Choosing the Best POS for Your Full-Service RestaurantDownload PDF
Your search for the best full-service restaurant point of sale system just got a whole lot easier. This guide will help you understand the choices you have in the POS market and lead you through the technology jungle. After all, what you really care about is how a point of sale system performs for you.
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Formal dining traditions
The traditions of the full-service restaurant are rooted in the European history of the kitchen servants who attended to the dining needs of kings, queens, barons, duchesses and other members of the royalty. Indeed, the style and methods of setting the table and preparing food come straight out of the traditions of the nobility in Europe.
During the French Revolution, all the royals were sent to the chopping block. That left a lot of unemployed chefs used to a certain way of doing things. They began to offer dinner services in the tradition they were accustomed to providing in the royal courts. A strict kitchen hierarchy, a commitment to higher food quality, unique dining experiences and superior service was now available to those who wished to be treated like a king, or queen.
And obviously, it was a hit! This strict, French-style dining experience is upheld to this day as the de-facto standard of fine dining excellence. Looking at modern restaurant organization, we clearly see the effects of this early tradition.
The modern dining experience
Today's full-service restaurants can be placed on a wide spectrum from formal to casual. Exploring the different experiences offered by the many different restaurant concepts under the umbrella terms table service, full service, and sit-down restaurant, is one of the joys of being a foodie. One thing unites them all, however, and that is the commitment to guest service.
Cutting across the different types of sit-down restaurants, from family style to formal, there is at least one constant, our restaurant patrons come for the food, atmosphere, and at least a little pampering. They get away from their personal responsibilities for a night and let someone else take care of them. It's like a mini vacation.
Owning and managing a restaurant
It's quite unlike anything else. A restaurant is at least three different businesses under one roof. Part manufacturing, part retail, and part hospitality, in this highly competitive industry there are many logistical and operational concerns.
To stay competitive, your modern full-service restaurant needs an advanced point of sale system. A physical tool in the restaurant that helps your team get more done and as well as a partnership with your POS service provider that helps to achieve the success you deserve.
Types of POS solutions / old vs. new
The humble origin of the point of sale is the abacus. When merchants needed exact accounting for their business ventures, these rows of beads helped them to be sure they were making the right choices. From abacus to cash register to electronic cash register and PC based systems, the history of the point of sale system has developed alongside modern business practices. As technology improves it helps us increase our productivity and the technology becomes lower-cost, it's adopted by more business people, to stay ahead of the curve.
It's true that legacy systems are still in use; you can use an antique cash register or a Windows-based POS system from 1995. But the fact is that unless you're feeling particularly nostalgic, these historic technologies are just going to cost your restaurant business more and more the longer they are kept in use. Not just in maintenance and upkeep but also in lost revenue. And most importantly, they cost your time!
The current generation of point of sale systems is not just the cheapest restaurant POS but also the easiest to use POS for full-service restaurants. They are also the most advanced systems to manage table service. Based on iPad technology and leveraging the power of the cloud, the "new kids" are bucking norms, using widely compatible off-the shelf hardware, affordable monthly service fees, and adding new features all the time.
Like the abacus in its heyday, the new iPad-based restaurant point of sale system is the most advanced tool for keeping account of the many aspects of your business. From inventory to labor, to customer data and sales. The best iPad based POS system makes these tools as simple as using your iPhone and allows you to access your data anywhere there is an internet connection.
Choosing the best iPad POS system on the market
Regardless of the concept, there are similar primary concerns for managers of all types of sit-down restaurants. The restaurant POS system with the best features helps you do more by strengthening your team and addressing these restaurant management concerns:.
Tools for restaurant management
A fully featured tablet based POS will include important features that help restaurant managers do more with less time. Leveraging the cloud, you’ll be able to manage remotely, performing important tasks from tracking sales to seeing who’s on the clock, right from your phone or internet connected tablet or computer!
Food Costs - Food is the raw material of the restaurant, and it's a cash outflow. When you can track individual product sales and monitor ingredient inventory you can know how much food to buy, so you don't run out of ingredients for popular items on busy nights! Remember, it's not just the cost of the food ingredients on a dish, it's how much margin there is.
Portioning is a key component in proper food costing. That means everyone in the kitchen needs to be on the same page. Does your POS have ingredient tracking and allow you to specify the recipe down to the milligram? If you're planning to look deeply at your menu to optimize profit, you need to have a handle on what your food cost is and what the correct portions are. The best restaurant point of sale system will include this capability.
Reduce Waste - It’s not just responsible toward the environment, it’s responsible to your bank account. Reducing food waste mainly has to do with not over-buying unnecessary perishable goods but food that is thrown away because the order is wrong is also a contributor to food waste. Whether it’s fine dining, a bistro or a casual family-style restaurant, Improving the accuracy of orders taken by the front of house staff can be facilitated by a great tablet POS system. Instead of handwritten notes, your servers send orders to the kitchen using iPad tablets to wirelessly print to kitchen or bar chit printers - or a display screen!
