5 POS Tips for Café Start-Ups

Starting a hospitality business is a huge undertaking.  There are so many things to think about – location, equipment requirements, décor, marketing efforts, menu development, just to name a few.  So it’s little wonder that choosing an effective POS system is often forgotten in the inevitable scramble leading up to opening.

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So whether you are opening a new café or looking at improving an existing operation by upgrading your current POS system, here are five basic tips for you to consider:

1. The POS must be easy for staff to use

While this might seem to be a ‘no-brainer’, it is often not considered to be one of the key selection criteria when choosing between a range of POS solutions.  During busy periods, your counter staff will need to be fast and accurate when entering customer order details into the POS to keep your café operation running smoothly.  So when viewing demonstrations or trialling a POS system, check how easy the POS screen is to navigate around, make corrections, add extras to an order or specific cooking instructions.  Pretend that you are in a peak period, and see how efficiently you can enter a variety of orders for 5 minutes straight.  If it passes the ‘ease-of-use’ test, you are well on your way to finding a good POS solution.

2. Data analysis is critical

After the initial flurry of activity involved in opening your new café, it won’t take long for you to start seeing trends in your operation that you can analyse to assist with management decisions. What are you doing well? Where can improvements be made? How can you attract and retain customers? This is why sales data analysis is such a vital component of your future success – you can assess venue performance and look for ways to increase profitability, improve processes and measure the success of promotions you undertake. Combining the insights you gain from your sales data with your knowledge of social and coffee industry trends will enable you to increase your chances of long-term survival.

3. Your systems do have an impact on the customer experience

You may not necessarily think about it, but your point of sale system can have a real impact on the impression your customers get of your café. The ease and clarity of the order-taking process, the accuracy and efficiency of food and beverage preparation and the timeliness of meal delivery can all be directly linked to your POS and related technology. When you stop to consider that the chances of a customer returning to your café and possibly becoming a regular visitor often hinge on that all important first impression, it demonstrates the significance of staff and equipment all working well together to provide a pleasant experience.

4. Give some thought to your future requirements

It is understandable that café start-ups would have a limited budget for their initial POS system.  But give some thought to the possibilities of what you might want your system to do in the future.  For instance, would you like to add handheld order-taking devices at a later date, or install a kitchen video display system? Can you add a rear display to the POS to display promotions and specials? What about implementing a loyalty program, or managing corporate customer accounts?  While your initial system might not include these advanced features, can they be added at a later date if desired?  Don’t box yourself into a limited setup that can’t grow with your business.

5. Remember that expenditure on POS is an investment

There are three key returns on that investment that you want to look for when choosing a POS solution – reliability, efficiency and flexibility.  So ask yourself these questions when considering your options:  Has the POS terminal been designed to physically handle the busy environment of your café front counter?  Does it help you to be more efficient – both in the daily operation of your venue, and in providing sales data on which you can make good business decisions?  Can you easily make changes to refine and improve your POS setup once you have it up and running?

For so long, a humble cash register sat on the counter of many cafés, tallying up sales and securely storing the cash. But the needs of business have changed drastically in recent years, and your point of sale equipment can no longer be viewed simply as a glorified calculator.

Be a forward-looking café owner and consider your POS system as a critically important management tool.

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