Popular POS and Bookkeeping Software for Food Merchants

A helpful guide to finding the best POS and bookkeeping systems for your specialty food store.

If you don’t keep track of sales, raise your hand. If you do keep track of sales but with a good old paper and pen, raise your hand. If you use a simple cash register and handy calculator at the check-out, raise your hand. Of course, I can’t see if you’ve raised your hand at all, but if you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, it may be time to incorporate POS and bookkeeping software into your daily business handlings. POS and electronic bookkeeping can elevate your small business, grocery store, or specialty food store to new heights of success. But how? And what is POS and electronic bookkeeping anyway?

Read on to find out more about POS and bookkeeping, why it is so important, and what software may work best for you.

What is POS?

POS” stands for point of sale. The point of sale is the time and place a transaction occurs, typically at the cash register during check-out. The point of sale is also how exactly a transaction is made, including whether a customer uses cash, credit card, debit card, smart pay, or—for the ever-modern consumer—digital currency like bitcoin. Electronic or cloud-based point of sale systems come in the form of software programs that run on all kinds of tablets, apps, online sites, and platforms. Because it is a technological software, it is portable, mobile, automated and sustainable.

How popular is POS software?

A 2017 report by Technavio shows that the global market for point of sale technology will steadily increase by a rate of 9 percent through 2021. The study indicates this rise is due to the growing popularity of non-cash payment methods. The increasing use of credit and debit puts more pressure on store owners to upgrade to highly secured software in order to protect customer information as well as handle the growing number of non-cash payment methods.

As non-cash payment methods continue to increase in popularity, POS systems are projected to garner even more importance in 2019. The modern consumer is using cash less and less. According to a 2017 study by Total System Services Inc. (TSYS), cash is being consistently edged out by other forms of payment.

Debit cards and credit cards have consistently increased in popularity since 2013, so much so that in 2017 over half of the consumers polled preferred to shop without cash. Most point of sale software incorporates all major card processors, but we’ll get into that later.

What are the benefits of POS technology?

POS technology streamlines payment processing, inventory tracking, time tracking, and pricing all in one convenient place. POS software records sales, which means store owners can keep track of what products are selling, when products are selling, and how much product needs to be ordered again. POS software stores all of your business sales information on your computer or device, where you can also save data in the cloud.

What is “The Cloud”

The “cloud” is a free internet space provided, backed, and protected by such immense servers like Google and Firefox. With popular services like Google Drive, you can access the information stored in the cloud as long as you have an internet connection.

POS software also keeps track of product prices. Products are given a unique barcode that when scanned, registers as the product’s current price. No more manually writing out price tags and scribbling out numbers when prices fluctuate or sales occur. Food shops, like natural foods stores, will greatly benefit from streamlined price management. Produce that is otherwise hard to stamp with a price sticker, can be coded into a POS system with its own price. Check out how to start a natural foods store here.

POS software makes tracking inventory simple. Barcodes are used to account for product type and amount. Scan one barcode on one product, for example, and account for how much has been ordered and how much has been delivered. This makes ordering stock much more simple and accurate. Use the record of sales to track what products are selling and what products are not. This will give you a better and more accurate idea of what to continue stocking, what to order less of, and what to change to meet consumer trends. Inventory is a huge part of running an efficient and successful small business. Learn more about inventory management here.

How much does POS software cost?

POS systems usually cost money, though some basic services are free. POS systems also charge processing fees for credit cards and debit cards as well as monthly subscription fees for their service. These fees change according to what kind of software you choose to go with, usually depending on how basic or advanced the software is. We have provided an overview of several software providers and their pricing structure below.

How do I get started with POS software?

An easy way to start benefiting from POS software services is to join online marketplaces that do some of the work for you. Mercato is an online marketplace that offers food merchants the ability to sell their products to a larger online consumer base. Merchants get a product catalog of more than 100,000 pictures and ongoing advertising. Mercato provides safe card transactions, processing, and automatic deposits. Online marketplaces are important and helpful to join in order to expand your business online as well as gain secure POS management.

What is electronic bookkeeping?

Bookkeeping entails the recording of a business’ financial history. This includes sales, income and expense, payroll, and taxes. It accounts for money made and money spent. Many small business owners keep records by hand or get help from an accountant. However, electronic bookkeeping is growing in popularity due to its accuracy, efficiency, and convenience.

Like POS systems, electronic bookkeeping programs allow store owners to store massive amounts of data all in one place, typically in the cloud or on a personal device. No more worrying about losing important papers or records; these programs streamline the entire bookkeeping process.

Read more for popular POS and bookkeeping software for food merchants:

Popular POS Programs:

Square

Square is a great option for small businesses. It is an online program designed to run easily on any tablet (iPad, iPhone, etc.) as well as on your computer. Square has a mobile app you can easily access on your phone or on any device. Square is a great option for small businesses looking to start with inexpensive yet sophisticated software.

  • Price: no monthly fees, free to download
  • Processing fees: flat rate of 2.75% for card payments, 3.5% + $0.15 for keyed payment (manually entering card numbers or payment over the phone), and 2.9% + $0.30 for online payments.
  • Necessary hardware: stand, cash drawer, receipt printer, iPad, all of which can be found here
  • Important features: free download, built-in e-commerce processing, invoice payments, flat rates for card fees, payroll management, and the option to integrate second party programs like electronic bookkeeping systems (read on for more on that)
  • Free tutorial

Clover

Clover is a great option for grocery stores or specialty food stores. Clover is a mobile software that works through any tablet or device, comes as a mobile app, and syncs with the cloud. Clover does not charge per employee which means its price does not change according to how many people you hire.

