Interview with Lewin Chalkley: Co-owner of Look Mum No Hands! and EPOS Now User

What do you get when you cross a bicycle workshop with a coffee shop? London-based Look Mum No Hands!. Look Mum No Hands! is a unique hybrid between a café and a bicycle shop, based in London’s trendy East End. As one of the co-owners, Lewin Chalkley understands the growing pains of starting a new business, and the importance of selecting the right POS system. In this interview, he shared some of his experiences regarding using Epos Now, and explained why it's important to use an established system that has the kinks ironed out.

Hi Lewin, nice to meet you. Could you tell us a bit about your business?

We opened Look Mum No Hands! in 2010. From six or seven employees, we’ve grown to having around 30 or 40, depending on the time of year, and we hire more when we have pop up shops in the summer. Three of us own the business: myself (with a background is in the food/beverage industry), Sam Humpheson (who used to be a full-time mechanic and can fix the bikes), and Matthew Harper (finance). The café really mixes two of our loves and no-one was really doing it at the time. We now have two full-time locations and we open pop ups in the summer. Once we took the project on we were struggling to come up with a name. We spent quite a lot of time on Google Wave and talking on the phone late at night knocking about different names and getting pretty fed up about it. In the end, Sam came up with Look Mum No Hands! and it turned into our brand.

Look Mum No Hands!

What do you think are the most important features to look for when selecting a POS system?

As a café owner, you go on word of mouth and recommendation.

What POS do you use? Why did you ultimately choose it?

When we were picking up on POS systems we were two/three years into our business, and all the new software was just emerging. We were essentially approached by EPOS Now. We knew nothing about any other software and decided to go with it. And to start with they were awful, really terrible. I actually threatened to take their till outside and set it on fire with lighter fluid and then tweet it to all our followers. There were so many things that really frustrated us to begin with. Particularly as we had only used basic tills previously. They did eventually get better.

But their problem is that they try to appeal to every type of business – hairdressers, cafes – they try and be everything to everyone. But different businesses will have different needs. In our business, it’s about speed, as well as the iCloud based reporting and all the other fluff.

What other systems were you considering at the time? And what other systems have you used in the past, if any?

We didn’t really consider any other system and had only used a cash register before using EPOS Now.

We did stay with them because you invest so much time putting in your own data that it doesn’t feel worthwhile then having to do that all over again with someone else. They did eventually get better. Although in hindsight we were almost a guinea pig, as they were developing and we really shouldn’t have paid them anything for an initial period.

What functions do you use the system to perform?

On an everyday operational level, we can create tickets that appear at different locations. So, if it’s a food order, it can go to the kitchen. If it’s a drink order it will appear at the bar. When we had a till system, obviously, you get one print out and you physically take it to the location you need. So, now we have less donkey work to do.

Look Mum No Hands! Bar

On a management level, I also look at the sales on my phone.

How does your current system compare to other systems you’ve used in the past? In what ways is it better? In what ways is it worse?

Compared to the till, it does have some disadvantages. Using a cash register, if I sold a latte, there would be two buttons I needed to press. With EPOS Now, I have one button to select ‘latte’, then I have to select ‘hot drink’, then I have to select ‘latte’ again, then I have to press ‘pay’ and then ‘pay by card’ -- there are more buttons I have to press to make a sale. That won’t be an issue for a restaurant because they don’t have as many transactions as a cafe.

On the upside, by pressing all those buttons, it’s collecting more data, which is useful for analytics. We also don’t have to physically write on the tickets anymore e.g. ‘skinny tall latte’ etc.

What can be improved, or is there any missing functionality you wish it had?

It could be quicker, with less buttons needed to make a sale.

We’ve also had network issues. There’s no one physically on the ground in London to help set up the network and you’re thus left to do it all by yourself. The support in that way hasn’t been great, and if I wasn’t as tech savvy as I am, we would have struggled.

Would you recommend this system to others?

Having said all of this I would still recommend the system to others. An interesting quip – Mary Portas who is a television personality and retail consultant went into a local hardware store called ‘City Hardware’ and recommended the system to them as well.

How would you rate their customer service (1 to 5 with 5 being best) and why?

It’s been varied. When we first started using them, I’d say their support was a 1. If you had asked me three years ago, I’d say 4. Now I’d say 3. They did become very good at one point and as a smaller operation they were probably keeping on top of everything. It’s gone a little downhill now.

How well or poorly does it integrate with other applications (payments processing, accounting, reporting, or other order marketplaces like OpenTable, Seamless, etc.)

It doesn’t integrate particularly well with the software we use, like KashFlow (our accounting software). The other thing to note is that while you can get a card reader, you are then tied into using their payment gateways. Also, the hardware integration could be better. For instance, we have two Window tills and two tablets, but you can only use a bar scanner on the Window tills, but not the tablets.

Look Mum No Hands Bicycle

How did the pricing of the system work?

You pay for the hardware, and then you can pay for a license and then there are various packages to get access to varying levels of support. The more commitment you make, the less you pay (for instance if you opt for annual packages vs weekly/monthly packages).

We currently pay £114 per month outside of hardware costs (which can cost a few thousand initially).

What advice do you have for other restaurants shopping for a POS system?

Talk to as many different people using as many different types of systems as you can. Because the chances are that no one shop will be 100% happy with their system.

About EPOS Now POS Software

EPOS Now is a UK-based company that provides popular cloud POS systems. EPOS Now has been used by over 30,000 businesses. The company provides a complete hardware system which includes cash registers, touch screen terminals, tablets and printers, in addition to software systems that integrate with various applications.

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