EPOS & Payments for Temporary Events

EPOS and payments for temporary events

This article will cover EPOS for temporary events: what do I need in an EPOS and what rate should I be paying for my payment processing? 

  • Payment Processing + Simple POS systems 
  • Cellular and alternative internet options
  • Are the “business management” functions of traditional POS systems relevant for event bars? 
  • POS features relevant to event businesses
  • Buying versus renting equipment 
  • Top Systems recommended by StoreKit
  • Set up a call 

This article will also aim to cater for all sizes of merchants. So whether you’re masterminding an event from head office, or you’re an independent vendor selling wares at temporary events, you’re in the right place. However, as you become bigger, the software appropriate for you becomes more complex and has more components – and its therefore more important that we talk. 

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Book a call with StoreKit today and we’ll walk you through the basics, free of charge.

Payment processing

traditional payments versus acquirers

On the left: a traditional processor which comes with a contract from a bank. On the right: newer “payment facilitator” card readers which are pay as you go.

Traditional payment processors come with a contract of 2-4 years, which include a rental fee for the reader and a minimum processing fee which would still need to be paid in months when your event is off. We would generally recommend using what’s called a “payment facilitator”, which can be used with a phone or tablet POS set-up. 

In some circumstances, it’s possible that traditional processors could still work out cheaper than their newer alternatives. An example would be a regular event with a high level of certainty with large volumes being processed and an average transaction size of more than around £10. The average transaction size is the most important factor, as processors old and new all drop their prices for larger merchants. (If you want us to do the maths for you, get in touch.) 

For everyone else, a “payment facilitator” is likely to be more appropriate. These are providers including iZettle, Square, Sum Up, and PayPal Here.

From your perspective, there are several differences between these and traditional processors: 

  • You buy rather than rent your card reader (for between £10 and £70)  
  • No minimum processing fees
  • No card rental fees
  • Fewer identity checks
  • Readers can work out the box
  • Rates are deducted before the money enters your account
  • Rates are the same regardless of what card someone uses
  • Rates are expressed as a flat percent, there’s no “+2p” component 

These kinds of companies also have a difference between “headline” and “actual” rates. The headline rate is what is advertised (usually around 1.8%) – but for big enough merchants, this can drop as low as 0.7%. If you’re processing more than around £6,000 per month, let StoreKit know, and we can advise you on how to access the lower rates.

Generally, we talk about POS systems being composed of three elements: hardware, software, and payments. For these types of processors, the payments and software are bundled together. So:

  • Each processor comes with its own free EPOS software designed for use on a phone or tablet as the cashier screen
  • You don’t have to use this software – you may choose to use your own POS software which can be integrated with a payment facilitator 
  • This means there is no need to seek out a “payment application” or any middleware. If you want your POS software to work with your payment provider, an integration has either been built, or it has not. 
  • With the exception of the Square Terminal and the Sum Up 3G card reader, you cannot type in custom amounts to these readers. It must be done through a POS app.  

software hardware payments

EPOS for temporary events: which Payment Facilitator? 

Software and Integrations

The software that you choose to use for your POS will affect really important attributes of your business – including things which are explicitly linked to customer loss, such as the speed with which your servers can go during peak times. 

Each payment facilitator comes with its own software for the cashier. If that’s what you want to use, great – to generalise, it tends to be good-but-basic. We’d say that Square and iZettle have higher levels of functionality and more features than their competitors. On our site, iZettle is the highest-reviewed (at the time of writing). 

But you don’t have to use their software for your cashier screen. The alternative would be to integrate with POS software by a third party, which might have more features and functions. Each payment facilitator has a shortlist of the different POS companies it can integrate with. These integrations would be free and out of the box. So, you could choose to have Goodtill software with iZettle payments. Or airpos software with PayPal Here payments. 

Since payments is a commodity whereas your software is differentiated product – meaning, the only thing that really matters with payments is the price, whereas there’s lots of things to think about with software, we recommend choosing the software first. Then, narrow down the payment list to a few providers based on your software. Finally, pick the cheapest one. 

Pricing

The absolute lowest starting rate is Sum Up – a 1.69% processing fee. But iZettle and Square both start at 1.75%. All of them lower their price to around the 1% mark. 

The card readers vary in price. They can usually be discounted with an affiliate link. If you buy iZettle or Sum Up through StoreKit, the card reader is discounted when purchased alongside our referral link. Through us, the iZettle reader is the cheapest.

