November 11, 2021

Restaurant POS Systems in 2021 – The Complete Guide

Restaurant technology has seen rapid changes in the past decade, driven by several factors such as changing consumer behaviour as well as restaurateurs’ drive to find “the next big thing” to improve efficiency and profitability in their operations.

restaurant POS system

The restaurant industry is swiftly changing 

2019 saw the rise of various trends in restaurant technology and those who had the foresight to invest in them are among the ones who weathered the shock of 2020 and the COVID pandemic. The global F&B industry as a whole has been steadily regaining lost ground from the impact of that year—as indicated by increasing sales and staffing—behind rising vaccination rates, loosening of restrictions on restaurants, and the relaxation of limits on travel and tourism.

Progress was uneven in 2021, however, as some countries lagged behind on easing restrictions, while others battled new surges in cases due to the new variants. Despite this, owners and operators were able to pivot their operations as more customers opted for takeout or delivery instead of dining in. 

In fact, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) of the US reported that 44% of all Americans went to a website or a mobile app to order food in 2020. Even with restaurant capacity limits later lifted, less customers were dining in as opposed to right before the pandemic.

Pre-existing trends accelerated by the pandemic

But even before 2020, many restaurateurs began to adopt technologies, particularly cost-efficient and versatile solutions such as cloud-based restaurant POS systems as well as those reducing “transaction friction”, like ordering and payment through QR codes and kiosks. 

For instance, Starbucks began using cloud kitchens in China back in 2019 to expand reach without having to build brick-and-mortar stores. Another technology trend, self-order kiosks, has been capitalized on by well-known brands such as Dunkin’ Donuts and Taco Bell. Similarly, Chipotle introduced drive-through lanes in their restaurants dedicated to orders placed through their mobile app.

Studies are predicting that the pandemic has not only accelerated the adoption of such innovations, but has also ensured that they are here to stay. Having experienced the ease of placing orders online, customers are more likely to opt for takeout or delivery, and are demanding even more convenient transactions. 

In fact, the NRA reported that 52% of all American adults desire restaurant tech that will make ordering and payment more efficient. Meanwhile 49%, 51%, and 46% expect more takeout/delivery options, improved customer service, and faster service times, respectively.

Whether it is due to external factors such as future pandemics and the inevitable surges and lockdowns, or changing customer behaviour, the face of the restaurant in both the front of house and the back of house is rapidly evolving.

How a Cloud Restaurant POS System boosts business 

Changes are essential for any restaurant to adapt, especially with the technological aspect of the business. In the case of the latter, there is no aspect of a store’s operations that is as crucial and in need of a robust and all-in-one solution.

Having a restaurant POS system on the “cloud” simply means all of the important data and information is uploaded in a secure, off-site network of professionally-managed computer servers. With information being easily shared and exchanged between the restaurant and the cloud through the Internet, the system can be accessed on any device: computers, tablets, and mobile phones.

Coupled with an intuitive and user-friendly interface, this allows merchants to simply pick up a tablet, connect it to a WiFi network, run the POS software on a browser and get started in minutes. Having everything “on the cloud” means less moving parts, less chances of downtime, and increased reliability whenever you need it.

Merchants’ ease of doing business

Aside from ease of setting up and maintenance, as well as freedom from cumbersome devices, not having to use proprietary hardware means owners and operators do not have to spend a lot of capital expenditure. With cloud-based restaurant POS systems, monthly operational expenses take less from the bottom line.

In line with the “less moving parts, the better” principle, cloud restaurant POS systems simplify matters by streamlining and automating a restaurant’s operations. For instance, orders don’t have to go through multiple devices and staff: it goes directly from the customer to the POS and to the kitchen without manual intervention.

These systems combine all such functions in one place, accessible on any device from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection.

smiling woman takes an order at the counter with restaurant POS system

Customer experience

More importantly, from a customer perspective, multiple ordering channels opens a world of convenient options for them — in store and online. At the minimum, servers can take dine-in orders much faster as they can send them to the kitchen through their tablets. Leading restaurant POS systems even offer solutions that allow customers to access digital menus on their phone by scanning a QR code at the table or counter or in front of a self-ordering kiosk

The same ease applies to payment, especially with the prevalence of credit cards and digital wallets nowadays. Combined, contactless ordering and payment can create flexibility for your customer: they scan a code, place an order, pay, and then go to a counter to get their food once it’s ready.

