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The Ultimate Guide to the Best Restaurant POS Systems

by

Katherine Pendrill

If you’re in the market for a new POS, you’ve probably discovered that finding reliable information on the best restaurant POS systems can be tricky.

Not only are there dozens of different providers to choose from, but each one has a unique set of features, tools, and services to offer – it’s enough information to make anyone’s head spin. And if you’re a restaurateur, you don’t have the time to scour through company websites and online reviews just to find the information you need.

To help you cut through the noise and make shopping for a new POS a little less painful, we’ve put together an ultimate guide to the best restaurant POS systems. With in-depth reviews of all the top POS providers (including our own), this guide will help you narrow down the best restaurant POS for your specific business.

In each review, you’ll find:

  • A basic overview of each of the top restaurant POS systems
  • Each system’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Your payment processing options
  • Software pricing and other fees
  • The ideal restaurant for each POS system

We know that no restaurant POS system is a one-size-fits-all solution. And you need all the information you can get in order to make an informed decision. We hope that with this guide to the best restaurant POS systems, you’ll find the answers to all your burning questions (and then some).

TouchBistro

Overview

TouchBistro is an award-winning iPad POS system and integrated payment processing solution built for restaurant people, by restaurant people. Used in Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Mexico, and over 100 other countries, TouchBistro is one of the best restaurant POS systems for independent restaurants. It has even been featured as Gordon Ramsay’s POS system of choice on the hit show Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours to Hell and Back.

Strengths

One of TouchBistro’s distinguishing features (and one of its biggest strengths), is its unique hybrid architecture. Many of the top restaurant POS systems on the market are strictly cloud-based, which means that when the Internet goes down, all your POS features go down with it.

In contrast, TouchBistro offers all the convenience and remote capabilities of any other cloud POS, but there is also a hardwired, local connection that acts as a backup when the Internet goes down. This means that even when your WiFi is out, your POS terminals can continue talking to one another, allowing you to continue taking orders and sending orders to the kitchen. For restaurants that can’t afford any service interruptions, this kind of reliability is a major plus.

Beyond its hybrid design, another advantage to TouchBistro is the robust features and products it offers. Because TouchBistro was designed by restaurant industry veterans, its core features and add-on solutions have been specially crafted to meet the unique demands of running a restaurant, such as taking orders tableside, processing online orders, and menu engineering.

TouchBistro also offers an in-house reservations management system, which is something no other restaurant POS provider has. These kinds of carefully crafted, restaurant-specific features help distinguish TouchBistro from many of the other POS systems on the market – many of which were primarily designed for retail businesses, not restaurants.

TouchBistro has also applied the same careful approach to its integrated payment solution that it has to its POS features. Unlike many of the other POS solutions on the market, TouchBistro Payments is structured according to a cost plus pricing model with no long-term contracts required. With this kind of pricing model, you pay a custom rate for every transaction, instead of a flat rate for all transactions. For most restaurants, cost plus pricing tends to be the cheaper option for payment processing than fixed rate pricing – leaving operators with more money in their pockets.

Weaknesses

TouchBistro boasts an extensive list of POS features and add-on solutions that make it a great option for restaurants big and small. However, TouchBistro lacks some of the enterprise-level capabilities that other POS providers offer, making it a less suitable option for major restaurant chains.

Because TouchBistro is largely designed for independent restaurants and not major chains, it does not have an extensive third-party partner network. Unlike some POS providers that offer integrations with dozens of different partners, TouchBistro supports integrations for a more curated list of partners.

For instance, TouchBistro supports industry-leading partners like 7Shifts for employee scheduling and MarketMan for advanced inventory management, but it doesn’t support more niche providers like Homebase and Yellow Dog. For some restaurants – especially multi-unit venues with complex needs – the lack of available integrations can be a problem.

Payments

Unlike some of the other POS providers on the market, TouchBistro offers more flexibility when it comes to payment processing. TouchBistro partners with a number of other payment partners, like TSYS and Moneris in Canada, Barclaycard in the U.K., and EVO in Mexico. This means you have a bit more freedom to go with the payment processing solution that fits your business model or your location-specific needs.

In addition to partnerships with third-party payment processors, TouchBistro also offers an integrated payments solution. In the U.S., customers can use TouchBistro Payments powered by Chase, which is an in-house, integrated payment processing solution. Unlike many other payment processors, TouchBistro Payments uses a cost plus pricing model. With a cost plus pricing model, factors such as the type of card a customer pays with, processing volume, and risk criteria are taken into consideration. This means you pay a custom rate for each transaction, instead of a flat rate for all transactions. The result? You get a more competitive rate than you would with fixed rate pricing.

