When was the last time you made a big purchase without asking a single question? And we’re not talking a big round of shots for everybody at the bar – we’re talking your restaurant POS.
Before putting down a lot of money on a purchase, you – naturally – come armed with questions that help ensure you’re putting your cash in the right place.
This same questioning should be applied when looking for a new restaurant POS system, whether you’re shopping for your first POS or looking to switch your provider. Arming yourself with questions for the different sales teams will help ensure you end up with a product that meets all your business needs.
But… what do you need to ask?
We’ll go over the top 14 questions you need to ask when looking for a restaurant POS system before you sign any dotted lines. You can find the questions broken down through the key categories below.
Hardware is a huge consideration when deciding on a new restaurant POS – after all, it’s the equipment that houses your POS software. There are a couple of questions you’ll want to check off related to hardware when shopping around.
1. What type of hardware does the POS use?
Chances are, this will come up naturally in your discussions with POS providers. This is important to know, especially with how passionate people get about #TeamApple, #TeamAndroid, or other proprietary hardware built specifically for the software – which can get very expensive.
For example, if you know you and your team are most comfortable on Apple devices, you might find it difficult to work with a POS that can’t run on Apple. If you want a specific hardware brand, this can help narrow down your search early on.
2. What hardware is required to run the system?
You know when you buy a new exciting piece of technology and get all excited to open it, only to find out the batteries weren’t included? Or part of it comes separately? Frustrating, right?
You don’t want to pick a restaurant POS and find out you didn’t account for all the hardware required. Ask early on exactly what is required – it’s likely more than one iPad or tablet. Some hardware requirements you’ll want to make sure to ask about include:
- Amount of iPads or tablets for your restaurant size
- Internet router
- Payment devices
There’s a reason restaurants are moving away from running their operations on pen and paper. A restaurant POS can do so much for your venue. While many systems have the same basic capabilities – such as processing sales and sending orders to the kitchen – you still want to ask about each system’s capabilities.
Here are the most important areas to cover with system capabilities.
3. What are the basic capabilities?
This may seem like a general question, but it’s a great starting point to get to know the system and potentially knock off some questions early. This is where different POS providers can let you know general features – such as changing your menu or sending orders to the kitchen.
4. Is there any downtime with my POS?
What happens if my Internet crashes? Can I take payments offline? With some systems, losing your Internet connection can be the start of a shift straight out of a horror movie.
With many cloud-based POS systems, no Internet can mean no features (cue scream). This is why asking about offline capabilities is key. Some of the major features you risk with a completely cloud-based system include:
- Processing payments and gift cards
- Staff clocking in or out from shifts
- Sending orders from the floor to the kitchen
- No access to reports
Things go wrong. The Internet cuts out. But your whole service shouldn’t be ruined by it.
5. Can my POS help with labor?
The answer here should be, yes! Your restaurant POS should help with scheduling and labor insights, such as top performing staff and labor hours.
Consider this: You’re trying to plan your holiday staff. You don’t want to overschedule, but you also don’t want to schedule too few people. As the holidays roll around, most days you’re either short-staffed or have extra servers waiting around. Either way, it’s less than ideal.
With your labor reports on your POS, you don’t have to make the same mistake twice! Use your past labor data from the past to forecast staffing needs more accurately, saving you headaches and money on labor hours.
6. Can I get real time insights and reporting?
Your restaurant POS is packed full of valuable information, and your reports organize that information from you. The information you pull from these reports should give you valuable insights for running your restaurant and making more informed decisions, with insights in real time!
Because reports can be such a powerful tool, you’ll want to ask about the reporting your system has. Some information you’re able to see in your reports include:
- Discounts and voids – How much are you spending on these? What staff members are making the most voids?
- Menu insights – Sort your menu by category, quantity sold, percentage of daily sales each menu item contributed, or others
- Payment details – What methods of payment are people using? When did transactions take place?
While you’re asking about the reports available, you’ll also want to ask how you manage these reports. Do you have to go into the building everytime you want to pull a report?