Many leading restaurant POS systems also integrate with third party apps such as Deliveroo, UberEats, Zomato, GrabFood, Foodpanda, and Talabat. They also enable restaurants to have their own websites through which commission-free orders can be placed by customers. 

Components of a Cloud Restaurant POS System

Front Of The House

At the heart of your operations is the restaurant POS system as it enables and simplifies the transactions between the store and its customers that are at the very core of the business. In order to perform this key function, it connects front of house, back of house, and all other components of the restaurant’s operations. 

Leading solutions offer what is called “Omnichannel”, or having multiple sales channels integrated and working together seamlessly to provide restaurants with more revenue streams, and customers with more ordering options and convenience. 

Cloud-based restaurant POS systems facilitate an omnichannel sales strategy for merchants to have multiple revenue streams using one platform: walk-in, dine-in, self-ordering, website, social media, and third-party online food delivery apps. It enables business owners to manage orders placed, whether in-store or online, without having to switch from one platform to another.  

Back Of The House

The kitchen display system communicates orders to the kitchen staff clearly, with a digital display ensuring that no orders are lost through misplaced paper stubs. At the same time, they can easily inform the front of house when an item is ready with a single click or tap. 

Meanwhile, leading restaurant POS systems allow kitchen data such as average preparation time, per-station efficiency, and wastage to be accessed, giving merchants insights on how to improve back of house operations.

Token screens lessen patrons’ anxiety while waiting by displaying token numbers. Instead of having to physically fall in line as they wait, they can simply wait somewhere near and go to the counter once their order is ready. 

Inventory management software for a cloud-based restaurant POS system allows owners and operators to keep track of their item inventories in real-time from literally anywhere with an Internet signal. They can do many functions such as batch production, raising purchase orders, creating and updating recipes, stock transfers, recording wastage, and many more.

woman at the restaurant

More than just a Cloud Restaurant POS System: Business intelligence

The business dashboard allows restaurateurs to make operational decisions to maximize restaurant efficiency and profitability using accurate numbers and data, whether real-time, at the end of a day, week, month, or even year.

From sales channels, they can monitor not just total sales for any period of time, but also top-selling and top-grossing items, peak hours in terms of customers and orders, and even sales per staff member. For dine-in restaurants, table-by-table data is available on orders, covers, and sales. Data can even be filtered per location, for those with multiple stores, and order types —dine-in, takeout, or delivery—.

All in all, the modern restaurant POS system ensures that everything in a store is monitored, giving decision-makers a complete picture of their operations and the ability to optimize and improve towards their business goals. 

Modern or Legacy? Comparing Cloud Restaurant POS Systems 

Modern restaurant POS systems run on cloud servers, while legacy restaurant POS systems use a computer server installed in store premises. This allows the former to be used with just about any computer, tablet, or other devices, as opposed to proprietary hardware that has to be installed and maintained by on-site technicians. Not being dependent on such services also means less, even minimal interruption of restaurant operations, which in turn means less sales lost.

Less capital investment 

This means cloud-based restaurant POS systems cost less capital expenditure because merchants do not have to pay steep licensing fees upfront. Instead, they pay monthly fees on a subscription basis, as opposed to being locked into long-term contracts. 

staff using a tablet to access their cloud restaurant POS system


Substituting proprietary hardware for other devices not only equates to less capital expenditure, it also allows for more flexible restaurant operations. With customers in many countries preferring to dine outdoors, servers can save time by directly sending orders to the POS and kitchen via their tablets. Similarly, restaurateurs can manage multiple locations from anywhere with an Internet connection: whether at home, heading to a business meeting, or even on vacation.


Instead of having separate tablets for each third-party food delivery app, a cloud restaurant POS system sends orders from all of them directly to the POS and kitchen. This versatility also extends to other software, such as for accounting, payments, loyalty, and workforce management.


Less moving parts means less chance of something breaking down at the worst possible time. Having all your data in the cloud increases the uptime of your restaurant system up to 99%, a reliability metric legacy systems can never have.

