Resources, Strategy, and Comparison

The Definitive Guide to Restaurant POS Systems

About This Guide

restaurant POS system, or point of sale system, is critical for your establishment.

From the moment guests enter your restaurant to the second they leave, there are endless opportunities to deliver a remarkable dining experience. Staff must be at the ready, food must be expertly prepared, and everything must run smoothly.

An effective, trustworthy, reliable restaurant POS system can automate many of your day-to-day tasks so you can focus more on delighting your customers. But what is a restaurant POS system, and how does it work? How are point of sale systems different from cash registers, and how do you know which one will be the best investment?

Read on for answers to all of your restaurant POS questions as you’re researching the best fit for your restaurant.

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Chapter One

What is a Restaurant POS System?

Let’s start with the obvious: the definition of a restaurant POS system.

First, what is POS? POS stands for point of sale, which refers to the time and place - or the point - that a sales transaction is completed.

A restaurant point of sale system includes the POS hardware and hospitality point of sale software that manages a sales transaction, including credit card processing, receipt printing, and more. Restaurant POS systems are built specifically for restaurant businesses, not retail or hotel.

modern restaurant POS system can streamline your internal operations, connect all of the various personnel involved in making your restaurant run smoothly, and automatically track sales, labor, and inventory metrics. This helps increase revenue, profit, and customer satisfaction while decreasing employee turnover, order mistakes, wait time, and your stress level.

The modern restaurant POS system is made up of two parts:

  • Restaurant hardware
  • Restaurant software

Restaurant POS Hardware

Restaurant point of sale hardware is made for the hustle and bustle of the restaurant industry: industry-grade and hard to break.

At the center of every POS system is the POS terminal, sometimes referred to as the touch screen cash register. This piece of hardware handles everything from ordering food and sending to the kitchen, to customer payment, table management, and more, and often comes in different sizes.

Some restaurant POS systems also offer mobile POS tablets that allow servers to send orders to the kitchen and accept payment and tips at the table. If you don’t own a table service restaurant, the mobile tablets can also allow your cashiers to take orders in the line, or "line bust."

Finally, some fast casual restaurants choose to implement kiosks to give guests control to place digital orders. As 42% of diners would use self-service ordering kiosks if available according to the National Restaurant Association, this is a big opportunity to stand out.

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Tablets were a big thing for me in choosing a POS system. I've always wanted to have mobile technology because of our layout and the distance from our sidewalk tables to the terminal. A lot of labor was required to take somebody's order, travel back to the server station, and type in that order. The Toast tablets eliminate that.

Guenther headshot

Joe Guenther

Owner, O' Maddy's Bar & Grille

Restaurant Software

Now that you have restaurant hardware, you need restaurant software, which will make the hardware run. Restaurant management software will help you run your business more efficiently, with both front-of-house (order-taking, payments, and tips) and back-of-house (kitchen ticket fulfillments, in-depth reporting, and inventory) capabilities.

Restaurant POS software can either run on the Android operating system, the Apple operating system (iOS), or the Windows operating system. If your restaurant hardware is an Android tablet - such as Samsung - it will be on the Android operating system. With an iPad, it will be on an Apple operating system. With a computer, it will be on a Windows operating system.

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Both systems have their pros and cons. iOS software is easy to use, as it’s a favorite among consumers. However, it’s not very customizable, as Apple requires app updates to go through a rigorous approval process in the App Store. Also, you have just three choices for hardware sizes: iPhone, iPad, or iPad Pro.

Android software might be less familiar, but it is extremely flexible and customizable, so your restaurant point of sale system can feel like an extension of your restaurant operation. The POS team can send updates to your software instantly, and there are dozens of manufacturers and hundreds of Android device models, with sizes as small as a 5" phones but as large as 22" tablets. It is also, in many cases, more affordable than Apple systems.

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During our testing phases, we found that franchisees preferred the Android platform since it doesn’t limit the control a restaurant operator can have over their system.

Rich long pieology

Rich Long

Director of IT, Pieology