Key Challenges SMBs Face When Searching for a POS
I have owned and operated the Blue Willow Tea distribution business since 2012. Blue Willow provides single-origin teas directly from farms dedicated to sustainable practices and humane living conditions for tea workers.
In 2016, I hired two additional staff and opened Blue Willow Teaspot in Berkeley to offer customers a richer experience of the art of tea. We now prepare teas traditionally on site and offer more than 60 teas on our menu from 6 different countries. This has changed the dynamics of my business from a purely online/wholesale venture into the realm of hospitality which in turn changed my business needs. Now with a front of house, full service tea business, we are fully engaged with more customers and serving tea, coffee, and various bakery items. Our menu has also expanded to include more items e.g. tea is now not only available to purchase by the ounce but in pots or cups for consumption in the teashop and at our tea ceremonies.
As a new business owner, I knew I needed a point of sale system and payment processor to help streamline and record customer transactions but I was confused by the vast array of systems and offerings on the market and overwhelmed by the varied features and management aspects. Negotiating a payment processing and POS solution separately was also a lot to handle. I didn’t think I needed a lot of backend management but I did need to group inventory items in a particular way so I initially chose a no-cost, basic POS option based on the Android platform which only required a card swiper and a cash drawer. Ironically, I paid the price of that poor choice as the system had poor connectivity and crashed several times a day and it didn’t really help me with inventory tracking.
I had stayed in contact with a Revel Systems rep from my initial research and as the result of his follow-up call one day, and sheer frustration with my current system, I decided to try Revel and Revel Advantage, their new payments processing component. In June 2017, Revel became my second POS system. My first impressions were focused around the improvements in functionality, ease of use interface and better connectivity. Also, using a tablet-based POS is a big improvement aesthetically and looks more professional. More importantly, if my internet connection was interrupted, I could still take payments and run them when the system reconnected. That has saved a lot of inconvenience and awkward customer interactions.
On the backend, I also needed an easy to use interface for price updates, setting up menu items, cost per item and other transaction specifics like discounts and taxes. Since my menu and retail offerings have expanded, setting up items is now more in depth. The management console has helped me to more quickly and efficiently set up more items and process intricate transactions. I can also now offer emailed receipts after setting up customers in the system. One feature I find particularly useful is the ability to hold a customer order in the POS and allow them to pay later – this is especially useful within a café environment where customers often add on items throughout their stay.
Reporting has become more important for me with additional staff and an expanded business. I can now create a general monthly overview of how much I’ve sold, and focus on aspects like the biggest sellers and rankings as well as sales by specific time frames and staff member. Using Revel Advantage as an integral part of the Revel system has helped me reconcile and process payments more efficiently and saves me a lot of time and effort that had previously distracted me from my core business of tea making.
There are still features I want to use or integrate with my POS as they come on board or when I get to a point in my business where it makes sense e.g. while I don’t currently have loyalty rewards set up, it’s a feature I see as an important goal for my business to retain and attract more customers. As part of my expansion, I also travel offsite to tea festivals and prepare special teas at partner events. My hope is that I can soon use the corresponding payments app to process payments offsite since creating a consistent experience is critical for me.
When she's not busy working at the Blue Willow warehouse or adjacent Teaspot tea house in Berkeley, California, Ali Roth can be seen making wholesale deliveries on her '71 Honda motorcycle, her dog Boris goggled and seated in the sidehack beside her. She also plays drums in a band, collects and repairs vintage motorcycles, grows her own vegetables, and tends to a clutch of chickens—Henrietta, Hen Solo, Thelma, Louise and Goldie Hen. Above all, however, her true passion is tea.