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Restaurant POS inside bar

Let’s be honest, you didn’t get into the bar and nightlife industry because you wanted to be tied up in technology. You had a love for people. You had a love for good drinks, good food, and you wanted to use great hospitality to bring them both together. So you decided to open a bar. But who has time for all the research involved in buying a POS?

That’s why we’ve compiled the ultimate guide: essential features that every bar POS should offer, how a bar POS can boost profits, and the questions to ask when you’re ready to buy.

Eight Must-Have Features of Your Bar POS

1. Total Customizability

Oh sure, a Jack and Coke is an easy drink to make, but that’s probably not what your guests will be ordering all the time. Bar owners and bartenders alike know that you need a bar POS that’s easy to use and easily customizable, as well as designed to handle a large, rapid-fire, volume of orders. No one has time to waste in a fast-paced environment like a bar, especially during a big game or a 5 o’clock Happy Hour rush, which means no one has time to figure out how to sub out vodka instead of tequila in the margarita. Your POS should already know how to.

2. Pre-Authorization of Payments

Closing out tabs. “Oh, what fun,” said no one ever. The process is both time-consuming and repetitive. You have to print all the checks and drop them into folios, hand those over to the guests, collect the checks and cards, swipe the cards and return the signature slips to guests, and then collect the slip and adjust tips.

Bar pos software with pre-auth saves time for both you and your guests. When a check is “pre-authed,” the server can print the signature slip and deliver it to the guest at the end of the shift. It saves time, paper and even preserves some of that guest love.

3. Mobile Capability

With an iPad POS, your restaurant staff and bartenders can spend more time interacting with guests, and less time at the POS entering orders. This also means your guests spend less time waiting for their drink orders, which likely means they’ll be ordering more of them, too. Win-win.

Bartender preparing a drink using tricks

4. Bar and Liquor Inventory

You need real-time restaurant inventory that keeps track of your suppliers, prices, and units as fast as you go through it. In a business as fast moving as yours, you don’t have time to waste running out of a popular drink, especially when liquor costs in this industry are as much as 20 percent of the total sales.

Luckily, the right restaurant management software can track it right in your bar POS. Look for that feature as a must-have.

5. Easy Menu Management

Ah, menu specials. Drink specials. Gameday specials. Happy Hour Specials. Your menu changes all the time. You need a point of sale system that can keep up with all of those specials, plus all of the inventory changes you have from week to week, day to day. (Seasonal brew changes, anyone?)

Don’t worry about restarting your entire restaurant management system just to change up your menu. Look for a cloud-based POS system so you can make menu changes on the fly that update in real-time, no matter where you are.

6. Easy, Efficient Tab Management

One of the biggest benefits of a bar POS system is the ability to efficiently manage tabs. No matter who you’re serving or how they’d like to pay, a bar POS system automates the process to make things easy and efficient.

Splitting a check used to be a hassle for both customers and bartenders. With a bar POS, however, splitting the check is as easy as a few taps on the screen. In turn, the ability to easily split checks helps provide a seamless customer experience that’s personalized to a person’s needs and wants. This boosts customer loyalty and keeps customers coming back for more.

David Strauss of Morris American Bar Sawing Ice

7. Tableside and Barside Service

In addition to making check-splitting easy, a bar POS system helps your staff collect payment wherever they are. This is especially true for bar POS software that is compatible with an iPad, as this allows your bartender to collect payment from anywhere in the restaurant. From swiping a card to tipping and signing, bar iPad POS tools make checkout fast, easy and efficient.

8. The Ability to Know your VIPs and Elevate Your Customer Service

When you have a busy bar filled with customers, remembering returning customers and their preferences is nearly impossible. Fortunately, a POS system for a bar can help you save each person’s name in a personal house account, which allow you to see past visit history in a single swipe of a card.

Here, you always know what people are ordering and what kind of service they prefer. Whether it’s a gluten allergy or a gin martini, house accounts make it easy to give customers what they want before they even ask.

Don’t worry about restarting your entire restaurant management system just to change up your menu. Look for a cloud-based POS system so you can make menu changes on the fly that update in real-time, no matter where you are.

Learn How a Bar POS Can Boost Profits

Though your restaurant’s bar operations might not have been designed to become a nightlife destination, there’s no reason why this portion of your business can’t become a social hotspot before, during and after your diners finish their meals.

The right bar POS system can help you attract new crowds and excite current customers while increasing profits. Here’s how:

1. Bring in New Customers

Today’s young bar patrons are forever connected to their personal devices. By linking your POS to automated social media outreach, you can quickly let your contact database know about special bar promotions and events.

While social posts about bar specials are nothing new in this industry, they will be new to your restaurant patrons, who might not be accustomed to these communications from your business. Plus, with young bar-goers seemingly always on the hunt for a “new” experience, a hip restaurant or bar might be an exciting option for an audience used to decidedly different nightlife enjoyment.

2. Bring Back Repeat Customers

Look for a bar POS system that includes a customer relationship management (CRM) function. This allows owners to properly gauge and segment their bar customers. Each swipe of a credit card gives you access to contact info and spending habits.

Once you have this data, you can find out when your biggest spenders are visiting your bar, what they’re buying, and how many times they’ve returned. As a result, it becomes child’s play to organize promotions and deals that will keep them coming.

For example, even if you run an Italian-themed restaurant, you don’t have to miss out on busy bar holidays like St. Patrick’s Day. By using your POS system to identify your top customers and offer them exclusive opportunities to reserve table space or drink specials on the busiest bar days of the year, you stand a very real chance of getting a valuable boost in traffic for a minimal investment.

3. Cut Down on the Free Drink Epidemic

Now, now, put down those torches. We’re not recommending you eliminate comp drinks for loyal customers. That is a time-honored tradition of neighborhood watering holes, and we certainly wouldn’t want it to disappear. But a bar POS can allow you to control the flow of freebies, making your staff more accountable for the way they pour, and the way they handle your inventory.

Again, if your bartenders want to buy the bar a round, by all means let them. But a POS ensures this generosity is matched by an accurate breakdown of what was used, what is owed, and who might be dipping a little too deeply into the house’s pockets.

4. Right-Size Staffing Needs Based on Crowds

Bars are social environments, so it can be easy to lose track of which of your staff members are selling the most product, and which are costing you more to keep around. If you always maintain the same number of bartenders and floor staff throughout the week, but only Thursdays and Fridays warrant their presence, your POS system analytics will be able to show you where losses occur, and where you might be able to better allocate your resources.

In turn, if your bar has seasonal spikes, such as football Sundays, or summer weeknight traffic, your POS analytics will give you a needed heads up so you can plan your staffing accordingly months ahead of time.

5. Improve Turnover Time

If your bar is in a busy urban area, perhaps near theaters, shopping or sporting events, many of your early evening patrons likely just want a drink or two before heading off. In order to serve them well, and hopefully create repeat business, you’ll need to move things along at your tables. A POS system can help speed up ordering, delivery and even offer tabletop payment, so they can go on their way satisfied and return for a longer stay in the near future.

Plus, with faster order and payment, your floor staff is free to accommodate more customers, further improving table turnover without rushing your patrons.

Running a bar isn’t easy, but your restaurant POS software makes it much easier to maximize the profitability of your space by improve efficiency, reduce waste, and cut down on serious losses from improper management.

bartender tricks for serving guests

The Three Most Important Questions to Ask When Choosing a POS

1. Is this bar POS as quick as your fastest bartender?

If you have bartenders that can whip up cocktail in seconds, you don’t want them bogged down by the restaurant technology. Make sure to ask about speed when discussing point of sale systems. If your guests have to wait, they won’t care about the specifics that caused their delay.

2. How easy is it to use?

Will you bartenders spend more than a few minutes trying to toggle around finding the right drink that the customer ordered, or is there a way for them to search?

Can you train new hires quickly, so as you ramp for your busy season your rookies aren’t wasting hours trying to learn how to ring in a beer?

3. Does the bar POS fit the vibe of your bar?

If you have the speed of learning, and daily use, you’ve definitely narrowed down your search a bit. An underrated but equally important factor to consider is whether this system take away from the general vibe of your bar. You spent so much time picking out barstools, designing the menu, and picking out the art on the walls. Don’t let it get ruined by a hunk of hardware.

Final Thoughts

With so many different bar POS systems on the market, don’t get overwhelmed. Focus on your vision for the bar and talk to other owners. But at the end of the day, you know your bar, pick one out that works best for your place.

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Dan is a web developer from the Greater Boston area. He enjoys camping, hiking & maintaining the illusion that he still has hobbies since becoming a father.
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