Cash registers have been the workhorses of retail since they were invented in 1879 by a tavern owner who wanted to keep his employees' hands out of the till. Cash registers remain the most important piece of equipment in a retail store.
And while many businesses are moving to more costly and sophisticated point-of-sale (POS) systems that involve computers, barcodes and software, basic cash register models still offer many small businesses a number of benefits, including:
Get the register basics
Whether you choose the most basic battery-operated cash register or an electronic model, it should perform the following functions: record sales and return transactions, add or subtract items on your customer's bill, provide price look-ups (PLUs), calculate correct change to customers, offer tax tables and print receipts from a built-in printer. Cash registers should also include a locked cash drawer.
Consider advanced features
Depending on your needs, you may want a cash register that connects to multiple registers and printers, prints graphic logos on receipts, provides better reporting capabilities and offers an LCD display.
Restaurant-specific cash registers
Cash registers designed for the restaurant business generally offer spill-resistant keyboards and can be programmed for menu items. They also offer the ability to connect to printers in your kitchen so cooks receive orders automatically.
Remember the software
Many cash registers require software so you can charge the proper sales taxes, run monthly or daily reports and identify sales by department or employee. Low-cost models often include basic software; higher-end registers can require software to be purchased separately.
Cash-challenged? Consider a second-hand model
If you want to get more features but can't afford the extra cost, look into a pre-owned cash register. Many suppliers sell refurbished machines at a major savings.
Stock up on register supplies
Keep your cash register running at all times by maintaining an adequate supply of paper rolls or thermal paper rolls to print receipts and ink ribbons.
- On very basic cash registers, the only thing you may need to program into your cash register is your local tax rate. Your product manual should include simple instructions for this. Some suppliers will program your cash register for you.
- Some suppliers will give you money back on your old cash register when you purchase a new one.
- Determine minimum and maximum amounts of cash to keep in the cash drawer. If most of your customers pay with checks or credit cards, you won't need to keep much cash on hand.