Choosing Coffee Shop EPOS Systems

Choosing Coffee Shop EPOS Systems

Running a coffee shop can be hard work, especially as there’s often a few key times during the day when you need to be ready to serve the majority of customers. Choosing the right EPOS system can be the key to Coffee Shop success. Get it wrong and you could end up with a bottleneck at the counter and potential customers leaving your queue.

There are a number of things that should be taken into consideration when choosing a new EPOS system for your Coffee Shop, all of which can bring tremendous value by saving time and money. Let’s take a look at what to expect in a cafe POS system, and our top system picks:


Our top Cafe EPOS System Picks

 SquareLightspeed Restaurant
Monthly CostFreeFreeFrom £39/month (Paid annually)From £59/month
Integrated Payment ProcessingSquare Payments: 1.75%iZettle Payments: 1.75%iZettle, SumUp, Barclaycard, PaymentSenseBluebird Global
Customer SupportWeekdays 9am - 5pmWeekdays 9am - 5pm24/7 Support24/7 Support
Kitchen DisplayYes, $20/month NoNoYes
Kitchen/Barista PrinterYes, Star SP742Yes, Star SP742NoYes, Star SP742 and Epson U220B
HardwareFrom £319
Square Starter Kit
From £319 iZettle Starter KitFrom £319 Nobly Starter KitFrom £319 Lightspeed Starter Kit
Visit SquareVisit iZettle GoVisit NoblyVisit Lightspeed

Key Coffee Shop POS Features To Look For

Modifier pop ups allow for easy on the fly additions or edits to products. Want to swap whole milk for soy? No problem. Want to add an extra shot to get you through that morning meeting? Easy.

Look for systems that have lots of flexibility with modifiers. You’ll want the option to have free or charged modifiers, forced selections & min/max selections.

There’s nothing better than a top cake or pastry with a cappuccino. Make the most of the morning and lunch rush by offering combo deals. Look for a system that has the flexibility to enable you to sell 2 or more products together at a special promo price. Think Coffee & a Pastry for £3.

Integrated Mobile ordering
Not crucial for all coffee shops, but if you’re in a busy office area or in a commuter area it’s definitely something to consider. Consumers these days are looking for speed and efficiency. If you plan on utilising mobile ordering, make sure that your POS software can integrate to make the handling of orders as easy as possible. The last thing you want to do is have staff manually checking for new online orders every 5 minutes.

KDS (Kitchen Display Screens)
An environmentally friendly alternative to printing tickets, a KDS allows you to send drink/food orders to a variety of prep areas. In addition to facilitating order production, a KDS often enables you to track prep times for products & helps highlight inefficiencies in production.

Customer Display Screens
A customer display screen is a small screen that faces your customer, this is typically an iPad mini. In an environment where customers pay at a counter, this can bring real value. Firstly it acts a digital billboard for your business allowing you to showcase promotions or combo offers. Secondly, a customer display screen can reduce the chance of staff errors when using the system as the customer can see all inputs. This in turn can help with employee abusing systems.

Dining options
Look for a system that allows you to add a dining option (eat in/takeaway) to an order which in turn changes the tax/pricing for relevant products. Ideally, this can be done through a single product NOT different products for eat in/takeout. This is useful for VAT calculations as well as for product/packaging preparation. The barista needs to know whether to use a china cup or paper cup.

Loyalty & Customer Engagement
Competition is rife in the coffee shop world so you need to do all you can to hold onto good customers. Make sure you choose a system that can help you both reward customers as well as engage with them….happy birthday emails, we miss you coupons & thank yous all make a difference.

Multiple tax rates
VAT calculations can be complicated. They can also be costly if done incorrectly. Make sure your EPOS system is able to produce accurate VAT reports for eat in & takeaway sales. The best systems allow you to set multiple prices & tax rates for a single product allowing the system to make calculations based on the dining option. Systems that aren’t so good can only have one tax rate per product forcing you to have one takeaway product and one eat-in product.

Barista tickets
An alternative to the KDS mentioned above, a system that allows you to print simple barista tickets, from a kitchen printer, for drink preparation will do you wonders. Don’t rely on staff shouting over the room to one another, make sure orders are down on paper so they’re harder to mess up. Make sure these tickets clearly display any relevant modifiers and customer information.

Integrated payments
Speed of service is key in a coffee shop. Using integrated card machines can dramatically increase the speed of a transaction, in fact it’s been shown to cut the checkout time in half which means that you can serve more customers in a shorter time. A further benefit to integrated machines is that you and your staff have less reconciliation work to do at the end of the day, meaning that you need your staff for less time. Make sure that the POS system you choose has the option to integrate with different card machines… not necessarily just mobile card readers which aren’t the best option for all businesses.

