The best event POS system will meet the very specific needs of events and entertainment operators. It’s designed to squeeze value out of every order and payment. This might just equate to an extra 1%, but It might just be 1%. But 1% can make all the difference. This 1% factor, otherwise known as marginal gains is the theory that a series of small improvements can lead to great things. The principle has been applied to everything from professional sports to hotdog eating. And it’s just as relevant for hospitality.
The best event POS system is fine-tuned to achieve a succession of marginal gains across your operations, from payment processing to staff performance, and running costs. With ever-narrowing margins, this becomes ever more critical. “Every 1% has such a big impact on our business,” said as Brian Galbraith of Hickory Food. “What are the measures you can take to squeeze as much profit and as much efficiency as you can? Where can you find those marginal gains?”
Your POS and payments set-up alone contains a wealth of opportunities for optimisation. In this article, we’ll unpack the components behind the best event POS systems and explore how they can lead to a competitive advantage overall.
Every industry is different, which is why we created a POS and payments solution tailored to events and entertainment. We’ve spent several years refining our system in partnership with catering operators such Hickory Food, &Munch, and Event Live; events like The Scottish Open, and Carfest; and nightclubs like Fabric. During this time, we’ve learned what goes into the best event POS system.
The inspiration behind NOQ was (as the name suggests) the desire to eliminate long queues. Our co-founder, Param Kanabar, was at Rock in Rio in 2017 and was exasperated to find he was spending more time queuing than enjoying the festival. It’s a familiar story that plays out across events and nightlife venues everywhere.
It’s a simple equation; the faster you can serve people, the more you can sell. On top of that, if you can serve people faster and more efficiently, you might even need fewer members of staff. Speed is especially important at events or venues where you have a short time in which to make your sales. Stadiums, for example, are limited to pre-match and halftime, while festivals and nightclubs might have a short turnaround between headliner acts.
The best event POS system prioritises speed. Shaving seconds off your payment processing can add up, saving you minutes overall. That’s why we’ve worked to achieve speeds that are typically 40% faster than the industry average. But that’s just the start.
Everyone’s experienced the bottleneck that occurs at a bar when several siloed systems are involved in a single order. The customer places an order, which has to be entered into the POS system. This system is usually being used by several servers at once so everyone needs to wait. When it comes to payment, the amount needs to be punched into the terminal which, again, is being shared so, again, there’s a wait.
Nowadays, this is no longer necessary. All-in-one mobile point of sale (mPOS) terminals put the entire POS operating system into the palm of your server’s hand. They can input the order, take payment, print receipts, and even view reports from a device the size of a smartphone. You can even give each server their own terminal so no one needs to wait. This has been a great advantage for Hickory Food, as Brian explained:
“We have to make sure that transactions are as quick as possible. That’s why NOQ’s handheld terminals are so great, they make things really quick. You place the order, you tap your card and ‘thank you very much’ – your drinks are there. What you’re not doing is faffing about on a fixed terminal, and then the card reader is a separate element. You’re doing it in your hand. It’s just brilliant.”
For Vanessa Gilpin from &Munch, the proof of the success of NOQ’s mPOS is in its adoption. “NOQ’s handheld device is a game-changer. The terminals have been so successful that some of our caterers have decided to continue using them as part of their main set-up. That is a big proof of concept; they’re choosing to change their entire payment system.”
Customers today have high expectations when it comes to speed of service. Delivery and grocery apps have shown it’s possible for food to be delivered at the touch of a button and QR codes set a new precedent when it comes to table ordering. Increasingly, people are losing patience with clunky, manual order and collection set-ups. Why should people have to queue at several food and drink traders at a festival or food market in order to get a complete meal? Why can’t they order drinks from their seats?
Today, event and entertainment operators have to be able to serve customers wherever they are, which means the best event POS system is omnichannel. This is only possible if your online and in-person ordering and payment systems are connected. If they are, you can support an array of customer journeys from click and collect to table ordering while reconciliation remains easy. This flexibility is key for Edinburgh Street Food, as Operations Manager, Stephen Busby, explained:
“Unlike other food markets, we do table service. Staff need to know all the menus and daily specials. They need to know what to recommend and what pairs well with what. QR code ordering really took off during the pandemic. Some people still prefer it, whereas others crave personal interactions either with a trader or a table server. It’s all about giving them the choice.”
Optimising your front-of-house is just the beginning. And, in many cases, it’s only possible to do so if your back office is in order. The best event POS system will provide the back-office capabilities you need right now, and 12 or 24 months down the line.
Scalability is crucial both in the short and long term. Many events are seasonal; you’re running at full capacity some months and others you’re quiet. As such, you should be able to flex your operations up and down as needed. Terminals should be easy to assign with little-to-no training needed. In that way, you and your traders can be up and running quickly and you don’t have to waste precious time training short-term staff.
There’s also no point in paying for a solution you’re not using, which is why we have flexible leasing options for our hardware. For Brian at Hickory Food, the benefits of this are two-fold: Not only do you only pay for terminals when you’re using them, but you always have the latest kit. “If you’re leasing something, you get all the latest updates,” said Brian. “For us, it’s far more efficient to operate like that; we don’t get left behind.”
If you operate with a revenue-share model, you’ve probably spent a fair amount of time calculating and chasing down commission payments. This not only drains resources but also impacts cash flow, as Vanessa from &Munch explained: “Before working with NOQ, all payments were handled by the caterers. They would log into their own EPOS and report their earnings back to us so we could invoice them. We didn’t have any visibility into their performance ourselves; we’d have to wait for the information.”
It’s much more optimal if you can automate the process and deduct a pre-agreed commission or fee from the trader at the point of payment. In that way, everyone gets paid in one go.
“Now, we handle all the payments on our side and can split them at source, deducting commission at the point of payment. This really streamlines the operation. It’s also really helpful to have access to our caterers’ reporting. We can log into the system and see what’s happening in real-time. It works so easily on a commission basis. It all gets set up beforehand in the backend so that every card payment is automatically split into whatever that commission agreement is. Then, payments are settled directly into the accounts within two working days. This saves a lot of time and everyone knows when they are going to be paid, without any delays. It’s how business should be done; you don’t want anything more complicated than that,” Vanessa concluded.
Of course, even the best event POS system can, and should, be optimised. But this is impossible if you can’t see what’s going on. Transaction data can be used for both short and long-term forecasts. An important use case is the allocation of staff, as Brian from Hickory Food explained:
“Staff are always the biggest cost, so you have to be efficient. The danger is that you can be overly efficient and not have enough staff when you need them, potentially missing opportunities to make another 1%. Equally, if you have too many people standing around and not enough sales, you’re going to lose that 1%. With NOQ’s data insights, we can see the peaks and troughs in real time and make decisions to optimise. For example, if nothing more than a single coffee was sold in the last 30 minutes of the day, maybe it makes sense to close earlier.”
Another important application of payment data is customer insights. If all your payment data across all traders, sites, and channels is connected to one system, you’ll be able to build a 360-degree view of your customer. You’ll know what ticket they bought, which food and drink they chose and if they purchased any merchandise. This information is invaluable for informing marketing campaigns and ensuring your membership or loyalty programme is delivering experiences and rewards your customers actually want.
We are determined to make running a festival, event, food market, stadium or nightclub as easy and streamlined as possible. That’s why we work so closely with customers to develop the That’s why we work so closely with customers to the best event POS system for their specific needs. If you’d like to explore how we can help you achieve marginal gains through your POS and payments set-up, get in touch to book a demo today.