Without a doubt, the most important technology you will purchase for your pub and one that will deserve a lot of research and trial from you. These POS systems come in all shapes and sizes, with all kinds of boasts about what they can do. However, even if the POS vendor is passionate about how their system is the only system in the world to have retina-scanning clocking in for employees, don’t get distracted by the bling just focus on the essential elements and consider the glitter when you’re short listing.
First things first, identify the size of system you’re going to need for your pub.
- How many terminals are you going to need behind the bar?
- How many servers do you expect to have on duty at your busiest time?
- How many remote ticket printers or screens will you need for the kitchen and bar?
These questions will begin to determine your needs for static terminals, hand-held units, bill printers, ticket printers, screens, back office, cabling, routers, wireless hubs, software licenses and the many other components that form a POS system.
With the ready availability of reliable wireless technology, the opportunity is there to move away from static terminals and equip your servers with handheld units such as Ipad, Ipod Touch or brand-proprietary units. They reduce the amount of time your servers need to spend waiting at a static terminal, speed up the transmission of orders to kitchen and bar, allow quick management amendments to checks where needed and are now PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant so that they can swipe credit cards and process payments quickly and easily.
However, the technology on handhelds (as of 2013) is still prone to unreliability depending on site conditions. If your building is on multiple floors or has concrete walls, losing signal may be an problem. If you are leaning toward this kind of system, interrogate the vendor on other installs similar to yours and then go visit and talk to the owners of restaurants where they are being used.
Traditionally, remote printers at the bar and in the kitchen have been the way of communicating orders. However, printers just print out one-time tickets, and it’s virtually impossible to track important items such as ticket times. Screens (at least for the kitchen) are an alternative and should be looked as a very efficient way of tracking ticket times and kitchen performance.
Whichever direction you go, get your rough specification together, choose three or four vendors and ask them for quotes. When you receive them, carefully dissect the information and put it in a spreadsheet so that you can look at an ‘apples for apples’ comparison. Guaranteed, the information will be given to you in a number of different presentation formats and it’s essential you break them down so you can better understand what you are buying. The following is an example of how you might do it:
The prices shown on this comparison are not guideline, simply examples. Also, please remember that unless you ask them, POS vendors will not quote you for the materials or labor for cable installation. This work is best done by your electrical or general contractor who can do the work along with the rest of the cabling, while ensuring that the sensitive POS cabling is well-insulated from other wiring.
In looking at POS system vendors, always look at the track record and always take testimonials from other clients in your area. Cheapest is not necessarily best when it comes to POS systems, nor is most expensive a consistent indicator of quality. Most national POS companies operate through networks of resellers, some good, some not so good. So, while the underlying hardware and software is usually going to be robust and reliable, your concern should be about on-time delivery and install, quality of training and training resource, ‘go-live’ support and quality of support and efficiency of the database build. You will derive confidence in these elements by asking to speak with their other clients in your area. If they are reluctant or evasive in providing you with this information, no matter if they are the biggest name in the country, don’t use them.
A word about service contracts. For the first year, your warranty and telephone/online support will likely cover you for any problems. However, if you are offered a service contract, look for the one that covers you 24/7/365. Now that your vendor has sold you the system, they are out of the loop and you are dealing directly with the contracted-out online service team. They are not in your area, they are a disembodied voice who will be able to help if you have the right service contract but who will not be able to revive your dead system if you don’t.
Finally, if you’ve worked with POS systems in the past, you won’t have any problems adapting to a different system. However, if this is your first time using a POS system to generate reports, track financial information etc. don’t expect to get to know it all from your one day training session in the vendor’s showroom. Don’t panic, learn the basics that help you to help servers and the rest will come to you as you work through it.