There are tons of restaurant POS systems on the market, and they all want your business. The Ascent helps you understand what to look for and provides our top 7 POS systems for your restaurant.
Congratulations, you’re at the restaurant point of sale (POS) selection stage of your journey. This is a critical step for any small restaurant just opening up. Your POS is the foundation on which you’ll manage your operation.
Almost all POS systems today blend ordering and payment processing with restaurant management software. Trends are moving away from bulky restaurant computer systems and toward virtual terminals via mobile, tablet, and even phone-based systems.
Restaurant iPad POS systems enable servers to take their restaurant system with them throughout the restaurant, inputting orders and processing payments whenever and wherever customers are ready.
The move to mobile was a trend prior to COVID-19, but it’s definitely accelerated in the aftermath. These mobile-based systems offer more contactless ordering and payment methods. Most of the best POS systems offer tablet or smartphone-based options.
Continue reading to learn more about our top seven restaurant POS systems.
Here are our top picks for the best restaurant POS systems:
- Toast POS
- Lightspeed POS
- PayPal Here
- Epos Now
- Clover POS
What to consider when choosing a restaurant POS system
You’ll have many considerations to keep in mind as you research and select your restaurant POS system. POS hardware requirements have always been an essential part of the selection process.
You’ll want to inquire about mandatory hardware requirements, such as cash drawers, tablets, or card readers. You’ll need card readers to accept credit card payments as well as contactless payments. And you want to ensure your payment processor will work with you on chargeback protection.
Most POS systems today are upfront about these things, so we opted to highlight three other critical factors to consider when choosing your restaurant POS system.
1. Mobile and contactless ordering and payment
Even before the COVID-19 crisis, mobile POS systems had gained traction across the industry. The days of bulky screens hidden next to the soft drink fountain or bolted to the bar are over. Servers can take orders at the table, either by tablet or smartphone, by building the order as customers speak it.
This eliminates human error and expedites the ordering process. Customers appreciate paying at the table, giving them a layer of security and efficiency to conclude their experience at the restaurant.
2. Robust inventory and product management
Restaurants live and die by razor thin margins. Inventory management helps maintain them. It enables you to monitor food costs, inventory waste, and more.
Many restaurant POS systems struggle to offer a robust and easy-to-use inventory system, so make sure it’s a top concern when you research and demo various systems.
3. Agile reporting capabilities
Successful restaurateurs depend on pinpoint, in-depth reporting into margin, food and drink sales, happy hour performance, and more. These reporting capabilities are essential for making informed decisions to maximize profitability across menu items, employee hours, and days of the week.
Your restaurant POS system should offer easily understandable reporting that empowers you and managers to make the real-time and long-term decisions necessary to sustain and even boost profitability.
7 best restaurant POS systems
Here is a rundown of the seven best restaurant POS systems we’ve identified. Some are restaurant-exclusive systems, others multi-purpose.
They vary widely in terms of price, capabilities, and scalability, so exercise your due diligence to ensure you’re getting the best system for your business now and into the future.
1. Toast POS
Toast POS provides a full-on point of sale system specifically designed for restaurants. Key restaurant management features include detailed inventory tracking, server and shift management, payroll management, custom kitchen communication, and mobile ordering and payment processing capabilities.
Toast supports mobile POS capabilities so that servers have their POS with them as they move about the restaurant. Toast has also released a customer-facing solution that enables users to order and pay at the table from their phones, providing a completely contactless experience.
Toast provides access to the features it lacks with a plethora of third-party integrations. These add-ons ensure you’re fully equipped to manage and grow your restaurant, with apps for more detailed food and beverage cost monitoring, accounting across locations, and more.
Toast offers a dynamic pricing structure with many factors determining your overall subscription price.
There’s a $75/month per terminal recurring software fee, but Toast will work with you on volume-based discounts if your operation requires more than a few terminals. Outside of that, you’ll have payment processing fees, additional hardware costs, and more.
2. Lightspeed POS
Lightspeed’s restaurant POS system provides specialized solutions for managing all facets of your restaurant. It’s mobile and supports taking orders and processing payments at the table. The system is designed so you can display images of menu items to customers.
Lightspeed POS is a fit for restaurants, bars, cafes, and other eateries of all sizes. The solution is built to grow with your business and can scale up to large businesses with multiple locations.
