You need a top-shelf point-of-sale (POS) system for restaurants. It’s not a luxury. It’s a necessity for strategic restaurant owners.
Today’s POS systems boast all the business management tools you depend on, like order and inventory management, payments, staff scheduling, accounting integrations and even marketing features. It’s no wonder 95% of restaurant owners say technology improved their restaurant’s efficiency.
In this guide, we’ll go over 7 restaurant POS systems you should consider and what to look for. These options work well for both quick-service restaurants and full-service restaurants as well as bars, cafes and coffee shops, food trucks and other food-service businesses.
How we compared POS systems for restaurants
The sheer number of POS solutions can overwhelm even seasoned restaurant owners. We tried to make our evaluation as simple as possible.
Any point-of-sale system should include three things: affordable POS hardware options, POS software features tailored to your industry (which we cover below), and some level of technical support.
To find the best restaurant POS system for small businesses, however, we considered a few additional items.
Scalability is top-of-mind for many small business owners. Your POS should support multi-location needs—more orders, menu items and staff—without dramatically driving up costs. We also looked closely at affordability, user-friendliness and customer support.
The top restaurant POS software features
Here’s some of what you can expect from the best POS systems available for restaurants and bars.
A POS system’s main purpose is to accept payments, including credit and debit cards (swipe cards, EMV chip cards and NFC payments like Apple Pay), cash, checks and more.
Some POS companies require that you use their payment processing services. Others let you choose your processor. Either way, you’ll need to open a merchant account to start accepting credit cards at your restaurant.
Whether you offer tableside ordering or take orders at the counter, your front-of-house staff needs intuitive tools to manage orders and customer requests and then send tickets to the kitchen.
Menu & inventory management
A customizable menu with ingredient adjustments, discounts and add-ons makes ordering simple. Inventory tracking, low-stock alerts and real-time inventory updates also help your staff avoid mistakes.
Check & tip management
Make sure every customer’s payment experience ends on a good note. The best restaurant POS systems make it easy to split checks, manage gratuity and connect with a receipt printer.
Analytics & reports
Powerful point-of-sale systems deliver insights that help you make better business decisions. Understand trends like peak hours, order size, top-selling items and sales by employee to tighten up operations.
Employee management & scheduling
Another area where POS systems for restaurants can really shine is staff management. See fast and slow hours to avoid over- or understaffing, schedule employees, split tips and set POS access permissions by job type.
It should be simple to connect your point of sale system to other time-saving tools you already use, like QuickBooks online accounting software or your payroll system.
Loyalty program & gift cards
Offering gift cards and loyalty rewards has been shown to keep diners coming back and attract new customers to your restaurant.
POS systems can be computer-based, tablet-based (iPad POS systems are especially popular with restaurants) or smartphone-based (Android, Apple, etc.). You can also stick to the traditional setup with just a credit card terminal and cash register or cash drawer.
Make sure you understand the upfront equipment costs (if there are any—some providers include POS equipment at no added cost) and payment processing fees.
How to find the best POS system for your business
Serve three customers the same dish, and you’ll get three different opinions. The same goes for finding the best POS system for your restaurant.
Although we recommend a solution that has the specific features we covered above, every business is unique. Here’s what you should think about:
- Budget: How much do you have to spend?
- Size: Do you plan to expand in the next two years?
- Customer needs: What are customers asking for?
- Staff needs: How do you hope to improve operations?
- Goals: Do you want to add a full bar, for example, or offer online ordering and delivery directly from your website?
Now, let’s explore seven popular point-of-sale systems.
7 best restaurant POS systems for small businesses
Using the right restaurant POS system for your small business is a game-changer. Many of these POS solutions are iPad-based, but each of these POS providers offers other in-store equipment and mobile device options to streamline your business.
TouchBistro is the go-to choice for many full-service restaurateurs. Like most of the other options we’ll cover, TouchBistro is foremost an iPad POS system, but they sell other POS hardware.
So what sets TouchBistro apart? Where other POS providers have expanded into the restaurant industry, TouchBistro focused on foodservice from the start. As a result, they’ve got the software features restaurants need, from floor plan management to a kitchen display system. A big plus for small businesses is that you can also fold equipment costs into your monthly fees and pay over time.
One of the most popular iPad POS system options, Square offers a user-friendly system with simple setup. The well-designed, intuitive ordering system makes checkout speedy on both the staff and customer side.
You also get a credit card reader with your account for no additional fee—a perk for new small businesses. Something to note is that Square is a payment facilitator, meaning you won’t get the account-level support and oversight you would if you had a full-fledged merchant account. Furthermore, in November 2019, Square changed its rate structure to a model that could hurt businesses with low average transaction prices.
3. Toast POS
Unlike some other POS providers, Toast is an Android-based POS rather than an iOS-based POS (otherwise known as an iPad POS). Also popular for its ease of use, Toast POS is a worthwhile option for many small businesses, especially if you already own Android devices.
At $79 per month for basic access, it’s slightly pricier than its competitors, and you are required to use Toast for payment processing. That said, Toast is a robust and flexible option for many business types.
Clover is another restaurant industry mainstay. The company offers several equipment models, from Clover Go to Clover Station, so both quick-service and full-service restaurants get powerful features.
The Clover restaurant POS system, however, can run on the expensive side compared with all-in-one solutions from other POS providers, so keep that in mind.
5. Talus Pay
Why should you consider the Talus Pay restaurant POS system a frontrunner? A merchant account for restaurants and cafes from Talus (that’s us) gives you the best of both worlds.
Talus Pay matches the credit card processing rates of competitors—on this list and elsewhere—and provides premium restaurant POS equipment at no additional cost. You’re guaranteed 24/7, US-based customer support, as well as guidance every step of the way. Our POS system for restaurants is a powerful fit for food and beverage businesses, featuring ingredient-level inventory management, table-mapping, a customer loyalty program, and much more.
Another POS provider with lots of user-friendly touchscreen options and solid customer support, ShopKeep is a great option for small business owners.
Like our POS (above), this one also includes ingredient-level inventory management, which you’ll need to track inventory correctly. The lack of table-mapping features, however, make ShopKeep a better choice for small restaurants as opposed to larger establishments.
7. Lightspeed Restaurant POS
Restaurant owners can streamline operations with a Lightspeed restaurant point of sale. One of the more feature-packed point of sale systems, Lightspeed has everything you’d expect, such as customizable menus, reports, multi-location staff management and helpful integrations.
Lightspeed is another iPad POS and works for both small and medium-sized restaurants.
Other noteworthy restaurant POS systems
- Upserve (formerly Breadcrumb)
- Cake POS
- Revel Systems
More restaurant management tips for business owners
Surviving the modern restaurant industry is no walk in the park, but a restaurant point of sale system takes more than a few things off your plate.
Next up? Read How to Make the Most of Your Restaurant’s POS System for even more guidance on making a POS solution work for you.
If you have questions about how to find the right restaurant POS system right now, get answers directly from a payment processor representative.