Sapaad Cloud Restaurant POS System 

Sapaad Cloud POS combines all sales channels, from in-store to online delivery, into one centralized platform. With Sapaad Direct, customers are able to place dine-in and takeout orders with ease through QR codes, while Sapaad Kiosk takes it one step further with self-order terminals. 

cloud restaurant pos system

Sapaad Connect saves restaurant owners like you the hassle of multiple tablets for each third-party food aggregator and delivery app. 

Sapaad Online takes the experience a step further by creating ordering platforms for your restaurant’s website, Facebook page, and Instagram account, allowing commission-free sales from loyal customers.  

Sapaad’s CRM enables businesses to enhance customer engagement and retention by maintaining a database of in-depth data such as total sales history for each one, contact information, and favorite orders. You can encourage more business by easily running marketing campaigns with new promos tailor-fit to their preferences.

Sapaad’s Delivery Manager gives you the ability to ensure optimal customer satisfaction alongside increasing delivery sales. Real-time data, including the progress of each individual order, allows merchants to identify and address bottlenecks in the whole process. 

For stores with an in-house fleet of riders, the Delivery Manager provides an app as well, providing drivers information on orders, customer locations, and wait times. Meanwhile, customers themselves receive real-time SMS alerts with every step in the process, lessening wait anxiety and providing better transparency.

With the Kitchen Display System (KDS), orders are automatically routed to individual Kitchen Prep Screens for separate kitchen stations, saving time and removing a potential source of miscommunication between staff members. Managers have access to more than just seeing the progress of individual orders: within their fingertips is a wealth of analytics, allowing them opportunities to further improve back of the house efficiency.

Sapaad’s Live Business Dashboard allows you to see both the high-level view of your operations, as well as the ability to zoom into highly-specific snapshots to analyze and strategize your restaurant’s areas for improvement, opportunities, and solutions.

What to look for in your Cloud POS System 

Your choice of POS is just as crucial as hiring trustworthy staff  and identifying the perfect location for your store. Here are a few things to consider when looking for one:

Fully-integrated, all-in-one system

 “The fewer moving parts, the better” is a saying that’s equally relevant when it comes to restaurant POS systems. Nothing ensures perfect sync between all the parts of your restaurant operations than having one system for everything: from a customer placing an order on his phone all the way until it reaches individual kitchen prep stations, and from the moment you open your doors for the business until your staff does a stock take. 

Omnichannel sales

It’s not just a COVID-era fad. A system that allows you to pursue an omnichannel sales strategy enables your restaurant to keep up with ever-changing consumer behaviour and survive future shocks to the industry. 

For those focusing on deliveries or exploring a cloud kitchen, eliminating “tablet hell” and other operational issues associated with multiple third-party delivery apps, and online delivery in general,  through their restaurant POS system is essential. Meanwhile, QR code-based ordering and self-ordering kiosks make it more attractive for customers that still want to visit their favorite restaurant.

QR code-based and other forms of contactless ordering and payment removes queues, improves both actual and perceived customer experience, attracts more covers, and ensures your business keeps up with ever-evolving consumer preferences.

Seamless integration with third-party partners

Having a system that can effortlessly integrate out of the box with other apps and platforms, such as third-party online delivery platforms, accounting software, and payment gateway solutions, is one of the top things to look for in your restaurant POS system. No need to reinvent the wheel when you already have solutions, especially for your back of the house.

The future belongs to the flexible 

Restaurateurs have to keep up as brands and competitors continue to innovate with their operations —in both the front of the house and the back of house— and adopt new solutions. 2020 has shown that those who invest in future-proof solutions are not only well-equipped to weather shocks such as pandemics and recessions, they are also in the position to actually thrive in the face of such conditions.

A restaurant POS system is no exception in the urgent need to upgrade. With the industry landscape being changed dramatically by the rise of delivery apps, cloud kitchens, rising customer appreciation for contactless transactions, every step in a restaurant’s operations should be able to rise up to the challenge.

Cloud-based solutions provide restaurant owners with advantages in just about every important performance metric: reduced capital expenditure, shorter contract or subscription periods, better security, the versatility to integrate with other solutions, allowing more innovation and automation in operations, just to name a few. 

Switching to one will allow you to spend less time putting out figurative (and sometimes, even literal!) fires and focusing on what’s most important: growing your business, and getting the most out of your investments, through serving great food and making customers happy.