restaurant pos software | 14 mins read

5 Reasons Why Ghost Kitchens Need Restaurant POS Software

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Debdutta Bhattacharjee

By Debdutta Bhattacharjee

A Restaurant Point of Sale System Explained

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A restaurant point of sale or POS system is the place where customer orders are managed and merchants accept payments for the products sold. A point of sale or POS can be located inside a physical store and involve computer terminals, cash registers, receipt printers, and debit/credit card processing machines.

Alternatively, a point of sale or POS can be a virtual sales point, and make do with minimal POS hardware support, and a card processing machine, tablet, or smartphone is usually all that they need. Both the traditional and web-based POS systems run on software or computer programs that allow merchants to receive, input, and manage orders, calculate the price of products, and take payments.

POS systems have evolved today to address a restaurant's specific needs. Therefore, the requirements of a full-service restaurant may be different from those of a quick-service one. The POS needs of ghost kitchens, on the other hand, are entirely different than those of dine-in restaurants.

A ghost kitchen or cloud kitchen is a commercial unit that focuses solely on preparing food for takeout and delivery. It offers no dine-in facility, and there is no dining room, storefront, or front-of-the-house staff. A ghost kitchen plays primarily in the digital space, accepting online orders from third-party food aggregators and its own website. Customers can also contact a central call center to place orders, which then would be routed to the nearest ghost kitchen outlet.

Ghost kitchens gained tremendous popularity as a rampant coronavirus spooked people worldwide. With the resultant shuttering of dine-in restaurants, people confined to their homes relied on online ordering and delivery to satisfy their food cravings.

Ghost kitchens can be standalone, which operate under a single theme and have limited menu offerings. They may also support virtual restaurants or foodservice brands that exist entirely online on food ordering apps and websites. These virtual restaurants use the kitchen services of established brick-and-mortar restaurants and offer menu items different from those of the host restaurant.

Ghost kitchens have several other avatars. Accordingly, a large kitchen space can support multiple foodservice brands; it could be a coworking space, with separate kitchen units dedicated to each restaurant brand, and common storage and cleaning facilities. A dedicated space ghost kitchen model, on the other hand, has a brand renting a kitchen space solely for its own use. There can also be aggregator ghost kitchens and operator-managed ghost kitchens.

A ghost kitchen point of sale, therefore, must be built for mobility and compactness so that it can be taken to the customer's residence for processing payments. It is extremely important for a ghost kitchen POS to be integrated with third-party food ordering and delivery apps like UberEats, DoorDash, GrubHub, Postmates, and so on. It is also vital for such POS systems to be working in tandem with a kitchen display system (KDS).

A restaurant/kitchen POS multi-tasks also as a platform for inventory management, sales monitoring, reporting and analytics, vendor management, customer relationship management, employee management, customer service, and customer support.

Why Do Ghost Kitchens Need POS Software?

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1. A robust POS system allows ghost kitchens to manage orders from multiple sources. The POS compiles customer orders along with other details like customer location, preferences, and so on. The POS dashboard allows the ghost kitchen to view and manage incoming orders placed with different brands. There could also be a central software that aggregates orders and directs them to the nearest ghost kitchen. This ensures that orders are not missed and order processing and delivery time are optimized.

2. POS software lets ghost kitchens accept orders that may have been placed through the call center of a food aggregator. As the orders and customer details are recorded, the call center panel sends them to the right brand and kitchen. The central panel may also upsell or cross-sell based on customers' order history and top-selling items.

3. A POS system generates detailed sales reports and helps a ghost kitchen to analyze the performance of each brand that it is working for. Business intelligence data produced by POS systems, in this regard, also include total order count, canceled order count, and total discounts. This data can then be interpreted to identify top ordering sources, the biggest revenue-generating brands, and total sales and profits for the kitchen.

4. A POS system lets ghost kitchen employees track orders in real-time and monitor other important information such as the time required to prepare the order, deliver the order, and the real-time location of the delivery agents. A POS integrated with a delivery management system alerts the kitchen manager and the delivery partner when an order is received.

5. The entire inventory management process is automated with the help of a POS system and ingredients consumed by each brand can easily be calculated. Standardized recipe instructions for each brand allow ghost kitchen POS systems to measure exact stock usage for brand-specific orders. This helps in better management of kitchen supplies for each brand, minimization of wastage, and optimization of overall food costs.

