Selecting the right point-of-sale (POS) system for your business is crucial; you have to consider a number of factors when choosing the program that’s best for you. The size of your establishment, your business’s specific needs, any restrictions imposed by your location’s space, and your personal preferences are all things to think about before settling on a new POS system. And when the time comes to explore the different available options, you’ll have no shortage of systems from which to choose.
CUTTING EDGE TECHNOLOGY
POS providers are constantly rolling out new options to keep up with the latest technological advances. As a result, cloud-based tablet systems are currently all the rage. Many POS companies have developed tablet-based options as an add-on to existing systems. Other new POS providers have emerged in the market focusing solely on this new tablet-centered trend.
Cloud-based systems have become popular in recent years due to their efficiency, ease of use, portability, and affordability. Tablet-based platforms also offer the added perk of taking up less room than traditional larger systems, saving coveted counter space.
ShopKeep is a cloud-based iPad POS system that was invented by a small-business owner. When founder/CEO Jason Richelson was running his two stores, he became fed up with his company’s POS system and sought out a cloud-based alternative. Unable to find one, he created one himself. Now ShopKeep has more than 7,000 clients.
ShopKeep’s iPad-based POS system has built-in software updates that are automatically installed via the cloud, so business owners need not manually update their own systems. Real-time sales information is readily available and can also be accessed by managers and business owners via a downloadable mobile app, so restaurant information can be managed at anytime from anywhere.
Importing existing data into ShopKeep is a simple process, allowing companies seeking a new POS system to easily make the switch. The system also allows users to turn on additional tablets during peak times of the year when additional cashiers are needed.
“We have a wine-shop client that keeps two iPads on hand,” Richelson says. “During the holiday season when things are busy, they can activate the second handheld register for a couple of months, and then deactivate it in January. You won’t be charged for the additional system unless it’s in use.”
Deb Filkins opened Cougar Run Winery in Concord, NH, in 2012. ShopKeep was recommended to her by her merchant service provider, and although she was attracted to its low price, she thoroughly researched multiple POS options.
“No one going into business is going to buy the cheapest option just based on price,” she explains. “It has to be functional.”
Filkins appreciates ShopKeep’s ease of use and personalized technical support. Describing herself as “not very computer literate,” she was impressed with how easy it was to download the program onto her iPad and get set up. She also uses ShopKeep’s mobile app to keep an eye on the winery when she’s away and her husband, Tom, is left in charge.
Richelson reports that many customers prefer the ease and convenience of being offered e-mail receipts vs. printed copies via ShopKeep’s system (a green feature that appeals to the environmentally conscious).
Tablet portability makes it easier to complete transactions in general. Waitstaff can bring the tablet to the customer and close out a tab anywhere on the floor. The slick look of the tablet-based system is also impressive to customers.
“People love the look of the sleek iPads,” Richelson says. “They feel good about themselves because they feel like they’re patronizing a ‘smarter’ establishment that’s using the most current technology.”
With ShopKeep, clients are charged an initial setup fee of $1,100. That cost includes an iPad, a swiper, a stand, a cash drawer, and a printer.
Users may try the POS system for a free 30-day period, during which time they have unlimited access to technical support over the phone.
After 30 days, if the individual isn’t fully satisfied, he or she can return the ShopKeep system and receive a full refund. If the business owners decide to keep the system, ShopKeep charges a monthly operating fee based on the number of tablets the business has in use.
A single iPad register package costs $50 per month. ShopKeep’s customers continue to have access to unlimited phone support free of charge throughout the duration on the contract.
TRADTIONAL SYSTEMS WITH CONTEMPORARY STYLE
While tablet-based systems are gaining popularity, they may not be the perfect fit for everyone. Some critics believe that mobile-based POS systems haven’t evolved enough to meet the needs of most businesses.
Jared Isaacman, founder/CEO of Harbortouch, says that while tablet-based POS programs may be an ideal fit for small businesses, larger operations may find them to be somewhat limited in terms of overall functionality.
