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Choosing the Best POS System for Your Restaurant

Cover Image for Point of sale system in a cafe
By Tock Staff

Take the stress out of the process with these helpful tips.

Choosing a POS system is one of the most important decisions a restaurant owner can make, and knowing which option is right for you can be a real challenge. The best restaurant point-of-sale system for your business will meet your needs, fit your budget, and offer robust features. Here’s a look at how to choose the right POS system for your restaurant.

Types of restaurant POS systems

There are many restaurant POS systems out there, such as Toast, Aloha, Cake, Square, Clover, SpotOn, Lightspeed, and Touchbistro. And every restaurant POS system falls into one of three basic categories:

  • Traditional POS system: Traditional or legacy POS systems operate on a closed network of stationary payment terminals. You must be on-premises to access them. They typically need to be installed by a technician and need regular maintenance.
  • Cloud-based POS system: Cloud-based systems process transactions and store data online. You can use them anywhere with an internet connection.
  • Mobile POS system: Mobile POS systems include handheld terminals, tablets, and other devices. They don’t rely on a stationary terminal to manage orders. Instead, you can use them for tableside payments or offsite events.

Factors to consider

There’s no one perfect restaurant POS system. Your choice will depend on your business’s unique situation. Let’s consider the different factors that go into choosing the right POS system for your restaurant:

  • Concept: A winery tasting room will probably have different needs than a restaurant that offers delivery from multiple locations. Choose a POS system that makes sense for your concept and scale while offering flexibility as your business grows.
  • Budget: Cost is a big factor in choosing a restaurant POS system. But a higher price tag shouldn’t automatically take a great option off the table. An upfront investment in a system that saves time and money can pay off in the long run.
  • Hardware: Think about how you plan to fulfill orders and take payments. Will a single tablet, chip reader, and cash drawer be enough for taking payments? Do you prefer a kitchen printer or digital display to send orders to your back-of-house team?
    Support: No matter your needs, you’ll want a restaurant POS system that offers robust, 24/7 customer support during and after setup. Fast, responsive support can keep you from losing sales if there’s an issue.
  • Features: What do you need your POS system to do for you? Aside from basics like taking orders, processing payments, and generating reports, restaurant POS systems can do everything from taking reservations to managing loyalty programs.

Features to prioritize

Once you know your needs, compare the features of different restaurant POS systems. Here are some to keep in mind as you research options:

  • Intuitive interface
  • Staff scheduling
  • Email marketing
  • Online ordering
  • Secure payment processing
  • Reservation management
  • Delivery and pickup
  • Data security
  • Robust reporting
  • Third-party app integrations
  • Managing loyalty or rewards programs

Red flags to monitor

As you’re thinking about the features you want in a POS system, it’s important to know what you don’t want. The worst restaurant POS systems are the ones that are costly, difficult to use, and lack the features you need. Keep an eye out for potential downsides like:

  • Hard-to-use interface
  • Missing features
  • Hidden fees
  • Limited or unreliable customer support
  • Long contracts
  • Not designed for restaurants
  • No third-party integrations

Tips for choosing a restaurant POS system

When you’ve narrowed it down to a few strong contenders, it’s time to make your choice. Here are a few final tips to keep in mind as you decide on the right restaurant POS system for you.

  • Keep staff and customers in mind: Giving your employees an intuitive, functional POS system will make their days easier, save time, and boost productivity while they’re on the clock. A simple, easy-to-use interface that makes transactions quick and seamless will make guests happy and keep them coming back.
  • Ask your colleagues: Talk with other industry folks about what they love—or don’t love—about their point-of-sale systems before you decide. Perspectives from fellow restaurant pros can offer more insight than reading reviews and talking to sales reps.
  • Get a demo: Be sure to get a demo from each POS provider you’re considering. Share your needs and find out what makes them stand out from their competitors. A sales rep can walk you through steps like installation, onboarding, training, and launching your restaurant POS system. They can also answer questions about features, integrations, customization, and support.

Choosing a restaurant POS system is a big decision, but it doesn’t have to be a stressful one. Remember these tips as you’re comparing POS system providers to make the right choice for your business.

Learn how Tock integrates with restaurant POS systems.

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