EPoS makes you money!

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Tom Thurtle

EPoS for Pubs and Bars

Whilst nearly every pub or bar has some form of EPoS (Electronic Point of Sale) system, when did you last review what the EPoS market has to offer? If you are still rattling along with ten year old cash registers, you might be very surprised at just how sophisticated modern EPoS systems have become.

Like the personal computer market, technology moves in leaps and bounds and EPoS is no exception.

Primary Purposes

However you look at it, the primary purpose of an EPoS system is to support sales. No licensee wants to be stuck in the office struggling with paperwork and worrying about stock and cash, when the bar downstairs is full and swinging. You want to be down there with your customers and staff – engaging and selling, just as the jovial host should be doing!

For that to happen, your bar service has to run smoothly and particularly, with consistent and accurate pricing. EPoS can help that happen in so many ways – not only do well trained staff working with a well designed EPoS system perform faster and more accurately, the system is automatically taking care of issues like stock control and cash accounting in the background, while you dedicate your open times to what you do best – selling, keeping customers happy and maintaining a good service and a genial atmosphere for all.

It's called productivity – and a well thought out and carefully selected EPoS system increases that considerably. Time saving aids such as touch screens; food orders sent directly to the kitchen; sufficient sales points so that staff aren't queueing up to use a single till; all these design factors increase that all important "rate of serve" to maximize customer satisfaction, increase utilization of staff and most importantly, increase profits.

Promotion, Promotion, Promotion!

In these hardened times for pub operators generally, the word has to be "Promotion, promotion, promotion!" and that's just one of the areas where a modern EPoS system really comes into play. Special deals such as two-for-ones, mix-n-match or meal deals all keep the customers coming back, but can be a nightmare in terms of back office stock control and price setting. Not any more: modern systems can easily handle a host of product combinations, special deals and multi level prices; easily programmed, time of day and date activated, with the correct stock allowances for sales all being ticked off automatically and most of all, accurately.

In the area of special drinks and cocktails, modern EPoS systems easily handle the demands of complex, multi-ingredient stock control, with some even allowing individual "recipes" to be programmed.

Bar staff and customers alike will thank you for employing a system that accurately prices according to the promotions you design, thereby avoiding any customer dissatisfaction and the inevitable arguments such as "It was half that price yesterday!"

Keeping Cash

We all know that the licensed trade offers a unique and dangerous combination: alcohol - and cash. The need for cash and stock control has never been greater in these difficult economic times and modern EPoS provides even closer control of both.

Staff members can be individually identified to the system, using a touch-on "Dallas Key" or even finger-print recognition, so management know who is selling and who is not - and exactly what is being sold - if need be in real-time. With sufficient terminals, staff can be made responsible for their individual cash drawers and the EPoS system provides the all important audit trail for all transactions.

Top of the range EPoS systems even combine CCTV technology, linked at a transactional level. So, if there are suspicions on a particular transaction, or member of staff, it is easy to call up CCTV footage covering each sale and observe directly what was served and how the sale was paid for. This is a very effective tool against long-known, but difficult to track staff practices such as "sweet hearting" (cheap, free or extra drinks for the boy- or girlfriends), free or cheapened drinks for staff, under-selling and a host of other little tricks staff may think they can get away with, that only eat into your bottom line.

Voiding and No Sales

One particular area to watch is that of "voiding out", where a transaction is cancelled or reversed. These can be genuine mistakes, such as ringing ten pints instead of one; a customer misunderstanding or a mispour, but your EPoS system will record them all. Even if you allow your staff the ability to void transactions (your EPoS system can require management authorisation) it is essential to keep a "void sheet" and reconcile each void your EPoS system records – and to verify the reasons. At the very least, it lets your bar staff know you are "on the ball". "No Sales" are just as essential to monitor, these too are recorded by EPoS and can be linked to CCTV, so you can quickly see exactly what took place when that till drawer was opened, for other reasons than a sale.

Keeping Stock

Modern EPoS systems provide extensive reporting and look-up facilities for individual stock items and can even initiate automated ordering based on previous demand. For multiple site operators, the systems all have facilities to report sales, stock and banking data to head office on a daily basis. Such feeds also integrate with a wide range of back office accounting systems such as Sage and Quickbooks.

But there is little point in a sophisticated system producing all this information if you don't actually make use of it. The fact that stock and usage figures are available continuously at the simple tap of a few keys means it is possible to implement your own on-going and real time stock checking.

When you change a barrel or an optic, just take a moment to do a quick count and a look up on your EPoS system. Does the instantaneous physical stock agree with the EPoS stock count? Is the barrel or bottle being changed when you would have expected it, or rather earlier – indicating a potential stock loss. You really no longer need to wait six weeks for the next stock taker's visit to spot any problems with modern EPoS systems – you can (and should!) monitor your stock and correct usage on a daily basis.

Always remember to book any free stock you might be lucky enough to receive onto the system and to record wastage, ullage and any complimentary drinks accurately. Your EPoS system, for all its technology, can't second-guess your bar operation!


Food sales are nowadays the lifeblood of many pubs and bars and EPoS systems have kept up in this area as well. A good system offers both wet and dry stock control, with direct interfaces to kitchen ordering systems, ensuring your food service flows both smoothly – and profitably. The latest development in the food service arena is the Write-On tablet device, using wireless technology to communicate orders from waiting staff at table direct to the kitchen, both saving time and eliminating errors.

The ability to run tables, or "tabs" is of course an absolute necessity in any new EPoS system that is to process food sales, though do be very careful NEVER to allow the use of this feature for drinks "tabs" that aren't cleared by the end of a session. These tend to grow and if allowed to get out of hand, the customer might well decide to go and drink elsewhere – losing you stock, cash and future profits all in one go!

Electronic Payments

Integration with electronic payment systems is another huge benefit in a busy bar. If you are not doing it already, offering your customers the ability to pay by card really is a big attraction – and it reduces the amount of cash being held and needing to go to the bank. It even means less change to find!

Cash back is not only a convenient service for your customers – it too can increase sales, with people deciding to maybe "just have one more" whereas otherwise they would just have gone home. It also helps to reduce the amount of cash you are holding on premises.

The latest EPoS systems are now offering "contactless" payment technology. More than five million new contactless cards will be issued in the UK by the end of 2011, meaning customers can pay without needing to hand over their cards. Because no PIN is usually required to confirm a purchase, the maximum contactless transaction value is limited to £15 – making it both time saving and ideal for a busy bar. Around one in every seven debit or credit cards will be enabled by the end of 2010, so it is certainly a payment technology to watch and plan for.

Loyalty Schemes

Customer loyalty cards, whilst not much used in the pub industry to date, are another opportunity to grow sales and build customer profiles that can be implemented by modern EPoS systems. If you are considering such a scheme for your pub or bar, make sure that your choice of EPoS system is one that will allow you to expand in this area. Many systems are capable of managing loyalty cards and customer databases, including name, address and other contact data.

Property Management

For inns with letting rooms and hotels, some modern EPoS systems contain, or at the very least integrate to, recognized property management systems; managing room bookings, billing and other associated hotel functions.

Not to forget

When choosing any EPoS system, it is important to give consideration to its operating environment, particularly behind a busy bar. Do go for touch screen technology, which protects against the inevitable splash and drip and is also fast and easy to use. Don't forget useful added extras, like customer displays and secondary displays for bar supervisors. Consider security also: always invest in an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) to keep your system running in the event of power failure and always plan your back up procedures to safeguard the valuable data your system will generate on a daily basis.

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