How to Pick the Best POS for Food Truck- Get Your Business Moving
What is a POS System?
Picture this- After a hearty meal, the restaurant employee brings you the bill. You proceed to make your payment. The restaurant staff brings out a sleek-looking machine, swipes your debit/credit card. The software asks you to enter your secret PIN. You do that and the machine says that your payment is successful, and generates a receipt. Welcome to the new mode of making payments. Welcome to the Point of Sale system or POS system.
POS refers to a place where a business may accept payments from the customers for the goods or services purchased. It may be located inside a physical store, where retail POS systems and terminals may be used for credit card processing, or it may be a virtual sales point like a computer or a tablet. It is a system where various aspects of a business, like customer service, payment processing, inventory management, employee management, reporting, and sales, come together.
Food Truck Business is Lucrative: According to Food Truck Empire, a study of 223 food truck owners in Florida, New York, Texas, Oregon, and California found that over 85% of these entrepreneurs earn more than $100,000 in annual gross revenue.
Essential Parts of POS Systems- Hardware and Software
Every POS system has two components, namely hardware, and software. POS hardware commonly comprises the following-
Interface- It may be in the form of a simple register that helps in the calculation and processing of customer transactions. It may also be an iPad POS or a system working on a tablet, touchscreen, or a mobile, where the details of the transaction can be keyed in.
Debit/credit card reader- It lets customers pay securely, whether through contactless cards, mobile wallets (like Google Pay or Apple Pay), chip cards, or magstripe cards. Card readers require specific software, SIM cards, or landline cables. Card readers that are app-based POS instruments use wi-fi or data from connected mobile devices.
Cash drawer- Even if a business deals with contactless payments, a cash drawer would come in handy to safely store cash, cheques, coupons, receipts, and slips. A POS software linked to the cash drawer can track exactly when the drawer is opened. This would make sure that the chances of fraud are minimized.
Barcode scanner- It is used to read the details of a product so that it can be recorded in the POS system. It is linked to the POS system's inventory list and product counts are updated according to items sold.
Receipt printer- It shows customers their payment details and is also used for end-of-the-day reports.
Network devices- This could either be a modem, wi-fi hub, or a dongle to provide internet connectivity to the systems on the premise.
POS software comprises programs that help in the processing of sales and can also offer inventory tracking, analytics, sales reporting, customer data management, employee management, and so on.
POS systems have usually been maintained on site, but these days, more and more merchants are shifting to cloud-based systems as they greatly reduce upfront costs, offer advanced POS features and help in tracking and processing bulky purchases. Cloud-based POS systems allow easy integrations with third-party software programs as well.
POS solutions often allow transactions to be processed at customer locations, making room for direct interaction with customers. At restaurants, POS terminals placed at the table dispense with the need for paper menu cards, and allow customers to view menu items and place orders digitally. Restaurant menu management software is a POS feature that is used to create and manage menus, which are really the heart and soul of foodservice businesses.
A POS may also include security integrations for tracking potential theft and may also be used as employee time clocks. Thus the POS system has evolved into a full-fledged restaurant management system with multiple functions, all of which can be controlled from a single platform.
The adoption of web-based POS systems over self-contained traditional POS systems does away with the need for POS hardware. Web-based and cloud-based POS architecture store data online on a cloud server and can allow merchants to sync accounts and inventory between online and offline stores. The compactness and portability of web-based POS solutions have led to the integration of POS technology with mobile phones, and mobile POS or ePOS systems.
Kitchen Display Systems: Restaurants look to increase their efficiency by installing POS-integrated kitchen display systems. These are order display systems that allow the kitchen staff to provide prompt service.
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Cost of POS Systems
Using the right POS software, businesses can keep track of pricing, sales patterns and buying trends, inventory changes, and revenue. This would help them identify possible discrepancies in pricing or cash flow that could interrupt profits. It also helps businesses customize marketing to consumer behavior and avoid customer service issues, like products going out of stock.
