Out with the old, in with the new


Keeping the theme on POS systems, what is the argument for an establishment that currently has a POS system (old as it may be) to upgrade to a newer system? In other words, getting into the 2010's versus the 1990's.

– Frank Miceli, Owner, Miceli's Italian Restaurants, Los Angeles, CA


The core functionality of the POS system—inputting orders and directing them to the proper station in the kitchen or at the bar, managing inventory, clocking in and out, printing guest checks, processing payments and printing reports—hasn’t changed tremendously over the years.

Think of it as the difference between Windows 98 and Windows 7. In both versions you can surf the web, send email, watch a video and draft a business plan, but over time the system has become more intuitive, faster, and more secure.

Peter Nyheim, Senior Instructor of Technology in the School of Hospitality Management at Penn State says, “It's really about speed and security. Multi-unit restaurants that invest in newer technology can take advantage of transaction speeds found in wide area network solutions. Independents are often almost forced to upgrade their old POS systems due to current PCI/DSS regulations from the credit card companies.”

Beyond speed and security, POS vendors are constantly coming out with new features to stay competitive (and to entice you to upgrade).  To name a few:

  • Mobility.  Servers or guests can input orders on iPads, print guest checks from handheld devices, and swipe credit cards at the table.
  • Web-integration.  If guests can order online, their check goes right into the system, just as it would if a server inputted a phone order.
  • Interactivity. Guests can order from touch-screens at the table. Games and trivia questions can keep guests occupied while they wait.
  • Loyalty programs.  Taking a cue from airlines and hotels, managers can call up frequent diner history and preferences and reward loyal guests.
  • Drag and drop table maps.  Pushing tables together to accommodate a large party was tough to show on the old systems.  Now the host can drag and drop the changes on her screen and update everyone.
  • Management tools.  Nyheim says, “While newer POS systems have…increased functionality, the real difference is behind the scenes. Today's systems are loaded with reports on everything from menu engineering to labor analysis. Used correctly, these reports can help the restaurateur much better than just the end of day print out.”

My advice? If it ain’t broke, don’t upgrade.  But if some of these features, enhanced reporting, a more intuitive interface, or a speedier system would streamline your process and give your restaurants an advantage, then solicit some proposals.