Take your restaurant’s needs into account before settling on a POS system.

Restaurant point of sales (POS) systems, like most retail-based customer interaction systems, are undergoing a game-changing experience in 2017, steered by structural changes in the restaurant industry, such as tablets, kiosks and digital and mobile POS platforms.

For a restaurant owner or manager, the deciding factor remains an old-fashioned one – effectiveness – and that’s a great starting point for food and drink purveyors looking to maximize their restaurant point of sale experience.

“From speed and stability to inventory management and reporting, the right (or wrong) POS can have a major financial and performative impact on a business,” notes Alexander Pincus, chief executive officer of Summer Ops, and a New York City-based restaurateur.

Pincus says it’s important to look beyond the fixed costs of a particular system and understand how that system will affect every other aspect of your business. “On one hand, you might save $500 a month on your POS system and end up spending more on accounting or payroll administration,” he says. “Or you might get a stable package that you can’t monitor from off-site. There are pros and cons of a lot of systems, and the only way to truly make the best for yourself is to test them yourself.”

For his Grand Banks restaurant, based in New York City, Pincus chose Revel’s POS system. “After trying everything, from Aloha to Micros, we saw the light with Revel,” he explains. “It’s a web-based interface that is intuitive, scalable and customizable – which is essential. We run on Revel at Grand Banks and have the ability to access the backend online from anywhere and monitor our key metrics from our phones while doing all of the running around that a restaurant on a boat requires.”

But too many dining and drinking establishments just aren’t there yet. According to a recent report from Software Advice, 63 percent of restaurants do not use a digital POS system, and instead rely on old-school paper receipts, cash registers and antiquated credit card terminals.

That doesn’t need to be the case, as food and drink establishment POS systems have grown more affordable and sophisticated in communicating the dining trends of consumers on a real-time, data-driven basis.

Business.com recently reached out to industry insiders to identify the best systems, especially in key areas like cost, ease of use, technology options, and scalability. Here’s the restaurant POS systems that sector experts view as the best:

Toast – Designed exclusively for food service businesses, Toast bills itself as an “all-in-one” POS restaurant management system. With Toast, restaurant management and staff can seamlessly fulfill orders, update online and in-house menus on the fly, and handle restaurant payroll. Toast also offers real-time data analysis, mobile and online-based menu ordering, and a complete rewards and loyalty package built into the system. Costs start at $100 per month.

TouchBistro – TouchBistro bills itself as the “Number One iPad POS system in 37 countries.” Like Toast, the TouchBistro POS system is geared specifically toward the restaurant industry (buyers should be aware that many POS systems are not restaurant industry-specific), and the company’s POS system can be customized for a restaurant’s unique needs. Prices start at $69.99 per month per user (one license).

Full Service Restaurant POS (Brigade) – Brigade touts its POS system as a “one-of-a-kind, full-service restaurant point of sale system . . . designed to optimize your floor and create good communication between your servers, bartenders, and kitchen staff.” Brigade’s POS is designed to run at optimal speed, which is ideal for keeping up with orders, payment transactions and inventory management. “Our powerful monitoring systems are making sure your system is always up. We offer 24/7 support and a dedicated account manager at no additional cost. We are so confident, we will offer you a full 30-day money back guarantee,” Brigade claims on its web site. Prices start at $99 per month.

Thrive – Thrive’s POS tablet-based system is designed “from the ground up” for the special needs of restaurants, the company states on its website. With 30 years in the restaurant management business, Thrive’s system provides flexible and affordable traditional and tablet POS options, fully integrated online and mobile ordering, customer loyalty marketing, advanced enterprise reporting features, and seamless delivery management. Prices start at $99 monthly.

The above aren’t the only restaurant-based POS systems. Harbortouch, Upserve, POS Guys, ShopKeep, Appetize and Square are all worth looking at as well.

When you do start searching, though, have a plan going into the process, experts say.

“The biggest deciding factor in any point of sale system is ease of use, because restaurant products and/or prices change regularly,” says Benjamin D. Silbert, Esq., vice president of sales at Bar & Club Stats, in New York City. “Most restaurants want tablet-based POS systems these days, but you can buy external hardware (such as receipt printers and cash drawers) from most POS companies too.”

“Potential red flags include resellers looking to sell you things you don’t need,” Silbert adds. “I always recommend dealing directly with the company.”

Also, watch for any “extremely negative” online presence when choosing a restaurant POS system, says Elizabeth Cranston, POS writer and reviewer at Merchant Maverick.

Cranston, who lists talech and Meza POS as her favorite systems, says that if you search a POS system online and come up with an overwhelming number of negative reviews and legitimate customer complaints, reconsider that choice. “You can browse sites like the Better Business Bureau to help get a better understanding of a specific company,” she advises.

Also, just because a system offers several features doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for your restaurant, Cranston adds. “For instance, if you have a smaller café or quick serve restaurant, you are going to want a system that has speed and efficiency,” she explains. “On top of that, you might not need a system bogged down with extra features you won’t ever use.”

Choosing a POS system for your restaurant is a personal choice, dependent on myriad factors like ease of use, price, inventory management, digital-based options, among others.

Take your time and choose wisely – and start by kicking some tires on the POS systems listed above. One of them might wind up being your platform management’s bread and butter, after all.