What Is A Bar POS System?
The term POS in "bar POS" stands for point of sale, which refers to the physical place where sales take place in the bar in relation to how much bars make. In the past, a point of sale system would be a cash register, sometimes with a printer or scanner. It didn’t “know” the products’ costs and required the person operating to manually enter the purchased items’ prices.
Nowadays, with the growth of bar and restaurant technology, a POS system has advanced further to do more than simply ringing up items sold and print receipts. At its most complex, a POS system is an all-in-one purchasing and reporting software that enables you to with every aspect of bar management. And that's what most bar owners and operators are looking for.
Why Do Bars Need A POS System?
You can run your bar with old-fashioned cash registers or traditional pen and paper. But having a modern system can be a huge help to your business. A POS system can streamline the communication between different parts of your bar. It can cut down the time that your staff spend on entering orders and reduce transactional errors, which are deadly to your business. On top of that, some POS systems remove the need to struggle with a manual variance formula. They help you monitor your liquor, manage your liquor inventory (to avoid the 86 meaning), and improve your liquor inventory control. That way you don't need to manually calculate how many shots in a handle.
In general, if you are the heart and soul of your business, a good point of sale system can be the brain. Let’s take a look at the different types of POS systems. We'll see how much they typically cost, how bar owners and operators are using them, and which POS system is great for your business.
Best Bar POS Systems
With so many options available on the market, how do you know which one is the best for your bar? When considering which software to purchase, make sure that it would offer the following features.
Fully Customizable To Fit Your Bar’s Needs
It is extremely important to have a POS system that is easy to use and fully customizable. That's because your bar’s operation can change based on various factors. Your staff shouldn’t be struggling to find a tequila substitute for margaritas on a busy night. Because your POS should make knowing what you need easy.
Additionally, the system needs to be designed to handle a large volume of orders at once. No one has time to waste in a fast-paced environment like a bar. Especially during a big game night or a Happy Hour rush.
Mobile and Contactless Integration
Nowadays, it is very important for your bar staff and bartenders to spend time interacting with your guests. Customer service certainly falls under the bar staff and bartender job description. That's how your service is being evaluated. And with a mobile POS, your staff is not stuck behind the bar entering orders. They can chat with guests and help them place the perfect order. This is also a great way for them to increase check size (by making recommendations and upselling premium liquor) and increase tips.
Easy Menu Management
There will be multiple special occasions that your bar must carry menu specials for, such as Game Day Specials or Happy Hour Specials. Many places have all different types of menu that need to be accounted for, even digital wine lists. Therefore, we recommend looking at cloud-based systems that can keep up with all the special occasions and allow you to adjust your menu quickly.
Top 3 Bar POS Systems
Toast was designed for foodservice and bills itself as an all-in-one point of sale and restaurant management system. If your bar serves food, Toast is probably your best bet. Using the mobile-friendly toast, bars and restaurants can fulfill orders, update menus, manage staff payroll, and access a full suite of reports and analytics across multiple revenue centers. There is a free trial, but no free version. Monthly fees start at $79.99. If you're a restaurant that also has a bar, Toast is a good bar POS to look at. This is the best POS system for a restaurant and bar combination if the concept is more focused on food.
This bar POS was designed specifically with bars and nightclubs in mind. It offers iPad and mobile integration along with cash drawer management, employee management, reporting and analytics, table management, and more. While TouchBistro offers a free trial, there is no basic free version. Pricing starts at $69.99 per month per user. This is the best POS system for a small bar or a bar without foodservice.
Like Toast, CAKE is designed with foodservice in mind, with a particular focus on quick-service restaurants. CAKE helps management virtually all aspects of a restaurant, from table management and traffic flow to ordering and analytics. Like the others, it has full tablet and mobile compatibility. And also like the others, no free version exists. Though there is a free trial. CAKE's bar POS starts at $69 per month. And CAKE is the best POS system for a bar and restaurant combo if the concept is more focused on alcohol.
How Much Does a Bar POS System Cost?
Right now, there are two types of POS systems available on the market: legacy bar POS systems and cloud-based POS software systems.
For legacy model bar POS systems, the cost is typically on the higher range. That's because they often require an expert’s physical installation and extra equipment for the initial set up. You can expect the number to be anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000. And most of them tend to come with a multi-year contract.
