The Ultimate Guide To Mobile POS Systems For Your Food Business
Connect POS, a Shopify Compatible APP
Aside from seeing happy customers, being fulfilled within your life’s purpose, and selling out your inventory, the next best thing about having a food business is getting paid. For cottage food businesses, home-based commercial kitchens, farmers market regulars, and food trucks having a reliable mobile point of sale system (mPOS) is a must.
Mastercard revealed that 82% of customers surveyed believe that contactless payment is a safer way to pay. The transition away from cash payments is picking up pace. Mobile and contactless payments are expected to grow by 221% between 2022 and 2027.
Where once cash was king, cards have taken the crown. We are quickly moving towards a cashless society, and adapting to consumer spending habits is part of keeping up with contactless payment methods should be a top priority.
The Benefits Of A Mobile POS System
Whether you are tethered to a brick-and-mortar kitchen at a fixed address, or you are ruling the city in your moving food mobile on wheels, a portable mPOS system should be a top priority investment.
They can help streamline payments on the go at farmers’ markets, festivals, and private events.
You can eliminate a bulky register and use your phone or smart tablet instead.
You can accept contactless payments.
Your payment information is safely stored in the cloud and accessible anywhere.
Commerce is paper free. Receipts are stored and can be emailed quickly.
It makes your business accessible to customers who don’t carry cash but have their phone on hand for contactless payment.
Perhaps most importantly, mPOS systems can help expand your revenue streams and allow you to be in multiple places simultaneously. In addition, because the mPOS systems are cloud-based, you can access business information anywhere, anytime, allowing you to untether from your computer, creating higher productivity and efficiency.
How Do Mobile Payment Systems Work
The learning curve for mobile payment systems is a relatively easy one. They are typically uncomplicated, allowing both employees and customers a smooth experience.
Getting your mPOS system up and running will require choosing a software provider, downloading the app, and connecting your card reader to the mobile device. After that, the only limiting factor is a strong WIFI or data connection.
Even without a signal, some mPOS offer an offline mode that lets you continue to accept payment even if you’re without a connection. In contrast, others won’t allow payment but will still provide some functionality while offline.
Using a mobile POS system can allow your business to be in more than one place at a time.
What To Look For In A Mobile POS System
Mobile POS systems can have a wide variety of features and operating modes catering to an equally wide variety of needs.
mPOS systems can process a variety of payment types, including:
Knowing what kinds of payments you want to accept will help you make an informed decision on your mPOS system.
In addition, you’ll want to keep in mind which features work best with your business model. Here are six features that might help you decide which mPOS system is right for you.
Many mobile POS systems will allow you to create and process coupons, gift certificates, and loyalty programs, in essence operating as both a payment portal and your marketing department.
Secure payments are crucial for both you and your customer. Therefore, your mPOS should be PCI-Compliant which will help you keep transactions secure and protect you from disputed charges.
Reports are essential to analyzing sales figures, inventory, and buying trends. Knowing when your customers are most active, what they are buying and how they are paying will help you optimize your business.
4. E-Commerce Compatibility
As your business grows, you may consider integrating other platforms like websites, to sell products. An all-in-one concept like Square that will provide you with mobile POS hardware and website-building software that works in sync and can become a centralized place to manage your food business.
5. Third-Party Integrations
New food start-ups are often lean operations with one or two people at the helm. For example, using third-party programs for advanced accounting, inventory, and staff management that integrate with your mPOS system will help keep the juggling act smooth.
6. Employee Management
Some mobile POS systems will allow for multiple employee profiles to help you resolve human error issues or track time. You will also be able to set different roles and permissions using unique profiles.
How Much Does an mPOS Cost
There are typically three areas of the cost associated with an investment into a mobile POS system: hardware, software, and payment processing fees.
The physical hardware can cost between $0- $800 whether you choose an mPOS that will work with your existing smartphone or tablet (Poster) or you invest in one that has its own unit (Square).
Software for mPOS systems can also vary greatly, with some being free with the purchase of a portable terminal and others upwards of $270 per month.
Payment Processing Fees
Payment processing fees average 2.6% and are usually accompanied by a flat rate per transaction fee. All around, mobile payment systems tend to be cheaper than their traditional counterparts.
The Best Mobile POS Systems
There is really no ‘best’ mobile POS system; there is only the best mobile POS system for your specific needs. Here are a few of the most popular entry-level mPOS systems on the market.
