Purchasing the point of sale: Common mistakes new restaurants make and how to avoid them

By : Tim Henschel

June 19, 2014 02:11 AM

New restaurants often open at their own peril. With close to 60% of restaurants failing in the first year, every penny counts when prioritizing startup costs. Restaurant Startup & Growth Editor Barry Shuster warns that POS technology and credit card processing are high-priority items in restaurant planning, and deprioritizing these systems decreases the operation's odds of success.


Shuster offers the following advice to those in the planning phases:


  1. Involve your staff. One of the top misconceptions is that you don’t need to involve your staff in the POS purchase decision. In fact, it is important to involve the people who will be using the system, including the managers, servers/counter staff, chef/cook and bookkeeper.
  2. It’s more than the transaction. Another misconception is that restaurant technology is simply about tracking inventory and transactions. The right choice has a major effect on service and repeat patronage. All customers have expectations when it comes to ordering, waiting, and paying for their meal. Consistent ticket turnaround times are essential to the success of any operation; therefore POS systems are necessary to achieve the operational consistency your restaurant needs.
  3. Find the right fit for your format. Restaurants can hurt guest satisfaction by choosing a system that is not optimal for the business in terms of capabilities, and as a result of inadequate staff training in its use. Table-service restaurants find that a good POS system, with stations strategically located throughout the restaurant, can save valuable seconds or minutes from the time customers order their food until the time they receive it at the table. Servers can quickly enter orders into the POS, which is then immediately printed at one or more stations in the kitchen or bar. This allows the server to spend more time in their station to attend to other customer needs such as clearing plates, refilling water, and presenting guest checks for payment. Likewise, a fast-food restaurant relies on their POS to have the orders displayed on video order screens that have been placed at various points on the food production line. Many systems are programmed to display ordered items immediately upon the order taker's selection on the POS so that the cook can begin preparation. Ignoring these issues can slow down service, reduce income and reduce repeat patronage.
  4. Do your homework. The right POS system can literally transform your operation by improving controls, efficiency, decision-making and even sales volume. If properly chosen, a POS can pay for itself in a matter of months. However, choosing the wrong POS can become your worst nightmare. Prior to purchasing a new system, you need to organize and compare the features of the POS systems you are considering, and form a team of management and key staff, if possible, to determine what capabilities you need to run your restaurant most efficiently. You also need to determine your budget constraints before meeting with vendor reps. You don’t want to waste time talking to vendors who can’t meet your system requirements and budget.

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What lessons learned can you share for those just starting out?