If you run a busy coffee shop, it’s likely that the first area of the operation in which you’ll see bottlenecks is drink production. Baristas simply can’t make coffees as quickly as you can put them through the till. Customers end up having to queue twice, once to pay and once to wait for their drink. The perfect antidote to this is a line busting tablet which you can use to take orders along the queue in advance of payment that can then be sent directly to the baristas for preparation, meaning that by the time the customer comes to pay, their drink can be ready and waiting for them.

Stock control
Keeping an accurate track of recipes and ingredient/material costs is extremely important when dealing with low price products…even the smallest fluctuations can greatly impact your bottom line. You should make sure that any system you use has a stock system built in, or available through an integration. Trust us, this is a feature that’s really worth its weight in gold.

Labour management
One of your highest costs when running a coffee shop is going to be your staff. Not only does it cost money, but it also costs time….scheduling, payroll, reporting etc. The good news is that there are plenty of tools to make that process much easier for coffee shops.

Look for a system that allows to you have staff clocking in & out so you’re only paying for time worked. Also ideally look for systems that can combine sales & labour data to product labour reports so you have a better understanding of your labour requirements at different times. Make sure the EPOS you choose can integrate with one of them. Having the right labour system in place can save you thousands!

Payment Processing card readers

Is it better to buy a card reader from a payment facilitator (left) or to rent from a traditional acquirer (right)?

Mobile card readers are often considered thought to be “only for small businesses” – but that’s a common misconception. While it’s true that if your card turnover is less than £5,000 a month, the “headline rate” of a mobile card reader is likely to be cheaper than a quote from a traditional processor, they do also negotiate. It’s perfectly normal for iZettle, Sum Up, or Square to offer card processing rates as low as 1%.

Cafes are well suited to payment facilitators because compared to other categories of merchant, they have a low average transaction size. This is important because the percentage plus formats traditional for acquirers (e.g. 1.1% + 3p) are proportionally more expensive as your transaction size gets smaller. 3p is a bigger proportion of a £3.00 coffee order than a £40.00 apparel purchase, for example. Therefore, payment facilitators are well suited to cafes and likely to be the easiest choice.

If you’re just thinking about it as a card reader, check out our article on the best mobile card readers for small businesses but if you’re interested in using the free app which comes with it, read our article on free epos software.

Automated Ordering Integration

The great thing about Order & Pay software is that good software has been shown to boost orders. That makes a slightly higher payment rate well worth it – it only has to increase orders a little to make it a net boon. An Order & Pay system is a QR-menu system in which customers can scan a QR code, navigate to a menu, and purchase a drink or snack. They have been shown to boost orders as customers are able to peruse the menu for longer, add expensive modifiers, and a snack or drink.

StoreKit Order & Pay integrates with over 30 ePOS softwares, including Zonal, ICR Touch, NCR, Revel, and Lightspeed.

The Importance of Support & Training

It’s not often something people think about until something goes wrong, but when it does, you need to know that there’s somebody who can help just as well on a Saturday as they can at on a Monday. The best Coffee Shop EPOS systems have a dedicated support team available 24/7. Make sure that phone support is available for urgent issues…the last thing you want, is to have to wait 2 hours for an email reply when your EPOS is down.

Cloud-based Cafe EPOS systems aren’t necessarily complicated, but they can be complex. Although much of the basic functionality can be figured out quite quickly without assistance, it’s important to know that help is available at the start to drill down into the finer details. You should look for systems that offer initial training to get you up and running as quickly as possible. With cloud-based systems, training tends to be a remote screen sharing session which works well and we’ve found that 2 hours is typically plenty. Onsite training and installation is often available at an additional cost, although it’s usually not needed.

Peace Of Mind with Offline Mode

When you have 2 hours to serve 80% of your customers for the day, the last thing you want to see is your EPOS buffering. The time you need to serve the most customers is also the time that you’re likely to have the most strain on your network…especially if you give customers access. Make sure that the system you choose is equipped to cope with these surges in demand with an offline backup. You don’t want the speed of your system to be dictated by the speed of your internet.

Room for growth

More often than not the ultimate plan is to open more than one coffee shop & the ultimate dream is world domination! Make sure that you choose a system that can scale with you. Look out for POS systems that give you the ability to manage multiple stores from a single account… both for reporting and for centralised product management. The last thing you want to be doing is updating products in 20 stores one by one.