Labor Costs - After food, the highest operational cost is labor. You need enough, but not too much. The restaurant manager's job is to understand that balance. Otherwise, you're paying people to stand around. The best restaurant POS has labor tracking tools that allow you to monitor employee labor costs even if you're not on-site.
Another important metric beyond the raw labor cost is the sales value your front of house team members are generating. Checking from your phone, tablet or computer, you can also see how much each of your front of house staff is selling, and compare it to your labor rate. On a slow night, it might be a good idea to send underperforming staff home. And with the right restaurant POS system, you'll have the tools available to make that call.
Sales Reports - Viewing sales data in different ways lets us put our restaurant under a microscope. Choose an iPad based restaurant POS that features extensive reporting. View sales by the hour to see how customer numbers flow throughout the day. See what the most popular menu items are at every point in the day to help understand your target market's preferences and needs.
Optimizing Service - When service runs smoothly you can move guests through the dining experience efficiently, without them feeling rushed. This is especially important on busy nights when other guests are waiting since we know that wait times can discourage some diners. An optimal service allows multiple parties to be seated at a table during the hours of service. This is an important part of restaurant profitability.
Sophisticated iPad POS systems feature tableside ordering capabilities ideal for fast-paced, high volume full-service restaurants. Using an iPad or iPad mini handheld POS, servers can put customer orders into the system and send them to the kitchen, even if other parties are still deciding what to order. They don't have to run back to the kitchen, so food gets out faster. When it's time to check out, the order is already on the POS. No need to put the order in again. And with on-screen payment authorization, there is no running back and forth between the guest and the POS just to settle the bill!
Inventory Management - You need to know what to order, when and how much. Your restaurant point of sale is the obvious tool to help you track this valuable data. Imaging using a tablet based POS system that tracks when the items you sell have raw ingredient information keyed to them and adjusts your inventory levels automatically!
That means that when you sell a steak tartare, it doesn't just count the meat, but also the capers, mustard, and anchovies! This is deep data for understanding true food costs and understanding where you can cut cost without quality.
The right POS system for your bistro, family style or formal restaurant will help you engineer your menu by providing you with the data that you need.
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You now know the most important features to keep in mind when choosing the best POS system for your restaurant. Choosing the best iPad POS system for your restaurant means finding the best partner to help you achieve more with your restaurant, by running your business smarter, more efficiently and more profitably.
Meeting guest expectations
Our guests are the most important part of the restaurant business. Without them, everything we do is for nothing. The folks come out to your restaurant to take a break from life and responsibility. That's why providing them with great ambiance, smells, tastes, drinks, and service is so important. They have high expectations, and we have to be set to meet them!
Guest Experience - The people in the restaurant who interact with guests are a big part of making that happen. Servers and bartenders can focus more intimately on guests when the tools they use are simple and facilitate personalized experiences for the guests. With tableside ordering and handheld POS, servers don't have to worry about running back to the kitchen with hand written notes. When you're choosing the best POS system for your restaurant, make sure there are custom order and note functions so that together servers, kitchen and bar staff can provide a unique customer experience that is tailor made.
Reliable Payment Processing - When it's time for the check customers, and restaurant staff appreciate payment processing that is fast and suits the guest's needs. There is nothing more embarrassing for a guest than enjoying a night out and having issues arise with payment.
Taking payment should be as easy as possible, so the guest is not inconvenienced or forced to use a payment method they do not prefer. It starts with tableside payment capabilities. Credit cards swiped or inserted right from a handheld POS. But the best restaurant POS should do more! Being flexible enough for different forms of payment, such as gift cards, EMV chip cards and contactless payments using NFC. New payment platforms such as Apple Pay and Android Pay are a growing client base.
When your guests want to split the check, a tableside pos should offer simple options that allow easy payment. Custom splits, even splits, itemized splits and split by seat are all very important to have quick access to with just a tap.
Does your POS have reliable offline processing? You should choose a system that does. A modern iPad POS system with offline mode allows you to capture payment details while the customer is there, even if the internet isn’t working. This spares your guests from any awkwardness related to payment.
Strengthening restaurant staff
We depend on front-of-house staff and kitchen staff to provide our guests with the quality food and service that they expect. Your table-service POS tablet should be a dependable partner to your servers, giving them confidence.
Managing Orders - Servers should be able to manage orders by service type, by table and even by seat. With accurate floor plans, even new servers will be able to see which tables have open orders and view orders by table. This helps to ensure that orders don't get mixed up, and there is no question about which table gets the dish.