Clover is a mobile POS system with several different options for mobile units. (Source: Clover)
Per Merchant Maverick: Clover has several mobile Android-based and purpose-built POS hardware solutions to choose from, but the most mobile-ready Clover device is the Clover Flex.
The mobility of the $499 Clover Flex makes it easy to line-bust, sell on the floor, or even outside the bounds of your brick-and-mortar store with a data plan. In addition, the Clover Flex has a built-in card swipe/chip/tap payment reader, receipt printer, and barcode scanner.
Suitable for any business type
Monthly Fee: $0-$290/month
Processing Fee: 2.3%-3.5% + $0.10
Square Mobile POS coordinates with an APP and a backend capable of managing analytics.
Square Point of Sale is a mobile POS system available for iOS and Android devices. Key capabilities of the Square POS system include online payment processing, sales reports, inventory tracking, digital receipts, email and SMS marketing campaigns, eCommerce, insights/analytics, and more.
Suitable for any business type
Monthly Fee: Free
Processing Fee: 2.6% + $0.10
Shopify Mobile POS system works especially well if you also want to develop E Commerce
Reviewers report that one big draw with Shopify POS is how easily you can upgrade and scale as your business grows. Shopify is also versatile in that you can use it on any mobile device or laptop and has various pricing plans.
The entry-level service plan, Shopify’s Starter Plan, comes at a reasonable monthly fee of $5/month and provides access to the POS system as well as invoicing and limited online selling tools — embeddable buy buttons to sell on your existing blog or website (supports WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, Tumblr, and more).
Suitable for retail
Monthly Fee: $9
Processing Fee: 2.7%
Using a mobile POS system will soon be the future of frictionless payments. Even if you feel you don’t need a mobile payment system yet, it’s worth looking at for the future scalability potential one offers.
Starting your own food business usually begins with a dream you can’t seem to shake – and a call to join the 30,000-strong food trucks across the United States may be part of your journey.
As the pandemic changed how foodpreneurs viewed their culinary ambitions, food trucks became a wildly popular solution to decreasing overhead, maintaining flexibility, and streamlining operations. Food Truck startups have been so popular that new operations grew by 8% in 2022, adding to a $1 billion mobile food business industry.
So you’ve decided food truck life is for you. You have the perfect idea for a mobile dream to feed the masses! But first, you need wheels.
For all the dreamers and, more importantly, for the doers, we’ve created the essential guide to purchasing a food truck.
Everything You Need To Know Before Buying a Food Truck
There are many ways to go about a food business startup. Starting a catering business or home-based commercial kitchen are also significant jump-off points to growing your dream. There are also some very encouraging statistics that make a food truck a smart entry into the commercial food industry.
According to Off The Grid, 34% of food truck owners report that a small mobile operation has given them a place to test out menu ideas and new concepts on a variety of audiences.
While brick-and-mortar restaurants, on average, experience 2% growth, food trucks have experienced 7.3% growth annually since 2007
One of the biggest advantages to starting a food truck over a traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant is a low barrier of entry – start-up costs are typically much lower. However, start-up costs for a food truck vary greatly depending on several variables, and you can expect to invest $28,000 to $114,000 on average.
The vast majority of expenses will likely go to the purchase and outfitting of the food truck itself, and we are here to break down the finer points of your central investment.
According to Food Truck Empire, you can expect to pay anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000 dollars for your mobile food business wheels. Other experts estimate $50,000 to $200,000 for a new truck, while other new business owners report finding used trucks for $15,000 or less.
The bottom line is the price can vary drastically depending on whether the truck is new or used, news to be gutted and built from scratch, or just updated. Either way, you’ll also need to invest in “wrapping” the truck with your branding, insurance, and maintenance.
When exploring your options to get your food truck business off the ground, you are bound to compare the advantages and drawbacks of getting one new from the manufacturer vs. used.
New Food Truck Pros
A manufacturer in your state will know and comply with all construction regulations to ensure your food truck is legal and guaranteed to pass code inspections.
Brand new everything means less initial maintenance.
New food trucks usually come with a great warranty.
New Food Truck Cons
Bigger upfront investment.
It can take time for customization and build-out.
Used Food Truck Pros
Barring any major maintenance, they are ready to be used immediately.
Many come already outfitted, reducing your commercial kitchen installation costs.
Less decision-making because the equipment is already there.
If purchasing from a dealer, there is usually some kind of warranty.
Used Food Truck Cons
Unknown wear and tear and possible fixes.
Equipment already has a lot of use.
Less ability to customize.
Less life expectancy.