An important point that businesses have to keep in mind, however, is the cost of the POS systems. A small business, especially, cannot afford to overpay or pay for features that it would hardly use. Some vendors offer free POS hardware. That way, merchants can save money upfront but have to get into long-term contracts to lease/rent the equipment.
POS solutions, especially, those that have migrated to the cloud, are not too costly nowadays, and a small business can get going with a payment of $50-250 per month. Businesses also need to factor in POS fees on account of payment processing, extra hardware, add ons, etc.
Features Every Food Truck POS System Must Have
Talking about small businesses, what do food truck owners have to keep in mind while selecting POS systems? Food trucks take orders and process payments quickly in a tight space, on the go. So food truck POS systems have to be well-suited to handle such a fast-paced business. Here are the features that the right food truck POS systems must contain-
1. Payment flexibility- A food truck business has to be ready for various kinds of transactions, whether it is through debit/credit cards, gift cards, tipping, online ordering, or split group payments. A food truck's clients are invariably those who are pressed for time, yet want to catch a quick bite, and getting stuck with card machine errors can make customers impatient. Worse still, it may drive them away. Food trucks are also frequented by foreign tourists, who come to taste the authentic local meals. Therefore, the POS systems food trucks use must provide the opportunity to accept most major currencies.
2. Small footprint- Food trucks work with much less space than most commercial kitchens and it is imperative that the POS architecture does not take up too much valuable counter space. Most food truck POS systems can actually be used across phones, tablets, laptops, and desktops. This becomes particularly useful when a merchant serves and moves between multiple food trucks.
3. Easy to use- A complicated POS system is certainly not what a food truck owner wants, given that he/ she is already fatigued while managing orders at speed, changing truck locations often, standing for long hours, and multi-tasking as the cook, cashier, or business owner at different times. One must ask for a demo before installing a POS system and check if the POS provider has reliable customer support, online training guides, and account management features.
4. Real time reporting and analytics- The best POS systems food trucks use are able to analyze customer behavior and generate reports, on the basis of which, businesses can offer loyalty schemes for their regular customers and even build repeat orders from one-off customers.
Food truck owners should know that about 80% of the revenue generally comes from 20% of the customers, and if this section is treated well, it can significantly push up sales through word-of-mouth and social media channels. A POS integrated with a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform would help businesses to personalize communication with loyal customers.
They can also help to identify the best- and worst-selling menu items, how much is being spent on extra employees, how much to expect in the cash drawer at the end of the day, sales by the hour and location, and also provide alerts when stocks are running out. These reports help operators make data-driven decisions to maximize profits and curtail resource wastage.
5. Uninterrupted connectivity- Since food trucks often operate from remote locations where the internet connectivity may not be great, the POS system food trucks use should be compatible with offline modes. A food truck owner should be aware of the connectivity redundancies available, for instance, the option to use cellular service when the internet is down. Also, all communication channels should be secure to prevent data breaches.
6. Adjustability- Food trucks may need to change menus on the fly to cope with changes in stocks. Pricing may also need to change in the course of a day as the truck moves from one location to another to take into account changes in demand and purchasing power across localities. Moreover, tax rates may vary across municipal jurisdictions and the food truck's POS system should be able to adjust to that.
7. Online ordering- The option to place orders online would significantly reduce customers' waiting time and add to the popularity of the food truck, for example, among people rushing to the office.
8. Mobile payments- The POS system food trucks employ can significantly improve customer experience supporting options like self service kiosks, mobile POS, and mobile payments like Google Pay, Apple Pay, and Android Pay.
Let's now look at some of the best POS systems for mobile businesses like food trucks-
Best US Cities for Food Trucks: A survey by Food Truck Nation found Portland (OR), Denver, Orlando, Philadelphia, and Indianapolis to be the friendliest cities for food trucks, while operating food trucks in Boston, Washington DC, San Francisco, Minneapolis, and Seattle was found to be considerably challenging.
