Why You Need a Restaurant POS, Not a Retail POS

By: on September 4, 2019

When picking a POS system, one of the biggest mistakes a restaurant can make is buying a retail POS over one that is tailored to a restaurant.

It’s easy to see the superficial similarities, but food and beverage establishments that aren’t using restaurant POS systems are missing out on key restaurant POS features they need to run their operations efficiently.

Having the right POS not only helps you run your restaurant’s operations more effectively—it makes the job of your servers that much easier. Happy servers provide a better customer experience for your diners; satisfied customers lead to more returns, increasing your restaurant’s patronage and sales.

We ran a survey asking servers about what they need to do to ensure their restaurant runs smoothly on any given day: their main challenges, key responsibilities and what skills are most valuable for their efficiency as servers.

Key Findings:


  • Biggest challenge: Restaurant servers rank table management as their #1 challenge.
  • Most valuable feature: Servers say the ability to modify order requests and take customized orders is most valuable for their efficiency.
  • What diners get most annoyed by: Servers getting their orders wrong is the best way to leave a bad impression on your customers.

Restaurant POS software provides crucial table management features

restaurant pos server waiter challenges

Visualize your restaurant floor as a zone defense. Your servers should have designated areas in order to be strategic and efficient when it comes to giving customers the attention they need.

Almost a quarter of servers say table management is their biggest challenge, according to our survey. That means servers are having a hard time knowing their floor plans, staying on top of which tables are filled, knowing how long diners have been seated there, and who’s up next to fill the seats.

Effective table management leads to increased revenue

For the front-of-house, the ability to manage your tables well and turn them over quickly—while ensuring customer satisfaction—is key to being profitable. The quicker you turn over tables, the more guests your restaurant will be able to serve. That means customers are seated and served faster, leading to happy diners and increased revenue in the long run.

Behind the scenes, having a table management feature in your restaurant POS gives you insight into your restaurant’s foot traffic patterns. For example, if, after analyzing data, you realize that traffic is slower on certain days, you can plan to have less servers on schedule, which ends up saving you money.

Restaurant POS provides menu management features

restaurant pos modifying requests customized orders

Easy and intuitive menu layout increases the speed of delivery

When surveyed, servers emphasized the importance of being able to find menu items quickly and accurately when entering orders into the system, as well as being able to update the kitchen promptly once orders change.

Speed is critical in the restaurant industry, and something as simple as sending orders to your kitchen should be fast and intuitive. The faster your servers can enter orders, the quicker your chefs can begin preparing the meals—and the sooner your guests get what they came for.

Given how most restaurants operate, orders aren’t often closed until the customer calls for the check; when customers request a change to their order, servers need to be sure that the kitchen has been updated promptly.

If your restaurant POS supports this functionality, it’ll ease the minds of your servers and saves them the stress and hassle of having to run back in the kitchen to constantly check on the order.

Restaurant POS allows modifications and customization features

Another feature that restaurant POS systems offer over your average retail POS is the ability to modify items, should a customer request so. This is different from a retail POS, where something goes from “in stock” to “out of stock” once it’s sold.

This may seem like a minor point, but over a quarter of servers surveyed say restaurant POS features that give them the ability to modify order requests and take customized orders accurately is most valuable for their efficiency.

Unlike a retail store, restaurant servers are constantly having to modify and customize inventory to meet the exact needs of different customers. No onions, substitute tomatoes for onions, add pepper flakes—these are just a few of the many requests that servers hear and have to remember on a daily basis, all while juggling their many other tasks.

Without POS features tailored specifically for your restaurant, servers either have to manually write those specifications or run back to the kitchen to update the back of house staff of changes. This is a recipe for disaster as it leaves a ton of room for human error, especially during peak hours when the impression you leave on your customers is greatest.

Restaurant POS reduces errors and increases efficiency

diners most annoying pet peeve

When diners were asked what their biggest annoyance was, the majority said servers getting their orders wrong. Mistakes like that lead to dissatisfied customers which, in today’s day and age, means other people will hear about their negative experience.

Time is money in the restaurant industry. Having software that’s tailored to the needs of your restaurant saves your servers time by doing away with the manual work that can be automated with a restaurant POS.

Why a retail POS is no substitute for a restaurant POS

Because the demands of your restaurant are far more specific than the average retail store, you need a restaurant POS that’s made for restaurants.

The last thing you want is stressed out servers spending time adjusting orders, finding workarounds, and running back and forth to the kitchen, rather than giving your customers the undivided attention they demand.

Restaurant POS systems are designed for the ever-changing and diverse customer needs. And your software must reflect that, whether it’s the ability to easily customize orders or handle reviews and promotions, tailored to the needs of your menu and customer base.

Less there’s any doubt, our guide on restaurant POS provides a list of features and competitive advantages that will give you an idea of what you need to look out for. Our expert software advisors are also here to help: just give us a call at (844) 680-2046 for a quick and free phone consultation to discuss your restaurant’s needs and find out which restaurant POS meet them.

Any other thoughts? Please contact agnes.stubbs@gartner.com or tweet your responses to @agnes_teh.

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How to Improve Restaurant Service Quality With New Technologies

Why You Need to Take Your Restaurant Food Ordering In-House

3 Impactful Ways to Drive Your Restaurant’s Online Ordering Sales

Learn more about Restaurant POS