Hospitality point of sale systems are computerized systems incorporating registers, computers and peripheral equipment, usually on a computer network to be used in restaurants, hair salons or hotels. Like other point of sale systems, these systems keep track of sales, labor and payroll, and can generate records used in accounting and bookkeeping. They may be accessed remotely by restaurant corporate offices, troubleshooters and other authorized parties.
Point of sale systems have revolutionized the restaurant industry, particularly in the fast food sector. In the most recent technologies, registers are computers, sometimes with touch screens. The registers connect to a server, often referred to as a “store controller” or a “central control unit”. Printers and monitors are also found on the network. Additionally, remote servers can connect to store networks and monitor sales and other store data.
Typical restaurant POS software is able to create and print guest checks, print orders to kitchens and bars for preparation, process credit cards and other payment cards, and run reports. In addition, some systems implement wireless pagers and electronic signature-capture devices.
In the fast food industry, displays may be at the front counter, or configured for drive-through or walk-through cashiering and order taking. Front counter registers allow taking and serving orders at the same terminal, while drive-through registers allow orders to be taken at one or more drive-through windows, to be cashiered and served at another. In addition to registers, drive-through and kitchen displays are used to view orders. Once orders appear they may be deleted or recalled by the touch interface or by bump bars. Drive-through systems are often enhanced by the use of drive-through wireless (or headset) intercoms. The efficiency of such systems has decreased service times and increased efficiency of orders.
Another innovation in technology for the restaurant industry is wireless POS. Many restaurants with high volume use wireless handheld POS to collect orders which are sent to a server. The server sends required information to the kitchen in real time. Wireless systems consist of drive-through microphones and speakers (often one speaker will serve both purposes), which are wired to a “base station” or “center module.” This, in turn, will broadcast to headsets. Headsets may be an all-in-one headset or one connected to a belt pack.
In hotels, POS software allows for transfer of meal charges from dining room to guest room with a button or two. It may also need to be integrated with property management software.
Newer, more sophisticated systems are getting away from the central database “file server” type system and going to what is called a “cluster database”. This eliminates any crashing or system downtime that can be associated with the back office file server. This technology allows 100% of the information to not only be stored, but also pulled from the local terminal, thus eliminating the need to rely on a separate server for the system to operate.
Tablet POS systems popular for retail solutions are now available for the restaurant industry. Initially these systems were not sophisticated and many of the early systems did not support a remote printer in the kitchen. Tablet systems today are being used in all types of restaurants including table service operations. Most tablet systems upload all information to the Internet so managers and owners can view reports from anywhere with a password and Internet connection. Smartphone Internet access has made alerts and reports from the POS very accessible. Tablets have helped create the Mobile POS system, and Mobile POS applications also include payments, loyalty, online ordering, table side ordering by staff and table top ordering by customers. Regarding the payments, mobile POS can accept all kinds of payment methods from contactless cards, EMV chip-enabled cards, and mobile NFC enabled cards. Mobile POS (AKA mPOS) is growing quickly with new developers entering the market almost on a daily basis.
With the proliferation of low-priced touchscreen tablet computers, more and more restaurants have implemented self-ordering through tablet POS placed permanently on every table. Customers can browse through the menu on the tablet and place their orders which are then sent to the kitchen. Most restaurants that have iPad self-order menus include photos of the dishes so guests can easily choose what they want to order. This apparently improves service and saves manpower on the part of the restaurant. However this depends on how intelligently the system has been programmed to be.
Self order menu
As a case in point, some self-ordering systems not requiring staff assistance may not properly recognize a subsequent order from the same customer at a table. As a result, the customer is left waiting and wondering why his second order of food and drink is not being served.
Another example of how intelligent the system can be, is whether an order that has been placed but not yet been processed by the kitchen can be modified by the customer through the tablet POS. For such an unprocessed order the customer should be given the option to easily retrieve his order and modify it on the tablet POS. But when his order is being processed this function should then be automatically disabled.
Self-ordering systems are not always free completely from intervention by the staff and for some good reasons. For example, some restaurants require that items selected by the customers be attended to and can only be placed by the waiter who has the password required to do so. This prevents fake orders – such as may be entered by playful kids – and subsequent dispute on the items ordered. If alcoholic drinks are ordered, it also becomes necessary for the waiter to first verify the age of the customer before sending the order.
The technical specifications for implementing such self-ordering system are more demanding than a single cashier-controlled POS station. On the software and hardware side each tablet on a customer table has to be networked to the cashier POS station and the kitchen computer so that both are continually updated on orders placed. The common database that serves this network must also be capable of serving many concurrent users – cashier, customers, kitchen and perhaps even a drink bar.
It is therefore to be noted by developers that some databases like popularly used Ms Access may have the specifications that it is capable of usage by multiple concurrent users. However under the stress of a POS system, they can fail miserably resulting in constant errors and corruption of data.
POS systems are often designed for a variety of clients, and can be programmed by the end users to suit their needs. Some large clients write their own specifications for vendors to implement. In some cases, POS systems are sold and supported by third-party distributors, while in other cases they are sold and supported directly by the vendor.
The selection of a restaurant POS system is critical to the restaurant’s daily operation and is a major investment that the restaurant’s management and staff must live with for many years. The restaurant POS system interfaces with all phases of the restaurant operation and with everyone that is involved with the restaurant including guests, suppliers, employees, managers and owners. The selection of a restaurant POS system is a complex process that should be undertaken by the restaurant owner and not delegated to an employee. The purchase process can be summarized into three steps: Design, Compare and Negotiate. The Design step requires research to determine which restaurant POS features are needed for the restaurant operation. With this information the restaurant owner or manager can Compare various restaurant POS solutions to determine which POS systems meet their requirements. The final step is to Negotiate the price, payment terms, included training, initial warranty and ongoing support costs