Bar and tavern owners are saddled with many of the same concerns around margins as other businesses. The challenge of keeping costs low, especially after an initial opening or a rebranding, is a priority that must be executed with precision. The temptation may grow for bar owners looking to save on costs to consider implementing a free point of sale software solution. It is important to not fall into the “free” trap when seeking a POS solution. Often, though, free bar point of sale software can hurt your business instead of helping it.
Free POS platforms will almost certainly be incomplete solutions when taken out of the box. Services, such as payment processing, and features, such as payroll management, may incur additional costs. Since adding features and services may prove to be more expensive than purchasing an innovative POS solution, it is important to note the differences so that you can make an informed decision.
Free POS Systems Require Deeper Levels of Due Diligence
Knowing the potential catch-22s that a free POS solution may bring into your business is the first step in making a knowledge-based choice. While there are pros to each free POS solution on the market, the draw of these free systems must be proven to be true. This requires you to take a close look at the fine print, weighing the potential benefits against the liabilities that will be present in any free POS system.
The main question to ask yourself as you examine any free POS solution is if the system is truly free? Another key question to ask is if you can rely on the free system, as is, to be the foundation on which your business processes can be built. Chances are highly likely that the answer to these questions will be no. However, this does not necessarily mean that free POS solutions for bars are all bad. It does mean that closer scrutiny is warranted when using a free solution is on the table.
Locked or Missing Features Will Break the Free Promise
When it comes to free POS solutions for bars, you will find that the terms “free” and “included” are applied loosely to the entirety of the solution. A sales presentation or trial installation may include some promising options, but when examined closely, they fall short of your requirements. This forces you to suddenly open your wallet if you are to unlock the full potential of your once “free” POS option.
Examples of this we have seen in the free POS include transaction and sales data storage, but exclude payment processing hardware and services. This adds not only an unplanned cost to the POS solution but places you in a position of having to make a decision on a payment processor in addition to selecting a POS product. Not only do you now have two systems to support, but the likelihood of them accurately sharing data for further reporting falls in the neighborhood of slim to none.
Subscription, licensing, and usage limits are all factors we have seen with free POS solutions for bars and taverns. Most free POS options on the market do not allow the flexibility bars required for ringing up custom drink orders or tab management. A lack of upfront transparency quickly becomes painfully evident, as even if you purchase the appropriate add-ons to perform these tasks, there is no guarantee that microtransactions aren’t buried inside of the core product. This makes it nearly impossible to calculate the overall cost of the once “free” POS solution and can make balancing the books a drink-provoking event on your part.
Can You Match POS Software Features to your Customer Service Goals?
The POS platform you choose for your bar will have a lasting impact on the level of customer service that you provide. Your bartenders and bar staff must keep their focus on the customer, and a sub-standard POS solution will only serve to distract them from your customer service mission. Your POS solution must take the load off of your staff, and in a cost-effective way so that the level of service you provide gets better.
One goal of your POS system should be to properly align its features with your customer service goals. The POS system you implement must be a valued asset that works well with your business without losing out on critical functionality or being hit with hidden fees. It will ideally include essential hardware and software integrations that fit your bar’s operating processes like a glove. And, it should cast a feeling of technical accomplishment your bar, instilling a noticed confidence in your staff by the customer.
Unfortunately, free bar POS systems do not typically include customer service boosting or engaging technologies, such as app-based drink menus or mobile payment, unless you are willing to pay a premium in fees. Also, updates to a free POS system may not happen regularly, if at all, leaving you and your customer’s data at risk the moment the system is brought online. Only a legal professional’s glance at the fine print can help you to avoid the snag of a misaligned POS solution while helping you to avoid unplanned costs.
Fees Come Easy in a Free POS Solution
Hidden fees and costs for features, including license expirations that you may not have been aware of, always seem to strike the wallet at the worst time. An expired payment acceptance license at 11:30pm on a bustling Friday night is not the time to be hunched over in the corner, desperately trying to reach a support representative.
Obscure fees can reveal themselves in many ways and will have a detrimental impact on your bar’s bottom line. Some classic examples of hidden or obscure fees include:
- Customer service. Most free POS options do not include flexible customer support options. This will cause an issue should your system experience problems outside of support hours, which may result in added fees or worse, no response until normal business hours.
- Equipment fees. You may assume that a free POS solution will include the register, card terminal, and receipt printers, but don’t be so sure. Fees to use compatible, often proprietary, hardware can easily get out of hand.
- Subscription fees. Many free POS systems come with software that runs free for a small amount of time on a trial basis. Once the trial ends, you may find yourself locked out of certain data points or key functions until you pay.
- Payment Processing. The most expensive and hardest to find of the hidden costs, if payment processing is included with the solution you most likely will have zero ability to modify the terms and conditions. Even if you are free to choose a payment processor, you may be limited by compatibility to the software of your free POS vendor.
Any fees you may incur or discover over the course of using a free POS system will not only negate any initial cost savings but will at the end likely cost you more than if you had chosen a top-notch, paid POS solution that was designed with bars in mind. Paying for a POS solution not only gives you better cost transparency, but easier access to support and customizable features as well.
Leaning on a POS Solution Provider’s Expert Analysis Means Success
As promising as a free POS solution may sound the features and add-ons a bar will require will most likely not be included in a free package. Hidden fees, licensing costs, and upcharges will quickly make any free POS solution quite costly. This requires that you look closely at the fine print, but unless you are versed in contract law, many nuances will escape your notice. This is why it’s important for you to seek out the expertise of an experienced POS provider. Your POS consultant ensures that any POs solution you are considering presents full feature and pricing transparency.
When you need to enlist the help of an expert to identify and implement a transparent POS solution, talech is here to help. We take the time to identify your business challenges and work with you to apply a solution that brings you to the top of your game. With a wide range of customizable features and flexible hardware options to choose from, you can feel confident knowing the system you’re implementing gives you the results you desire. Reach out to us today to sign up for a demo and to learn more about how talech can be your valued POS partner.
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