Free Restaurant Software: Is It Too Good to Be True?

Written by  on 24 May 2016

POS Buyers GuideNew restaurants, or existing ones that are looking to upgrade their point of sale (POS) infrastructure, may be tempted to implement free POS solutions that are offered by a number of vendors. In some cases, these solutions are offered by online developers, payment processing vendors, or POS hardware vendors. At first glance, these systems might seem like a good idea for a cash-strapped restaurant.

But just how “free” is that free restaurant software? As it turns out, there are a number of hidden costs and disadvantages to these solutions. Here are a few potential drawbacks:

Vendor Lock-In: First, if you deploy free restaurant software from a cash register or payment processing vendor, the solution is directly tied to your relationship with that vendor. If you want to switch hardware or payment processors in the future, you’ll have to scrap the entire solution. Being tied to the same vendor for years can prevent you from finding better processing rates or more up-to-date hardware.

Hidden Fees: While the initial deployment of the base software may be free, more advanced features often come at a price. The vendor may require you to pay for reporting, enhancements, or other important functionality. There may also be installation, training, or update costs.

The price of the software may also be wrapped up in the processing fee or hardware costs, which increases the cost of the entire system without adding much benefit. In many cases, purchasing the software separately from the hardware or payment services may be less expensive in the long run.

No Customization: These free restaurant software products are designed for the broadest possible universe of POS customers, and may not include features that are important to restaurants. If there are specific features or functions you need altered to fit your business, you’ll have no way to get the software vendor to implement them. With a traditional deployment of purchased software, the vendor will usually work with you to fit the software to your business.

Lack of Support: Paying for POS software usually gets you some level of software support. End users can contact the vendor for troubleshooting, tweaks, and other support issues. Updates and patches are also typically included with the purchase. Free restaurant software, however, may not include that level of support. If you have installed a system from a vendor that isn’t primarily in the business of selling POS software (like a payment processor), then support may not even be a priority at all. Alternatively, the vendor may only offer support via an overpriced service contract.

There are low-cost, easy-to-deploy alternatives to “free” restaurant software that can still provide cost savings over more expensive, on-premises solutions that require an investment in servers, as well as lengthy implementations. Hosted or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) systems have been adopted in a number of markets, and there are now Point-of-Sale-as-a-Service (POSaaS) options. For example, Restaurant Service Solutions (RSS) offers companies in the hospitality industry a POSaaS system that is licensed on a subscription basis.

This licensing model offers new or growing restaurants a way to implement the solution without the upfront expense of traditional software. For new businesses with limited budgets, POSaaS provides a way to quickly get up and running with a robust POS solution. For expanding restaurants, a hosted solution can help replace outdated POS or cash register solutions with minimal disruptions and budget impact.

When it comes to POS software, free restaurant software often isn’t so free once you take stock of the poor performance, limited functionality, and lack of support. By “renting” the software via an SaaS model, restaurants can save money while still enjoying the benefits of a fully functional POS suite, complete with updates and support.

POS Buyers Guide

Read 964 times Last modified on Monday, 13 June 2016 16:23

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