POS Systems vs. Cash Registers: Understanding the Basics

publication date: Aug 7, 2018
author/source: Lavu

cash register vs pos

Thinking of investing in a modern point of sale? In this article, we'll answer your top questions to help clarify the differences between legacy cash registers and today's POS systems.

Your restaurant's team might be wondering:

  1. What are the major limitations of cash registers?
  2. How do modern POS systems address these limitations?
  3. What should you look for in a POS system?
  4. How can your POS system go further than payment processing?
  5. What features are essential for a restaurant POS system?

A restaurant's point of sale can have a dramatic effect on everything from customer satisfaction to back-of-house operations. Let's dive into your top questions so your restaurant can find the modern POS that's right for your needs!


1. What are the major limitations of cash registers?

If your restaurant is thinking of making the switch from a cash register to a point of sale system, you'll need to make a solid case for how the update will affect your business operations.

On one hand, it's helpful to know how modern POS systems can enhance your restaurant's operations; but, it's also equally important to know the ways your legacy cash register is holding your business back.

Traditional cash registers unfortunately have a lot of flaws that make them ill-equipped to handle transactions in a modern business. Consider some of the following ways traditional cash registers make your restaurant's operations more difficult:

  • Cost. Traditional cash registers often cost thousands of dollars to purchase and maintain, leaving many businesses to feel like they can't update their systems regularly.


  • Portability. Since most cash registers are fixed in one position, your staff has little flexibility in where they conduct transactions, adding time and frustration to a customer's meal.


  • Difficulty. Even the most user-friendly cash registers have a major learning curve and can be tough for new staff to master, causing back-of-house confusion.


  • Security. Not all cash registers are up-to-date with the latest in payment security standards or technology, which leaves your customers at risk.


  • Maintenance. If your cash register needs a repair or update, you'll need a professional to visit your restaurant and work on your hardware in person.

With all of these limitations, you can see how making the leap into using modern POS technology is a no-brainer. Not only will your updated system make your business more efficient, but it will also serve as a fix for these major issues your team has been living with.


2. How do modern POS systems address these limitations?

Luckily, your restaurant's team can rest easy knowing that modern point of sale platforms are designed to address all of the limitations of traditional cash registers.

The main reason why modern POS platforms work so well for restaurants? Restaurants now have access to POS systems specifically designed to meet the needs of businesses in the food service industry instead of using generic solutions for general businesses.

When your restaurant invests in a POS system tailor-made for restaurants, you'll have access to all of the features you actually need to run your business well. Take a look at these ways modern restaurant POS systems rise above the legacy cash register:

  • They're more affordable. Instead of purchasing bulky hardware all at once, modern POS offerings often are sold through affordable monthly plans (like your smartphone).


  • They're portable. Many new POS platforms can be used via a kiosk or mobile POS (mPOS) system, meaning they can go with your staff everywhere, from the table to the food truck.


  • They're accessible. Modern POS systems work just like common smart device apps, meaning there's less of a learning curve and they're designed with user-friendliness in mind.


  • They're more secure. New POS platforms can be updated regularly to adhere to PCI compliance standards and address evolving threats to your customers' data security.


  • They're easily maintained. With modern POS technology, your team doesn't need to bring in an IT professional or handyman to do repairs or updates since these systems update themselves.

With all of these benefits in mind, is your team ready to make the investment into a new POS system? In the upcoming sections, we'll dive into exactly what your business should look for in your modern point of sale, including features that are specifically designed for restaurants.


3. What should you look for in a POS system?

Modern restaurant point of sale systems have so much to offer businesses like yours because they can be completely customized to your restaurant's needs.

Not only are they designed to solve common restaurant business problems with smart tech solutions, but your team can work with your POS provider to make the system work well for your unique restaurant and its business plan, whether you're a bar or a pizza shop.

When it comes to your business, a tailor-made solution is always preferable over a generic one. Your restaurant can't waste time (or money) on a POS that doesn't work perfectly for your needs, so be sure to choose a platform that offers:

  • Flexible payments. Empower your servers to accept payments of all kinds, from traditional credit card “swiping”, to EMV chip “dipping”, to contactless payments.


  • Digital ticketing. Instead of having servers write down or memorize an order, choose a POS that offers digital ticketing tools to automate the process.


  • Payment security. Your POS should be fortified with data encryption and other security features that keep your customers safe from scammers or hackers.


  • Tech integrations. Find a restaurant POS that has built-in integrations with your favorite accounting or employee management software so you never need to manually import or export data.


  • Digital receipts. Cut down on paper waste by choosing a restaurant POS that gives your clientele the option to receive a digital receipt, a paper receipt, or no receipt at all.

As you research restaurant point of sale platforms, one thing remains constant: flexibility is key. The more power your team has to shape the system to your restaurant, the better equipped it will be to serve your staff and customers well.


4. How can your POS system go further than payment processing?

The main difference between traditional cash registers and modern restaurant point of sale platforms is that these newer systems go far beyond simply conducting transactions.

In fact, what makes modern POS systems work better for restaurants is that their features extend past closing out checks. The fact of the matter is that there are so many elements that affect your interactions with customers outside of accepting payments.

So, why would your team choose a point of sale that limits itself to just one area of your customer interactions? As your team decides on your next POS investment, be sure to consider options that offer some or all of the following features:

  • Employee management tools. Find a POS platform that takes your resource management seriously with shift scheduling, time tracking, and other key tools.


  • Menu customization. Pick a POS system that lets your team set your menu, add descriptive images, and enable customers to customize their meals with the click of a button.


  • Inventory monitoring. As your customers place orders, your POS system can track inventory levels and alert your team when you're running low on supplies.


  • Real-time reporting. Track metrics and process analytics reports in real time through your POS system so your staff can stay on top of operations.


  • Restaurant promotions. Automatically process promotions (like Happy Hour pricing or event discounts) by customizing pricing in your POS.

These aren't the only features your new POS should offer to enhance your restaurant's operations, though. In your research, be sure to explore POS systems that offer other helpful features tailored to your sector of the food service market (like a custom pizza builder).


5. What features are essential for a restaurant POS system?

As your search for a new restaurant POS winds down, take the time to review your top choices before making your final decision.

In doing so, be sure to consider the ways these options go above and beyond for your business.

After all, making the big leap from a traditional cash register to a modern restaurant POS needs to be worth the investment. Determine your final POS choice by picking the platform that:

  • Offers a scalable pricing model. One of the biggest limitations of a traditional cash register point of sale is that once your business made the investment, you were unlikely to update that hardware for years. Pick a restaurant POS that offers scalable pricing packages so your POS can grow with your business, not hold it back.


  • Provides customer support. You want your new POS to work perfectly for your restaurant, so why choose a system that leaves your team alone after implementation? Pick a POS platform that provides 24/7 customer care so you can quickly iron out any issues you face with your system and get it back up and running ASAP.


  • Will be totally customized to your business. It's one thing to choose a restaurant POS over a generic one, and even another to choose a POS designed for an ice cream shop or cafe instead of one simply made for restaurants. It's also crucial for your team to pick a POS that can be customized for your unique business and its customer base.

The bottom line? The more your POS does to enhance your entire business strategy from the ground up, the better suited the system will be for your needs. As you pick your perfect POS partner, keep an eye on the ways the system goes above and beyond for your business.

If your restaurant is stuck in the Stone Age with a legacy cash register, it's time to upgrade. Now that you know everything about making the right restaurant POS investment, you're ready to get started with your search!

Lavu is a full-featured point of sale and business management system that improves workflow, communication, and organization. Lavu's innovative iPad POS system was created to simplify owning and operating a food and beverage establishment.