Key features include menu management, food cost and inventory management, purchase order support, and even adjustable floor plans to update seatings on the fly. It syncs with all major food delivery providers and offers detailed reporting.
Lightspeed Restaurant is priced at $69/month for one POS terminal. Lightspeed offers packages for an additional $12 or $39/month that provide more specialized restaurant capabilities.
ShopKeep POS is another mobile-based POS system to fit the needs of small and medium-size restaurant operations. ShopKeep inputs orders and processes payments right at the table, including mobile payments to reduce contact.
ShopKeep’s restaurant solution provides essential POS features across front-of-house and back-of-house operations as well as critical inventory management and reporting.
Key front-of-house features include check splitting and time clocking for hourly staff. Back-of-house features include staff and customer management. Inventory includes triggered reorders and raw goods tracking.
ShopKeep doesn’t provide clean-cut pricing for users; it offers its solution with a highly customizable monthly subscription model. Pricing varies from business to business depending on hardware, licenses, and other unique needs.
Square is known for its mobile payment processing, but it also offers a full suite of features to satisfy restaurant POS needs. Square for Restaurants is a great fit for food trucks, cafes, pop-ups, and restaurants just starting out.
Features include common POS components such as menu management, inventory control, table management, and discounting. A less common feature of Square for Restaurants includes an online store that syncs with inventory and supports curbside pickup as well as managed or outsourced delivery.
Square offers three pricing tiers for its restaurant POS. The first is its free option, plus the transaction fee of 2.6% + $0.10 for swipe and chip payments.
Next is the plus plan that includes the transaction fee as well as $60/month per terminal for access to the specialized features and capabilities. The premium plan is the final option at $299/month. It’s designed to lump payroll, marketing, and other Square offerings into one centralized platform.
5. PayPal Here
PayPal Here is primarily a payment processing option, but it does offer basic POS capabilities. It’s got a pretty light features set, but it could be a good option for new restaurant operations as well as for food trucks, pop-ups, and other mobile food businesses that need to process payments on the go.
PayPal Here includes features such as inputting orders and processing sales, tracking inventory levels, managing customers and employees, and basic reporting tools. A huge list of third-party integrations likely provide any features PayPal Here lacks natively.
PayPal Here provides free card readers, and similar to the free Square option, PayPal Here monetizes through transaction fees, which are 2.7% for card swipes/inserts in the United States. Any third-party integrations will require additional monthly costs.
6. Epos Now
Epos Now is another POS provider that offers differentiated systems for retail and restaurant businesses. The hospitality option is a fit for most restaurants, offering the same core system as the Epos Now retail offering, with specialized restaurant features.
Essential capabilities include processing sales, managing inventory, creating customer profiles and tracking purchase histories, managing employees, and conducting in-depth sales reporting. The specialized hospitality features include bill splitting, online reservations, and customized table plans.
Epos Now offers a 30-day free trial for all users and then is priced at $39/month for the base option and $69/month for the premium offering. You can add additional terminals for a discounted price.
The additional terminals cost $24/month per terminal for the basic option and $45/month per terminal for premium. The main difference in the Epos Now standard and premium plans is an increase in user support.
7. Clover POS
Clover POS is another restaurant-focused point of sale system. It manages ordering, payments, and front- and back-of-house needs for small to midsize restaurants.
Clover POS works well with cafes, food trucks, and full-service restaurants for customizing the workflows and communications between kitchen, bar, floor staff, and management.
Clover offers mobile capabilities via an Android-based system. The solution enables restaurants to manage and adjust orders, track customers and their order histories, manage employees, run discounts, and more.
Clover integrates with a wide range of third-party apps to ensure you get the additional features the system lacks.
It’s difficult to set standard prices for Clover as many factors go into pricing. Clover is both the software and the hardware, so your monthly subscription tiers range from $14 or $70/month plus standard per-transaction fees.
Hardware packages cost between $69 and $1,649 depending on how much hardware you need.
Set up your restaurant for success
Researching these seven best POS systems — and beyond — is a critical component of opening your restaurant. You want to get this part right and choose a POS provider you trust and can grow with.
Your best approach to find the optimum POS system is to get on the phone and arrange demos with your vendors of choice. Remember: You have the agency in conversations with sales reps and product managers. You are their client, so take them to task, ask detailed questions, and make them show you things in action so you get a clear sense of how the features work.