Triple venti, soy, no foam latte

We work with a number of independent cafés who often dazzle us with their innovative brand approach, unique food and drink offering and spectacular shop fit outs. They need that extra edge to compete with the monotonous and seemingly relentless march of Pret. While as accountants there’s little we bring to the creative output, we do often get asked about the optimum way to set up the infrastructure that enables a café to buy, sell, take payments, manage stock and so on. This blog provides a brief overview of our thoughts on this.

At the heart of a café’s infrastructure is the till (EPOS) system. Choosing a till system is one of the most daunting choices a new café owner faces. It’s a hugely fragmented sector full of resellers; type “EPOS” into Google and you get a mere 15.1m results. However, we firmly believe that you need to base your till in the cloud; type “cloud based EPOS” into Google and you’re down to 127k results. A cloud based till system saves you a substantial amount of time and gives you the ability to seamlessly transfer data to other applications (such as your cloud based accounting software). It enables you to view your performance in real time away from the shop, works on any platform (no you do not need that expensive looking piece of hardware - just a browser!) and many other efficiency benefits.

Meet Vend HQ:

  • We have been working with Vend for a number of years now and whilst PayPal, Shopify and numerous others have also launched similar solutions, we’re big fans of Vend (along with 15,000 retailers and Peter Thiel).
  • Firstly, Vend integrates seamlessly with our cloud accounting product of choice Xero. This is a huge time saver, eliminating the need to manually enter sales data from your till system into an accounting package. It also enables far greater control over your cash by offering a real-time integration. Further, linking Xero up to ReceiptBank means you can say goodbye to evenings spent tapping supplier invoices into an accounting package.
  • Secondly, using a cloud based till system such as Vend changes the hardware outlook. Your hardware requirements really can be a simple as a tablet or PC, cash drawer, receipt printer and possible bar code scanner. This simple guide gives a great overview.
  • Thirdly, Vend has fully integrated inventory functionality making it not only easy to add stock yourself but also to keep an eye on stock levels remotely. Why not go one step further, you know you sell the best coffee in town, so how about selling some of your prized beans online with the new e-commerce integration (only launched in the last week so we are still road testing). There are numerous other features such as loyalty schemes, great reporting and it even continues to work when the internet goes down.

The next minefield your new store faces is selecting a payment processing provider. Whilst you want to ensure you understand the fees you are paying as well as the time the provider takes to hand over your cash (this can vary by a few days) we increasingly believe you should be looking for greater functionality in the provider’s software and hardware functionality.

Although it’s early days we very much like the design simplicity of iZettle’s wireless Chip & PIN reader. Further, we’re impressed by the increasing levels of integration with both Vend and Xero.

Finally, back to our roots, it would be remiss of me not to mention the complexities of ensuring you fully understand the VAT implications of the food and drink you are selling. HMRC provide a great bedtime read here. However, please do get in touch as it is imperative you set the correct VAT treatment before you start trading and it can be more complicated than it looks (see Jaffa Cakes, yes they’re a cake not a biscuit).

Getting the right infrastructure in place to ensure your café runs as efficiently and smoothly as possible will crucially save you both time and money. The right tools will give you an improved understanding of how your business performs, as well as minimising the requirement for manual data entry. Ultimately it’ll help you spend more time focussing on what really matters, keeping that regular 8am “triple venti, soy, no foam latte” customer happy.