Pricing

Not only are TouchBistro’s payment processing fees competitive, but so are it’s monthly software fees. TouchBistro’s software starts at $69 per month for a single license, and its pricing is tiered so the cost decreases for each additional license you add. With each package, you get all of TouchBistro’s core POS features, cloud-based reporting and analytics, 24/7 support, and unlimited users and logins for your staff and management.

Like other POS systems, you’ll also have to factor in additional costs to use TouchBistro such as installation, hardware, and payment processing fees (if you’re using integrated payments). Because TouchBistro is an iPad-based POS system, you may be able to save on some hardware costs by reusing your current iPad tablets (as long as it’s a compatible generation). TouchBistro also gives you the option to split the cost of your POS tablets over 24 months, which is a great alternative if you don’t want to purchase your iPads outright.

The Best POS For: Independent Restaurants

With all the POS features you need to run a restaurant, TouchBistro is a great all-around solution for independent restaurants big and small. And with in-house technology like self-serve kiosks and integrated reservations, TouchBistro is one of the best restaurant POS systems for both QSRs and FSRs.

Though TouchBistro can easily support larger restaurants, it’s not equipped with the kind of enterprise-level capabilities required to support nation-wide, multi-unit chains. For restaurants with these kinds of complex needs, a more bespoke POS solution with multi-unit reporting capabilities would be a better fit.

Want to see TouchBistro in action?

Toast

Overview

Toast is one of the top cloud-based POS systems for restaurants in the U.S. Unlike some of the other POS systems on the market, Toast runs on an Android operating system and uses proprietary tablets as its POS terminals. Beyond its core POS system, Toast also offers an integrated payments solution so you can manage everything in one platform.

Strengths

In contrast to some of the other top restaurant POS systems, Toast’s features are very robust and customizable, making them well suited to the needs of large, multi-unit restaurants. For instance, Toast has a strong multi-location management feature that makes it easy to manage day-to-day operations across multiple venues. 

Toast also shines when it comes to third-party integrations. Toast works with dozens of best-in-class partners who deliver specialized solutions for restaurants. For larger restaurants, access to such a wide range of integrations can help them carry out more niche functions, such as executing multi-channel marketing campaigns or setting up an advanced customer relationship management system. 

Weaknesses

Though Toast is well equipped to handle the needs of most restaurants, one of Toast’s biggest weaknesses is the fact that the system is strictly cloud-based and completely reliant on the Internet. This means that if your WiFi goes down, your POS terminals will be unable to talk to one another and you won’t be able to carry out important functions such as sending orders to the kitchen. For restaurants with slow or unreliable WiFi, this can mean frequent – and potentially costly – interruptions to service.

Another major drawback to Toast is that the system runs on an Android operating system. Though Android offers the benefits of flexibility and customization, Android POS systems are less common in the restaurant industry because the operating system comes with a steep learning curve and updates are often fragmented due to the variances in available hardware. Additionally, Android systems are the primary target of malware, meaning they are at a higher risk of security breaches. Not to mention, Toast’s system uses proprietary Android hardware, which will not work with other POS programs for restaurants if you choose to make a switch down the line.

Though it may not be a deal-breaker for every restaurant, Toast’s lack of integrated reservations is another major drawback. Toast does not have an in-house reservations management solution, but instead relies on integrations with third-party reservations apps. Some third-party solutions charge a fee per cover, which can quickly add up. Not to mention, some apps also own the restaurant’s guest booking data, which means that the reservation company has control of the customer relationship and can use your restaurant’s data to drive more engagement for its own business – a problem you won’t have with an in-house reservations system.

Payments

Toast offers integrated payments with all of its POS packages, making it a one-stop-shop for your POS and payment processing needs. However, it’s important to note that Toast is not compatible with other payment processors, and you’re required to sign a multi-year contract. For many restaurants, this can be a big commitment to make upfront – especially if your business is relatively new.

It’s also important to know that Toast’s processing fees are structured according to a fixed rate pricing model. This means that Toast charges your restaurant a fixed rate regardless of card type, processing volume, and other factors. In other words, it doesn’t matter if your customers are using low-cost cards like debit cards or premium credit cards, you pay the same fee per transaction regardless.

On the plus side, this pricing structure makes your payment processing fees more predictable and easier to budget. However, it also means you pay more because the rates are priced higher than that of other payment processors to cover the fluctuating interchange fees associated with the type of card and type of payment.

Pricing

When compared to other cloud-based restaurant POS systems, Toast’s monthly software fees are in line with most other providers. Subscriptions start at $69/month for restaurants with one location and up to two terminals. This price includes Toast’s core POS features, 24/7/365 support, and unlimited software updates.

While Toast’s monthly software fees are reasonable, they aren’t the only costs to take into account. Remember that you’re also obligated to use Toast as your payment processor, which comes with its own set of fees. Additionally, you also need to purchase Toast’s proprietary hardware in order to use the POS – something that you might not need to do if you switch from one iPad-based POS system to another.