PayPal Here offers explicitly tiered pricing which may be attractive to some users, but their starting rate is very steep at 2.75%.  

More information on the payment facilitator brands is available here

Renting EPOS software

Can I rent EPOS for temporary events?

Free POS comes with much of what you need an EPOS system for. However, you may decide that you want to rent a more complex EPOS system with more functions, that you could choose to integrate with your payments provider. 

That decision would mean that in addition to payments, you would pay a monthly SaaS fee for the months when you used your software. How much this fee would be can vary enormously… from £19 per month to £1000s depending on the number of tills you’re using and the software you elect to go with. 

If you like, you could start and stop paying the fee and using the software between each event with the caveat that this would require a lengthy set-up each time. 

Here’s some of the features software can do which you might find interesting: 

EPOS features specific to temporary events 

front of house

Quick and simple interface 

To cope with the massive queues, you’ll need an intuitive interface on your tablet or mobile device, that allows you to switch quickly between users.

 Available with FreePOS

Integrated payments 

Your staff should be able to select a product and instantly cue the price of the good on a card reader for a customer to buy (iZettle Pro links with the iZettle Reader 2 for integrated payments). Some EPOS have shortcuts on screen – such as easy image selection tools and “quick keys” for your favourite goods. 

Available with FreePOS

Discounts

Can you ring through discounts on the fly? Some discounts can be set-up to ring through automatically. You might want to be able to set these as a “combo” deal, or as a fixed percent off of a specific item. 

This is mostly available through FreePOS, but you might find it limiting in terms of specificity 

Food and drink management 

“Table service” adds a lot of functions to a POS, and if you don’t have tables, all those extra functions could slow you down. This would mean a map of tables which includes things like specific bills. 

Table service is not available in any FreePOS app

Since at temporary events, you’re likely to be a pop-up stall that sells food/drinks at a counter, you’ll need an EPOS that is built for speed – to cope with a high volume of sales and throughput, which FreePOS. 

– Recipes. This can mean one of two things; if you have cocktailers, it can mean that it reminds them of the recipe for each cocktail as they serve. If you have inventory management in your system, recipes also means that your stock will go down at the right rate – because what you sell (e.g. frankfurter hotdogs) and what you buy (e.g. hotdog bun, onions, frankfurters). This means you’re never at risk of running out of one component and then losing out on customers, like a veggie hot dog option. Read our inventory management to learn more. 

Recipes are not available in any FreePOS app 

– Clear modifiers.  If you have a customer who is allergic to X, it’s very important to make that information clear on the order docket rather than relying on busy front-of-house staff to relay that information. 

Modifiers are available in FreePOS apps

– You can send an order ticket through to a kitchen with FreePOS.  

– Creating composite items. Composite items are made up of multiple components. For example, if you’re a burger stand, you may need to programme your EPOS to sell by combinations of toppings, type of patty etc. 

Alcohol – ID checks 

The responsibility not to sell alcohol to underage persons lies with you and your employees. EPOS software ensures your compliant with regulations by providing a built in ID check that will remind staff to ask for proof of age when selling beer or spirits. 

Whilst iZettle doesn’t permit you to sell tobacco, iZettle and Square allow you to sell alcohol face to face with customers, as long as you stick to the UK age restriction rules. PayPal requires pre-approval for this.

Other Paid EPOS features

Superior Reporting 

reporting banner

With iZettle Go, you can see when are your busiest times of day, identify best-selling products, and export all your transactions/ refunds/ deposits at the end of the day. iZettle Pro lets you do more things with reporting as it’s integrated with Xero (there’s a £39 monthly fee per iPad for iZettle Pro, and the iPad you choose must support iOS 11.0 or higher). Read about reporting in EPOS.

Superior Marketing 

marketing & e-commerce banner

If you’re set up at a festival, there are a number of marketing tools available to help boost your brand’s key messages and make the most of the few short days you have with your captive audience. Make sure you choose a system that can help you both reward customers as well as engage with them via Customer Relationship Management (CRM). 

Cellular Internet Options 

Most POS software requires the internet to work. This is especially true of cloud-based software, which works via the internet. Any systems which don’t use the internet, and most software with an offline mode, will require a server to house local data.