“Basically, a lot of companies have developed apps to work within the existing tablet framework,” he explains. “That’s fine for some companies, but there are a lot of people who will need a real POS system that offers many additional resources.”
Harbortouch POS systems are currently managing the merchant accounts for more than 120,000 businesses nationwide. Isaacman describes the Harbortouch touch-screen POS unit as being very Apple-influenced, but it’s unique in that each unit is customized specifically for each individual business.
What’s also makes Harbortouch distinctive is that there are no upfront costs to the customer. Each system is provided, along with on-site installation, in-person training, and 24-hour technical support, all free of charge. Harbortouch’s revenue is based solely on credit-card processing.
When Melissa Hale joined the team at the farm-to-table Sobani Restaurant in Lakeway, TX, as general manager, she deemed the existing POS system virtually unusable. Having used Harbortouch at a previous job, Hale was thrilled to bring it to her new restaurant.
Harbortouch is easy to use for programming and adding new menu and drink items, Hale says. “It’s extremely user-friendly, and comes with great reporting features. It also has reservation and data capabilities that you don’t see with a lot of other systems.”
Hale also appreciates Harbortouch’s technical support. “They have remote access support, and you can contact them 24/7 and they can take over your screen and show you how to adjust any problems you’re having,” she says. “You don’t have to pay extra for that service, either.”
When it was time to replace an outdated POS system at Cullen’s Bar and Grill in Chicago, cost was definitely a factor in the decision. The business ultimately settled on Harbortouch, and the staff was impressed with the seamlessness of the transition.
“It was so simple to make the switch. Everything was done in the span of about three hours,” recalls Leslie Fitzgerald, general manager at Cullen’s. “I figured there’d be a few kinks to work out, but there really weren’t.”
Fitzgerald appreciates the many customizable options Harbortouch offers, especially with reporting features. “They cater really well to the restaurant business,” he says. “The reports are set up just the way we want them. Harbortouch gives you many different report options you can pick from, and then you can easily customize the reports for yourself.”
THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
Many restaurant and bar owners need a POS provider that offers multiple features to accommodate the needs of an evolving business. Microsoft Dynamics is one of the most robust POS systems on the market, and also one of the most popular: it’s currently used in 36 countries around the world.
Each individual system is equipped with the same powerful capabilities, and can be further customized to meet the needs of an individual business with features that include mobile, social, and omnichannel integration. Its flexibility makes it suitable for both large and small businesses.
One distinctive aspect of Microsoft Dynamics is that it’s designed to run the same way in whatever medium it’s accessed in.
“We’ve customized the look and feel to reduce training time and make it more efficient for users to access information,” says Michael Griffiths, global industry director for Microsoft Dynamics. “Many POS developers need to vary their technology for their program to run in an app, and the result is limited. Our solution is a flexible yet powerful program that works the same way on a tablet, a phone, or on a standard POS. All of these mediums are fully functional, and the look and feel are very consistent across platforms.”
Regardless of a business’s specific needs or preferences, Griffiths says that the goal any restaurateur should have for its POS system is the same: to enhance the guest experience resulting in a higher level of customer engagement. And with mobile and other new media capabilities constantly on the rise, Griffiths says that the business owners who succeed will be the ones who embrace new technology.
WHICH SYSTEM IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
Businesses in search of a new POS system need to consider multiple factors when making their selection. Here are eight of the most important things.
Functionality. Every restaurant and bar has different needs, and there’s no one size fits all POS solution that works for everyone. Determine what your specific needs are and look for POS systems that can accommodate them.
Ease of use. Any new system will require a training and adjustment period, but how well do you envision this system fitting into you and your staff’s daily operations? Ask potential new vendors to provide references of other businesses similar to yours who are using the system in their bar or restaurant.
Cost. Pricing is always a factor, but make sure you understand the nature of the product and what features may or may not be included before you sign a contract.