On the other hand, cloud-based models are usually much cheaper, ranging between $50 and $500 for a monthly subscription. See the "top 3 bar POS systems" above for a look at some starting prices. Most vendors even offer free lifetime software and security updates as well. If you’re opening a bar from scratch, we recommend looking for a modern, cloud-based system for budget and flexibility.
Open Source or Free Bar POS Systems
There are some interesting ways to lower the cost of bar point of sale software systems. If you’re trying to find the least expensive POS system possible, look into used, free, or open source bar point of sale systems.
Used Bar POS Systems
Used options can save you some money by buying through a reseller, but there are a lot of things to be aware of. If you’re only after new POS hardware and software, it’s paramount that you make sure it’s compatible with your existing vendor. Some may be starting from scratch with no hardware, no software, and no account with a vendor. If that's the case, know that your used point of sale purchase will also likely include merchant services contract with the vendor of that POS.
Open Source Bar POS Systems
These are based on open-source software, which is free and allows anyone the right to change or distribute it for any purpose. Open-source software is meant to be a collaborative benefit to the public. There are free, open-source POS systems out there. You can download them and use them on your existing hardware or mobile devices while paying no initial licensing or subscription fees. That said (and this is a big that said), the support, security, and maintenance of this POS software is less than established companies. They spend all their time making sure your POS system is secure, up-to-date, and functional. Floreant POS is one of the most highly-regarded free, open source bar POS software systems.
The second most-important piece of bar and restaurant technology is covered under the phrase “restaurant management software.” That refers to a few different types of software functionality.
Free Bar POS Systems
How could a bar POS software system be free? Well, the software is. Monthly access to cloud-based software is what other systems charge around $70 monthly to start with. You'd still pay for the hardware. And that can be expected. So if you're just looking to explore bar POS software, there are a few free options. One notable option is eHopper. It's available for Windows PCs, Android tablets, and iPads. It features order management and tracking, customer management, payments, and inventory capabilities. And, again, Floreant is both free and open source.
How Do You Use a Bar POS System?
A POS system is one of the most powerful tools to help ensure your bar’s success. With a system in place, you can keep track of your bar’s sales and prevent any fraud due to fake or stolen cards. Your staff can save time on completing your guests’ transactions quickly and accurately, especially with closing out tabs and doing pre-authorization of payments. This will also reduce any risks of having unpaid tabs at the end of the night.
On top of that, an all-in-one point of sale system can even help monitor and improve your liquor inventory control to avoid potential inefficiencies. Think over-pouring, unauthorized comps, and even employee theft. Some systems alert you when your stock is running low so you can take necessary actions. Or they provide detailed reports on your bar’s performance to help increase your profit margins.
To learn more about what your bar’s par level inventory is and how to set it, read our previous blog post about par level definition.
How POS Systems Are Installed
Legacy POS systems require physical installation with the help of experts. That means maintenance and updates need to be done manually from time to time as well. On top of that, they sometimes require specific equipment to work with.
On the other hand, cloud-based POS systems have a simpler installation and updating process as everything is done online. You can download the system’s compatible version to your mobile device or access it using a web browser. Then start using it right away after logging in to your account.
Android Bar POS vs. iPad Bar POS
Of the above mentioned top 3 bar POS systems, TouchBistro is strictly an iPad bar POS system, Toast uses commercial-grade Android devices, and CAKE's tablet POS system uses an iPad app.
Android devices are more cost-effective and tend to require less updating, while Apple hardware is more user friendly and aesthetically pleasing. The functionality is ultimately based on the software, though. So don't put too much weight on the hardware or operating system if you like the POS's functionality.
Final Thoughts About Bar Point of Sale Systems
Having a point of sale system is a great way to up your game in bar management. It can help you increase bar profit margins and keep track of your bar’s performance quicker than just using a pen and paper. However, with so many options on the market, it is important to take your time and evaluate your bar’s needs before making a decision. Like every purchase you make for your business, always consider if it would fit your bar’s vision first. And don’t hesitate to discuss it with your staff for their opinions as well.
If you find this article helpful, contact us to learn more about BinWise Pro, a cloud-based bar inventory system. BinWise Pro comes with seamless integration with 50+ POS systems. Schedule a free demo with us to learn how the system can help you save time, eliminate errors (with an integrated barcode scanner app for inventory), and grow your bottom line.