The Best POS For: Enterprise-Level Restaurants

With its robust features and numerous third-party integrations, there’s no doubt that Toast is a well-equipped restaurant POS. The system is especially well suited to enterprise-level restaurants with multiple units that need the kind of bespoke POS solution that Android technology can support.

However, Toast is less suited to independent restaurants due to its entirely cloud-based system, which can result in major service interruptions when the WiFi connection is down. Toast’s high payment processing fees and long-term contracts can also be a challenge for smaller restaurants with thinner profit margins and tighter budgets.

Wondering how Toast compares to TouchBistro?

Read our full review of TouchBistro vs Toast

Square for Restaurants

Overview

Square for Restaurants is restaurant-specific software from the popular mobile payment company Square. Like the company’s other products, Square for Restaurants is designed for simplicity, combining an iOS-based POS system with Square’s signature payment processing services. Though Square itself is available in many countries, Square for Restaurants is exclusively available in the U.S.

Strengths

Square’s biggest strength has always been that its products are easy to use and quick to learn. Square’s POS setup consists of Apple iPads and proprietary hardware like the Square Terminal. This hardware not only makes for a quick setup process, but the devices are intuitive enough for virtually any staff member to pick up and learn.

As most restaurateurs would probably agree, Square’s other major draw is its price. Square for Restaurants is one of the more affordable restaurant POS systems on the market, starting at just $60 per month for one device, and another $40 per month for each additional device. The company even boasts a free version of its software, though you still need to pay for Square’s hardware and payment processing fees in order to use it.

Weaknesses

While Square’s simplicity and affordability are part of the reason why it’s one of the top restaurant POS systems, all this comes at a cost. Square for Restaurants is a much more basic POS system than many of its competitors. This means that many of Square POS features are less robust and lack some of the unique functions available with other systems.

For instance, Square’s inventory feature has limited capabilities and lacks complex functions like tracking food and ingredient costs. Square also lacks an in-house reservations management feature, which is a product that a growing number of FSRs rely on, especially in the wake of COVID-19. All this means is restaurants that need more built-out features are forced to rely on Square’s third-party integration partners, instead of in-house solutions.

Another drawback to Square for Restaurants is that the system is entirely cloud-based. Cloud-based systems are indeed a major improvement over the legacy systems of the past, because they are faster, more flexible, and can be used remotely. However, entirely cloud-based systems are fully reliant on a strong Internet connection. This means that if your WiFi goes down, Square for Restaurants goes down with it. And with many restaurants contending with slow, spotty, or unreliable WiFi connections, this can be a major problem.

A final weakness Square for Restaurants is that you’re obligated to use Square’s payment processing services. Though there are benefits to using an integrated payment processor, it also means that you don’t have the freedom to use other payment processing partners that may offer better rates, such as those offering cost plus pricing.

Wondering how TouchBistro compares to the competition?

Payments

When you sign up for Square for Restaurants, you also sign up with Square as your payment processor. Square is an aggregator, which means it charges higher payment processing fees because it assumes liability for its merchant base.

In other words, the fees are structured according to a fixed rate pricing model so you have to pay the same rate for every transaction, even if your customers are using low-cost cards like debit cards or credit cards. For restaurants that process high ticket items or do a lot of processing volume, this means that you will probably be paying higher fees than necessary.

Pricing

Pricing is one area where Square for Restaurant shines. Unlike most of the top restaurant POS systems, Square actually offers a free version of its software with no monthly charges. However, the free version of Square for Restaurants has very limited capabilities and you still need to pay for the necessary hardware and Square’s payment processing services in order to use the system.

A more comparable offering is Square’s Plus package, which costs $60 per month per location, and $40 per month per added device. This package comes with all of Square’s core POS features, full reporting, and 24/7 support. Though you still need to account for the cost of hardware and Square’s payment processing fees, Square for Restaurant is one of the most affordable POS programs for restaurants.

The Best POS For: Food Trucks and Cafes.

With its affordable monthly software fees and easy iPad setup, Square for Restaurants is one of the best restaurant POS systems for new food service venues that are looking to get up and running very quickly. Its simple and streamlined design also makes it a great option for restaurants that process lower ticket items or process a lower volume, such as cafes and food trucks.

However, Square for Restaurants has much more limited capabilities than other restaurant POS systems. For many FSRs and QSRs – especially those that plan to scale – this means that Square for Restaurants’ POS and reporting features may not be robust enough to support their busy operations.

Wondering how Square for Restaurants compares to TouchBistro?

Read our full review of TouchBistro vs Square for Restaurants

Revel

Overview

Revel is an iPad-based POS system that’s used across North America, and in a number of countries in Europe and Asia. Revel is best known for its robust POS features and its enterprise-level capabilities. The POS system is particularly popular among major multi-unit QSR chains in the U.S.