Additionally, all payment processing requires the internet, outside of specialist bespoke systems such as those used by airlines. That means that even if you choose an offline system, you will still be “cash only” in the case of an internet outage. (Some EPOS will allow up to ten offline payments). 

At a temporary event – a festival, for example, with an intermittent connection – it might be important to you to have mobile broadband so you can take payments wherever you are. 

Consider the following ‘lines of defence’ which will help you access the internet without a router. 

3G, 4G, or 5G enabled device + Cellular Data SIM. 

Choose a device (iPad, for example) in which you can insert a SIM card. At temporary events, you can access the internet via the paid-for mobile data plan you might choose with the SIM. If an iPad has a SIM card, it works just like a phone would in terms of calls or cellular data.

Standalone card reader – SumUp 3G reader

This is a popular choice for vendors at temporary events – you can access the 3G network with its inbuilt sim card and there’s no lock-in contract. It doesn’t work in conjunction with a mobile app like SumUp Air. Instead, all the software features are hardcoded on the card machine. It cannot print receipts though (but you can send text and email receipts from it). 

Cellular Data Dongle

Whether you’re in a remote location or on the move, a USB dongle will allow you to get online via a mobile network. A dongle is a bit like a SIM and connects to mobile broadband – plug it into your laptop’s USB port and you can then use 4G or 3G, the same broadband as your mobile.

Hybrid and cloud EPOS software – how it works and what to look out for 

If you’re still concerned about the internet cutting out, consider choosing a hybrid system.

Hybrid systems, or systems described as having “offline mode”, store some data on your hard drive and some in the cloud. They have various functions available while you’re offline. Some “hybrid” systems such as Touchbistro may require a local server to work, so that they can continue running the software when you can no longer connect to the server you’re using overseas. With this onsite server, you can keep multiple tills synced up at all times. 

Several EPOS systems describe themselves as “hybrid”, so this is where it pays off to find out from the POS company exactly what functions will and will not work in offline mode.

Here’s a breakdown of what features are likely to be available/not available if your internet cuts out: 

A) With just a few exceptions, all credit card processing requires the internet to push through payments. Should your internet go down, the first thing you’ll lose is your ability to accept card payments. This is true with all systems including “fixed till”. You could look into cash payment functionality, which could be a backup if you’re unable to take cards. 

Remember payment processing and EPOS systems are not the same thing. (EPOS = software that helps you run your operations; processing = the financial, legal, and telecoms system which moves money from customer cards to your bank). For hybrid and fixed-till systems which “work offline”, you will be able to quickly and easily accept cash payment, but you still may not be able to accept card payment. It’s risky taking card payments offline because you won’t be able to see if a payment has actually gone through (meaning you could suffer losses). 

B) Front-of-House functions, including the simple ability to sell things continues to be possible in nearly all cases with hybrid systems. The data of what you have sold will collect locally for a short while and then upload to the cloud when the outage stops.

C) Integrations with online systems such as a cloud-based accounting systems such as Xero or Quickbooks cannot function without internet, including with fixed till systems. If your internet goes down, the information on these systems will be temporarily de-synchronised, and will re-synchronise when internet connection is established. 

D) Reordering stock won’t be possible offline as this is something that needs to be submitted online to the external vendor. 

Charging your hardware 

The new iZettle 2 reader and Square reader connect to your tablet or phone via Low Energy Bluetooth, and charges via USB cable (approximately 1‒2 hours for iZettle and 2-3 hours for Square). Most Freepos software can be used with a variety of iOS and Android devices. 

Set-up examples

  1. iZettle Pro, iPad Air 2 or higher, iPad stand, Sim card on 3G network, thermal receipt printer, a cash drawer with RJ11 connection
  2. SumUp 3G reader
  3. 3G-enabled Android phone (Android 5.0+), with Square reader for contactless/chip and pin, thermal receipt printer, cash drawer with RJ11 connection.

Our “top five” EPOS systems for events…

Free EPOS will cover the basic needs of a small merchant, without the complex features such as table service, split bills and advanced accounting which will all cost you a bit extra. Your Free POS options include iZettle Go, Square, SumUp, and PayPal Here. 

  • Square
  • iZettle
  • SumUp
  • PayPal Here

Are you in the process of choosing an EPOS system? Call us today on 020 3874 1470 and our experts can guide you through your software, payment processing and hardware set-up.