Investing in a POS system is one of the best moves you can make to foster the success of your small business. However, not all businesses have the same requirements for such technology; what works for one operator may not work for another. Additionally, POS technology offerings vary from vendor to vendor. Follow these tips to increase the odds of choosing the right POS system for your small business:
Understand your needs
Unless the POS system you purchase satisfies the needs of your business, it will not generate an adequate return on investment. For this reason, make a list of features you consider to be must-haves as well as those that would be nice to have if they fit into the budget. Then, when assessing your options, ask vendors to explain—and preferably demonstrate—how each feature satisfies each identified need.
Different kinds of small businesses have different requirements, so it’s probably best to pick a POS system with industry-specific features. For hospitality players, these features may (depending on the type of operation) include the capability to split checks among multiple parties, run multiple open tabs, and add gratuities to credit card payments. Also on this list: integration with kitchen display systems; solutions designed to manage reservations, seating, and delivery/takeout; and the ability to track inventory and generate ingredient orders in accordance with inventory levels.
The last thing you want when you’re running a small business with a limited number of employees is a POS system that is difficult to learn and a challenge to use. When evaluating offerings from various vendors, it is important to look for POS systems that are intuitive and that you feel comfortable using. Ideally, you shouldn’t need to review the instruction manual unless you’re going to customize the system—something most small operators don’t do.
How can you be certain a POS system really is easy to understand and operate? Ask the vendor for a hands-on demo so you can truly see for yourself.
Be realistic about price
The POS system investment for small businesses should be based partially on a percentage of annual sales volume— typically 1% to 1.5%. Be sure to factor in ongoing hardware and software maintenance costs, training, the total cost of ownership, and the expected return on investment. Resist the temptation to buy the cheapest POS system you can find just because you don’t run a big business. Many inexpensive offerings aren’t designed for long hours of use or for harsh environments.
“Vet” vendors carefully
Don’t assume that just because you have a small business, it’s acceptable for POS system vendors to provide you with less service than they would a larger restaurant. Seriously consider purchasing your POS system from a given vendor if you’re guaranteed the same support that’s available to the “big boys.” The training available from any vendor worth working with will also be as comprehensive as the training afforded to larger operations. It should be given on-site, with follow-ups as necessary.
Operating a small business can be a challenge, but the right POS system can definitely make the difference between minimal headaches and maximum stress. Keeping the above pointers in mind when shopping for hardware and software will definitely help you choose wisely.