Restaurant owners need to take many factors into account when they consider trading in their cash registers for a computerized point of sale (POS) system. It’s not a simple dollars-and-cents decision: while it’s true that POS systems represent a larger initial investment than a traditional restaurant cash register, they also provide far more than restaurant cash registers can deliver in return for that investment.
Today’s POS solutions are capable of performing double and triple duty in addition to their transaction and cash management functions, performing critical services in areas including:
- Inventory management, including forecasting and planning
- Financial and business reporting
- Scheduling and labor management
- Building a customer database and managing marketing campaigns
- Integrating with online reservation and ordering systems
Inventory management is critical for any restaurant. Not only is keeping track of what’s in-house, what’s been sold and in what quantities vital to smooth operations, it’s also an area that’s particularly vulnerable to various types of shrink, from spoilage of fresh food to outright theft. Because a POS system is designed to be the information “chokepoint” for every transaction that takes place, it’s ideal for integrating with – or serving as – the restaurant’s inventory tracking and management system of record.
Modern POS systems’ ability to provide reporting on both a day-to-day and a historical basis also makes them valuable tools for forecasting and planning. For example, a restaurant operating in a college town could check its previous year’s records to note that the days surrounding Parent’s Weekend were particularly busy ones, and plan its purchases and staffing accordingly.
Because a POS system is used by virtually everyone on staff at a restaurant, as opposed to the restaurant cash registers that are used by a more limited group, they can serve as time clocks and labor scheduling solutions, providing a more accurate picture of hours worked and providing analysis as to whether staffing levels are appropriately aligned with business volume.
Restaurants have always depended on repeat business as a key to success, but today’s establishments can no longer rely on individuals’ memories or paper-based record systems. Computerized POS systems simplify gathering customer data by integrating with credit and debit card payment systems. Many POS programs are also capable of recording e-mail addresses and other identifiers, and some sophisticated systems also include purchase histories with these customer profiles. Whether a restaurant owner simply wants to identify who her best customers are or she seeks to increase her business with an e-mail or text message marketing campaign, building and maintaining such a database is becoming a business necessity in the hospitality industry.
Restaurant cash registers are also not equipped to integrate with increasingly popular online and mobile reservation and food ordering systems. Investing in a POS system also provides a solid technology foundation if a restaurant moves into its own mobile deployment, using tablets for line-busting or for table-side or self-service functions.
While most people associate POS systems with retail, there are numerous software programs designed specifically for the needs of hospitality and restaurants, ranging from basic takeout operations up through to fine dining establishments and multi-unit QSRs. Remember that while replacing a restaurant cash register with a POS system means spending more initially, it translates into getting more productivity and profitability in return.