What To Look For Before Purchasing a Food Truck
Whether you are purchasing a food truck from a private seller, the manufacturer, or a dealer, go in prepared. Knowledge is power and may help you negotiate a better deal or warranty.
1. Thoroughly inspect the engine and equipment.
Bring a qualified mechanic with you to do an internal inspection of the engine. Ask for maintenance and service logs. When logs are in order and come with receipts, you know the owner has taken care of his investment.
2. Do manufacturer research.
Don’t take the owner or dealer’s word for it. Due diligence will save you time, money, and headaches. Check reviews and ratings online as well as food truck forums. Nothing is more valuable than first-hand experience from other owners.
3. Check the odometer.
If buying used, take a look at the odometer. In all reality, a food truck shouldn’t be clocking in too many miles. If the mileage is relatively high, use it as a bargaining point. If you opt to purchase a used road warrior, ensure the extra miles are insured with a warranty.
4. Check your city’s size restrictions.
You’ll need to check your city’s food truck size restrictions before you purchase. Some cities, like Washington D.C., have limitations of length and height that you should consider before purchasing. In addition, if you know where you will be selling from, measure the parking spaces to ensure you will fit.
5. Will it fit your staff?
If your operation requires several people in the kitchen at once, take stock in your operational space. A too-small space may hinder your efficiency and future scalable growth plans.
6. Know what to ask a food truck builder.
If you are opting for a new and shiny straight from the manufacturer’s food truck, come prepared with questions. How long will the build take? Do they deliver? Have they built a concept like yours before? Can you talk to some of their other customers?
A reputable builder will be able to answer all these questions and provide references for past builds.
7. Check fuel and power specifications.
Checking fuel and power specifications may seem trivial, but can add to your bottom line. Deciding between diesel and gasoline is important when considering your monthly fuel bill. While gasoline is more cost-effective, diesel can mean greater fuel economy. In addition, gasoline-fueled vehicles are often easier and cheaper to maintain and repair.
Typically, food trucks operate their power of diesel-fueled generators. Purchasing a new or used generator should involve a deep dive into the manufacturing specs of the generator and, if it is used, the wear and tear and remaining lifespan of the equipment.
Whether new or used, there are a wealth of resources online to research your new food truck purchase. Once you have narrowed down your needs and non-negotiables, consulted food truck forums, and created your concept, it’s time to start shopping.
We have already established that no matter if you are buying new or used, the mobile kitchen will likely be one of the highest upfront costs to your food truck ambitions.
There is one way to circumnavigate this initial high-cost investment: leasing. Opting for lower monthly payments can allow you to build your business more rapidly, as you’re startup funds can be diverted to marketing, equipment, and other costs. This is an excellent option if you want to test a concept first or need additional time to bank funds to reinvest.
On the downside, when the leasing period ends, you will have to weather transition-related hassles such as uninstalling equipment, a lag time in the switch to a new vehicle, and loss of momentum. To avoid this, be sure to check the lease agreement for renewal and lease-to-own clauses that may help you avoid this scenario.
Food Truck revenue can range from $250,000 to $500,000 annually.
Your Food Truck Dream On Wheels
Food trucks can be the best entry into your foodpreneur journey if you’ve done your research. What starts with a well-researched vehicle can grow into a fleet of favorite mobile establishments, serving as a helm of community gatherings and events for your local area.
Save A Plate, Inc (SAPi) is highlighting all the best of local food hustlers: the entrepreneurs that pour passion into every bite and keep our bellies full and happy. The foodpreneurs that are just starting their journey and those that are well on their way. We want to highlight the triumphs and challenges that connect us all.
Starting a food business requires a great deal of passion, optimism, and hustle, and the self-described “Southern Yankee” Alexander Simon has these qualities in spades.
Born in Philidelphia and raised in an Italian household, Simon has called South Carolina home for over a decade. As a burgeoning foodpreneur, the 23-year-old wants to use what he sees as a limitless opportunity around West Columbia to grow a smoothie food start-up and serve the community.
Alexander Simon, Founder of Alexander’s Great Smoothies
SAPi: Today we’re talking with Alexander Simon founder of the burgeoning smoothie brand Alexander’s Great Smoothies.
Let’s start at the top – where did the name Alexander’s Great Smoothies come from? Is that an illusion to the great Greek ruler?
Yeah, in a sense it is. I remember when I was a kid growing up that was a phrase I grew up with. I don’t want to get too ahead of myself though. I just need a cape and a throne and a sign that says try my smoothies, right here!
When did you start Alexander’s Great Smoothies? What made you choose smoothies as a focus?
