10 Questions to Ask During a Restaurant POS System Demo
Updated: Oct 4, 2018
For restaurants, a POS system is their central nervous system. Much like the human body, if the health of your POS is compromised, then performing basic functions becomes extremely challenging. Your restaurant will come to a screeching halt if you can’t send orders to the kitchen, process payments, or even provide itemized receipts to customers.
But for many restauranteurs, knowing which POS system will best mitigate these risks is difficult. Successful restaurant professionals have spent years strengthening their craft, not staying abreast of restaurant technology developments. Choosing the best system can depend on what kind of restaurant you have. Some systems are designed for Full-Service restaurants, while others cater to the fast casual/quick serve market.
10 Questions to Ask During a Restaurant POS System Demo
No matter what type of restaurant you operate, the following questions are imperative to ask your potential POS provider during the demo process.
1. Can you provide a detailed breakdown of ALL the hardware and software costs?
One of the most common, deceptive practices POS systems employ is not communicating all of the initial and ongoing costs. They fail to tell you that features like Gift Cards, Labor Management, Inventory Management, or Online Ordering carry additional monthly costs.
Almost all systems now charge you a monthly fee based on how many tablets/terminals you have. Your subscription cost can increase by $25-$75 per month for each additional tablet you plan on using.
Do a little quick research on their initial hardware pricing as well. Nearly every system uses similar Printers, Readers, Tablets, Networking Equipment, and Cases/Stands. Many of these items are available on amazon.com, where you can easily see if the POS provider is unnecessarily inflating their hardware costs.
If they are charging you $329 for a printer you can purchase online for $249, or if they are not completely transparent about all of their pricing, it’s a strong indication they are not a trustworthy partner that respects their customers.
2. Is this system designed specifically for restaurants?
Just like you wouldn’t want a dermatologist performing open heart surgery, you don’t want a POS system that isn’t engineered specifically for restaurant functionality.
Retail POS systems have their own numerous set of needs that are completely different from a restaurant’s. Trying to combine them all under one roof adds immense complexity to the system, making it challenging to operate and train on. You will have to sift through many unnecessary components to use the parts that are relevant, wasting time and money. In addition, because of diffused bandwidth, it’s likely those features they claim to have were designed with minimal depth.
3. How reliable is it?
Every POS system claims to be reliable, but unfortunately, that is far from true. Their justification for making this claim is that they have an “Offline Mode”. But as any experienced restauranteur can attest, Offline Modes are far from reliable and can cause many headaches.
Ideally, you want a system that is always connected and therefore doesn’t force you into an Offline Mode. However, if you are considering a system with an Offline Mode, you want to make sure they go into detail about how it functions and what its limitations are. Inability to process credit cards is a given, but loss of data, disappearing checks, and error-prone manual syncing should not be.
4. How much training does this system require?
Employee turnover in the restaurant industry is unavoidable. According to statistics from the National Restaurant Association, the average restaurant will spend $170/mo training new employees on their POS System. This is based on 4-8 hours of training time for the new user. If your system only requires 30 min or less of training for front of the house employees, you would save $1,870 per year. Ask how much time it usually requires to learn the system, as well as what training programs they have in place. Employee training is an expensive hidden cost that is often forgotten.
5. What are your weaknesses?
Every system has a chink in its armor. There isn’t a perfect restaurant POS system, because there are so many types of restaurants that have many different needs. If there was, everyone would be using it. Whether it’s price, reliability, ease of use, feature sets, or customer support, there’s at least one area in which the provider knows they need to improve. It doesn’t mean this weakness is a deal breaker, but you want to know what it is and what their plan/timeline is for addressing it.
6. Can you explain in detail your customer support?
Every POS system says they have 24/7 customer support because if they didn’t, no one would go with them. What is more important is their response time.
If your system malfunctions on a Friday night in the middle of a busy dinner rush, you’re screwed if your provider’s response time is anything more than 5 min.
Hold them accountable and make sure they can guarantee every important customer support request will be answered in 10 minutes or less. If they can’t, it’s a big red flag that they don’t have the internal support systems to ensure reliable customer service.
There will always be issues. You want to make sure when those issues arrive your POS provider will be there to fix them immediately.
7. Can I speak with some of your current customers?
When researching any POS system, you get the impression that it can do everything. Almost every system’s website says they have all the features you want and is easy to use. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and you should not just accept their word. Ask for references, as the best software providers will give you a list of their current customers. Even if these other restaurants were recommended by the POS provider, they will almost always provide honest feedback if you ask the right questions.
Here are some specific questions to ask:
What is the worst issue you’ve had with this POS provider, and how was their response?
What are the most common issues or complaints you have about this system, and how often do they occur?
How long does it take for new employees to learn this system?
What areas would you like this system to improve in?
What other systems did you consider, and why did you choose this one?
8. Do I have to go through you for credit card processing?
One of the recent positive developments in the restaurant industry has been the significant reduction in cost for POS systems. Instead of paying $20,000 for a 4 terminal system, you now only have to spend 1/4 of that. But developing and maintaining a complicated software system is not cheap. To recoup revenue, many POS systems have turned to an additional source: credit card processing fees. In theory, this is not a big deal since credit card processing is a commodity.
Unfortunately, because the credit card processing industry is fraught with deceptive practices designed to secretly charge you more, there are many companies who mislead and outright lie to you. If a POS system is requiring you use them as your credit card processor, their goal is to make as much money off you as they can. And because they control your data, it becomes that much easier to assess hidden fees that were not originally agreed upon.
The best POS Systems will offer credit card processing (there are some legitimate advantages), but not make it mandatory for you to use them.
9. Can you explain in detail the installation and on-boarding process?
Before choosing your POS provider, be sure to understand how long the on-boarding process will be, and what the installation process entails. By asking these questions, you will be able to judge how professional they are based on their response. Obviously, the more detailed and organized the better. Also, it’s important to know how much work will be required on your end. Sadly, many systems put the onus on their customers to manage networks and install hardware. This should not be your responsibility.
10. Do you provide real-time reporting and business analytics?
One of the most vital functions of a restaurant POS system is to provide rich, insightful, easy to understand reporting.
For many years, POS reports were very shallow, providing only basic reports. Thankfully, with the rise of big data things are changing. Knowing which servers make the most mistakes, provide the best customer service, turns tables the fastest, or are the best at up-selling, are just a few of the analytics now being displayed by leading systems. Having access to this data can be the difference between success and failure. We recommend you do your homework before purchasing a POS system for your restaurant. These questions will help you decide which restaurant POS system will meet your needs best.
Have questions? Just reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re former restaurant owners and know the issues you’re facing in running your establishment. We’re happy to help.