Top 6 POS Systems for a Mobile Business- 1 PlumPos
Hubworks' Plum POS is one of the best POS solutions currently available. The Plum One provides a single POS register and is ideal for small restaurants, food trucks, and kiosks. It includes a 2.3GHz dual-core seventh-generation order station base along with a detachable wireless order entry touchscreen. The Plum One also comes with a thermal receipt printer, cash drawer, and networking equipment, and has the option of financing, which is as low as $59 per month on approved credit.
Plum POS is a cloud based software, which allows food truck owners to have the data on hand wherever they move to. It is extremely simple to use, which helps to optimize operations, allowing staff to devote more time to customer service and spend less screen time. Hence, the customers can be served quickly and efficiently, which is what food truck businesses must aim for to manage turnaround time and increase revenue.
This POS system has preset menus for various restaurant types that can be set up quite easily. The company's customer success team helps to ensure a smooth transition. Real time and in-depth reporting aids decision-making.
Plum POS can connect with any device through any connector, can communicate effectively with the Plum Kiosk, Plum Digital Signage, and Plum Handheld, and does away with the need to have multiple systems and logins, which may lead to confusion. So if an entrepreneur wants to add a Plum Kiosk to his food truck, or introduce a new and updated digital signage system, and even let the staff carry the Point Sale (point of sale) to different places, he can control everything with the help of a single, uniform system.
The cost of the Plum One is $1716. It comes as a part of the Essential Station Bundle.
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No 2 - Food Truck POS- Square For Restaurants
This iPad POS is mainly used for small operations. Two of its biggest plus points are the cost and the fact that it involves no long-term contracts. It offers three subscription tiers, including a free tier, which is ideal for microbusinesses like food trucks.
The free subscription tier comes with the most basic features that food trucks use. One can create menus, ring in orders, process payments, and analyze sales data with the help of simple reports. The food trucks need not pay for features they do not use.
The hardware price ranges from $49 for a contactless card reader to $1,339 for a full restaurant POS station kit. There is no one-time installation fee, but processing fees vary from 2.6% + 10 cents for in-person transactions to 2.9% + 30 cents for online or invoice transactions.
Square is very easy to set up with the help of just an iPad and card reader and a food truck can receive orders and payments in a single afternoon. One merely needs to create a Square account, link a bank account, and download the POS app from the Apple App Store.
The Square POS can be used on an unlimited number of devices and can communicate through any wifi network having a speed of 25 megabytes per second. Fast internet connections can also be accessed through mobile hot spots or LTE-enabled mobile routers.
A pocket-sized device called Square Terminal allows food truck owners to process payments and print receipts from the palm of their hands. It can also process simple orders using their advanced Point Sale (point of sale)
Furthermore, the integrated Square Invoices tool allows food trucks, which often do good business in private events like weddings, to get the catering deposits organized and payments processed. According to the company, 75% of the Square Invoices are paid within 24 hours. The tool is free, though the processing fee for online payments is a bit high.
The free Square Online Store can be used to collect online orders and support a contactless QR code-based ordering platform, whereby customers can place orders and pay directly from their smartphones.
Last but not the least, Square's Email Marketing and Text Marketing tools allow food trucks to collect customer contact information and send email/text promotions. Sales associated with each promotion campaign can also be easily tracked.
No 3 - Food Truck POS- Toast
Toast is another food truck POS system. It is a hybrid POS solution devised exclusively for the restaurant business. It works on industry-grade touchscreen tablets and handheld devices and its hardware is Ingress Protection (IP)-rated to survive drops, heat, and water penetration. These features make Toast suited for busy trucks in which the equipment is prone to enormous stress and strain.
The Toast POS software can support trucks of all sizes. Smaller trucks can start with the Pay-as-You-Go subscription that charges no software fees and provides up to two terminals at no upfront cost. As the business grows into a multi-truck fleet, tools can be added and the business can move to a higher subscription tier. Pay-as-You-Go users can add marketing and loyalty tools for an additional 0.40% in payment processing rates. On the other hand, if a food truck owner is willing to pay upfront, he can avail the Starter Kit terminal for $799. Toast's payment processing fees start at 2.49% + 15 cents for in-person transactions.
