Keeping Things Square

One of the early decisions when we were planning for Cafe Solstice, my wife Missy’s new cafe, we were really interested in using Square. Square is a service/device from the fellow behind Twitter. For us, we simply created an account at, and shortly after, we received a small device that plugged into the headphone jack of our iPhones, iPads, or an Android phone, and could download the app that works with it.

I’m always for using new technology, and loved the idea of the “oh wow” factor of using an iPad at a cafe may have as just one of the things to help us stick out. But my concerns were two fold: how would we do paper receipts, and how does the system hold up under pressure of a lunch rush.

In our experience, and I was surprised by this a little, we barely have any credit card transactions. On a busy day, we’ve had maybe four cards, and all of the rest cash. That means all of our transactions are recorded, but we only pay the small per transaction cost to maybe four checkouts a day.

In over a week an a half, we’ve only had to fill out three paper receipts. And for those that want the digital receipt, we discovered that if you do use your card, it retains your email address for repeat customers, eliminating some repetition, just like at the Apple Store.

As a POS (Point of Sale) system, it’s even better. Missy setup our entire menu in the system under her account, which gives it an interesting periodic table feel at the bottom that you can scroll through. When we get busy, and I happen to be in doing my freelance work in the cafe, I can step up with my own iPad, log in, and have the cafe’s offerings right there. Even if I didn’t have a square device handy, I was more than capable to take care of cash transactions, which all report right back to the account.

On the back end, Square offers a great reporting page you can log into online that gives you transactions, how they paid, and running totals for the day. Missy, who’s kept her day job through all of this, can easily check in online to see how we’re doing. It beats waiting for end of the day register counting.

As I mentioned, the wow factor has been a great sticking point. The scores of people coming through our door that ask “is that an iPad?” have been interesting. Some have even seen us ringing them out and asking about the service for their own ventures. One fellow said it would be perfect for doing transactions for his photography (of which, he has some fantastic Pittsburgh cityscapes).

Recently, we even discussed the possibility of doing deliveries or expanding to some sort of food truck in the far future, and the prospect of being able to deliver locally and take cash or credit on the spot with an iPhone or Android device, which ties right into our system remotely would be a tremendous chance for expansion.

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