Restaurant Technology Services

Houston Restaurant Technology Logo

I wanted to give a quick shout out to a great restaurant technology company out of Houston, Texas called Houston Restaurant Technology.  For some reason it has always been a challenge for us to find a great technology company that actually understands the restaurant and bar business.  IT service companies we’ve worked with in the past are great at fixing our computers and network, but when I want some advice or basic instructions on operations related to our POS system, many times I’ve gotten the deer-in-the-headlights look.

Granted, they haven’t all been that bad, but when I met John Sims with Houston Restaurant Technology, Inc. I was blown away.  John has years in the business and was able to fully understand our operations while asking smart questions to learn what we needing from a technology and business perspective…it was a breath of fresh air.

HRT fully built out our internal computer network and setup a really cool guest wi-fi network for social media and email marketing campaigns.  In addition we got a very reliable and amazing Houston POS system along with a beer and liquor management system to help eliminate theft.  We are currently looking at getting a new security system and tv displays, which they provide as well.

Anyway, I just wanted to give a quick shout out since I’ve been busy and haven’t posted anything in a while.  If you’re in the Houston, Texas area and need a POS system or help with anything restaurant technology related, I can highly recommend John.  You won’t be disappointed.  Here’s their contact information.

Houston Restaurant Technology
3262 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77098
(713) 588-0257
http://www.hrt-inc.com

How to get a great deal on a restaurant POS system

Merchant Services in the Houston, Texas area. Part 2 on Payment Systems

In my last post I provided some tips on how to save money on credit card processing fees with merchant providers.  Now I’d like to add to that post by providing some additional information that might help in the decision making process for a payment system.  This is such a hot topic in the business, yet not everyone really wants to talk about it.  I think that’s because no one wants to feel like they got burned by a smooth talking sales person or taken for a ride by a company.  Also, someone might not want their colleagues to know they got screwed on their payment processing.  But it’s good to talk about it because if you know what someone else is paying, this gives you leverage when you’re looking to get out of a bad contract and/or maybe you just want save money on your processing overall.

One thing for sure is there is a gazillion merchant providers out there.  So asking a friend or colleague in the business is a great way to get a referral for a reputable company.  Think about it.  The last time you bought a car, you didn’t just run out and buy the first one you saw on the lot.  Maybe you did, but hopefully you didn’t.  Hopefully you did a bunch of research on price, reliability, negotiating points, and maybe even took it for a test drive.  That’s what I’m suggesting you do with your merchant services provider.

Woman pay by credit card

So here’s what you do:

    1. Find local providers in your area.  Work with someone local.  As an example, one of the companies I work with is in Houston.  So we contacted multiple companies in the Houston, Texas area and got several rate quotes.  We had each company provide us with a merchant rate quote and went through each line item to discover any hidden fees or shenanigans, as I like to call them.   During this time, we’re also rating them on promptness, professionalism, attitude…in other words, do I want to do business with this company.  If I have to pay a little extra to receive exceptional service, you bet I’m going to.  We ended up going with a company called Houston Merchant Services.  They are providers for another large company, and I don’t even know who that company is, and that’s ok because I know HMS has got us covered with great service and rates.
    2. How do I know I got great rates?  Research and talking to other people in the business.  Here’s a few sites I like that will help to get you up to speed on the rate structures of merchant providers and how to save some moolah:

      http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/240877
      https://www.cardfellow.com/average-fees-for-credit-card-processing/
      http://www.merchantmaverick.com/the-complete-guide-to-credit-card-processing-rates-and-fees/

    3. Like that new car, take it for a test drive.  Find a provider that will let you use their service for a certain amount of time before you have to either sign a contract or purchase a bunch of equipment.  That way you know the product is solid, it works, and you have good support.  In fact, if you negotiated properly, hopefully you didn’t have to pay for any terminal equipment, got a great rate, and have a great business relationship in the process.  If you’re just starting out in the process, don’t get discouraged, there are good companies and people out there that will help you.  So best of luck in your quest for the best merchant services and rates!

5 Tips on Saving Credit Card Processing Fees with Merchant Service Providers

1) Negotiate your rate.

I have several friends in the merchant services business.  And I can tell you personally and from a business owner’s perspective, always negotiate the best rate you can get.  Merchant providers will always start high because there is a lot of profit margin in credit card processing.  They ALL want your business and will do whatever it takes to get it.  And obviously, the sales person wants to make a profit.  However, having an idea of rates for your industry going into your meeting will make a big difference.  Expect to pay an interchange fee (set by the card processor) and a merchant service provider fee.  The merchant provider fee or markup fee is what you will want to negotiate.  Keep in mind anything over the interchange fee is money in the provider’s pocket, so you want to get that as low as possible.  Also be on the lookout for ancillary fees like batch fees, statement fees, PCI fees, etc. and negotiate these down as low as you can.

2) Talk to multiple providers.

