Surviving Your Restaurant POS System Update
So you’re considering updating your restaurant POS (point of sale) system? There are plenty of options out there when you’re ready.
But what do you really need? How can you find the best system for your team? How do you deal with the disruption to your service in the meantime? Here’s what you need to know about surviving your restaurant POS system update—from knowing when it’s time to update, to choosing the best system, to scheduling the rollout.
Dishes are flying out the door, and business is finally picking up after the pandemic of 2020. You’re looking for a full house (or at least a full patio and regular to-go orders) for this season. But then customer orders start to run into snags. You can’t get the credit cards to go through. You’re selling out of dishes faster than your kitchen can update. Your POS software goes down (again).
The restaurant business has faced many challenges recently. When your business is finally starting to pick up again, the last thing you want to deal with is a system slowdown. When your POS system stops working (or is slow), customers get mischarges, and tips get lower, or worse, restaurant-goers might experience identity theft and fraud!
It’s imperative you have an efficient, secure system that works for your front of the house, communicates to the back of the house, and makes your life easier. Your system should have the latest security and be PCI compliant. Better still if the system also keeps customers happy with their visit. So how do you know when it’s time to upgrade your restaurant POS system, and how do you navigate this change without killing your business?
Know When it’s Time to Upgrade Your Restaurant’s POS System
Perhaps you’ve known this was coming for a long time—your system has been slow, servers are complaining, it takes forever to checkout. Or maybe a sudden change in business has led to the need for an update. Either way, when your POS system is outdated, your business can seriously suffer.
Are you wondering if it’s time to upgrade your system? Well, there are a few questions to ask yourself.
Are payments failing? The most significant sign that your restaurant’s POS system needs to be updated is when payments are frequently failing or requiring manual entry. When you’re in the weeds and servers are rushing around, no one has time to deal with a system that can’t ready customer’s payment information. Swiping a card more than once or typing in the numbers can lead to mistakes, mischarges, and plenty of problems.
Moreover, a system that doesn’t read cards well slows down your point of sale significantly. If you have multiple servers working off one terminal, those customers are waiting. When patrons arrive at a restaurant, most can handle a 10–15-minute wait time (depending on the situation). About 93% of restaurants have some sort of wait. But if a customer has waited for seating, waited for an order, and waited on their food, then chances are they will lose patience if they’re also waiting for their payment to go through.
When a customer hands the server their card, it’s often the last point of contact before writing out the tip. That final interaction will weigh heavily on their mind, especially if they’re left tapping their toes, waiting for the server to return. On the other hand, staff friendliness, delicious food, and an efficient restaurant POS system can make up for that 20-minute wait at the beginning of a meal. By the time the customer is ready to checkout, they’re full, happier, and more generous.
Other signs you may need a new restaurant POS system? You’re manually tracking your inventory, you don’t know what dishes are popular at your restaurant, or you run out of dishes frequently. Initially, this may not seem like a POS issue, but you can manage your order tracking in real-time with new software. Servers won’t have to do the “walk of shame” back to the table to tell a customer that the kitchen’s out of the dish they were craving. They will know right away.
Restaurant POS systems can also help you manage your dining room flow and table seating chart. It will make the process easier on your host or hostess, ensure less confusion and even patron distribution. If you’ve ever had a customer seated in a section unbeknownst to their server, a new POS system can help you better manage dining room traffic.
Finally, a lesson that all restaurant owners learned in 2020 is that having an option for online ordering and to-go orders is crucial for restaurants. If your place didn’t offer online ordering before, chances are high you had to scramble and figure something out to keep up. If you’re using an outside delivery service, you may want to weigh the pros and cons of offering in-house ordering (and even delivery).
You’ve Decided It’s Time to Upgrade Your Restaurant POS System, Now What?
Once you’ve decided to upgrade your restaurant POS system, it’s time to start looking into your software options and selecting the features you need. There are a dizzying array of options out there, and comparing each type of software can become overwhelming.
Before you throw in the towel and choose the first option that comes up when you Google “Restaurant POS software,” do some assessment—you know your restaurant needs best. What are the most crucial components?