Space constraints. Realistically, how will you set up your POS system at your location? How much space is available?
Support. Inquire about technical service. If something goes wrong, how easy will it be to get help? How do system updates work? Will you need to install them yourself or do they update automatically?
Owner buy-in. If you are a business owner, make sure you weigh in on the POS selection process: don’t leave it solely up to your staff. Yes, other people may be accessing the system more regularly that you, but a POS system is a long-term investment in your company and a lasting partnership with the POS provider. Don’t leave such an important decision solely in the hands of your employees.
Technology. Whether you choose a mobile-based POS system or a more traditional option, you want to make sure the vendor you choose realizes that technology changes as your business changes. How has the system evolved over time? What are the plans for the future?
Logistics. This step is especially a concern for those opting for a mobile-based system. For example, if the tablet concept appeals to you and you like the idea of customers being able to check out quickly from wherever they are, where will you set up a printer in case the customer requests a paper receipt?
With so many POS options and even more questions for business owners to consider before committing to one, understand that selecting a new POS provider is a time-consuming process that should not be taken lightly. A POS system is at the heart of your business. So take time to find the one that’s the best fit for you. ·
Melissa Niksic is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in marketing communications, specialty retailing, digital media and entertainment, among other topics.
2013 POS and Computer Systems Buyers’ Guide
AccuPOS provides point-of-sale (POS), inventory-management, and time-clock software for the retail and restaurant industries. AccuPOS products are based on open standards and expand the capabilities of an existing accounting program. Bundled POS solutions are available via fully supported hardware partnerships. For more information visit www.accupos.com.
ATLANTIC SYSTEM INC.
ASI’s Spirits 2000 is a Windows-based software package that provides inventory and financial control. High-speed integrated credit/debit card processing is done via the Internet. A web interface is available for e-commerce. Prices for Spirits 2000 start at $8,500. For more information visit www.asi-nj.com.
BigCommerce’s all-in-one marketing and e-commerce platform boasts SEO, tools to create online stores, and more than 100 built-in marketing tools that make it easy to sell on iPhones, Facebook, and eBay. More than 30,000 businesses in 70 countries are using BigCommerce. For more information visit www.bigcommerce.com.
Powered by Groupon, Breadcrumb is an iPad-based POS system that offers an offline mode and promises seamless integration with Groupon vouchers. The basic app is available for free, and the Breadcrumb Pro version features plans starting at $99 per month. Learn more at https://breadcrumb.groupon.com.
CAP Software’s store-management system, Sellwise, provides POS, free integrated credit-card processing, inventory control, customer tracking, order/receive, tag and barcode printing, Fintech integration, and back office reporting. To learn more visit www.capretail.com.
Cashier Live is an affordable, easy-to-use point-of-sale system designed just for independent retailers. The company offers a 30-day free trial of its systems, which can function from a computer, iPhone, or iPad. Basic plans start at $20 per month. For more information visit cashierlive.com.
Spirits by Cetech was designed for New York State wine/liquor retailers. Cetech offers custom application development for the intranet as well as the internet. For more information visit www.cetech.com.
CHOICEMASTER DIGITAL SIGNAGE
CMDS has teamed up with digital-signage partners to provide a system that can also be used to show paid advertising from other businesses. CMDS has an all-in-one computer featuring a 15-inch touch screen, a scanner and a printer. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.
COFFEE SHOP MANAGER
Designed specifically for managing coffee shops, Coffee Shop Manager offers several versions of POS systems. Tablet-based systems are also available. For more information visit www.coffeeshopmanager.com.
DSmart Technologies offers retailers a free point-of-sale system to buy advertising space from them on that system. On the cashier side, the DSmart Register is a fully functioning POS system. All of the store’s data is kept in the in-store system and is also backed-up on DSmart’s servers. For more information visit dsmartinc.com.
