Setting up and operating a busy café or hospitality venue can be a complicated affair. There are so many decisions to be made, so much to think about – location and décor, equipment and staffing requirements, menu development and marketing efforts, to name just a few. Making well-informed choices relating to each of these components can have a major bearing on the success of your venue. So, how can you go about understanding all the factors involved without being overwhelmed?
It has often been said that success comes from doing the simple things well. How could this be applied to the decision-making process you need to go through for the many aspects of setting up and operating a café? The idea is to figure out your fundamental requirements related to the choice you are making, and then make sure that these basics are very well cared for by the option you choose. Understanding and prioritising the selection criteria for any decision can clarify the process and ensure that you don’t get ‘bogged down’ by focusing on non-essentials.
Let’s apply this process to selecting a point of sale terminal.
If you are researching a POS system for your venue, 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?
Let’s consider 5 ‘simple things’ that you need from your POS system – key criteria that can help you to clarify what you are looking for.
1. Reliable and easy to use
As the centrepiece of your front-counter, your POS terminal needs to be a ‘workhorse’. Staff need to be able to enter customer orders into your system quickly and easily, ensuring speedy service. Accuracy is also important, so your point of sale terminal can’t be so complicated that it becomes an unnecessary burden on staff to enter the necessary details. The POS also needs to be robust – constantly in use by different staff with varying levels of experience, not just for a week or a month, but hopefully for years.
2. Improves in-house efficiency
Another key benefit of a point of sale system needs to be in-house communication. A busy café will have multiple staff catering for the needs of any given customer – barista, chef and kitchen-hands, and multiple servers. To be efficient and meet your customers’ needs, all of these individuals must be clear on what they need to do. A properly configured POS system can provide you with the means of ensuring that staff receive clear information regarding customer orders and allow you to enhance your in-house processes.
3. Easily customisable
Your hospitality venue will be an ever-changing organism. Menu items and options will change, cost and selling prices will go up and down, and available products will come and go. As these things develop and you refine your business, you need your hospitality POS to be easily adapted to suit. So our next ‘simple thing’ is programming – make sure that you can easily adjust your point of sale system without requiring extensive outside assistance.
4. Simplifies and enriches wait staff – customer interaction
When a customer’s order is taken, it’s vitally important that your staff know what options they can offer and what questions they need to ask to successfully complete the request. A modern point of sale terminal can be set up to prompt staff to suggest appropriate selections for items being ordered. The clarity of this communication increases guest confidence and, with the improved in-house communication mentioned earlier that assists your staff to respond to requests accurately, enhances the overall customer experience.
5. Delivers useful sales data for analysis
A final basic requirement of any hospitality POS system is the provision of useful sales reports. Rather than just receiving a tally of sales at the end of each day, modern systems can provide detailed analysis of sales across the day or week ‘by hour’, show you your best and worst performing products, and much more. These reports can be viewed over short, medium and long-term periods, providing an excellent source of analysis – demonstrating what you and your staff are doing well and where you can improve.
Of course, these may not be the only factors you need to consider regarding a new POS solution. For instance, you might have limited space, so size becomes an issue. Or you might want to manage your café remotely, so that needs to be factored in.
But rest assured that if a system that you are researching has a solid reputation for doing these 5 simple things very well, you are on your way to finding a good POS solution that will enrich your business and assist you in managing your venue more effectively.
This article was initially written as a Uniwell4POS submission to Cafe Culture magazine.