I started about two weeks ago. This is what I wanted my whole life. I’ve always wanted my own business. I enjoy the act of making the smoothie and hearing people’s feedback. That’s what I always wanted: to have people look to me, and ever since I started making smoothies I knew this could be my trademark.
I started working at a restaurant when I was sixteen. I’ve always wanted to have my own restaurant, and my family has always entertained the idea of having a family-style restaurant. When I really came to think about it, I wanted to start off with a food truck. I decided to start first with smoothies, a classic idea.
So you decided to go with a simple concept first?
You said you had another job on top of starting your food business journey?
Yes, I’m attending school full-time for Business Management, I’m working full-time, and I am also starting my food business on the SAPi APP.
Has studying Business Management given you ideas about how to grow your business?
I wanted to form the central idea of what it means to lead people. I have always felt like a natural-born leader. I’ve always felt like I was part of the management team in any job I’ve had.
What is your current setup for Alexander’s Great Smoothies?
Right now I currently making them out of a home-based food kitchen. I have everything set up the way I like it.
What was the first smoothie creation that told you that you might be on to something?
That was the Strawberry Banana Deluxe. It consists of strawberries, banana, honey, and peanut butter. It’s one of my most favorite concoctions! Blended just right, it’s so smooth and you can’t beat it.
Who is your most trusted taste tester?
I’ll get with my mother and she’ll give me feedback. She was the first one to try the Strawberry Banana Deluxe and she helped me develop the idea and say “this is something worth getting out.”
What are your other standard flavors?
My current top seller is the Pumpkin Spiced Milkshake. I think that one has been successful because of the season. The Very Berry Protein has also been really popular lately. People can build it with requests for different ingredients. And the Strawberry Banana Deluxe.
Do you think your customer base is really health-conscious?
I’ve had a lot of people come to me for protein smoothies to help get them through their day. Some people are just looking for traditional home comfort flavors.
How do you currently reach your customer base?
I currently use Snapchat, Facebook, and the SAPi APP.
To start, I have relied on my close network of friends and family. From my experience, the friends I have grown up with are the best to spread the word. I have had a lot of fun posting on the SAPi APP. I use SAPi for everything. As soon as I had an idea for the Pumpkin Spice Smoothie, I was excited to post it on the APP.
I try to use the limited resources I have to start to get the word out. I can guide people through the SAPi APP, and eventually, get my own dedicated phone number. When I get things moving, I’m excited to put out my own promotions and possibly a website.
West Columbia, South Carolina
Where is your main delivery area?
I currently stay in West Columbia locations. I don’t mind going out within a 15-minute radius, to Lexington, Gaston, Cayce, or Springdale.
Are you planning on expanding to Farmer’s Markets?
Yes, I’ve considered joining the local farmer’s market, and maybe eventually setting up a stand. Right now, I want to use the amazing opportunity I have with SAPi because I think when things start exploding this is going to be the new Doordash.
What’s been your biggest challenge to starting Alexander’s Great Smoothies?
Honestly, just believing in myself with all my other commitments of full-time school and work. Right now it’s just me. After work is when I usually start to deliver and days when I’m off. In the future, I’ll be making a standard delivery schedule.
Where do you see Alexander’s Great Smoothies a year from now?
I would say hopefully all over media platforms. I want to see it go across borders and maybe a small franchise with SAPi’s help. I want to be out there delivering out there non-stop.
We’ll be following your journey and rooting for your success! To finish our article can we ask you some rapid fire food questions?
SAPi’s Fast Rapid Fire Foodie Questions
Who is someone’s food hustle you admire?
What city has the best food scene?
Best food there?
Crab Shack off of Center Street
What’s the best music to make smoothies to?
Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Post Malone, really everything!
What is the most precious tool in your food business?
What’s your go-to smoothie?
I make the Hulk Bash Refresher; apple, spinach, cabbage, and peanut butter, that’s my wake-up every morning.
What cuisine is missing in your local area that you would love to see?
A wing bar.
What is the strangest food you’ve ever tried?
Gator bites! And they tasted like chicken nuggets, and they were good.
Grow Your Kitchen Series: 5 Tips To Creating Your Brand Story
Photo Credit: Unspun
The food business market is naturally competitive. A post-covid boom of new openings has made for a crowded marketplace from sit-down fine dining to bespoke catering services. Humans are emotional creatures who spend based on feelings. Developing your brand story is a way to create connections by eliciting engagement with your customer base.