First Data offers a range of point-of-sale terminals as well as complete POS systems, including its Payment Essentials Solution, which bundles comprehensive payment services, state-of-the-art hardware and 24/7 customer service into one easy-to-manage bundle. For more information visit www.firstdata.com.
Harbortouch offers both a touchscreen POS system to retailers and also provides services such as credit/debit and gift-card processing. Harbortouch’s only cost to retailers is a merchant-processing fee collected during credit-card transactions. For more information visit www.harbortouch.
INNOVATIVE COMPUTER SOLUTIONS
ICS’s Vision system can run on Windows XP and 7, Linux, and Mac/OS. The POS module within Vision is designed to provide full register capability. The Vision POS can be operated on a standard PC or a touch-screen system. Vision includes hardware, installation, and training at the store location. To learn more visit www.winepos.com.
Lightspeed Retail is a Mac-based POS system for small to medium retailers. The system can be outfitted to use iPads and iPod Touches as registers. The company offers an open application program interface (API) to allow end-users to build their own custom add-ons to the system. For more information, visit www.lightspeedretail.com.
Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail offers multichannel management, store operations, merchandising, and enterprise resource planning capabilities. The system delivers role-tailored, omnichannel scenarios through a modern, unified technology offering. To learn more visit www.microsoft.com/dynamics/ax/retail.
mPOWER BEVERAGE SOFTWARE
This Windows-based system offers integrated credit cards, remote access, touchscreen capability, e-commerce integration, and PCI compliance. Also, mPower Beverage can be installed on Windows 7 tablets for functionality such as inventory adjustments, ordering/receiving, or line busting. For more information visit mpowerbeverage.com.
NCR’s assisted- and self-service solutions and comprehensive support services address the needs of retail, financial, travel, healthcare, hospitality, entertainment, gaming, and public sector organizations in more than 100 countries. For more information visit www.ncr.com.
Prophetline is a POS and retail management system that includes IP credit-card processing, integrated web shopping, and fully integrated accounting. It can handle operations from one store to multiple sites with centralized purchasing. To learn morevisit www.prophetline.com.
NETSUITE FOR RETAIL
Netsuite for Retail, formerly known as Retail Anywhere, is a cloud-based, multichannel retail management system that integrates POS, ecommerce, CRM and marketing, merchandising, warehouse management, and finances. Learn more at www.netsuite.com/portal/industries/retail/main.shtml.
RITE (RETAIL INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ENTERPRISES)
RITE has molded the Microsoft RMS product to meet the needs of beer/wine/liquor retailers, including the ability to integrate with their suppliers (invoicing and pricing /EDI), integrated age verification via drivers licenses, profit-margin monitoring, advanced purchasing tools and web site integration. For information visit www.rite.us.
SAGE NORTH AMERICA
Sage North America specializes in business-management software and services for small- and mid-sized businesses. Its latest release, Sage 50 Accounting 2014 for small businesses, includes automated purchasing and shipping options, cash-flow monitoring, various invoicing formats, and multiuser options. For more information visit http://na.sage.com/sage-50-accounting-us.
Developed by a wine retailer, ShopKeep POS is a complete iPad point-of-sale (POS) system designed for independent retailers. Subscription prices start at $50 per month for a basic system with one iPad register. For more information visit www.shopkeep.com.
Windward Software’s Liquor Store POS includes capabilities for integrated video monitoring, real-time accumulation of sales, customer relationship management, product tracking, case breakdown, 2D scanning for ID clarification, touch-screen capabilities, cost controls, and reporting. To learn more visit http://liquorstorepos.wws5.com.
WOLF TRACK SOFTWARE
Wolf Track’s POS Software is available as software-as-a-service (SAAS). Though the system runs entirely on a store’s computers, the software can be downloaded from Wolf Track’s website. The software can run a touchscreen system; updates to the software and support are free. Automatic database back-up is available for an additional fee. To learn more visit www.wolftrack.com.