Ask about on-the-go reporting capabilities. With this remote access, you can pull and manage reports from anywhere – whether it be in between off-site meetings or from bed for an (well-deserved) day sleeping in. Your reports don’t have to be limited to your physical restaurant space!
Many restaurant POS systems do more than just process and track sales, thanks to some powerful integrations. These integrations build out your system functionality while putting valuable hours back into your busy week.
Here are some integrations you’ll want to ask about.
7. What are your top or most used integrations?
Consider this answer a free recommendation from restaurant owners already using the restaurant POS software you’re considering. This will give you some insight into what people in the industry are finding valuable, expose you to new integrations you didn’t know were available, give you a sense of what’s available for your current needs, and what you’ll have access to as your business grows.
8. What is available to help manage inventory?
A lot of restaurant POS systems will have some powerful inventory capabilities and integrations to help minimize that struggle. Since inventory is such a large issue for veterans and new restaurant owners alike, it’s crucial to ask about any integrations to make this process smoother.
9. Can my restaurant POS software link to my accounting software?
You mean, you don’t want to spend hours going back and forth manually inputting your POS data into accounting software?
With a point of sale that integrates directly into accounting software, you can avoid the tedious manual entry – and inevitable errors that come along with that. Finding out the available accounting integrations available can save you many headaches – and accounting errors – in the long run.
10. What are your options for payment processing?
While you are running a restaurant to serve delicious food and make people happy, you’re also trying to make money. So how are you processing payments at your restaurant?
Payment processing isn’t something you can skip at your restaurant, unless you choose to go completely card-free and accept cash only. Whether you’re looking for an integrated processor or a standalone system, most restaurant POS systems will have different payment processing options available. Try to steer clear of POS providers only offer one option for payment processing – without the freedom to choose, you won’t be able to find the one that actually fits your business needs nor switch when/if those needs change.
Contracts and Costs
We’ve saved the best for last – the cost. And there are more questions you’ll want to ask on this topic beyond the grand total.
Here are the top questions to ask.
11. How much does this POS cost?
This will likely be one of your first questions, but make sure you ask before you sign anything! This includes the cost of hardware and software (which can be either a one-time or monthly/yearly subscription fee).
You’ll also have to keep in mind that some integrations are an additional cost on top of the POS. We talked before about the different integrations you can ask about – from inventory to accounting – but figure out how much those can cost on top of your software and hardware costs.
12. What are your pricing models?
You know the cost, but how are you paying it? Is it a monthly subscription? A yearly payment? And what are the different pricing models, based on your restaurant size? There’s no one-price-fits-all solution for restaurant POS systems, so while your buddy down the street paid one price to accommodate his venue, you might pay another.
Getting the information on pricing models will show you what you’re going to pay for your specific needs.
13. Am I locking myself into a contract?
You think your two-year cellphone contract is brutal? Try a four-year contract with a restaurant POS you end up not being happy with.
If you find a provider you love, it makes sense to stick with them – even for four years! But you don’t want to be trapped.
If you end up agreeing to a long-term contract, you’ll also want to confirm there’s some type of guarantee if you’re unhappy from the get-go. Some providers charge tens of thousands of dollars to get out of your contract, even if it’s the first 30 days
14. How transparent are your payment processing rates? Are there hidden fees? Can you up my rates at any time?
While this seems like a lot of questions, they all tackle one area of contracts and costs – your payment processing rates. Having as much clarity as possible on these rates is important before you sign anything. You don’t want to find any surprises on your bill months into your contract.
The right restaurant POS will be able to give you straightforward answers.
Also make sure they aren’t able to change the rates on you. Imagine signing onto one rate, and finding it raised a few months later, and you have no ground to stand on. You may feel you’re getting a good deal on your processing rate at the beginning, but in a few months or a year, the higher surprise prices will have you thinking otherwise.
And believe it or not, that’s pretty common practice with some restaurant POS systems.
Bringing a new partner into your restaurant isn’t a one-step process. There are screenings, numerous questions, some back and forth – until you finally find somebody that you know you can work with.
Think of a new restaurant POS system as bringing on a new business partner. Take the time you need to ask all these questions and more, if they come up! You want to bring in a partner you can trust, not one you’ll end up regretting.