A Guide to POS System Hardware

Point of Sale systems can be confusing to any restaurant owner.  With the different parts and components to your POS system, it is helpful to take some time to learn the basics so you and your employees can be familiar with how the system works.  This can become handy in technical support systems where a physical technician is not available and relying on your assistance.

The Core Components of a Point of Sale System

The most basic POS systems will include the following core components:

  • Touch PCA Touch PC is the most important element of your POS system.  It includes the traditional elements of a desktop computer, with a touch screen monitor, that runs your point of sale system.   POS softwares are designed to be used specifically on a touch screen with large buttons that can be easily pressed for a faster and more efficient ordering process.  They will typically be covered in pressure-sensitive film so they may be operated with pressure only and not susceptible to other influences.  It is always recommended to use a Touch PC rather than a traditional desktop PC since they are built to withstand commercial environments like a restaurant.


  • Magnetic Strip ReaderMagnetic Strip Readers (MSRs) are what you use to swipe credit cards.  If your restaurant is going to accept credit cards you will need a magnetic strip reader.   MSRs have an electric sensor that reads the magnetic strip on the back of a credit or debit card; it also allows for gift card, customer cards, loyalty cards, or employee cards to be read.  The recommended setup for an MSR is an integrated one.  This mean the MSR fits with a standard Touch PC where the POS software will automatically read the card when swiped and charge the correct amount.  This allows for quicker and more accurate checkout compared to the alternative setup is where an external credit card machine is connected to a PC.  In this setup an employee would be required to enter the charge amount manually at checkout and human error increases while speed an accuracy decreases.  Nimble will always recommend an integrated MSR for these reasons.


  • Receipt PrinterReceipt Printers print sales transaction records.  Specifically POS systems typically use thermal printers because they print faster, quieter, and higher quality.  Thermal printers use heat sensitive paper (receipt paper) so no purchase ribbon is required.  They work by printing an image on the thermal paper when it passes over the print head.



  • Cash DrawerCash Drawers are still vital part of the POS system’s hardware, regardless of how far technology has come.  Cash drawers are typically made of metal to take the rough and tear of daily restaurant wear, but are also one of the first pieces of hardware that need replacement as well.  They will usually have distinct compartments for coins and bills to allow cashiers to quickly and accurately deliver customer change.  Cash drawers open functionality is created by running a cable, similar looking to a phone line, from the receipt printer to the drawer.  It prompts it to open when a cash transaction is completed.  Majority of the time when a POS cash drawer is malfunctioning it is due to the cable being unplugged.


  • Kitchen PrinterKitchen Printers allow the POS to communicate with the kitchen.  While receipt printers are connected directly to the POS terminal, kitchen printers are connected over the network by being plugged into a router or switch.  This way any terminal can communicate with the kitchen printer no matter the distance between the two, even in larger restaurant spaces.  There may be different kitchen printers located throughout the kitchen.  For example a kitchen could have a printer specifically for each station (appetizer, salad, entree, dessert, etc.) that will only print that stations orders.  Kitchen printers must be fast and loud in a busy kitchen where orders are constantly coming in, and be able to withstand the kitchen’s daily grind.  Unlike receipt printers, they do not use thermal paper due to the already hot temperature in the kitchen.


There are a number of additional add-on devices that can assist in enhancing, increasing functionality, and improving overall performance of your Point of Sale system including pinpads, display units, tablets, etc.  Nimble offers complete restaurant, institutional, or retail management Point of Sale systems.  If you you would like to request a quote on a full system or hardware, contact us

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