About six years ago I turned my mind to opening my own business.
A number of factors presented themselves to me at the same time, I was tired of making money for other people – who I felt weren’t always that grateful for my blood sweat and tears. I’d come out of a marriage break up and had split the proceeds of an Apartment sale, I was ready to pour myself into a new project, and I had a family member who was also keen to invest on our little slice of Hospitality dream.
As we planned and sketched out the list of requirements to make our dream come true we came up against our first stumbling block – which till system – or Point of Sale (POS) Should we use?
A POS Legacy
For over a decade and a half I’d worked with a multitude of different POS systems, almost all Legacy systems. The kind of sets ups where you have a PC tower or five in an office, connected to grainy monitors and so much Cad 5 cabling it looked like a snakes wedding.
The POS terminals themselves were sometimes fickle and liable to crash and I learnt to carry a small penknife, a keyring torch and a have a stock of Gladwrap behind each bar.
I’d work against the clock like a character out of Mission Impossible, trying to tickle open a closed till draw when a POS terminal had died – then furiously count all the dockets with my torch between my teeth to try to work out how much people owed on their bar tabs.
If I succeeded in raising the terminal from the dead the Gladwrap was wrapped like a bandage over the ‘patient’ to cover everything in a moisture repelling sheath – or scrunched together to tie cables in place.
I can laugh about it now, but I assure you, at the time nothing was more costly, disruptive and disheartening during service than receiving a call over the radio to run and solve a tech problem or stop an extremely upset Chef from throwing a thermal printer into the deep fryer.
When we couldn’t fix the issue ourselves, a visit from the POS engineer cost us hundreds and hundreds of dollars an hour – even more on weekends and Holidays – and that was when you could get in touch with your ‘Designated service advisor’ at all.
Which way to turn?
For our small start-up we needed 1-2 tills, an Eftpos machine, a printer for the bar and one for the Kitchen.
We shopped around, but the best quote from those Legacy POS companies that even wanted to speak to us was $10k for refurbished equipment (that’s second hand to you and me) And an ongoing monthly service fee.
$10k was a big ask, as was $100 a month for a service fee – it was a huge slice of our small budget.
I started wondering if this was a case of better the (Legacy) Devil you know – or was there another answer?
Not all Heroes Wear Capes
We’d been speaking to other small businesses in the area and asking what they were using, and someone had given us a tip to call a Tech Integrator. It was at this point that our hero got in touch and introduced themselves as a Cloud POS specialist.
We were able to catch up for a coffee, give them the requirements we had for a POS system and more importantly our budget, and we were then introduced to the team at Kounta.
The benefit to us of using a Tech Integrator was huge, especially as they had specific knowledge and background in our Industry and could give us a balanced view of what they thought our best options would be.
During our setup phase they popped in to work with us and make sure we got our heads around the system and uploading new items or inputting stock deliveries etc.
Above all, even with the Integrator fees and the System equipment – an iPad, a waterproof case, a stand and 2 remote printers it was still vastly cheaper than going with another system
After a month or so of a few paid support meetings we felt confident enough to push forward on our own and have not maintained a support contract – but that’s entirely up to you – If you feel more comfortable having a Techy on the other end of a phone call to help, most Integrators will provide this service.
Life in the Cloud
Fast forward 5 years or so, and we’re still using Kounta, though of course there are many other Cloud based POS systems on the market.
After my initial concerns about how robust an IPad would be behind the bar as a POS terminal we are still using the same one (though we’re probably due a change soon) The waterproof case we used works a treat, and we simply screwed it onto an old Legacy tilt screen base we scrounged out of a skip!
Of course, you can spend what you want on posh terminal holders etc. but the fact that you can use different size tablets with various covers makes life so much easier AND CHEAPER!
The success we had with using Cloud POS led to me join Floodlight Analytics and work with numerous other businesses to help them get the best out of their POS systems – as well as introducing many of our Customers to some of the Tech Integrators we recommend in Australia, New Zealand the US and Europe.
I can’t speak for other systems, but the main thing for us and for the other businesses I get to work with through Floodlight and Smarter Hospitlaity, is that Cloud based systems are a fraction of the cost of Legacy, and it’s far easier to shop around and change your system if you’re not happy.
If it isn’t broken DO fix it
I’ve heard of battles within businesses from Directors who argue they just can’t walk away from the Millions and Millions they’ve spent on installing, updating and replacing their Legacy POS systems – and yet through experience I can tell you that a clumsy nail punched through a wall into a cable can literally bring a 2000 capacity, 5 bar nightclub to it’s knees.
The phrase ‘If it’s not broken don’t fix it’ simply doesn’t apply to your POS – take the huge rise in online food delivery providers like Uber Eats, or Foodora – if you’re business model incorporates these services you’re going to struggle with a Legacy system and end up with whole farm of screens for each delivery company – none of which connect to each other or your POS.
When it comes to trying to view any sort of Sales or Performance Analytics data from these services they all give individual information, but manually entering it all into your POS or a spreadsheet is incredibly time consuming – not to mention prone to costly mistakes.
Square – another Cloud based POS company understand this and have recently announced their new Restaurant focused POS will incorporate food delivery service ‘Caviar.’ While the launch is focused on the US, it won’t be long before we see the same development here in Australia, as the demand for home delivery continues to rise.
So, the question is, can you afford not to change your POS system?