Much like Square, Toast supports a QR-code-based online ordering tool for a completely contactless experience. The Toast Go 2 handheld device is a very comprehensive POS terminal.
Toast boasts of integrated ingredient-level inventory tracking and vendor management that keeps food trucks supplied. In-built employee management tools help in scheduling crews for various trucks. Reporting and analytics help to identify best-and worst-performing menu items so that adjustments can be made in Real Time. The Toast framework also allows one to measure tips by employee and inventory by ingredient level. It supports KDS options and some robust marketing tools.
No 4 - Food Truck POS- TouchBistro
TouchBistro's USP is that it is very easy to learn and use. It is a self-installable, cloud-based restaurant POS system that uses iPads to do a variety of hardware functions in the form of Point Sale (point of sale) terminals, KDS screens, self-ordering kiosks, and handheld devices. It has an iOS interface and operates on the same lines as an iPhone. TouchBistro offers multiple payment processing options like the built-in TouchBistro Payments, TSYS, or Square. Processing fees vary according to the processor.
The upfront price of the Pos System is $69 per terminal per month, making it hard to compete with systems like Square and Toast that provide free baseline subscriptions.
Another important feature of the TouchBistro Point Sale (point of sale) food trucks may use is upsell prompts. It ensures that the trucks do not miss a chance to sell their products when it may improve customer experience.
TouchBistro gives you 24/7 customer support over the phone, webchat, or email and also has a comprehensive online database of training materials.
No 5 - Food Truck POS- Lightspeed
Lightspeed is a cloud-based POS system that requires no setup or installation fees. The Lightspeed retail POS software can operate on a web browser on any desktop/laptop and goes well with iPads. Lightspeed is an authorized Apple reseller, which means that one can buy iPads and other third-party POS hardware from the company.
Third-party POS hardware, in fact, can be bought directly from Lightspeed in the form of a bundled package or on a standalone basis. The Lightspeed iPads can be used for a variety of purposes, including as a mobile register or a stationary POS terminal.
There are four pricing plans that are available with the Lightspeed retail POS, starting at $69 per month. The Lightspeed restaurant POS supports an unlimited number of users, tableside ordering, customer management tools, reporting, and integrations. Its price starts at $59 per month. Premium add-ons can be availed with a price starting from $39 per month, and the options available are accounting integration, self-ordering kiosk, delivery integration, order ahead capabilities, a loyalty program, and a loyalty app.
Lightspeed's very own payment processing service, Lightspeed Payments, has a flat rate and carries no additional fees.
The payment processing fees start at 2.6% + 10 cents for in-person transactions.
Other standout features include a strong inventory tracking framework, customer management and loyalty programs, easy employee management, the ability to run over 60 built-in reports, and over 250 integrations with credit card processing equipment, analytics programs, accounting software (like QuickBooks, Xero, and Sage), marketing services and other business programs. It is a great Point Sale (point of sale) to use.
No 6 - Food Truck POS- Clover
Clover has two POS software plans, and four hardware plans. The software plans include Register and Register Lite, while the hardware options are Clover Go, Clover Flex, Clover Station, and Clover Mini Pos systems. The hardware options are specific to Clover and come with credit card terminals.
Register Lite plan costs $9.95 per month and includes features like the acceptance of all credit and debit cards, including EMV cards, and contactless payments, tracking of cash payments, offline payment processing, paperless receipts, changing taxes at the item level, refund processing, setting employee permissions, managing employees, payroll and shifts, and so on.
The Register plan is priced at $39.95 per month, and includes all the features of Register Lite, and additional ones like inventory management for items, integration with a weight scale, pre-authorization of credit cards, automatic building of mailing list, review of customer feedback, and reply with coupons, creating of a simple and customized loyalty program, and so on.
As far as hardware is concerned, the Clover Go costs $69, the Flex is priced at $499, the Mini starts at $749 and the Station costs $1,349.