Another good strategy when shopping for merchant service provider is to talk to multiple merchant providers and compare quotes.  If you’re buying a POS system for your business, a lot of times the POS system company will dictate the processor you go with.  The POS system might be tied to a specific processor only, so keep that in mind if you’re buying a POS as well.  For that reason, you might want to look for a POS system that has the flexibility to use whatever processor you want.  If you get locked into a contract, it can be hard and expensive to get out.  So I would look for companies that don’t make you sign a contract.  Once you have an idea of what you want to use for hardware and pay for merchant services, call 3-5 companies and shop for the best rate.  I don’t recommend wasting someone’s time and trying to pit one company against another, but I see no harm in letting them know you’re shopping around and you want them to give you best rate they have to offer.

3) Don’t sign a contract.

Seriously, they will want you to sign one, but don’t.  If the provider doesn’t offer

merchant service provider tips

month-to-month services, I would bail.  What if there support sucks, but you only find out after signing a 3 year contract? The provider might offer some free equipment or rebates to get you into a contract, but I would avoid it if at all possible.  Getting out of a multi-year contract can be expensive with the cancellation fees.

4) Don’t lease equipment.

This is a no brainer, but people still do it all the time.  It’s like a rent-to-own TV, it ends up costing you 5 times or more the actual cost of the TV.  Some companies will give you free equipment, but they will also price the merchant provider markup fee higher to make up for the loss of hardware.  My recommendation is to purchase the hardware you need upfront (at cost) and make sure you get the latest technology, whether that be wireless or EMV (chip and pin).  If you’re taking payments mobile or with a virtual terminal, I really like Virtual Merchant services.

5) Find out if you can save on your existing rates.

If you already have a merchant account, you might be able to save some money by switching providers.  Just because you had a slick sales person or your brother in-law sold you a “great deal,” that wasn’t so great after all; it doesn’t mean you can’t get out of it.  Obviously you don’t want to jump ship just because you got an offer that’s too good to be true.  But it’s ok to shop around and see if there is a better deal out there.  Most “good” and honest providers will take a look at your statement and tell you if they can save you money.  If they promise the moon, most likely they’re taking you for a ride.  Look for seasoned veterans in the business also when switching.  If you are working with a young blood, they may be more interested in selling you over helping you.  That’s it for now, I hope this information was useful and happy merchant provider hunting!

 

Operations and POS Systems. If you ain’t making money, you ain’t making a living.

If you’re running a bar or a restaurant, you know how critical it is to know where you stand on finances.  That’s money in and money out, simple as that..or is it?  The hospitality business traditionally has a horrendously small profit margin.  Seriously, if you’re profiting 5%-10% you’re doing pretty well.  So it is so imperative to know all your costs up front and to project your spending the best you can.  Initially starting out, it’s really all about revenue and that’s a no brainer.  You may have an amazing concept, but if you can’t get it fully funded and off the ground, well there you go.  Aside from revenue, you need a good place on rent, need strong staffing and good pricing. If you’re managing things properly, then your profit margins start to increase and you start to own a business and not a money pit.

There are so many factors to consider when opening a bar or restaurant.  Food cost being one of the big ones.  A good rule of thumb for food cost is around 30%.  So be prepared for that.  If you’re paying more, you need to shop around.  Employee theft is also a real concern.  You’re going to need a way to manage those factors.  Also how are you going to keep track of food cost and your inventory?  Well you need a good restaurant pos system  There are many great products out there, talk to several vendors to make sure you get the right solution for your industry.  Get an onsite demo if you can, so you see exactly what you’re getting and working with.  Also, I’d recommend working with someone local.  When your stuff isn’t working, you need someone there pronto.  Check review sites on pos systems and take them seriously.  I know a lot of my products for starting my business came from referrals, so be sure to talk to industry insiders to find out what they’re using.  Rather than dropping a lot of money up front on a, you might want to consider doing a lease to keep that revenue for emergencies and keep your monthly expenses in a manageable position.  This is so important because you need to keep track of that money in and money out; it’s the heart of your business.  Look up Buyerzone and get a good pos system price, they have a great form you can fill out and you’ll get multiple quotes from vendors in your area.  The key is to let the vendors work to earn your business.

Ok, I’ve gone on enough for now. Now get to work and open that restaurant & bar. 🙂

Hey, Let’s Get This Brewing Business Started

So you want to start a brewery or own a micro brewing business? Maybe you just want to learn more about brewing beer or to educate yourself on how the brew making business works. There’s so many considerations when looking at the possibilities in the business. A great place to start your research if you’re planing on getting a certification or education is over at the Brewers Association. They have a great list of resources for professional brewing schools and courses, and university affiliated brewing programs, including international opportunities. Here’s the link: https://www.brewersassociation.org/resources/schools-organizations/

An amazing business program we found is the Online Business of Craft Brewing Certificate at the Portland State University.

This certification is not cheap, but it has an amazing and thorough online course schedule. This includes everything from the basics of business for craft brewing, to strategic marketing. Here’s a snap shot of the courses:

The 4 Required Certificate Courses:

Both of These (In this order):
BB401 Basic Business for Craft Beverages
BB402 Craft Beverage Business Management

And 2 of These:
BB403 Strategic Craft Beverage Marketing
BB404 Finance and Accounting for the Craft Brewery
BB405 Craft Beverage Distribution

More valuable and hopefully helpful information about the brewing, bar, and restaurant business to come as we get going here. And as the great and infamous (more than famous) Most Interesting Man in the World says “stay thirsty my friend.”