6. A POS system integrated with a KDS ensures that orders are displayed to the kitchen staff in the back office as soon as they are received. The cooks can then quickly get down to business, as a result of which meals can be churned out a lot more quickly. A KDS simplifies order management, saves time and energy, and stamps out manual error and the chances of missing orders. A KDS makes restaurant management easy, especially when dealing with high order volumes.

7. With the help of a POS system, a ghost kitchen is able to retain and grow its customer base. Simplified online ordering and cashless payment through debit/credit card, gift card, mobile wallet; a personalized ordering experience based on order history; and the option to order food from several brands add to customer satisfaction.

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How Can a POS System Help a Ghost Kitchen Grow?

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A ghost kitchen takes orders from several online food aggregators, as well those from its own website or app. This huge influx of orders is bound to create confusion and chances of orders getting mixed-up or missed. Manual order-taking makes matters worse, leading to loss of revenue and customer dissatisfaction.

By fully automating the order-taking and order-processing, a POS system ensures that the kitchen never misses out on a business opportunity. Orders placed with different virtual restaurants can be viewed in one place, which makes their management easy.

A POS system for ghost kitchens also significantly speeds up order processing, which allows customers to get fast and efficient service, without having to do anything more than clicking a few times or calling to place orders from the comfort of their living rooms. This convenience and the option of choosing from multiple brands, easy payment options, and a personalized order experience, including competitive loyalty and reward programs make a ghost kitchen experience an extremely happy experience for the customers.

A point of sale system takes into account customer preferences and transfers these straight to the kitchen to which the order is allotted.

The quickness of order processing, meal preparation, and delivery allows the ghost kitchen to accept more orders without having to comprise on the quality of service. A restaurant point of sale also allows better menu management, and menu changes made by restaurant brands are sent immediately to the kitchen outlets so that they can update their food preparation techniques accordingly.

Ghost kitchen point of sale platforms also provide greater revenue visibility which allows the kitchen executives to check sales achieved in a day, week, or month, and also get an idea of the ordering channels and brands that are the biggest revenue-creators. With the help of a POS system, data from food ordering and delivery apps are also just a click away. These data can then be matched against the sales goal of the cloud kitchen, and business strategies can be modified appropriately.

A POS system makes employee scheduling hassle-free, and last-minute schedule change requests can be accommodated without the manager losing sleep. Therefore, the person overseeing operations in the cloud kitchen may hire/schedule more cooks and dishwashers, for example, when the kitchen starts to serve more virtual restaurants. POS systems may also reveal vital employee information, and help in managing employee payrolls.

Ghost kitchens can also manage their inventory and supply chains better with the help of a POS system while taking into account the specific needs of each brand. Operations can be optimized by real-time tracking of business information.

Features of a Good Restaurant POS System

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1. The POS system for a ghost kitchen, especially, must support online ordering, third-party integrations and must be connected to a KDS.

2. A mobile POS that is able to do card processing at the customer's location, providing for quick and simple checkout is a must-have for the best POS systems.

3. A good POS and restaurant management system would make inventory tracking frictionless, and let businesses save money by avoiding oversupply, undersupply, pilferage, and wastage.

4. A robust restaurant point of sale turns unstructured data into actionable insights, and allows demand planning, creation of customer loyalty and reward programs, and generally, stronger data-driven decisions to maximize sales and minimize costs.

5. A POS that lets business owners have real-time access to data on any handheld device without having to be physically present at the kitchen site acts as a game-changer, especially for ghost kitchens.

6. A good POS system compiles all relevant data in one place. A cloud-based POS system, therefore, works best for a kitchen that essentially operates in the cloud. Moreover, POS data stored in the cloud is perpetually secure and retrievable for the purpose of analysis.

3 Best Restaurant POS Systems for Ghost Kitchens

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1. Plum POS- This Restaurant Management software is available on the Hubworks app store, and is one of the best options that are there in the market. The Plum POS is ideal for small businesses, mid-sized businesses, and can be custom configured for large restaurants. It works well also for a ghost kitchen managing many brands and handling high order volumes.

This Hubworks offering comes with a mobile POS, POS app, KDS, loyalty program, and supports online ordering. It provides restaurants with the option to choose which menu items they want customers to view first. The menu can be modified regularly, and special offers can be included. Once orders are placed, the kitchen employees are notified right away, and the customer gets an idea of the food preparation and delivery time.

Online sales reporting and customer data capture for devising targeted marketing plans are two other features of Plum POS that make it a good fit for ghost kitchens. Digital menu boards integrated with POS systems placed at popular locations take foodservice operations to the next level.

