Anyone who runs their own coffee shop, restaurant or bar will know that it’s not always easy. Long waiting times, competition from big chains and unhappy and underperforming staff can make your passion project an uphill struggle.
However, with the help from the right technology, you can curtail these problems. EPOS, or Electronic Point of Sale systems, are an upgrade from the traditional till system, in that they process transactions and store cash. But they do so much more.
1) Make informed decisions
EPOS systems do more than just process transactions; they log all sales, collect data and present it back to you in customizable reports. While small business owners used to make changes based on hunches, EPOS allows them to tweak their business based on granular data. It can tell you what is selling well, what isn’t and what times of day they’re selling. With this information, entrepreneurs can make their menu more profitable, change opening times and amend their staff situation.
Say, for example, that your bar or restaurant doesn’t get many customers on a Monday afternoon. Through the collection of data, your EPOS system will be able to tell you exactly the percentage difference of people at that time against your average footfall. It will even tell you how much money you could save by changing your opening times. Then it’s up to you to decide whether you want to alter your opening times.
It also logs all your stock, and can match up ingredients with products, so you can see how much your spending and on what. Know if you’re running low on coffee beans? Your EPOS system will let you know about the state of your stock and suggest updates you may want to make before it runs out.
2) Reduce waiting time
We live in a fast-paced world. Over the last twenty years, customers have gone from paying with cash to card to contactless. Each new stage has made purchasing quicker and shortened queues across all types of hospitality businesses. The only issue is that technology has reduced waiting time to the extent that now people come to expect not to wait.
Any small hospitality business owner reading this will know how vital it is to have a card reader that can take contactless payments. The quick tap of a card on a reader as opposed to sorting out cash or inputting a pin number has reduced queue times. With the right system, you can attach your card reader to your EPOS so you can take accept contactless payments and log them as sales.
This is not the only way an EPOS can help save time. Some EPOS systems are mobile, meaning that your staff can pick it up (sometimes even fit it in their pocket, depending on the brand) and go and take customers’ orders with just a few taps. No longer will they have to spend time scribbling out words on an easily-mislaid bit of paper. It might not seem like you’re saving much time in individual cases, but that time adds up, and all in all, it will help the efficiency of your business.
3) Make fewer mistakes
To make a mistake is to be human, and towards the end of a lengthy shift, your staff are likely tired enough to let things slip. If a waiter gets an order wrong, not only will you have to deal with an unhappy customer but you’ll be left with a meal that nobody’s paid for. This is bad for the customer, stressful for the staff and bad for business.
With a suitable EPOS system, your staff can take orders, input them into the iPad or touchscreen, or whatever hardware you’re using. That order will then get sent directly to the kitchen, essentially cutting out the middleman and any mistakes he would make. This means less stress for your staff and fewer annoyed customers.
4) Get to know your customers
Having a strong CRM (Customer Relations Management) strategy is a great way to keep your customers coming back. With inbuilt customer loyalty schemes, EPOS systems allow you to log customer data — emails, age, favourite foods — and provide you with the knowledge to reward your most loyal customers.
Like a lot of marketing techniques in the hospitality business, this starts on the shop floor. That is to say, your staff need to go the extra mile with your customers. Get to know them, become their friends. This kind of grassroots approach will have a great impact in winning the hearts and minds of your customers.
EPOS systems allow you to go beyond that. Some packages include inbuilt customer loyalty software. With this, you let the customers know that they can enter into a scheme where their visits to the bar, restaurant or coffee shop will be rewarded with discounts. Unlike coffee chains like Caffe Nero, which gives its customers pieces of card that are stamped each time they buy a coffee and a freebie once they have enough stamps, an EPOS system logs the customers’ loyalty in the back office. This means that the customers’ details and the extent of their loyalty are secure, and they can’t be lost like a piece of card.
Once you have a customer’s details you can then email them about news, events and offers that are happening in your hospitality business. This is a great way to make your customers feel like you’re thinking of them, that they are valued customers, first in line for any potential discounts or deals. You must use this sparingly though — you don’t want to be annoying.
To conclude, every small hospitality business that wants to grow would benefit from an EPOS system. A point of sale system won’t revolutionise your business, but it can certainly help.
George is one of Nobly POS‘s co-founders . He’s completed a masters in Management and Organisational Analytics and has helped build digital teams and products for companies such as BSkyB and McKinsey & Company. It was at the latter where he met his fellow Nobly co-founders and the rest is history- they’ve been providing EPOS systems for coffee shops, delis, restaurants and bars for five years.