At the heart of every successful restaurant is a powerful point-of-sale (POS) system. In the ever-evolving restaurant industry, owners and managers are constantly looking for ways to stay relevant. What does that mean? It’s simple: How do I continue to meet my guests’ changing expectations with delicious food, top-of-the-line service and a great customer experience?
Restaurant POS systems provide the tools to do just that.
Technology has made it easier than ever to increase business, adapt to a changing market and grow your bottom line. Your POS system is at the center of these advancements. It serves as a one-stop-shop that can manage, maintain, review and shift all the daily functions that influence your revenue and guest satisfaction.
A powerful POS system can do it all, from staffing to inventory management to flexible payment processing. It can even enable contactless customer experiences, provide detailed, real-time data points and analyze the prospects of customer loyalty programs. In a nutshell, today’s POS systems are built to have your back and keep your bottom line top of mind.
Finding the best POS System for your Restaurant
Finding and switching to the best POS system for your restaurant is a crucial process that requires research and a solid understanding of your goals and needs. Your business is multifaceted, and the right POS system can make all the difference in its success.
But where do you begin? There are many POS platforms on the market today, each offering a buffet of features and functions tailored to retailers, restaurants and mobile businesses. Finding the best POS software partner can easily turn into an overwhelming process. This is why it’s so important to know what questions to ask when shopping for potential POS systems.
Four critical questions to ask when shopping for a restaurant POS system
The key factor to finding your ideal POS technology is evaluating your business itself. Taking a look at your restaurant’s needs and opportunities for improvement will immediately help narrow the scope of POS platforms that will work best for you. For starters, how do you want to manage your business? What data points are crucial to making strategic decisions to improve current processes and grow? What does the optimal guest experience look like to you, and how can a POS system help take your current guest experience there?
It also helps to think about loyalty programs, mobile ordering, curbside pickup and line busting. And make sure you consider the future hold. Reviewing that five-year plan through the lens of a POS system and aligning your goals with specific platform capabilities and associated costs can be the game changer that takes your restaurant to the next level.
9 things to look for when choosing a new POS for your restaurant
Key Points to Consider When Choosing Your Restaurant POS
The kitchen may be the heart of your restaurant, but your POS system is the soul. Long gone are the days when they were just simple order processors. Today’s POS systems have evolved into strategic hubs that serve as the central core for all business needs and activities of the modern restaurant. But there are three key main points to consider when choosing a POS.
While you’re researching POS systems, you may find yourself feeling overloaded with detailed information or technical specifications. Looking for features that’ll help you reach your business goals will be key to narrowing down your search.
For instance, if you leverage third-party delivery services to expand your restaurant’s reach (or want to start), look for a POS platform that integrates with third-party partners. This can help free up time for you to focus on what matters most: creating the best dining experience for your guests. The right POS system should help you, your staff and your business operate like a well-oiled machine by streamlining processes, increasing efficiency and providing flexibility for growth and creativity.
“31% of American consumers use third-party food delivery services at least twice a week.”
For instance, setup and training can become massive projects that take too much time and attention away from necessary day-to-day business operations. Finding a POS system that’s intuitive and easy to install is a win-win that can actually improve your customers’ experience in many ways, like supporting conversational and/or mobile ordering—all while saving time and increasing your bottom line. Payment flexibility is another hot-button topic POS systems are solving these days, and finding a POS that accepts multiple secure payment options—online, tableside, in line or curbside—is critical.
Meanwhile, back-end functionality and technology need to stay current. This will arm your restaurant with the tools necessary to pivot and grow as industry standards change. Honing in on POS systems with real-time, consistent updates across all devices will unify your operations, bringing inventory management, ordering, staffing, customer satisfaction, loyalty programs, menu roll-outs, payments and reporting all under one roof.
Taking this a step further, access to real-time reporting on key metrics offers a succinct snapshot of your business, revealing where changes need to be made and giving you an idea of what those improvements might be. Discover more things to watch for while you’re shopping for a new restaurant POS system.
STREAMLINING OPERATIONS WITH CONTACTLESS TECH
As the restaurant industry—and the world—continue to change, so do customer expectations. POS systems offer technology that can help you raise the bar on your restaurant’s approach to operations while simultaneously elevating your guest experience. Contactless pay-at-table is a POS capability that benefits both you and your customers.
