time – even in the middle of a shift! By doing so, you’ll be able to make decisions on the fly to change your menu or launch a flash promotion campaign to move items that may not be going as quickly as you would like. In the end, this can help you to cut down on product waste and instantaneously meet customers’ requests in a way that is much more customized and nimbler than a larger restaurant could ever achieve.

Intelligent inventory management.

You probably cannot even quantify the amount of time you have spent agonizing over stock counts or wondering if it makes sense to increase or decrease the volume of products or ingredients for your next inventory order. Your POS can help you to quickly analyze your usage over previous ordering periods, ensuring that you will not run low on crucial items or waste precious dollars by buying too much of a particular ingredient.

What to look for in a POS system for your food truck or quick-serve restaurant.

Eateries differ in many ways, including their scope. A small food truck will, for instance, have more scaled-down needs than will a busy quick-serve eatery. With that in mind, let’s start with some features that a mobile restaurant owner might need. These include:

  • The ability to create invoices and receipts for enhanced record-keeping and customer service.
  • A reliable connection to the internet (preferably via wifi) plus the ability to accept offline transactions. 
  • The option for customers to add an electronic gratuity.
  • A fully featured time clock for your employees. 
  • Tools that allow you to track orders by individual employees.

Larger food operations might also benefit from a POS solution that delivers some or all of these features, while also being able to print order tickets for kitchen staff and adjusting tax rates for different states.

Choose your hardware.

Even the flashiest software is useless without the foundation of good, robust POS hardware. This is the set of tangible devices or components that you and your staff can use to accept payments and manage business-related information. At a minimum, you should expect to purchase the following items:

  • A mobile card reader — this can be a basic model or might be designed to accept NFC contactless payments from customers’ mobile devices.
  • A cash drawer — in spite of its decreasing popularity, you’ll still want to accept cash payments. At Payanywhere, our unique Edge Program can even help you enjoy the same profit margins on cash payments as you do from non-cash payments. 
  • Receipt printer — while emailable receipts have become the norm, believe it or not, you will have the occasional customer who wants a hard copy, perhaps for an expense report.

No matter which hardware you choose, make sure that it is protected from harsh conditions, particularly if you are running an outdoor food stand or truck. That may mean buying additional covers and screen protectors, but the extra investment will be worth it in the long run because your equipment will last longer.

A word about software.

We have already touted the advantages of POS software, the digital platform that contains your POS system’s complete set of features. However, it never hurts to review the salient points. You’ll want to find a package that will enable you to easily gather and manage customer data for promotional purposes. Furthermore, your software should be your best ally for reporting and sales forecasting purposes and should assist you as you conduct those never-ending inventory tasks.

Getting started in your POS selection process.

Now that you see the vast scope of POS options that are on the market today, it might be tempting to jump at the glitziest or most feature-packed choice. However, as a savvy and frugal business owner, you should balance this desire with more practical concerns. Start by taking stock of your business needs, both now and what you project them to be over the next year or two. 

Equally important is the integrity of the POS provider to whom you entrust your food truck or quick-serve restaurant. Above all else, you need a company with proven experience who will stand by you with excellent customer service. Few eventualities are more disastrous to a business such as yours than a payment system crash, compounded by an inability to get in touch with your POS company for troubleshooting or service. Your best bet is to choose a POS provider with demonstrated experience in the quick-service restaurant or food truck niche so that they already have the knowledge to address your needs as quickly and effectively as possible.

Gone are the times when food trucks were few and far between and quick-serve restaurants were in the minority. These days, customers seem to prefer the diverse foods and fast service that these types of eatery options provide. For that reason, you cannot afford to fall behind your many rivals in this fiercely competitive environment. Taking the time to choose a POS solution that will help you more effectively manage your business, while providing your customers with a fast and frictionless checkout (in addition to your fabulous food) will be a win-win for everyone.