Searching the right POS system
In between developing the growth strategy and marketing our products, the upcoming F&B startup that I was working for had a small itty-bitty bit of work: Selecting and deploying their POS system.
At first, it seemed like a trivial exercise. I am a tech-purist and love open-source/ Silicon-Valley inspired based DIY (do-it-yourself) software versions. So I quickly installed the demo version of Quickbooks (by Intuit – a company I’ve admired since long). A few easy configuration-master steps later, I was ready. Or so I thought.
The challenge in F&B POS (and I’d argue in every other sector) is not in setting it up. It’s in ensuring it runs like clock-work everyday and gives you actionable analytics. This is where I lost faith in Quickbooks. If I were at the store the whole day, I’d have happily solved minor problems as they arose. But my employees – as good as they are – did not give me the confidence.
And so I employed my second survival tactic: ask the experts! I checked-in with a few friends in the retail services industry and asked them to name the top-5 POS systems that they might have heard of / know of. A few calls later, I had a good list of 10-12 software products to get me started.
Step 1 was to go to their websites and see the look and feel of their product description pages. If a firm doesn’t expend resources in making a decent website, it will probably not give me the kind of “attention to detail” that I’m looking for. This step alone cut down my list of 10-12 to 7.
Step 2 was to create a simple 7 column excel dashboard (I have a cut-off of 7 for columns to avoid analysis-paralysis) to track my progress and to draw comparisons across software products (a not-so-final version of this dashboard is attached as Exhibit 1).
Step 3 was to reach out to all the vendors and take in an online demo of their software. I’d keep my ears open for understanding how the company started and what its history was, any unique USPs that they offered and the existing client list.
|POS Dashboard||Contact||Demo||Clients||Features||Service Levels||Price|
|Go Frugal||Y||Y||Y||US Pizza/Pizza Corner||Good overall, Chennai based||XXX|
|Breakaway Vision||Y||Y||Y||Dominos/Faasos||Great for deliveries||Good but Delhi based||XXX|
|Pace||Y||Y||N||CCD, Oriental, Goli Vada Pav, Jumbo King||Interesting software, different pricing model||Moderate||XXX|
|Shawman||Y||Y||Y||Aromas, Taj Hotels||Good all round s/w||Responsive, lagged deployment||XXX|
|Dytel||Y||Y||Y||Theobroma, Le15, Moshe’s||Interesting||Responsive, quick deployment||XXX|
|Quickbooks||Y||Y||Y||US based||DIY s/w||-NA||XXX|
Step 4 was to negotiate on pricing to the extent I could. A key tactic to use here is to not ask them for price – instead, set the “anchor” by mentioning what you’d like to pay ideally (which is obv. Lower than what you think their pricing is). This automatically creates an “anchor bias” in their minds and weakens their negotiating position.
Once your dashboard is all set – you’re almost done. The next key step is to understand what the true vision of your venture is and what are “must-have” and “good-to-have” features and services in your software. Note how I used the phrase “features and services” and not just “features”. People often do not place enough importance on the “Services” aspect of a purchase. Things do not always go to plan (esp. on visual basic and SQL based software products like these) and as and when issues arise in your software, your vendor should be around to help. I did this check by asking for 1-2 references from existing customers and then engaging them in a general 15-20 minutes in a general conversation. Most of the information comes out in these informal conversations.
This is clearly a difficult step. But the following tips might help:
- 70% of product features overlap across all the POS software products.
- Key is to figure out what the differentiating USP of your venture is: Is it home-delivery? Is it over-the-counter (OTC) sales? Or is it more table-capacity management?
- Once you understand your key USP, it is fairly easy to skittle down this list of 7 to around 2-3 vendors who are strongest in that segment. Thereafter, you should focus on price and service differentiation.
Figuring out the right supplier is obviously a very personal and subjective decision. I hope this small note based on my personal experience will help you figure out what the right framework to choose a POS system supplier is. I cannot underline enough the importance of choosing the right POS system for your venture – it is truly the backbone of collecting customer insight, running analytics and ensuring that there is no leakage in inventory.
While I’m not an expert on the topic, I’d be happy to help you with questions. Please feel free to shoot me an email at: Ankur.email@example.com if you have any more questions on this.
Btw, do see how some of the other restaurants are using Exotel along with their POS solutions for their delivery, and fine dining outlets.