Making your guests happier with a faster way to pay is arguably the most important benefit to contactless pay-at-table options. That said, time isn’t just important to your customers—it’s also crucial to you and your staff. Giving guests the ability to cash out as soon as they’re ready leads to faster table turns, meaning more happy diners through your doors and more money in the till each night. Contactless pay-at-table options also allow your staff to focus more attention on service and taking care of other guests. What’s more, an increase in customer engagement typically leads to higher guest satisfaction and better tips.
How contactless, tableside transactions benefit your business
Of course, there are many other reasons to consider tableside payments. They provide additional layers of safety and security—areas of great concern—for you and your customers. And since the credit cards never leave your customers’ possession, the chance of fraud or payment mistakes is drastically lower than when you have several servers running checks to the stationary POS system at the same time.
Lastly, tableside payments allow diners to enjoy smaller—but still significant—bonus benefits, like easily splitting a check or receiving on-the-spot discounts and special offers via a customer loyalty program.
Read more on how contactless transactions can help benefit for your restaurant business.
How restaurants connect using contactless point-of-sale technology
Connecting to your customers in a contactless world may sound difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, creating a contactless experience at your restaurant may actually bring you and your guests closer. Today’s customers still expect comfort and satisfaction when they engage with your restaurant, but what defines those terms has probably changed in recent years. Are your patrons comfortable dining inside with others, or would they prefer outdoor options? And, how can you deliver the same delicious meals and high level of service when guests aren’t willing to dine in house? Contactless POS technology can offer creative solutions to expand your business in ways that meet current customer—and staff—expectations.
A delicious meal, an inviting atmosphere and attentive service are still the primary drivers of customer satisfaction. However, integrating contactless points of engagement can increase customer satisfaction by offering a variety of safe dining experiences. Guests today expect restaurants to not only be aware of, but focus on, eliminating points of contact that could spread germs. Utilizing contactless platforms removes such instances of potential germ transfer through menus, silverware, credit cards and human contact.
But doesn’t this all contradict the very nature of restaurants—high-touch businesses that encourage engagement and memory-making? Not necessarily. In essence, contactless technology can still make today’s human dining element possible by putting guests’ experiences in their hands. Giving your customers and staff the power to interact according to their own level of comfort is the greatest need you can meet.
Going mobile: Why a mobile POS can help boost your restaurant’s growth
People are busy and time is money. It’s rare for consumers to habitually eat three meals a day, much less enjoy those meals in a sit-down dining environment. That means restaurant owners need to pivot, shift, evolve and embrace mobile point of sale systems. Mobile POS systems (mPOS) offer flexibility around when, where and how you can serve patrons and process payments, making opportunities limitless.
The ability to be flexible and nimble enough to meet customers’ changing needs is necessary in today’s evolving restaurant industry. From a variety of diner expectations to contactless experiences becoming the norm, patrons are looking for comfort in new ways to “eat out.” By the way, this doesn’t always mean you’ll be serving them in your dining room.
Enter mobile POS systems.
Need to offer outside dining options? Looking to start tableside payments? Want to keep business afloat and brand awareness high via a pop-up or food truck while your brick-and-mortar restaurant is closed? Mobile POS is the answer to agile business shifts that continue creating a comfortable experience for your guests. Simultaneously, the agile and intuitive software makes it simple for you and your staff to seamlessly migrate to a mobile order and/or payment model.
Integrating third-party delivery with your POS: How do you improve consistency?
The ongoing pandemic has increased food delivery services exponentially, causing many dine-in or pickup-only restaurants to struggle to keep up with adapting. But what is the hesitancy or roadblock from moving forward with implementing third party delivery services? And how can third-party delivery services help maintain and grow your business in today’s changing environment? Third-party delivery options have actually helped restaurant owners in certain states keep business afloat for nearly two years.
Of course, when shifting to a new business model there will be some hesitancy and hurdles to overcome. But this doesn't mean the risks outweigh the benefits—especially in the midst of an uncertain pandemic with on and off state-wide shutdowns and shifting mandates. So what are the major concerns in utilizing third-party delivery, and how can you overcome them?
