A point of sale—or POS—is the system preferred by merchants and restaurants for processing customer payments and retrieving transaction data. They come in many forms, offering business owners a variety of options to suit your individual needs. Before choosing the POS hardware for your system, it’s a good idea to consider not only what your business needs are today, but also what they may look like five years from now. A good POS system should last many years, and you should maximize the productivity you can get from it.
The most basic set-ups include a computer monitor, cash register, magnetic reader for swiping payment cards and a receipt printer. Plan to do some research before choosing the system that’s right for your business, as a high quality system is essential. The last thing you need is for your system to crash during peak business hours.
Despite the many customization options, all POS systems include some basic POS hardware components that business owners need, including:
This is the most essential piece of a POS for any restaurant, retail or hospitality business. You can choose either a mechanical or electronic register, depending on what will work best for you, your business and your employees. Mechanical registers cost less, but they also lack many of the features and benefits of electronic ones. A mechanical register completes only the simplest of functions: calculating charges and taxes, and then printing a receipt. By contrast, an electronic register can give you real-time sales reports to use in your business analysis.
The POS hardware is the brain that handles the advanced operations of your POS. These systems can run on software that has been installed on a local hard drive, or you can run your POS on an Internet-based system, for which you pay a subscription fee to access the program stored in the cloud. Automatic updates and technical support are usually included in the subscription cost.
Monitors are not just for display anymore. Employees can now use a touch screen with pre-set functions, which saves time while waiting on customers. Touch screens are especially useful for fast-moving businesses like bars and restaurants.
Every business owner needs a printer for receipts. You can choose between a dot matrix printer or a thermal imaging printer. Thermal types are more expensive, but tend to run more quickly and quietly.
Most POS systems include a scanner for reading barcodes at checkout. These scanners also help you track inventory and customer purchase information.
Credit card reader
Any business that accepts credit and debit cards for payment will need a magnetic strip reader. Bear in mind that merchants in the U.S. are preparing to have EMV compatible systems in place by October 2015 to avoid liability for fraudulent purchases.
A POS system is the most fundamental investment any retailer or restaurateur will make to successfully run a business. By assessing the frequency of transactions and the sales reporting you will need, you can narrow your options down to the system and POS hardware that will help you make your business a success—today and for years to come.