January 27, 2016

How to Choose a Payment Processing & POS System: 10 Steps


With all the complexities of running your own coffee business, shopping around for the best point of sale (POS) system can seem like a nightmare. In all honesty, the use of a POS system comes in handy in pretty much any industry. From running a restaurant, to even running a medical marijuana business, the use of something similar to a dispensary pos system can make running a business a lot smoother, can save you a lot of time and money too Who has time to compare contracts when you need to train new staff, deal with deliveries, cup some new beans, clean the floor, clean your equipment, and do 8,947,239,589 other things?

The thing is, payment processing is confusing, it’s complicated – but it’s everywhere. If you don’t accept card, you’ll lose sales. At the same time, that’s not a reason to settle for a deal that doesn’t suit your business. Payment processing should make your life easier, not harder.

SEE ALSO: Struggling to Profit? 6 Ways to Keep Your Coffee Shop Making Money

There are a lot of good POS options on the market for coffee businesses, so stay with us as we take you through the ten things you need to consider.

  1. Integration

Your POS system can be as simple as processing card payments or as complex as managing your accounting, marketing, hospitality, customer databases, and more. Determine upfront how much you want to integrate your overall business strategy; while your needs may change over time, if you start with a fairly comprehensive idea of what you want then you’ll be miles ahead.


Many POS systems are fully integrated. Don’t let yourself get stuck doing your accounting by hand.

  1. Advocacy

When things go wrong, and they will go wrong at some point, you need to know that you have someone on your side. You need a provider who is willing to sit on hold, possibly for hours, and fight for you when you need to dispute something with a major credit card company.

  1. Contact

How easy is it to contact the company? Are you relegated to an impersonal form or do you have a direct line to your personal agent? Knowing you can contact someone when things go south is incredibly important.

customer service

No one wants to sit on hold all day waiting for customer service.

  1. Perks

Free printer paper, free receipt portfolios… there are lots of things credit card companies are willing to give out. It never hurts to ask what a card processing company can do for you. Whether it’s just peripherals or it’s help moving from your old system to their new one, it all helps.

  1. Customer Service

No matter the industry, customer service is often worth that little bit more. Credit card processing companies approach service in different ways. Some have agents that you can speak to directly, some have phone systems you have to navigate to get to the right person, and others are forward-thinking and use social media to answer customers’ questions. No matter their method, you need to know that your credit card processing company will go above and beyond when you really need their help.


Will you have someone to help you navigate all the details of your payment system? Photo credit: Writix

  1. Pricing

Pricing can seem almost as complex as credit card processing itself. Some companies, like Square, offer a flat rate for processing all types of cards. Other companies and card processors, like , offer tiered pricing, meaning that different types of cards are charged at different rates. Depending on the types of cards your customers use this can work out better than a flat rate. On top of all that there may be fees associated with your account. Ask about setup fees, interchange fees, monthly statement fees, and gateway access fees. If you’re switching POS systems double check to make sure you aren’t subject to an early termination fee.

  1. Technology

Credit card processing is in a constant state of flux, since technology is advancing rapidly. Whatever company, whether it be Allied Wallet or anyone else in the market, you choose for processing needs to be up to date with their technology and continue to keep up with it. If they are leading the field with their technology, even better. Keep in mind, though, the latest and greatest technology is worthless if it doesn’t do what you need it to.

old register

If you’re using a register like this, it might just be time to upgrade.

  1. Ease of Use

The best system in the world is useless if it is too complicated to navigate. You don’t want to be scrambling to find that one item you need when you have a queue out the door; simplicity, especially on the interface you use constantly, is key to increasing the speed of transactions and keeping the queue moving. But in addition to being easy to use in the middle of service, it should also be easy to set up new items and navigate the back end sorts of things like setting up printers and changing settings.

mobile and coffee

With services like Apple Pay, more people are paying with their phones. Can your business keep up?

  1. Reporting

All these sales are great, but it’s even better when your POS system helps you to track your sales records and customers’ habits. You’ll start to truly understand the trends at your own café. Knowing what sells and what doesn’t helps you to tweak your menu and better meet your customers’ needs. It helps you to make smarter business decisions, like when to have more staff on and when you’ll need to order more stock.

  1. Underwriting

Many shops never have to deal with this, but if you do any catering or events where you may get a large one-time payment, it’s good to know that you are pre-approved to receive it. Sometimes that pre-approval can take days (though you are probably already approved for a certain amount). So find out your current limit, the system for getting anything above that approved, and how long it will take. And bear in mind that if you have a great relationship with your credit card processor, they may be willing to underwrite something for you at the last minute – but you can’t count on it.

Whether you’re picking out your first POS system or looking at getting an upgrade, it’s important to go into it with as much information as possible. There are a lot of high quality POS systems out there, including ones that are set up for the food and beverage industry. Take Aloha, set up for restaurants, Nobly, who offer a ‘Park Bill’ feature for cafés, allowing you to hold the bill until the customer is ready to pay, or Revel, who target single location coffee shops and larger coffee chains. If you plan on expanding your business to sell beans and other merchandise online, Shopify targets all small businesses and allows cafes or roasters to sell in store via POS and online. If you want a POS which grows with your business, Square is scalable (suitable for multi locations) and was adopted by James Freeman of Bluebottle Coffee due to their “attention to detail and focus on the customer”.

Don’t just go for a flashy ad campaign or the deal that your bank offers; instead, figure out the features that your business needs and pick the system that best fits. In doing so, you’ll end up with a POS system that makes your business run smoother – freeing up your time to focus on all the other aspects of running a coffee business.

Edited by T. Newton.

All images via Pixabay.

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