Entrusting someone else with your customer experience can be scary It will likely be one of the biggest stumbling blocks in your jump to third-party delivery systems. On top of that, there are menu updates, customer reviews and potential order delays to find and fix.
The right POS system alleviates all of these worries, letting you focus on keeping your business open and even expanding your opportunities through third-party delivery partners. It’s no secret that customer demand for delivery options is not going away any time soon, so finding a POS solution that helps you integrate third-party delivery into your business model is only upside.
A few key things to consider when choosing both a POS system and third-party delivery partner include commitment timelines, integration capabilities, kitchen capacity management and photo options to showcase your menu visually via an online platform. Discover more tips to consider around implementing third party delivery services.
Making the most of your data to help boost your profits
Data, data, data. It’s what’s for dinner—at least on successful restaurateurs’ menus. Today’s POS systems can provide insight into your business from every angle imaginable, allowing you to make intelligent business decisions that improve operations and increase your bottom line.
Modern point of sale systems are much more advanced than their ancestor, the cash register. Not only do they provide on-the-spot payment processing capabilities, but they also provide in-depth and high-level reporting on everything from inventory to staffing to customer satisfaction.
That said, it’s important to think outside the box when utilizing a POS system as a key tool in managing your restaurant. Look at the bigger picture. Success isn’t just about cutting costs to make a profit—it’s about making your guests happy so they return and encourage others to visit.
Of course, with the massive amounts of data today’s POS systems provide, one can easily get bogged down in numbers and forget the factors that drive them. It’s important to have a clear and concise interest in the data you’re looking to collect, and POS systems allow you to do just that. Whether it’s per-person averages that provide insight into repeat customers’ typical ticket prices or detailed ordering data that reveals your guests’ favorite menu items, POS analytics and reporting are an easy answer to tracking and improving business operations one function at a time. Discover more on making the most of your data.
How to free up your time: gaining immediate insights for your restaurant
Being a restaurant owner is a 24/7 job. Even if you’re not on-site the 18-plus hours your establishment might be open and operating each day, you’re likely fielding questions from vendors, working with management on menu revisions, reading reviews from recent guests and constantly strategizing to take business to the next level. Hence, it’s no surprise if you don’t seem to have any free time.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Meet NCR Pulse Real-Time.
NCR Pulse Real-Time is a real-time mobile cloud reporting, alerts and analytics tool that restaurant owners and their management teams use to run their business from their mobile devices. The app is easy to install and use. It also gives you easy access to real-time insights that help save time and money, pulled directly from your Aloha restaurant POS system. Using your Android or Apple device, you can pull up the app to track and monitor everything in your business—from up-to-the-minute sales information to notification alerts sent when issues require your attention. This allows you to refocus your time on what matters.
Whether you’re a new owner that needs to be involved the day-to-day details of operations, even when you’re not on-site, or an experienced owner of multiple restaurants, NCR Pulse Real-Time gives you up-to-date information on key metrics that help you make smarter, faster business decisions on the fly.
Combating restaurant employee scams and theft using your restaurant POS
Theft happens. It’s an unfortunate fact of the restaurant biz. Perhaps even more upsetting, about 75% of the time it’s your own employees stealing from you. But how is it possible that your trusted staff are the ones taking the majority of unaccounted for inventory—and right from under your nose? Easy. According to How to Burn Down the House: The Infamous Waiter and Bartender’s Scam Bible, there are a set of very specific scams in the restaurant industry—the buffet scam, the bastard’s scam, the suggestive stealing scam, the leftovers scam and the evil incorporated scam—that perpetrators return to time and again. Lucky for you, modern restaurant POS systems can help prevent, identify and combat these potential threats.
Today’s POS systems are equipped with state-of-the-art technology that not only helps make your business more productive—it also helps identify and prevent purposeful “mistakes.”
Here are just a few simple ways your POS system can help you combat theft.
Set up parameters that give certain users access to specific tasks (for example, don’t give servers the ability to transfer checks). In a similar vein, you can set up rules within your POS system that prevent all staff from performing specific functions or workflows. For instance, you can prevent checks from being closed without the appropriate items.
