Before You Shop for a Restaurant POS
“Before You Shop for a Restaurant POS” will save you time, money and aggravation! The restaurant POS system is a critical investment for your restaurant. It is important that you understand “How Restaurant POS Systems are Sold” so you can make an informed purchase decision and maximize the return on your POS investment. Before You Shop for a Restaurant POS will give you the details on how the Restaurant POS industry operates and teach you the questions to ask so you can make the right decision for your business.
It all starts with the Software Developer. A software developer is defined by Wikipedia as “a person concerned with facets of the software development process, this work includes researching, designing, implementing and testing software”. The developer creates the point of sale application and controls the solution from initial design, included features and the system functionality. The developer also controls the product’s future which includes; design changes, sales methods and distribution options. The developer usually includes a limited time software warranty and can impose software upgrade requirements based on feature and function enhancements or required system changes. An example would be the recent upgrades required for credit card PCI compliance. The next major change will be the implementation of EMV for credit card processing. Be aware of the developer’s software upgrade policies, past upgrade costs and the frequency of these required upgrades.
Today’s restaurant POS systems are designed as either cloud based or locally hosted. Most of the tablet POS systems are cloud based along with a few of the traditional POS solutions. The cloud based solutions eliminate the need for a back office PC and provide remote access to your information via the Internet.
The POS terminals in a cloud based system are usually Apple or Android tablets that operate via a wireless network. Cloud based software updates are handled by the developer and data backups are usually done automatically. That is the good news, the bad news is that software updates might occur during your prime business hours and these updates could slow or stop your POS from operating while the update takes place. Find out how often these updates occur, how long they last and what time they are usually scheduled to run.
Traditional restaurant POS systems are usually locally hosted and could require an onsite back office PC for larger operations. This means more hardware and software are needed. The restaurant POS terminals in a locally hosted system are usually PC based units with a Windows operating system connected via an Ethernet Cat5 or Cat6 network.
Other than the network, the hardware functions for a cloud based or a locally hosted restaurant POS system are the same, the difference is limited to the POS terminals.
Since most of the data functions of the cloud based solutions are handled off site, these terminals could function more as a remote terminal instead of an independent PC based terminal as required with most locally hosted systems.
Locally hosted systems typically utilize PC based terminals that can function independently and are not dependent on an Internet connection. The cloud based terminals usually require an Internet connection to function. This is seen as a big limitation by many, but in reality Internet up time is close to 100% and most cloud based systems can function with a 3G or 4G cellular backup or function offline without an Internet connection similar to a locally hosted solution.
Restaurant POS systems are usually designed for a specific segment of the restaurant industry; such as table service, quickserv or pizza. Each type of restaurant has specific functions which software developers have addressed. It is very important that the solution you are considering is designed for your type of restaurant, don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole!
Make sure you spend time defining your specific requirements, there are a lot of restaurant POS features and options available but they are not always available on every solution. We have a complete list of restaurant POS features and options with a detailed description of what every feature and option can do for your restaurant. Established restaurant POS systems are always being improved with new features and options added almost every day. But it is the buyer’s responsibility to make sure that the features and options they need are available and included at no additional charge with the system selected!
Be careful, you and your restaurant staff will live with this POS selection on a 24/7 basis for many years. And remember, the features and options you can see and touch are the only ones you can can reasonably expect to receive when your system is installed.
Who sells you the restaurant POS solution? Who programs, installs and trains you? Who supports you? All good questions that you must know the answers to, everyone does not operate the same! Get the answers to these questions before you commit.
SALES – This is a real mixed bag! Some software developers sell their solution themselves. Some software developers sell their solution via the reseller channel. Some software developers sell their solution via multiple resellers in an area or via the Internet. And some software developers sell their solution themselves and have resellers. This is more than a little confusing! The important point is that you know your options before you commit.
PROGRAMMING, INSTALLATION & TRAINING – This is probably dependent on who sold you the system! Many systems sold today are self installed. Restaurant management and staff are very familiar with restaurant POS systems and many managers do their own programming. The menu programming is not difficult but is very tedious and can take a lot of time. On the flip side, you do need to learn how to make program changes so why not learn it upfront? Resellers typically handle the programming, installation and training for their sales.
Be careful as the amount of programming and training can vary greatly! Make sure any required training is part of the quote and you know the cost of future training in case you need it. If you think you will want someone onsite when you go-live make sure you negotiate this before you sign on the dotted line!
ONGOING SERVICE – This also varies greatly! Make sure you have warranty terms and conditions in writing and know the cost of ongoing support fees. Some software developers provide software support for end users but most only support their resellers and expect them to provide 24/7 phone support to end users. 24/7 software support is the norm as after hours support calls can be very costly!
Hardware warranty and support can also be a can of worms. What is included is one thing but who is the responsible party can be more important. Is the hardware warranty support onsite from the reseller or on a depot basis from the manufacturer? For depot, who pays shipping? For onsite, are loaners provided? More questions you need answers to before you commit.
PURCHASE, LEASE OR SaaS? More questions! A cash purchase is always the least expensive alternative, but leasing lets you utilize the system and pay as you get the benefits from the system. Latest option is Software as a Service (SaaS) where you pay a monthly fee for the software instead of purchasing the software upfront. Some vendors are also providing the hardware on the same basis, this can be a very attractive option when cash is short and leasing is not an option. It is easier to acquire a system under the SaaS basis but remember the monthly payments never stop!
One more gotcha! The credit card industry is taking over the POS industry, here’s why this matters to you. The merchant processing business has been very profitable for many years, but this started changing a few years ago when the POS resellers began offering merchant processing bundled with their POS solution. To regain lost market share, merchant processing companies began marketing POS systems. The good news is, they are making some unbelievable POS system offers to get your business. The bad news is, most merchant processing companies don’t understand the POS business and don’t provide the required 24/7 support services restaurants need. The truth is, they just want your profitable credit card processing business on an exclusive basis. POS systems give them the opportunity to lock you into a long term contract with no option to switch processors! Again, Buyer Beware!
Are you a bit over whelmed? Take a deep breath and check out our free resources! We have a free 3 Step Restaurant POS Purchase Guide and an e-Book “Find the Best POS System for Your Restaurant." Where do you find restaurant software solutions, developers and local providers? The Restaurant Software List includes developers and local providers. Just want a quote based on your requirements? Use the Free POS Quote from a Local POS Provider option!
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