  • Price: prices charge according to what program you purchase. As price increases, program sophistication increases. Plans change according to what hardware you also intend to buy. Monthly fees range like so: $0 for Payment Plus which includes no additional hardware but provides simple card and online payment; $9.95/month for Register Lite which includes a mobile iPad and mount, and $29.95/month for Register/Classic which includes a full computer station. Clover Station plans also vary in price (roughly $90-$1200) but provide a one-stop option for purchasing software and hardware together.
  • Processing fees: 2.6% +10¢ per card transaction
  • Necessary hardware: hardware is included in the price according to what plans you purchase. Check out their online store.
  • Important features: flat rates for card fees, inventory management, customer loyalty programs integrations, staff management, and more.
  • Free tutorial

Shopkeep

Shopkeep is the #1 rated POS software for iPad use in 2018. Shopkeep runs on any tablet or device and comes as an app. Its unique back office system runs through the cloud.

  • Price: Shopkeep does not publish any pricing online and requires you submit for a free estimate. However, on average, small businesses pay $70 per register in monthly fees.
  • Processing fees: unlike Square and Clover’s flat rates, card processing fees vary according to plan or payment structure.
  • Necessary hardware: ShopKeep Activation, printer, cash drawer, mounting brackets, iPad enclosure, and payment terminal, all found in their online store
  • Important features: inventory management, payroll, unlimited SKUs, barcode scanner integration, email list integration, customer loyalty programs integrations, e-commerce payment, and more.
  • Free Tutorial

Lightspeed

Lightspeed is a great option for retail, grocery, or specialty stores. It is also a cloud-based POS software and runs on all tablets and devices.

  • Price: their most popular plan is $99/month which includes 1 register, 5 employees, 24/7 support, free updates, and more basic applications. An additional $59/month allows store owners to handle online transactions.
  • Processing fees: card fees vary according to plan, though percentages are comparable to most POS systems
  • Necessary hardware: receipt printer, cash drawer, Bluetooth scanner, iPad stand, all found here
  • Important features: inventory management, e-commerce and omnichannel support, 24/7 phone support, customer loyalty programs integrations, and more.
  • Free tutorial

Shopify

Shopify is an iPad and iPhone POS software that allows you to manage both your online and physical store all in one place.

  • Price: monthly fees vary according to plan. Basic Shopify costs $29/month, Shopify costs $79/month, and Advanced Shopify costs $299/month. Staff accounts range from 2-15 accordingly.
  • Processing fees: online card fees range from 2.6%-2.4%, decreasing from basic to advanced, plus an additional 30 cents. In-person card fees range from 2.7%-2.4% from basic to advanced, without any additional cost.
  • Necessary hardware: a complete kit includes iPad stand, cash drawer, printer, and card reader. All hardware can be found here
  • Important features: allows the use of an external card terminal, split payments, store credit, staff PINs, inventory management, and more.
  • Free tutorial

Popular Bookkeeping Programs

Zoho Books

Zoho Books is a bookkeeping cloud-based software best suited for small businesses. Zoho accounts for all major documentation and processing, including invoicing, bills, inventory, sales orders, and estimates. Zoho also offers integration with Square, PayPal, and other POS software. Pricing ranges from $9/month to $29/month. This is the best option for small grocery stores, specialty food stores, and gourmet stores both for the price, software sophistication, and program integration. Zoho offers a 14-day free trial. Check out a free demo, here.

QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks Online is another great option for grocery stores and small businesses. Quickbooks tracks income and expenses, invoices and payments, bills, inventory, and has basically all of the features Zoho offers. However, Quickbooks is a bit pricier and prices range from $20/month to $60/month. Quickbooks offers a 30-day free trial. Find a free tutorial, here.

FreshBooks

Like Zoho, Freshbooks is a software program geared toward small businesses. It offers all of the features offered by Zoho and Quickbooks, which goes for most all popular bookkeeping software programs. Track income and expense, bills, payroll, employee time, and more. More expensive than Zoho but on par with Quickbooks, prices range from $15/month to $50/month. You may also try a 30-day free trial. Here are free tutorials for help.

FreeAgent

FreeAgent is an accounting software generally geared towards freelancers and self-employed people. However, it’s great for small gourmet or specialty shops with few people on the payroll. Enjoy features like invoicing, payroll, estimates, taxes, and more. US businesses are priced at $12/month for the first six months and then $24/month thereafter. The good thing about FreeAgent is that it offers its sophisticated software in one all-inclusive plan. No contracts or set-up fees. Find a free tutorial, here.

Sage

Sage is a software that offers accounting, financials, and enterprise management services. Sage is a great one-stop-shop for all things business management. Track sales, payroll, invoicing, taxes, tax laws, and more. Their basic program is priced at $10/month and their more advanced is $25/month. You may try a free 30-day trial for either program. Check out a free tutorial for extra guidance.

Further Reading

The bottom line is, as business owners, you want to be as informed and prepared as possible to successfully manage and grow your business. POS and bookkeeping software can greatly improve your store’s efficiency as well as take some weight off your shoulders in managing your own financials.

Learn more about the growing changes in the world of small business ownership. This includes: