Modern-day restauranters take their state-of-the-art POS systems for granted. It’s easy to overlook the advantages allotted by technology, especially when it’s made our lives so much easier for so long. But the truth is, just a few decades ago, POS systems were essentially hunks of metal and stacks of paper. Thankfully, these systems evolved quickly and creatively. Learn more about the history of POS for restaurants in this comprehensive guide.
The First Restaurant POS Systems
Before the days of online ordering and tableside tablets, restaurants used cumbersome registers and lots of paper to keep track of each order and transaction. It wasn’t until the mid-1970s that IBM introduced the world to the very first electronic cash register (ECR). ECRs were the first computer system ever used by the restaurant industry.
While we may not think much of it, it was a revolutionary game-changer in its time. The earliest IBM POS systems were able to get orders to the kitchen in a regulated manner. They were also the first POS devices that printed crisp, clean, error-free receipts—receipts that allowed customers to see a clear item list of everything they ordered and the total cost of their meal.
We know, that’s cool and everything. But what’s the big deal? These first ECRs benefited restaurants in ways that no one who came before thought possible. The most significant advantage of these early POS systems was how they enabled restaurant owners to calculate how much profit should go into the bank and how much should remain in cash.
This was huge for restauranters of the time. However, it is fair to say that the benefits didn’t reach far beyond that. The internet revealed its true potential.
The Introduction of the Internet
In the 1980s, a massive global network known as the internet came onto the scene and shook everything up. More specifically, it became an integral stepping stone in the evolution of the restaurant point of sale. With the innovation of the internet, restaurants could now virtually link their front and back-of-house operations. Order accuracy and efficiency became commonplace instead of a rarity.
As POS systems continued to evolve, restaurant owners increasingly requested credit card processing capabilities via the internet to speed up operations. Of course, technology rose to the occasion and gave restauranters quick credit card processing. Not only that, but they also made it possible for POS systems to provide one all-encompassing report with detailed information about:
- Credit card transactions.
- Cash transactions.
- Overall restaurant sales.
Rather than balancing their credit card machines against POS stations of yesteryear, businesses could now do both within the same system. As restaurant point of sale technology continued to evolve through the 90s, industry leaders enhanced these systems even more by incorporating features like widgets and touch screen interfaces.
The Impressive Features of Modern POS
There was no turning back once restauranters got a taste of high-performing, state-of-the-art POS systems. POS systems came with increasingly impressive features to meet industry demands. In fact, over the years, even the most uncomplicated updates would prove to be revolutionary. Some of the significant feature updates would include:
- Check-splitting capabilities.
- Item modifications.
- The ability to create customized menus.
These seemingly minor updates would become life-changing innovations for restaurants everywhere. These features made it much easier for servers to make changes to orders within the system, then send them back to the kitchen with accuracy.
Of course, this led to optimized operations, maximized profits, and enhanced customer service. Later, POS systems would offer gift card and loyalty reward functionalities. Tracking customer engagement became more manageable than ever before.
The Modern POS Revolutionizes the Restaurant Industry
It’s no secret that restaurants and businesses have had to revolutionize their operations to keep up with the ever-changing world over the last couple of years. POS systems were—and continue to be—an essential component of that equation. In fact, modern POS systems are responsible for changing the restaurant industry in pretty big ways. The most significant of which include:
Increasing the standard of service—With a more streamlined process, restaurants can focus on creating an atmosphere and establishing a culture built on spectacular guest experiences and top-tier services. State-of-the-art systems also allow restaurant staff members to stay on the floor rather than run back and forth between stations. With the integration of things like tablet POS software, servers can take orders accurately and efficiently without leaving their tables. This also allows them to avoid or address any issues immediately, making for a higher customer service standard.
Decreasing Labor—Modern POS systems allow business owners to be more thoughtful about their labor distribution. With the newest innovations in these payment systems, management need only click a few buttons to pull up a full labor report. Having easy access to these reports means that establishment leadership can see where they need people and where they don’t. For instance, a labor report can tell you that you might need an extra server on the floor. Plus, an excellent labor report can shed light on who provides the best customer experiences in your restaurant. And gleaning all of this information is a simple task thanks to modern POS innovations.
The POS Essentials for Restaurants in 2022
As we’ve seen, restaurant POS equipment has come a long way since its conception in the 1970s. And as the world continues to change, this technology only becomes more impressive.
Restauranters have become increasingly dependent on top-tier POS systems to serve customers and keep their businesses afloat, especially after COVID-19. In fact, there are a few features that every POS system must have in 2022. Below are some of the most important to set your restaurant up for success, rain or shine:
- Tracking capabilities for sales and financial data.
- Order and pay at the table.
- Integrated online ordering.
In short, including these features in your POS system allows you to keep things running smoothly. And as the world continues to challenge restauranters’ ability to innovate, having the best possible tools at one’s disposal has never been more crucial.
This is especially true when you consider that the evolution of the restaurant point of sale will continue to improve customer service, organization, and overall restaurant operations for years to come.