How to choose an EPOS for your Restaurant

How to choose an EPOS for your Restaurant
December 11, 2017 Angus Jackson
In Thoughts, Hospitality read
Restaurant EPOS

Our top Restaurant EPOS System Picks

 Touchbistro LogoLightspeed Restaurant
Monthly CostFrom £59/monthFreeFrom £39/month (Paid annually)From £59/month
Integrated Payment ProcessingSquare Payments: 1.75%, PaymentSenseiZettle Payments: 1.75%iZettle, SumUp, Barclaycard, PaymentSenseBluebird Global
Customer SupportWeekdays 9am - 5pmWeekdays 9am - 5pm24/7 Support24/7 Support
Kitchen DisplayYesNoNoYes
Kitchen/Barista PrinterYes, Star SP742Yes, Star SP742NoYes, Star SP742 and Epson U220B
HardwareFrom £319
Touchbistro Starter Kit
From £319 iZettle Starter KitFrom £319 Nobly Starter KitFrom £319 Lightspeed Starter Kit
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With a plethora of cloud-based EPOS systems on the market, and new ones appearing every week, it can be incredibly hard to decide which one is the best for your business. This is especially the case when it comes to Restaurant EPOS where there are a lot more moving parts to think about, and the pressure to get it right is even greater as the POS plays a crucial role in operations.
Many systems offer a one size fits all system, where they claim to be able to work in most environments across hospitality & retail. In theory, that’s a nice idea & certainly works for a lot of verticals, but in practice, restaurants have totally different needs to a shoe store.
Here, we’ll outline how you can steer clear of the pitfalls that many people encounter when implementing a new Restaurant EPOS.
What should you be on the look-out for to ensure your Restaurant can run efficiently?

Lots of the nuances in EPOS for Restaurants are often things people don’t consider…at least not until they realise that they aren’t possible with the system they’ve chosen. These little things can make a huge difference to operational efficiency & are certainly worth investing in.

  • Flexible Table Maps: Many systems allow you to create a basic table map, whereby you can allocate orders to specific tables. The better systems however give you more flexibility in how those maps are laid out, how easy it is to make edits ‘on the fly’ and how easy it is to move guests & items between the bar & different tables. Think about how often you shift tables around or push them together.
  • Coursing Management: One of the keys to a successful Restaurant is a well run Kitchen. And one of the keys to a well run kitchen is the management & timely delivery of different courses. Look out for systems that allow you to split courses when sending to the kitchen & allow you to override course defaults (for those times where a customer wants a starter as a main).
  • Stock control & Ingredients: Keeping an accurate track of all of your stock is key to keeping pricing up to date & your margins where they should be. Lots of basic systems give you the ability to keep a stock count for single units (bottles, cans etc) which works for some products (usually drinks). However, the better Restaurant EPOS systems also enable you to keep a track of individual ingredients. Look for systems that allow you to set up a list of ingredients & then tie those ingredients to recipes for each product. Some systems do that themselves, whereas others integrate with platforms dedicated to inventory & purchasing.

 

In addition to back-office stock functionality, consider whether you’d like the stock of certain product to be shown on the front end POS. This can be used to show floor-staff how many of certain dishes are remaining to ensure they can only sell what’s available. This makes things easier in the kitchen, and reduces the chances of having to disappoint customers in the restaurant.

  • Printer routing: Not so crucial in smaller restaurants, but important for larger restaurants is the ability to be able to send products do a multitude of different kitchen & bar printers. Do you want all food to go to one printer & all drinks to another? Or do you have multiple prep areas in the kitchen, each responsible for different products on the menu?
  • Table Transfers: What happens if somebody decides that they want to move to the nice table by the window? Or when a couple bump into their friends and decide to join tables? A true restaurant system gives you the ability to quickly and seamlessly move orders from one table to another, or merge two orders into one.
  • Bill Splitting: We’ve all been out for dinner as a group, and paying the bill is almost always a palava. Look for systems that allow you split the bill in a multitude of different ways; by seat, by number of people, by item & by amount.
  • Detailed reporting: Systems built for restaurants specifically tend to have more in the way of restaurant specific reporting. This is data that can be incredibly valuable if used correctly. Look out for systems that give plenty of information on things such as average spend per head, floor performance, individual table performance, throughput times, user performance.
  • Day parts: Lots of restaurants are open from breakfast through lunch to dinner, with different pricing and different products on offer throughout the day. This can result in very large menus on your POS which can be confusing for staff. Look for systems that allow you to manage which products appear on the screen by time of day. You should also look for systems that allow you to manage pricing by time of day. Systems that have these features should also allow you to report by day part.
  • Cash Management: In a restaurant environment where there is a lot of money handling, you need an EPOS that can manage that cash for you. You need to be able to track all transactions in granular detail so that you always know your cash position. Look for systems that allow you to set up and manage multiple cash drawers with start of day floats, petty cash throughout the day & a blind end of day cash up. If you want to give your floor staff pouches to manage their own cash then look for a system that allows you to do this.

