As restaurants face an increasingly competitive market, it’s more important than ever for operators to upscale their systems in order to provide the best possible service to their customers.
“Fortunately, the restaurant point-of-sale (POS) market has seen significant innovations over the past 10 years, which have increased functionality while decreasing costs,” says Barb Trawick, small business product executive at Bank of America Merchant Services. “The creation and proliferation of smart devices, coupled with cloud-based technology, has not only led to more high-quality, lower-priced entrants to the market—but this fierce competition has also driven well-entrenched players to improve their capabilities and reduce pricing.”
According to Trawick, few restaurateurs go into the business with the desire to manage inventory, run reports, and scrutinize employee time cards, but these are of course critical tasks for operating a restaurant.
“If the POS system can assume some of the heavy lifting, that’s a big win for operators,” she says. “At a high level, the right solution will save restaurants time and money, while also driving revenue through value-added capabilities such as integrated rewards programs, menu performance analytics, and real-time social media updates.”
Here, we look at five of the biggest POS pain points and how to solve them.
1. Integration Capabilities
A significant pain point for many operators is using an outdated POS solution. Older systems are rapidly becoming obsolete as more and more restaurants adopt cloud-based technology that helps restaurateurs organize and track data from anywhere, at anytime—and perhaps more importantly, allows restaurants to improve order accuracy and speed of service for customers. Cloud-based technology also allows POS systems to integrate with other systems.
“Unfortunately, not all POS systems are integrated with their restaurant business management software,” Trawick says, “and then the operator is stuck purchasing disparate solutions and devices to manage payments, labor, transactions, rewards programs, and every other facet of their complex business.”
POS partnerships that bring all of those disparate systems under a single solution, however, provide significant relief. More and more successful brands and operators are adopting point-of-sale systems that go far beyond payments—enabling restaurants to also manage tables, tips, tabs, scheduling, and online ordering, for example.
2. Lifetime Cost
According to Trawick, some restaurant POS systems can cost tens of thousands of dollars to purchase, plus additional monthly software and support fees. And while that out-of-pocket expense may make sense for some businesses, it can be a huge pressure point for others.
“Many operators are paying for bells and whistles that they may never need or use,” Trawick says.
From a cost perspective, operators can save a lot of money by selecting a POS solution that fits their current needs and will also carry them into the future without needing to be replaced. For example, there are many high-tech solutions that may be beneficial to some restaurants but may overwhelm the operations of others. Asking questions and partnering with a merchant services provider that can match your restaurant with its “best fit” is therefore critical.
3. Expansion Capability
Something that many operators may not consider when selecting their POS solution is what their future needs might be. It is therefore important to assess whether a system has the capacity to expand use for multiple units in the future, if the brand begins to grow.
“Some POS systems don’t offer an adequate multi-location suite for reporting, inventory, and employee management,” Trawick says, “which is fine when you’re a single location but can be a major hindrance when you expand.”
Because most restaurant owners have expansion plans, he recommends implementing point-of-sale solutions that have the potential to grow with your business. Cloud-based systems, for example, can connect multiple units and provide restaurateurs with real-time insights across locations. They’re also flexible enough to be customized across a diverse portfolio, if needed.
4. Customer Experience
“When customers go out to eat or order take-out, they aren’t thinking explicitly about the point-of-sale system—they’re only concerned with the food and the dining experience,” Trawick says. “However, if their order gets delivered to the wrong seat or it’s difficult for the server to split the check between parties, guests may begin to think negatively about their restaurant experience.”
Systems that integrate payments with broader business management functions are better equipped to deliver the experiences customers are looking for.
“For example, loyalty and rewards programs are shown to increase customer satisfaction and drive repeat business,” Trawick says.
Other critical must-haves are secure online and mobile ordering services that communicate directly to a restaurant’s POS, so that customers can more easily order food when they want it—and the restaurant staff receives the correct information on time so that they can provide the best service.
5. Systems Training
Many point-of-sale systems are clunky and can be difficult for employees to learn. Consequently, those solutions present on-going challenges which can result in decreased efficiency, lower service times, and dissatisfied customers.
“Operators should look for solutions that are intuitive and easy-to-use,” Trawick says. “For example, many of today’s POS systems operate like smart devices, which serve as easy-to-learn and common interfaces for most people today.”
In addition, restaurant owners should look for solution partners that provide training, which can help reduce employee turnover and improve overall restaurant performance. Bank of America Merchant Services, for example, offers free training and installation, as well as complimentary support services 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year.
By streamlining the POS with solutions that best fit their restaurant’s needs and alleviate pain points, operators can ensure that employees and customers alike have a better experience. These systems can help improve unit performance significantly—by allowing for faster service, improving order accuracy, managing labor, and accepting customers’ preferred payment methods.