In addition, not everything will fit on your menu or label (although you can certainly link a QR code to a page on your website!). Your brand story is where consumers go to decide if they can trust you and whether you share the same intentions.
The power now squarely lies with the customer and their journey on a path to purchase. The average consumer is more speculative than ever about where they will spend their dollar. Buying is socially driven and trust-based, with an emphasis on value. Likewise, part of conveying the latter is by drawing people into your food business story. Value and transparency will convert to loyal customers invested in your growth and success.
Your brand story is not your mission statement; it is a place to describe your unique brand journey and value system. Here, customers will determine whether you have shared values and brand loyalty will be made. In addition, it is a place where your story may resonate with the potential customer drawing them into your journey.
Your brand story also serves as an internal north start for your team. It provides an anchor to why you exist, giving purpose and motivation to drive your team forward.
In this article, we’ll describe how to build your purpose statement and how using this statement will inform your brand storytelling. We will also walk you through four ways to tell your brand story effectively.
Defining Your Purpose
Defining The Purpose of Your Food Business
Defining your brand’s purpose is an essential starting point for creating your brand story. While everyone’s story will be different, and the way you tell your story can take on different forms, your unique brand story should be anchored in your company’s purpose. Check out Grow Your Kitchen Series: Defining Your Purpose for more on how to build a concise purpose statement that will be the anchor to your brand story. Check out our article on defining your brand’s purpose here.
Connecting To Your Audience With Authenticity
Successful marketing of your brand story should avoid pandering and stay authentic. Real and raw stories that don’t flinch away from talking about your hard path to create your dream will resonate with your audience. In addition, your purpose should inspire your audience to become part of a community and culture that you are making through your company’s mission.
Failure can be a deeply effective part of brand storytelling. It shows that you swing big and are willing to take risks in something you believe in. Failure shows integrity because you stood by your product even when things left. The losses also show that you’ve taken learning opportunities to optimize your business and will take chances in the future to evolve with new knowledge.
Creating Brand Advocates
A compelling and inspiring brand story will create people who want to retell your story to others. This kind of organic marketing touchpoint is priceless. Likewise, an ecosystem of social, loyal followers is worth its weight in marketing gold.
Customers with no stake in your company who are invested in your journey enough to testify to its authenticity by word of mouth or social media can drive high-quality referrals and the social phenomena where a “crowd attracts a crowd.” Peer testimonials are one of the most substantial ways customers create value in your business.
How To Tell Your Brand Story For Your Food Business
The hallmarks of a compelling brand story are humility, authenticity, and inspirational reader resonance. In addition, your brand story should relate to the journey that took you from idea to launch. Below we dissect The Hero’s Journey, one of the best ways that you can articulate your brand story while working your purpose and values into the narrative.
The Hero’s Journey
The Hero’s Journey is an age-old format for creating a dynamic story. It is one way to craft your brand story. Our hero sets off on a journey replete with pitfalls and challenges and, through a series of accomplishments, ends up in (food business) glory, celebrated by consumers everywhere.
However, in the case of a food brand story, the hero is usually your customer who has been transformed for the better after meeting your product. As the brand, you are the trusty sidekick guiding the hero to transformation.
1. Create your character.
Determine who your audience is and paint a picture that will resonate with that audience. Some people find it helpful to define their hobbies, habits, likes and dislikes to form a better picture of who you are telling your brand story to.
2. Identify the problem.
What is the hero struggling with? What roadblock is prohibiting them from transformation? In the food world, this could be anything from a lack of healthy food for children or the absence of authentic cuisine in your neighborhood.
3. Describe a solution.
Explain how you came along as the hero’s sidekick to solve this problem. Describe your food brand’s solution product or service.
4. Celebrate the success.
Describe how your solution has led to a successful result. Relate a customer’s review or anecdote—site awards and achievements.
5. Summarize the transformation.
Recap the journey and the pain points that have been solved. You can do this in one to two concise sentences in the same way the last chapter of a book reminds you of where you have been and where you are going.
6. Take your client into the future.
Express gratitude to your reader for coming on your journey and invite them to see what awaits. Describe your future goals and identify pain points that you are in the process of relieving. An evolving company is an exciting one to follow. Above all, take your client towards your future vision within your brand story.
Never underestimate the power of a good brand story. Stories of all kinds grab our attention and can transport us into the founder’s world. We form connections between the stories and ourselves as we identify common values, struggles, and successes. Finally, your unique brand story creates a powerful opportunity to build deeper relations with your audience and invite them to be part of your mission and growth.