Selecting a Point of Sale (POS)


What to consider…


If you are planning a high-volume restaurant, a Point of Sale system is absolutely essential.  Think of it as the Air-Traffic controller of your entire restaurant.  

Today’s systems are incredibly user-friendly and turn-key, with sophisticated software that tracks employee hours and gratuities for payroll, places food & drink orders to the kitchen and bar, runs management reports and generally keeps your restaurant operating efficiently.  

A typical system consists of a number of touch screen terminals, printers and cash drawers for your front of house and bar, printers for your kitchen lines and a back of house master server, terminal and printer that controls the network.  The most advanced systems are hand-held devices with built-in printers that the server brings tableside to place orders.  Once you decide on a system, your seller will assist in programming your system with your entire menu and pricing, training you in modifying your menu and prices, entering new menu items, running key-reports, etc..

Maintenance Contracts

As with any computer or technology device, the various systems on the market have hardware and software that occasionally goes down.  In a busy restaurant on a Saturday night, you need 24/7 system support from afar that can get you back up and running.  Most companies sell a Maintenance Contract for an additional yearly charge, depending on how many devices and pieces of hardware you have purchased or leased.  Expect to pay at least $2,000 annually for live telephone support with remote access to your system and in the field troubleshooting and/or device replacement.  In my experience, a Maintenance Contract is a MUST and pays for itself several times over in troubleshooting and operator piece of mind.  Ask for an itemized list of every device covered by the contract, as well as each separate fee and make note of any items such as cash drawers, etc.. that are unnecessary to cover with the contract.

NOTE:  A P.O.S. system network requires its own dedicated power supply to maintain the integrity of the network.  Your electrician will have to hard-wire a separate network circuit not to be shared with other non-system electrical devices. 

Battery backups are necessary and highly-recommended, protecting your system from power surges and allowing your restaurant to continue to function in the event of power being lost.  

Using the server for any outside internet use, software application or office function is highly discouraged due to the possibility of hacking/data breach and potential exposure of customer credit card data.

Leasing vs. Buying  

Technology moves forward everyday and as soon as you decide on a system, some new bell or whistle is available.  This decision depends on how elaborate your need and ultimate use.  Think through the start of your restaurant, ultimate growth and longevity of a system before you will outgrow it or need more advanced technology.  

Will you integrate with several other software platforms or Apps?  

What is your budget?   

Systems are expensive and you must compare costs of at least 3 comparable systems with the number of components needed.  

Leasing is a good option as you conserve vital cash upfront, simply making a monthly payment, without being locked in to owning an expensive system that depreciates and becomes obsolete quickly.  

In my case, I negotiated a strong purchase discount by shopping several suppliers and comparing systems and realized an average 7 year life from my choices.   

If you do decide to purchase, again you have leverage up until you sign the contract.  Make sure to negotiate your best overall deal and ask for a few free months of service and support with purchase of your maintenance contract.

Key-System Functions

Ordering:  As staff punch orders into the system, they can time the delivery of each item with drinks and appetizers coming first and entrees following later.  The system will also track Take-Out orders so they can be boxed and kept warm.

Payroll:  Your system should allow staff to punch-in and out from a touchscreen device, compile staff hours and gratuities to report to your payroll company and allow you to edit hours for accuracy.

Reports:  The basic reports are your daily Sales Report, daily Server Cash Outs with cash owed the house, Server Sales Comparisons, Product Mix and volume of sales times price, historical guest payments, credit card batches and much much more.  

Menu and Pricing:  As you change your menu, add items or change prices, a system will quickly allow you to create and price the item and classify it by category.

Revenue Tracking:  A system tracks every item ordered, every item Comped or Voided and every dollar owed the house by each person with access to the system.  


How many staff will be using the system in each department?

Size of your dining room and number of tables in each server’s section?

Number of busy days per week?

Number of bar pouring stations and number of cash drawers needed?

Size of your kitchen and number of cook stations and salad/dessert stations that either share a printer or need their own?

Does your host sell retail merchandise and deliver Take-Out orders – you’ll need a terminal, printer and cash drawer for your front of house/host area.

Sophisticated clientele and concept?  Consider hand-held streamlined devices.

Functionality requirements… beyond the key-functions above, what other system needs does your concept require or will require with future growth?

What is your budget?

Do you anticipate your operation growing quickly in size and needs?

Lease Vs. Purchase?

Customer Service, Phone & Field Support:  When you call in with a problem, can you immediately speak to a troubleshooter or are you put in a queue for callback?  

How large is a technician’s territory and what is the average response time in the field?

Does the system seamlessly integrate with all major credit card processors and your existing processor?

Does the system integrate with stored value (Gift Card) and Affinity program Applications?  Which ones?

Data security and backup via the cloud?  Vendor backup and data retrieval?

What is included in the maintenance contract?  What components are covered/ not covered?

Ease of new staff training… ease of programming?

Company history, time in business, references from satisfied customers and system users?