With ordering by seat just tap the seat number and items are tied to that seat on that table. The best tablet based restaurant ePOS will never lose your orders due to bugs or crashes because it's constantly backing up your orders to the cloud, moment to moment! If one terminal goes down, there is no need to panic because orders can be picked up by other servers iPads or guests can just pay at the till, because all the tablets are constantly in sync with each other. Helping your team stay in sync!
A full-service restaurant is a busy place, and the kitchen is a highly tuned machine. People shouldn't be back there unless they need to be. Keeping servers out of the kitchen when they don't need to be back there helps improve the use of space and lowers the amount of chaos when it's busy, and the cooks are pushing. Your POS system needs to be able to send orders to the kitchen, so there's no running back and forth with handwritten notes and questions about orders.
Either on a display screen or with the use of a chit printer (or both) servers can communicate to the cooks what the guest's needs are. With detailed modifiers, custom items and item notes, they don't need to talk to have great communication!
And what about when the kitchen runs out of items to make a dish? Using inventory management, once an ingredient drops to zero the item is automatically 86’d from the menu! Now your chef doesn’t have to worry about servers selling food the kitchen doesn’t have.
The restaurant owner’s POS
As a restaurant owner, there are certain things you care about that the point of sale you choose for your restaurant must address. Finding the best point of sale for your bistro, fine dining, or other sit-down restaurant means looking for the system that can help you solve these problems.
Affordability - The number one concern of all restaurant owners is affordability. Long term and short term affordability play a crucial role because the restaurant business is cash hungry, you need to watch your recurring expenses closely. Beginning with iPad technology, you're off to a good start. By using off the shelf non-proprietary equipment you're doing one better. Consider the monthly fees and the credit card fees you're charged as a whole. While some systems may seem like a good deal when you look at the upfront price, you quickly realize that their plan was to bait you into using their expensive credit processing. The best restaurant POS system will use affordable hardware, have low per terminal fees and won't charge you high fees for processing and other services.
Security - Security is a concern for restaurant owners because you are the one ultimately responsible for the liability of an insecure system. Employee theft is an unfortunate reality, so the ability to secure the system with permission levels that only the owner can access is very important. Setting permissions that disallow employees to perform actions like discounting items and canceling orders without manager approval keep employees from giving friends unauthorized comps.
The most secure POS system will capture the user’s PIN number for each transaction so it can be tracked in the system in case issues need to be investigated. By increasing the accountability of employees for transactions, irresponsible behaviors are discouraged.
Security also has to do with sensitive customer data and payment information. PCI compliance is an important data security standard to follow, not only to prevent fraud but also to retain the privilege of credit card processing and avoid fees and liability charges from the credit card companies. The most secure POS system will use point to point encryption technology to lock customer data at the time it’s read. The data is never stored on the POS device, reducing the scope of your PCI compliance obligations - as well as the cost associated with maintaining compliant systems.
EMV is also an important data security standard that pertains to the ability to take advanced payment technology. Chip cards are mandated for use by the credit card companies to decrease fraudulent transactions. Secure iPad POS systems will feature EMV compliant chip card and Near Field readers that protect you from the cost of fraud and chargebacks.
Reliability - You can't afford to have a POS system go down, so reliability is a key decision-making factor. You want to choose the most reliable POS system for your restaurant. While some tablet POS systems run on Android, the fact is that this hardware is unreliable and non-standard. If your concern is a bulletproof system build on quality hardware, iPad is the high-quality, reliable choice.
The most reliable iPad POS app won't have issues with glitches, crashing or need frequent restarts. Beware of systems that charge incorrect amounts and lose orders! Anyone can say they have a feature, but how well does it really work?
Reliable offline payments is another concern to address. When the internet goes down, you still need to capture guest payment data to process payments. The most reliable restaurant POS system will be able to save you and your guests from the embarrassment of payment issues.
Support and Training - When you deal with your POS company how do they treat you? Like a number, or like a partner? Can you reach a live person for help when you need it? Many companies act like your friend when you're in the sales phase, but seem to become hard to reach when you need help.
Perhaps more critically important is how your staff are treated when they contact support, since they are the ones that will be panicking if something isn’t working for them. The best POS company will treat you and your staff with respect and empathy. The POS company with the best customer service will provide you and your staff with live tech support when you need it, at no extra charge.
Export to Accounting Software - As a restaurant owner, you need an easy way to transfer the data captured by your restaurant's POS system into your preferred accounting software. Choose the point of sale software that features the ability to export to standard file formats to use with database and accounting software. The best restaurant POS will be able to export to Microsoft Excel, Quickbooks and more, by using standard file types that are widely compatible.
This saves you from all the trouble and time of hand-keying data that you already have in one program into another one!
By following the details in this guide, you'll choose the best POS for your full-service restaurant. By addressing the needs of your business with the features in the newest iPad point of sales apps, you will be able to do more with your restaurant, manage more efficiently and save time and money!