Avoid POS Nightmares: Top 5 Need to Know Tips

By Mark Robertson, partner, Daddy D's Smokehouse and Grill | June 17, 2008

It's peak rush hour at your restaurant, you've just had a complete turn on the tables, there is a line stretching out the door, people are ordering, paying, and eating when the unthinkable happens- your POS system totally freezes. Frantically, you try rebooting, while dialling tech support only to get the message "your call is very important to us, press 2 for emergency technical support...you press 2 "click"..."thank you for calling Joe Hachinbach I'm not in my office right now but we guarantee a call back within 2 hrs..."

This situation may sound like a nightmare but it is a very real possibility that any bar or restaurant owner might fall victim to. However, the chances of this happening can be greatly reduced by making sure that your management/POS system has the following five must have essentials.

1. Immediate 24/7 tech support
The reason you know you have tech support, is because during the first sales call with your POS rep, you interrupted the sales routine and called their emergency tech support. You then called them randomly throughout your normal operational hours on different days and times to make sure they answered every time, with a real tech support person. Testing the support is important because you will know for certain that you can get emergency support when you need it, not two days after you've lost customers and money.
 
2. Handles every single transaction deeply and securely
The software and hardware must handle every single type of transaction. This protects you against theft, and increases efficiency so that you will make money and not lose track of transactions that were written on scraps of paper. From metering and controlling your alcohol output to running billiard lesson services, it must be easy to add items, modifiers, and different tax scenarios. The POS should also cope with different food scenarios, be able to tell you totals at any time, monitor server performance, and link to the cash drawer. Additional transactions to keep in mind should include catering, comping (including staff discounted meals), loyalty programs, and intelligent handling of voids and authorizations. Adding to the functionality of the system, all staff members must have their own access passwords and appropriate security level access.
 
3. Integrates with inventory and accounting
Configuring your system to integrate with your accounting program is beneficial for most POS systems because you can analyze COGS track daily reports. At Daddy D's Smokehouse and Grill, we were surprised that although our system could integrate with our accounting software, we hadn't specified the module for a direct link and the book keeper was manually reconciling the daily reports. This is a no brainer as instant access to your financial cash flow status and accounting is key. When coupled with accounting, inventory can provide you with the bottom line reality that can confirm or kill your theory that "all you can eat lobster Tuesdays" is making money. If you are really drilling down, once the link is made to your accounting software you can export to excel so you can run "what if" scenarios along with your Monte Carlo Analysis - this puts a new meaning to bean counting.
 
4. User friendly
When your wait staff is entering their data, it must be easy for them as well as your kitchen staff to use - simple and straight forward. Need to add pickles on the side, authorize a seniors discount, or change a customer order? It should be enterable within 30 seconds without having to struggle. Not only do floor managers need to be able to access the account from any station to change the live table, management must be able to understand the system and avoid accidentally voiding orders because they are poking around in an unfamiliar system.

Training should be quick, intuitive, and hands on. Menmnomics and laminated cheat sheets for functions should be ready as the staff gets used to the system. If you are changing from an old system, anticipate a bit of resistance as the old way will have seemed easier at first, even if it was the most inefficient pad and paper system- people will whine.

5. Remote access and fail safe back up
You cannot afford one wasted minute of down time with your system. Every minute is critical when an order is in process; if the system goes down when orders are being entered you will quickly find that within a few minutes all wait/kitchen staff will become backed up. Multiply that by a couple of hundred customers and you've got free meals and comps going out just to keep people happy. When you specify make sure it's a fault tolerant system, and that you have everything with a back up power supply. Your remote software is tunnelling and you are backing up off site as well as on location.

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