Strengths

There’s no question that Revel’s robust list of enterprise-level features is a major plus for many restaurants. From its bespoke menu management features to its advanced reporting functions, Revel’s features are powerful enough to handle just about any aspect of restaurant management. This is ideal for managing multi-unit restaurant chains because it allows you to compare data and insights from different venues in different locations.

Another major advantage that Revel has over some restaurant POS systems is that it runs on Apple’s iOS operating system and uses iPads as its POS terminals. Unlike Android systems, iOS apps and iPads boast a seamless integration, and updates are rolled out automatically across devices so you never have to worry about your software being out of date. Not to mention, iPads are extremely user-friendly, which can speed up the training process.

See how TouchBistro stacks up

Weaknesses

While Revel’s impressive list of powerful POS features is a plus for some restaurants, more isn’t always better. For smaller restaurants with more straightforward needs, Revel’s extensive and complex features can make navigating the software overwhelming and tough for new staff to learn. In many cases, independent restaurants will not need all the bells and whistles that come with Revel’s software.

And for smaller restaurants, paying for features you won’t use comes at cost. Of all the cloud restaurant POS systems on the market, Revel’s monthly software fees are on the higher end. Revel’s monthly software fees start at $99 per month for just one terminal and installation costs start at $649. For smaller restaurants with thin profit margins, these high fees can significantly eat into monthly profits. 

In addition to the high monthly software fees, there’s also the fees associated with Revel’s payment processor, Revel Advantage. That’s because when you sign up for Revel’s POS system, you’re also required to sign a three-year contract for Revel Advantage. On top of that, this processor offers a fixed rate pricing model, which means that you pay a fixed rate regardless of card type, processing volume, and other factors. For small restaurants that have customers primarily using low-cost cards like no-fee credit cards and debit cards (versus premium or rewards-based cards), you end up paying much more in credit card fees than necessary.

Payments

As mentioned above, Revel does not give you much freedom to shop around for the payment processor with the best rates for your business. Though Revel does support some other payment processing partners, in most cases customers are required to sign a three-year contract with Revel’s in-house payment processor, Revel Advantage. 

As mentioned above, Revel Advantage is structured according to a fixed rate pricing model, which means that you pay 2.49%, plus $0.15 per transaction – regardless of what type of card is used. On the one hand, a fixed rate pricing model means that your payment processing rates will be more predictable and easier to budget. The tradeoff is that you pay more on a per-transaction basis than other pricing models. For some restaurants, being locked into expensive payment processing rates for three years at a time can cause a significant drain on profits.

Pricing

At $99 per month for one terminal, Revel’s monthly software fees are higher than many other POS programs for restaurants. However, this higher cost does mean you get a bit more bang for your buck as all of Revel’s plans come with a robust suite of POS features, reporting and analytics, 24/7 support, and personalized onboarding.

Beyond its monthly software fees, it’s also important to account for the other costs of using Revel’s POS system, including installation fees, hardware, and the payment processing fees for Revel Advantage. While you may be able to offset some hardware fees if you’re switching from another iPad-based POS system, Revel is still one of the priciest restaurant POS systems out there.

The Best POS For: Multi-Unit QSR Chains

With some of the most robust and customizable POS features out there, Revel is an excellent option for multi-unit establishments, especially major QSR chains. Unlike other POS providers, Revel offers enterprise-level capabilities such as an extensive third-party partner network, an open API, standardized hardware bundles, and even consultative services.

Of course, not every restaurant needs the kind of bespoke POS system that Revel provides. For independent restaurants with one or just a few locations, the price of Revel’s POS system may be too steep for features that can’t or won’t be used. Not to mention, Revel’s three-year-long payment processing contracts may be too much of a commitment for restaurants that are still in the early stages of establishing their business model.

Wondering how Revel compares to TouchBistro?

Read our full review of TouchBistro vs Revel

The Bottom Line

If there’s one key takeaway from this ultimate guide to the best restaurant POS systems, it’s that no two providers are the same. Each restaurant has its own unique set of needs and POS providers have developed different features, tools, and services to meet those needs. In short, the best restaurant POS for your restaurant will depend on your size, location, type of restaurant, and a wide variety of other factors. But armed with the information in this guide, you should be one step closer to finding the perfect POS fit for your business.


Katherine is a Content Marketing Specialist at TouchBistro, where she writes about trending topics in food and restaurants. The opposite of a picky eater, she’ll try (almost) anything at least once. Whether it’s chowing down on camel burgers in Morocco or snacking on octopus dumplings in Japan, she’s always up for new food experiences.

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iPad Screenshot with TouchBistro software
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