Weighing Up the Value of a New Café POS System

When it comes to selecting a point of sale system for your hospitality venue, the choice has never been greater, or more difficult. There are literally dozens of different options, ranging from ‘free’ apps for your tablet through to fully integrated systems worth thousands of dollars. Every system has its own advantages and disadvantages and, frankly, no one has the time to investigate them all. So how do you make an informed choice? What factors need to be considered when ascertaining whether the systems you are looking at offer good ‘value for money’?

In this article:
Initial Outlay vs Ongoing Charges
Low Cost Hardware vs Reliability & Security
DIY vs Professional Help
Cloud-based vs Local Data
Enhanced Efficiency Saves Money

Initial Outlay vs Ongoing Charges

For any small business, decisions surrounding capital outlay require proper scrutiny. But for a start-up café, the money required just to open your front door for the first time is quite considerable. The coffee machine, cooking equipment, furniture, shop fit-out, counters and fridges – it’s a long and somewhat daunting list! So its little wonder that further outlay on a POS system proves to be a ‘step too far’ for many cafés.

Understandably then, the recent advent of cheap (or free) software-as-a-service ‘POS apps’ has provided many cafés with an easy way to get started. And to be honest, for a small espresso bar with limited products and little need for integration, a ‘POS app’ may be a perfectly suitable solution.

There are a few questions worth asking in regards to costing if selecting from these tablet app alternatives – What do the ongoing costs add up to over the course of 3 – 5 years (the expected lifespan of a purpose built POS terminal)? What happens to your POS settings and sales data if you decide to move on and stop paying the monthly fee for the app? Do you own or have access to your data? It may be that purchasing, or even financing, a system that you own with no ongoing license fees may prove to be more economical in the long term.

Lower Cost Hardware vs Reliability and Security

Another primary advantage of a ‘POS app’ is the ability to bring your own hardware – such as a tablet/iPad or computer. Many business owners utilise a spare iPad they had at home, or buy a cheap Windows laptop to run a POS program. Undoubtedly, this can save you money – but is it necessarily a good idea?

Hospitality venues can often be tricky environments for tech gear. Is a tablet or laptop designed to be used in that kind of scenario? If you have multiple staff – will they all treat the equipment with the care it requires to last a long time? Another aspect to consider is security. ‘POS apps’ are typically installed as 3rd party software on a generic operating system. So even if the app is stable, it can only be as reliable and secure as the OS it is working on. Also worth considering – can staff close the app and use the tablet or computer for other activities, like browsing the internet or playing games?

So while it may be cheaper to bring your own hardware, is it really the best idea for your business? We are not saying that purpose-built POS equipment is absolutely bullet proof, but it is usually designed to handle the rigours of the environment it is developed for. ‘Embedded POS systems’ that don’t run as a third-party app, but are designed as the sole function of the terminal, have a reputation for being quicker, more robust and less susceptible to misuse.

DIY vs Professional Help

In recent years the ability to save money by doing tasks yourself, that previously required the help of a trained professional, has changed the way we live. Especially on the technological front, with the advent of the internet, has this change been prominent. We can now organise our own travel arrangements, purchase items from around the globe, develop our own website and handle our own banking and bookkeeping.

This ‘DIY’ mind-set has flowed across to the point of sale industry. The latest ‘POS apps’ are designed to allow the end-user to install, set up and maintain their own POS system without the need for extensive outside assistance. And again, for simple POS implementations, this is likely to be a perfectly adequate solution.

So is it ever worth paying a POS professional to set your system up, and provide training and support? Yes, for several reasons:

  1. Your time is valuable, and what might take you hours to sort out might take an experienced technician half the time, freeing you up to focus on other necessary activities.
  2. POS hardware and printers aren’t necessarily ‘plug and play’ like many modern home/office peripherals. They may require specific settings to operate on your network, or function the way that you need them to.
  3. POS professionals have experience in setting up hospitality systems and knowing what they are typically capable of. You could miss out on valuable functionality if you don’t get good advice on how to use your POS system effectively.
  4. And finally, if problems do arise, having someone who is available to help and knows how your system is set up is invaluable in getting your POS back up and running. After all, the last thing you want is unnecessarily extended downtime for your POS system.

Cloud-Based vs Local Data

Here is another amazing technological development of the last few years – ‘cloud storage’. Many new ‘POS apps’ promote the fact that their data is stored online. The benefit is that your POS settings and sales information is available to you from any location with an internet connection and that if devices break down, it is simply a matter of logging in with a new device to access your system.

There is no doubt that using ‘cloud storage’ is incredibly beneficial – it enables businesses to implement an off-site backup of critical data, and allows the easy transfer of data between remote locations. But it also comes with overheads. Some business owners are reluctant to operate solely via cloud-based apps that are reliant on the availability and speed of an internet connection. Additionally, with recent concerns over cyber security, there is a trend toward wanting primary data to be managed locally to avoid unnecessary risks.

Regardless of whether your POS system stores operational data locally or remotely, a proper backup routine including off-site backups should be implemented. Most POS systems have the ability to email sales management reports or save key figures to a ‘cloud’ location. And if you want to access locally stored data from a remote location (such as working on your POS program from home), you can easily use remote access software such as TeamViewer to achieve this. There are countless options – you just need to speak to your POS provider to discuss a suitable solution for you.

Enhanced Efficiency Saves Money

The primary functions of an integrated POS system are that it (1) provides an easy mechanism for recording sales, (2) efficiently communicates orders to the applicable areas for preparation (ie. the barista and kitchen), and (3) supplies useful data for managerial analysis. When a system achieves these primary goals well, your café runs more efficiently, which saves you time, money and headaches. That has to be worth something! In contrast, if you choose a POS that doesn’t meet these basic requirements you won’t experience the benefits that a properly set up system can provide.

Let’s be honest – your point of sale system is probably the least exciting piece of equipment you’ll have to acquire to set up your café. But you’ll certainly notice it if it doesn’t work properly! So when doing the research on what POS you need for your venue – consider all the costs… not just the initial outlay, but the reliability, usability, security and longevity factors, and the advantages of proper installation and ongoing support.

Conclusion

In reality, as mentioned at the outset, there are advantages and disadvantages in all POS systems. It is important to weigh up all of these factors when deciding on what POS solution fits your business.

We invite you to consider our Uniwell4POS systems – robust, purpose-built hybrid ePOS systems that are based on decades of hospitality point of sale development. UniwellDirect and its resellers have finance options that can make the implementation of a properly integrated system more manageable.

We are confident that these systems can provide a cost-effective solution to your ongoing café point of sale needs.

This article was originally written for the Uniwell4POS website, and has been used with permission of the author.

 

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