You have a dream.
You want to create a unique restaurant and dining experience, with the best possible quality in ingredients and service. Or perhaps you have spotted an exciting gap in the market for an off-the-wall fast food joint. Or maybe you already have a beautiful venue and now you’re deciding on the next round of improvements that’ll take your restaurant to the next level…
Whatever the situation, in a fast-paced technical world, there’s no getting away from it: once your restaurant gets to a certain size or volume of business, a decision on an EPOS is an inevitable part of the cost/benefit equation.
The two questions you’ll most likely be pondering are:
- For my investment, what do I get out of it?
- Out of the massive range of choice out there, what’s the best EPOS for me?
Consider the Benefits
Why do you need an EPOS? Well, consider the benefits…
- Automation of processes that will (hopefully) save you some time, effort and money. Traditional EPOS focus on back of house operations like HR, stock management, till management, etc. – all things machines are good at! Now that you don’t have to fumble tats of paper, you can get on with the stuff that counts on the restaurant floor, whilst assured that the back of house runs as smoothly as possible.
- Features that drive you business. Very few EPOS systems focus on front of house, but those that do will of course pay back on your investment rather than simply save you time and money (ahem, nudge nudge wink wink…). There is a growing regiment of providers that build in reservations and bookings, loyalty schemes, social media and so on and restaurants are quickly getting clued up as they understand what drives competition and footfall through the door… aside from awesome cupcakes and coffee.
- Features that make life easier. As a manager, you have better things to be doing than arranging for menu reprints, fiddling with a scrapbook diary for reservations or plugging away at your spreadsheet to get the stats that you really need to really understand your restaurant activity. This is EPOS bread and butter. It will save you time and effort and the benefit to your business is obvious… ok it’s not as important is delivering a great service (although there is one EPOS we can think of that can help you there too…) or fantastic food, but efficiency is key in any restaurant and technology can definitely help you get there.
A Cost or an Investment?
Nobody needs to tell you that EPOS can be a very expensive investment. We choose that word carefully: investment. It’s not a new piece of furniture or ornament – those are simply expenses. The time and money capital you put into the EPOS – given it’s benefits – should positively work for you.
Sure you can go pen & paper, with a simple analogue till – that’s certainly cheap! And hey, if it works for you then great, no need to spend any more. However at some point you’ll start to notice the cracks appear. Leaked orders, forgotten reservations, busy lines, unfulfilled orders, overworked staff all adding up to a steady decline… At that point, some investment in a point-of-sale system that will plug those holes will start to pay off. Seeking a balance between saving on cost of investment and potential loss can be hard, but clearly there are solutions out there that work – and work well!
Of course cost is an important factor, it should not be the only factor. Look for vendors that will allow you to trial with minimal risk. Also there are some products (like Epicuri) that allow you to install and benefit the entire system without the £2000+ odd commitment that you might be used to seeing.
Consider how an EPOS will work for you
This investment should not put a strain on your staff to learn or dictate how you run your restaurant. The technology should work for you, not the other way around. You can either use an EPOS as a piece of necessary furniture or – as is the case with mobile EPOS like Epicuri – it becomes a part of the experience, both for host and guest.
It’s important you think about how your new EPOS solution will work around your current business and the people that will actually be using it. Get something too complicated, and you’ll both waste time and money – not to mention handling frustrated staff! Get something too simple, and it won’t do everything you need it to – you’ll either end up trashing it or filling the gaps with expensive add-ons.
Support is another issue that might be important to you. All good EPOS providers offer some kind of package, some even offer it for free. You don’t think twice about insurance; support contracts are basically the same idea, i.e. to protect your business from a nasty outage.
In terms of features you’ll find that there isn’t a whole lot that differentiates one EPOS from another, but some will have at least one or two unique selling points that will strike a chord with you and the way you run your restaurant (I’m desperately trying to be objective here and not just plug Epicuri!!)
So… which EPOS is best?!
But after all those considerations, is this new shiny gadget the “best” EPOS for you? In truth, you’ll probably never know definitively and it’s near impossible to pick that precious perfect one from the many that are out there. All you can do is balance the equation: does the benefits + features – effort – cost = a more positive, fruitful experience for you and your restaurant? Does it move the needle?
… and how do you want the needle moved? A very successful restaurateur once interrupted me mid-pitch and said “I don’t care about cutting costs, I care about increasing revenue!”. This was surprisingly on point when thinking about how modern EPOS can now be more effective by using the cloud and being mobile and social media ready. Our view is that traditional EPOS offerings are no longer enough. Cost saving is now a given, it must also help drive revenue, engage guests and lift the restaurant profile.
Whatever your choice, ensure (a) the objectives that you set out with are not only met, but exceeded (b) if you’re paying through the nose, you had better be sure the investment will pay off and (c) the EPOS works positively for all concerned, owner, manager, staff and most importantly, the guest – because right there, sat between the table and chair, is your actual ‘point’ of sale.
Update Jan 2015:
Found some other nice and short guides… sure, they’re from our competitors but you decide what’s best… and if you’re not sure just call us… <cheeky face>