When you think of your restaurant, whether it's already open or you're still in a planning phase, technology and terms like "open source" probably aren't the first thing to come to mind. But overlooking advances in technology is a great way to set your business up to fail. Technology is everywhere—from your phone to your car, to the register you use to ring up your customers—so staying on top of technological advances for businesses is in your best interest.
Even if you're not tech-savvy, our easy guide to open source POS and how it can help your restaurant is a quick read and full of important information you need to know.
POS is likely a familiar term if you've been in business a while. For those just starting out, the term might not be so clear. It stands for Point of Service or Point of Sale, and it refers to things like your register or cash drawer and the software you use to run your business. It's easy to see why POS is important to restaurants.
The term "open source" might be a bit trickier to understand, especially in terms of how it relates to food service. Simply put, open source is a term used to describe any software that is free for anyone to look at, use, and modify to their needs. This is important to restaurants because the very best POS software used to be carefully guarded and sold at a premium price. That meant only the biggest food service businesses with the deepest pockets could reap the benefits of these new and impressive POS systems.
When open source became popular, more and more POS systems began using it. Over time, more companies were able to develop their own unique POS software, geared toward their specific industry. For small to medium restaurants, that meant it was finally their turn to try out those cool new features and stand a chance against the bigger, more wealthy restaurants.
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There is little, if any, difference between open source POS and proprietary POS. The main difference between the two is the freely viewable and customizable code that proprietary POS lacks. Does that mean free products for everyone? Not exactly, but what it does mean is that programmers and coders can use the free code to improve existing code or to create completely new programs based on the original open source, and then pass on those new tools to consumers. Open source software has helped drive down the cost of POS systems, helping even the smallest companies get their hands on powerful and useful technology.
In short, just because the source code was free to view and modify, it doesn't make the resulting POS solutions inferior to the expensive, proprietary ones. Truthfully, this new development has helped to improve options for all restaurants. Some great things to come from open source POS include…
1. Free Trials
Since there was less cost in developing the software, thanks to open source software, companies can offer free trials to potential customers. This helps spread the word of the POS parent company while allowing small to medium-sized restaurants try powerful software without breaking the bank. Without open source POS, free trials wouldn't be likely
2. Low Cost
After your free trial, if you decide you like the system, the cost is much lower than proprietary software. That can mean a very low up-front cost, a low or non-existent monthly fee, and usually no hidden fees either. Check any contracts or included documentation to be sure though.
3. Expandability and Sister Apps
When programmers use open source code, it means the likelihood of compatible sister apps raises. For a restaurant, that opens the door for new apps to add to your POS that can help with things like back-end support, inventory control, employee management, checklists and task lists, and even some impressive food safety software. With open source POS the options are endless.
4. Ease of Use
Open source POS has proven to be easier to setup, easier to use, and easier to modify. Proprietary software is restrictive, expensive, and a closely guarded secret. Since everyone can look at it and modify it to fit their needs, it's exciting to try new things. When everyone can use software, ways to make it more user-friendly are sure to follow. For restaurants, the result is shorter learning curves and faster training for employees, thus equating to less downtime and more time on the floor talking to customers and making delicious food.
In addition to compatibility with sister apps and software to help expand its usefulness, open source POS has helped create a chain of compatibility with multiple devices. That helps keep changes and updates in real-time—like sales, inventory counts, and task checklists—and lets information be shared across multiple devices without having to mess around with conversions. Proprietary software often doesn't allow for such compatibility.
If you read over the points above, you likely already see the pattern here. This trend in technology has opened the door for small to medium-sized restaurants to finally get their hands on powerful tools that bigger restaurants have had for years. That provides a much-needed edge for the "little guy," helping them compete with the deeper pockets of big chain restaurants.
It's not always about what you can get out of a situation, as we're sure you already know, but it's nice to know other benefits are coming down the line. By supporting companies that utilize open source, you pave the way for more advances in the software your restaurant needs to keep its edge and continue to succeed. That means more apps, more features, and less cost for you, in which you can finally focus more time on growing your business.
To learn more about restaurant systems and the features you can find, check out this great article on examining your current POS System. Or, if you think you’re ready to try an open source POS System in your restaurant, try out Hubworks’ Plum POSfree