Support & Training

It’s not often something people think about until something goes wrong, but when it does, you need to know that there’s somebody who can help just as well at 11pm on a Saturday as they can at 9am on a Monday. The best restaurant systems have a dedicated support team available 24/7. Make sure that phone support is available for urgent issues…the last thing you want, is to have to wait 2 hours for an email reply when your EPOS is down.

Cloud-based Restaurant EPOS systems aren’t necessarily complicated, but they can be complex. Although much of the basic functionality can be figured out quite quickly without assistance, it’s important to know that help is available at the start to drill down into the finer details. You should look for systems that offer initial training to get you up and running as quickly as possible. With cloud-based systems, training tends to be a remote screen sharing session which works well and we’ve found that 2 hours is typically plenty. Onsite training & installation is often available at an additional cost, although it’s usually not needed.

Mobile/Roaming EPOS…should you use roaming terminals?

There are a couple of different ways to make use of a EPOS system in a restaurant, particularly when it comes to tablet & cloud-based systems. With many systems, you now have the option of static terminals (fixed in one point) and roaming terminals (typically on iPad mini or similar). You can use just fixed terminals, or you can use a combination of fixed & roaming.

When using fixed terminals, you’ll take orders traditionally on pen & paper at the table. After you’ve taken the order, you can then walk over to your fixed EPOS screen and enter the order to send it to the Kitchen. This tends to be the preferred option for fine dining establishments & traditional restaurateurs who see the taking of the order as a key point of interaction with customers and a major service opportunity. The main criticism of doing things this way is that it can be inefficient at busy times & can mean that you need more wait staff on the floor.

If you use roaming terminals, you can arm your floor staff with tablets that allow them to enter customers orders directly into the EPOS (the interface tends to be the same as the main screens). This, in turn, allows orders to be sent directly from table to kitchen which saves staff having to walk back to the fixed stations. This tends to be the preferred choice for more casual environments where speed is often the key. Staff are able to spend more time on the floor, talking more orders & sending things to the kitchen faster. This means fewer people can serve more customers & turn tables over faster. The main criticism is that if staff aren’t properly trained, then the tablets can act as a barrier between them and the customer detracting from the experience of eating in a restaurant. A few companies have found solutions to that issue whereby the tablets become a tool for boosting interaction. They allow you to add large images and descriptions to products that can be used as a digital menu to upsell at the table.

Tableside Ordering

Offline mode

One of the biggest concerns that people have about moving to cloud based systems, is, what happens when the internet cuts out? There are 2 types of cloud based systems on the market, the first, ‘pure cloud’ requires a constant internet connection to work, if you internet drops out then the software will cease functioning. The second, ‘hybrid’ gives you the convenience of cloud based systems with the comfort of an offline backup, meaning that you can always run, even without internet. This is typically done using small local servers or Mac mini’s and means that the entire system including all hardware will continue to operate. The only difference, is that data won’t be sent directly to the cloud for reporting. It’ll be stored locally, and will auto-send as soon as the internet connection is re-established.

We always recommend these hybrid software for restaurants where the POS is a crucial operations tool. Without it, customers orders can’t be sent to the kitchen and it’s extremely difficult to keep track of bills.

Syncing between terminals

Especially important for restaurants that want to run multiple tablets, is understanding how those tablets communicate. You want to make sure that all of them can communicate live in order to show up to date order information. For example, you want to know that if a new table is opened on one tablet, that it also opens on the other.

Some systems do this locally using one tablet as the ‘master’, all tablets constantly look for the master (think of it like a lighthouse) & use it as a reference point to know what data to show. The downside to this method is that if there are any network interferences or issues with the master device, then the other devices lose their way. Other systems treat all tablets equally and they use the cloud or the offline backup as the reference point. From our experience, this is the most reliable method for running multiple tablets. If there’s an issue with one device, the others will continue to run.

Integrated payments

Depending on which type of restaurant you are, you may want integrated card payments. Integrated card machines connect to your POS software to allow you to send the amount to be paid directly to the machine without manual entry. This can make transactions faster & can minimise human error. We tend to recommend it if you’re planning on taking payments at a counter.

If you’re taking payments at the table, integrated machines aren’t always the best way to go as you don’t always know who’s going to pay what amount when you arrive at table. As the card machines are controlled by the POS, you can end up in a situation where you’re running back and forth across the restaurant sending each transaction from the POS to the card machine. The only time it makes sense to use integrates devices for tableside payments is if you’re using mobile tablets which allow your floor staff to bring both the card machine and the tablet to the table.

Reference Sites

It’s always a good idea to ask whether a software company has similar businesses to yours using their platform. This does two things, firstly it helps show whether or not the salesperson truly understands your business & secondly it allows you to see if the system is proven in an environment like yours. You don’t want to end up a guinea pig.