Finally, put your POS to work for you three-fold with direct messaging to guests via tableside payments. Try offering a free meal if the date and time of their receipt is inaccurate. With one simple POS message, you can provide a contactless experience many guests have come to expect, create a new touchpoint that increases engagement with customers, and dissuade wait staff from trying to scam your business by backdating tickets.
SURPRISE AND DELIGHT GUESTS: Why gift cards are good business during the holidays
The holidays are upon us, and a great meal has always been a popular gift. In the midst of an ongoing pandemic filled with shutdowns and isolation, people are seeking ways to come together. It’s no wonder experience gifts are topping wish lists. Gift cards are one hot option.
Sure, gift cards make gift-giving easy—they’re convenient for both the gift-giver and the recipient—but they’re equally as beneficial to you, the restaurant owner. One of the biggest hurdles in acquiring new customers for restaurateurs is staying top of mind. Gift cards are the ultimate marketing play that put your brand in front of new customers with the added monetary incentive to visit. Furthermore, alleviating that financial barrier can be just the thing that opens the door to a first visit and creates a new raving fan. Read more about gift cards in your restaurant.
How to build customer and brand loyalty for your restaurant
Every restaurateur loves their regulars. They clearly enjoy the food, staff and the overall experience at your restaurant, and they’re often some of the friendliest and supportive customers. That’s why customer loyalty programs have caught on as a crucial way to elevate patron engagement.
Utilizing your POS system to create a loyalty program delights customers with a three-pronged approach: it entices new customers to visit, incentivizes current guests to return and furthers relationships with long-standing loyalists. Of course, to move customers from brand loyalty to customer loyalty, you have to understand the guest progression. A typical customer journey runs through five stages: awareness, exploration, benefits, familiarity and commitment. The right POS system can help you walk customers through these steps and beyond with multiple touch points, incentives, exclusive offers and more via a loyalty program.
Read more about building the right loyalty program for your business.
Easy ideas to create and improve your restaurant menus
Food is the key deciding factor for guests when choosing a restaurant, and your menu is the main conduit to get them through your door. Creating a menu that will have customers ordering and coming back for more is the goal.
While dish descriptions are typically what entice customers, other aspects of your menu impact your business more than you might think. Your menu—and how it's perceived—directly affects your inventory, kitchen, operations and profits or losses. So it’s important to pay attention and make tweaks in favor of your bottom line.
Optimizing design goes beyond the visual appeal of your menu. Where you place certain items on the menu can actually impact how often they’re ordered. Additionally, excluding dollar signs from your pricing is likely to increase customer spending by nearly 10%. Simplicity also makes a big difference, as does price nesting. And if you’re able to utilize digital menu boards—a much cheaper, more versatile alternative to paper menus—your costs will drop while your flexibility to change or add menu items on the fly increases.
Finally, utilize reporting from your POS system to optimize performance and efficiencies. You can use the data to track how items are selling and reduce costs by cutting back on offerings that are underperforming. You can also use the data to determine the impact of seasonal menus on your operations, ordering and inventory management. The ability to use real-time tracking month over month to understand what’s making diners come back is invaluable.
How restaurant tech can pave the way for off-premise ordering success
Off-premise ordering has increased substantially in the past 12 months, and restaurant owners are saying it’s here to stay. Throughout the pandemic, restaurants have had to find creative ways to pivot to keep their doors open. One way is off-premise ordering with curbside or delivery options, and it seems to be here to stay. In fact, 71% of restaurants say that off-premise operations represent a higher portion of revenue than pre-pandemic, with 67% of restaurants adding off-premise ordering as a service since. All that to say, technology is a key differentiator in taking your business to the next level.
Finding new ways to meet and exceed customer expectations is an ever-evolving task for restaurant owners, and it involves thinking outside the box. That’s where technology has stepped in and stepped up in big ways.
Today’s point-of-sale systems give restaurant owners the tools to create dynamic and delicious customer experiences while streamlining operational processes. Now you can centralize your ordering and menu management with real-time updates and alerts. You can forecast order volume to decrease waste. You can automate a “fire-only-when-ready” system to manage order-flow traffic across stations. And perhaps most importantly, you can communicate virtually with customers in real time to set expectations and offer exclusive incentives and thanks.