Here's a sampling of the features you want to look for in a restaurant POS system. Again, keep in mind that features may be built in, add-ons or third-party integrations, depending on the system.
Till management. The restaurant POS system should help you manage cash by tracking how much money is in the cash drawer, recording payouts and voids, and logging your employees' activities at the till. Register features should be easy for your servers to use, giving them the ability to split tickets in multiple ways with just a few taps. When customers are ready to pay, it should prompt them to tip and suggest tip amounts. It should also track tips, making it easy to report them to the IRS.
Menu and order management. The system should allow you to update or change the menu at will, so you can add, remove and edit items as needed, and add pictures and descriptions. If you have an online menu or display boards, it should give you the option of syncing updates across all of them at once rather than requiring you to update each one separately.
If your menu has items that allow for customization, you want a system that supports order modifiers and allows your servers to add customer notes that alert the kitchen staff to customer food allergies or special preparation requests. The server should be able to fire orders to the kitchen printer or kitchen display system with a tap. If you offer takeout or delivery, the system should print tickets for those orders as well.
Inventory management. Ordering supplies is challenging – especially when they're perishable. Order too much and it spoils. Order too little and you run out, disappointing hungry customers who were eager to order their favorite menu items. For this reason, you need a system that tracks inventory on an ingredient level, showing you the exact quantities you use so you can optimize your supply orders. Some systems alert you when supplies are running low and have automated purchase ordering tools that can save you time.
Food cost analysis is another useful feature, showing you how much it costs to make each menu item, so you can set prices with a profitable margin. Food waste tracking helps you spot inefficiencies, so you can figure out how to reduce waste, whether from spoilage, mistakes or other issues. If you serve liquor at your restaurant, you want a system that tracks liquor consumption or integrates with a liquor control device so you can track those amounts as well.
Reporting. The best iPad restaurant POS systems have a dashboard that shows your sales data and other key data sets as charts, giving you an at-a-glance overview of your restaurant's performance. You want to be able to run multiple reports and apply filters that help you drill down on the information that's important to you. You want a system that integrates with your accounting software so it automatically syncs your data, saving you the time it would take to manually accomplish this task each day. Additionally, you want the option of accessing your reports and other back-office features remotely so you can generate reports and take care of management tasks at any time, from any place.
Employee management. If you have employees that will be using the restaurant POS system, you want to create user profiles, assign passcodes and designate access permissions, whether by role or customized for each employee. If you use your POS system to track labor costs, you should also be prompted to enter pay rates.
Several restaurant POS systems have built-in timeclocks so your employees can clock in and out using the system. A few systems include scheduling tools to help you staff shifts efficiently. Some systems also include in-system messaging to communicate efficiently with your staff.
Customer management. Because it's more expensive to find a new customer than retain an existing one, you want an iPad POS system that helps you keep in touch with your customer base. It should make it easy to capture customer contact information that you can use for your marketing campaigns and delivery services. Some track order histories, which can help you understand and cater to the preferences of your best customers, and allow you to add notes, such as birthdays or favorite menu items. If you choose to offer a loyalty program, having one that integrates with your POS system and automatically tracks points makes it easy to manage.
POS features for full-service restaurants. If your restaurant offers table service, you'll need a system that has a floor map that shows open and occupied tables, helping you to seat customers efficiently. Reservation and wait list texting features may be useful as well. You'll want your servers to take orders and accept payments tableside, and if you have a bar, you'll also want tab management tools and either liquor inventory tracking or an integration for your liquor monitoring system. You should also look for online ordering, catering support and delivery management features if your restaurant offers these services.
POS features for quick-service restaurants. A customer-facing display that shows your customers their orders as you enter them into the system improves accuracy, as your customer can see whether the order is correct before they pay for it and you send it to the kitchen. Another helpful feature to consider is self-service ordering that allows your customers to place their own orders on iPads that you set up as kiosks.