Do you need something easy for fast checkout? If you’re running a small, straightforward operation, something simple like Square may fit the bill. Restaurants with a dozen tabletops and just a few servers may not require a robust restaurant management system. Perhaps you’re known for your rotating specials, so customers are used to asking what’s available each night. Maybe you operate on a reservations-only basis, so you don’t need extra assistance with table management.
Ask yourself what works with your current system. What doesn’t work? What are you happy with, and what struggles do you face? Don’t limit your assessment to just what you believe a new restaurant POS system could do—think even more broadly. If staff scheduling is a problem, or dividing tips, or time tracking, include those issues in your list. You may find restaurant management software that includes POS software as well as staff management.
Consider what’s realistic for your staff as far as hardware as well. If you want a cloud-based system, will your servers need tablets? Will you use a touchscreen terminal at the hostess station? Is that going to be the best place for it? Does the restaurant POS software require specific hardware as well? What are the advantages and disadvantages of those options?
Look for unbiased comparisons online (typically not from software manufacturers themselves). This will help you see how the various restaurant POS software options stack up against each other.
Consider Cost when You Update Your Restaurant POS System
If you own a restaurant, costs are always on your mind. From cutting back on water costs to working with vendors to ensure you get the best possible deals, money is probably always on your mind. So, of course, when you weigh out the best restaurant POS system, you’re going to look at the cost as a BIG consideration.
One word of caution, however—don’t be pennywise and pound foolish. The cheapest solution can end up costing you more down the road. If you spend hours manually tracking your inventory, if you lose customers because your online ordering isn’t smooth, or your back and front of the house don’t synch up, you may be selling yourself short in the future.
If you find a restaurant pos system that has robust functionality—like time tracking and employee management, for example—you may be able to cut out the costs of some other services. If you switch from a terminal-type system that requires significant hardware to a cloud-based system that works with a tablet, you may free up restaurant floor space and reduce headaches (and costs) around tech support.
It’s also important to recognize that restaurants, by their nature, are messy. There are moisture and crumbs everywhere. People are in a hurry, carrying dishes, trays, bottles, and more. The likelihood of tablets getting dropped, wet, and generally abused is high. Now, again, this may vary by your restaurant. A fast-paced diner or sports bar with a staff of 30 will look a lot different than a small vegetarian bistro with a crew of five. Your menu options will be different, the size of your menu will be different, the number of tables, and many other factors.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for restaurant management software (and places that tell you that there is are probably trying to sell you the software). Find the solution that works for you now but look at scalability and your company’s possibilities in the next five years. Most software solutions should last between five and seven years, so keep your future in mind.
Planning Your Restaurant POS System Upgrade
When should you go through with your system upgrade? Once you’ve found a software solution and you’re ready to invest, it’s time to start planning the rollout. Yes, a change to restaurant management software can cause snags and bumps along the way.
Inevitably, there will be a learning curve for your new restaurant software. Depending on the system you choose, you may face installation of terminals, tech support and log in training on tablets, and a need to teach your staff how to work the POS system.
In the best-case scenario, you should plan for at least a few weeks ahead before you roll out your system. Schedule extra staff during the rollout day and make sure one member of your staff is trained to “expert” level and will be on the floor during the rollout (preferably focused on training other team members, not serving clientele).
Choose your slowest day for the day of the rollout. Mondays are often industry days off, so it likely makes sense to do the install and some training on a Monday and then make Tuesday your first official day of business with the system. Start using the new software during your earliest shift so you can do a few test runs before things get hairy. You may even want to offer the first customers a free beverage or comp and appetizer to ease any snags on the first go.
From there, be sure to continue the rollout slowly, with plenty of training. Continue to cross-train and schedule employee experts for each shift. Empower employees to make adjustments and accommodate customers as needed in case of any mistakes. Within a week, your new restaurant pos system should be up and running smoothly.
So, if you’re tired of customer receipts that are unclear, systems that take too long to checkout, and frustrated clientele, consider updated your restaurant POS system. Yes, it’s a big task, but a fast, efficient system will often pay for itself in customer satisfaction, more rapid table turnover, and increased productivity.
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