Plum POS is easy to set up and easy to use and does away with the need for multiple logins.

The price of Plum POS varies from $1,716 for the Essential Station Bundle and $3,505 for the Pro Station Bundle. For the Custom System, the cost varies according to the add-ons selected over and above a few default options.

2. Lightspeed POS- This cloud-based POS system works well for ghost kitchens and restaurants that make use of third-party platforms. Lightspeed has robust online ordering tools. It allows customers to place advance orders and also lets ghost kitchens/restaurants receive third-party orders directly in the POS order stream, on easy-to-read screens.

Lightspeed does not require any installation fee and offers a 14-day free trial option. Software subscription fee varies from $59 per month for a single terminal to $34 for each additional terminal.

Lightspeed Delivery is a premium accompaniment to the restaurant POS system and runs as a centralized dashboard to manage orders placed through third-party platforms like UberEats and GrubHub. With the help of Lightspeed Order Ahead, online orders can be placed through a custom URL. The kitchen staff can see the delivery address on Google Maps or Apple Maps on the POS dashboard.

Integration with the UEat app enables Lightspeed users to mobilize a staff team of drivers for delivery for an additional charge. Lightspeed works well on iPads and one can download Lightspeed Restaurant from the Apple App Store.

3. Toast POS- Toast has a free version, but online ordering and delivery add-ons don't come for free, and their prices are custom-quoted. Toast Online Ordering, TakeOut, and Delivery Services are useful tools for ghost kitchens. The POS can be integrated directly with third-party ordering platforms through middleman apps like Chowly and ItsaCheckmate.

Toast has added a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) tool, and its Order and Pay feature allows customers to place orders and make payments by scanning QR codes with their smartphone cameras.

The Toast POS directs orders to the KDS and as the kitchen staff marks the order as 'completed', the customers are messaged that their food is ready.

Other Toast features include GPS-enabled driver management tools to allow restaurants/cloud kitchens to manage a delivery driver team, employee management tools along with online staff onboarding, ingredient-level tracking of stocks, and effective loyalty programs.

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How to Select the POS System You Need

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1. Requirements of the business- A POS system may have specific areas of expertise apart from offering certain general features that are common to those offered by its competitors. A business has to see how its specific needs and objectives fit with the strengths of the POS system while shopping for POS platforms. A ghost kitchen POS system, for instance, cannot do without robust online ordering, third-party integration, and KDS features.

2. Business plans- Restaurants/cloud kitchens must select POS systems that can evolve and grow with their businesses. For instance, if the ghost kitchen wants to add more virtual restaurants, its POS system should be powerful enough to handle substantial order volumes.

3. Budget- A Small Business, especially, should look for a POS system that delivers quality service at a manageable price. A business would not want to overpay for a POS or pay for features it hardly needs.

4. Identify flaws of current platforms- Knowing the pain points of the existing POS system would give business owners a clearer understanding of what to seek in a replacement. For example, if the current POS system is not able to accept payment with gift cards, or if its online ordering option is not well developed, the business owner should look for a better alternative.

5. Current hardware- If the current POS hardware is working well, the business owner should seek software solutions that go well with the existing hardware. For instance, if the business has been running on an iPad POS, the software that is chosen must be compatible with an iPad.

6. Current software- If the existing POS software has been doing the job for the business, it should be ensured that the POS solution is in sync with the apps that the business makes use of.

7. Ease of handling- The POS system should be simple enough to be installed and used by even kitchen employees who are not too tech-savvy.

POS System FAQs

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1. If the server stops functioning, can a POS terminal still process a sale?

Yes, this is possible for POS systems carrying a built-in offline mode. The offline transaction data can be fed into the system once the connection is restored.

2. How can a point of sale system make stock counts simple?

Inventory management can be done faster and more accurately than manual stock-taking methods if the POS system can make sense of information generated by a hand-held barcode scanner. These devices can be taken to a location where product stocks are held and the products can then be scanned and counted. The information thus generated is then transferred to a computer.

3. Can I operate POS software from my home computer?

Yes, it is possible.

4. Can I shift data on a current pos system to a new one?

This would be possible if the POS software currently in use supports the export of inventory and customer details.

5. Do I have to have an industry-specific POS platform?

No, it is not necessary. A number of industry-specific software systems lack all the characteristics of a general retail software system. A POS platform must be selected while keeping in mind specific business needs.

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