What You Should Know When Choosing a POS

One of the biggest investments in equipment for a restaurant is the POS system. It’s a critical piece in running your operations well. Having a good POS versus a bad one can change your whole operations. Taking the time to identify your needs and breaking down what is absolutely critical to have and want to have is important. A good POS can help improve your efficiency and decision making that can impact your daily financial metrics.

Here are some steps you can follow when selecting a POS:

1. Designate members of your team to be part of the selection process. Gather feedback from those who will be using it in the front of the house on a daily basis and those on your corporate team who will be pulling reports from the backend.

2. Create a POS Checklist. As mentioned in the intro, you need to identity what you MUST HAVE versus what you WISH TO HAVE. An organized checklist will allow you to easily compare each POS system.

3. Speak with a representative of the POS vendor and have them highlight the features of their system. Have a checklist with you to indicate which features are included and ensure you have a demo scheduled. This is also a good time to ask for a price quote to determine if it is within your budget.

4. Compare and evaluate the results gathered from each vendor. Eliminate those that do not meet your minimum requirements including cost. Before making final decisions, I recommend speaking with others in the industry as well as taking into consideration the number of years the vendor has been in business, existing customers they current service, number of installs completed and type of technical service and warranties offered.

5. Ask for a list of client references. A POS vendor should be more than happy to provide a list of clients they service. Conduct your own reference check by calling the clients and speaking to the right individuals. For smaller operations, speak to the manager and owner. For larger operations, you may want to also speak to the Head of IT. Arrange a time to also visit a restaurant to observe the POS system in action.

6. Arrange for a demo. Before your demo, have a list of items you want to see. You should not let the vendor conduct the demo. You will be shown items that work and what they want to show you. It’s important to verify the capabilities of the system and it can handle any situational event that you may face. If the system does not perform to your expectations, find out what the vendor is willing to do for you. Is customization an option? Before continuing, find out lead times and cost.

7. Arrange for an onsite trial. You can combine step 6 and 7 if you like, but I prefer to separate the two. Having a facility tour and meeting the team who will manage your account can provide valuable insight. If you are satisfied with the office demo, request for a trial run at one of your restaurant units. A reputable vendor should meet your requests. Ensure you provide them with your menu and other items needed for trial. Observe how easy it is to setup the system and how well training is conducted. Document any service failures during the trial run. I often have requested anywhere between 14 to 30 day trial run.

8. Negotiate the Cost and Payment Terms. There is no harm in negotiating for better costs. System investments don’t come cheap. Surveys conducted by Restaurantowner.com indicate that most restaurant operators spend on average $15,000 and above for their system. The cost can vary depending on the number of workstations, printers required and if back office requirements are necessary. Vendors want your business. If you are planning to grow, it’s a great leverage to have as it is more sales and money in their pocket long term. As for payment terms, ensure you never pay the full amount upfront. Even though you may have been satisfied during the demo and trial runs, anything can happen. Typically, you can break up your payments in the following deposits:

• time of signing the contract
• time of installation
• time when the system is in operation
• time of final approval that you have acknowledged that the system is fully functional. 
(Note: this should be clearly defined among the parties on what final approval means)

Restaurantowner.com conducted a recent survey of restaurant participants on which POS system they currently use. The question was not to determine what the most popular system was but rather to seek feedback from each independent operator on their current POS system. I thought it was interesting to share this as the data clearly showed which POS system was most commonly used among the 800 restaurant survey participants. Below is the chart that indicated which POS system the operator owns. Please note the chart represents a partial sample of the total respondents. The results doesn’t necessarily say it’s the best POS to purchase, but rather it provides a snapshot of what are some of the most common POS brands being used today.

POS Brand

% of total Survey Participants

Micros

20.6%

Aloha

16.7%

Digital Dining

5.3%

POSitouch

4.5%

Aldelo (NextPOS)

4.3%

Restaurant Manager

4.1%

Maitre’D

3.5%

Squirrel

3.2%

Sharp

2.4%

Pixel Point

2.0%

Preparing a POS evaluation checklist and understanding your needs will help guide you in making the right decision for you and what is best for your restaurant.

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