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By Katherine Pendrill
Shopping for a new restaurant POS system means comparing some of the biggest names out there and that includes TouchBistro vs Aloha.
Both TouchBistro and Aloha are popular POS systems used by restaurants around the world. But while these two providers may offer similar products, there are some major differences between the systems. From hardware to payment processing solutions, the variations between TouchBistro and the Aloha POS make each system best for very different types of restaurants.
Of course, spotting these differences isn’t always easy – unless you commit to hours of online research reading TouchBistro and Aloha POS reviews.
So to make the whole process a little bit easier (and save you some valuable time), we’ve conducted a head-to-head comparison of TouchBistro vs Aloha on all the features that matter to today’s restaurateurs.
In this thorough restaurant POS system comparison, we’ll cover:
Thanks to this in-depth guide, you’ll have all the information you need to answer the question of whether TouchBistro or Aloha is the right POS system for your restaurant.
To learn more about other top POS systems, you can also check out our Ultimate Guide to the Best Restaurant POS Systems.
The information contained on this site is accurate as of the time of publication.
Compare the top legacy POS systems for restaurants on features, hardware, integrations, pricing, and more.
Both TouchBistro and Aloha are leading restaurant management and payment processing solutions. Both systems are also highly rated and designed specifically to meet the needs of a wide variety of foodservice establishments.
But just because TouchBistro and Aloha are both leading restaurant POS systems, doesn’t mean that they’re one in the same. In fact, there are some major differences between the two systems that are important to understand upfront.
Below, we’ll provide a detailed overview of TouchBistro vs Aloha, including how the two systems differ and why it matters for restaurateurs who are in the market for a new POS.
Perhaps the biggest difference between TouchBistro and Aloha is the setup of the POS system itself.
The Aloha POS has been around for quite some time and originally established a reputation as one of the top legacy POS systems. A legacy POS system is sometimes referred to as an “on-premise” or a “traditional” POS because all of the hardware and software is located on-site in the restaurant. This means that all your data is stored on local servers and runs on a closed internal network.
In 2011, Aloha’s parent company Radiant Systems was acquired by NCR Corporation, (previously known as National Cash Register). NCR then undertook the process of modernizing the Aloha POS to compete with newer cloud-based POS solutions. NCR’s efforts helped to turn the Aloha POS into a hybrid system that supplements the legacy system’s locally installed connection with a cloud-based app. The addition of the app means that Aloha users can now access all of their POS data remotely with a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet.
Although NCR has clearly taken steps to modernize its POS technology, there are still many drawbacks to Aloha’s current hybrid setup. The Aloha POS still mostly relies on proprietary hardware installed on-site in your restaurants. This means that if this hardware is damaged or needs to be updated, you may have to bring in a technician. In some cases, you may also need to purchase new hardware just to keep your POS system up to date. And if you’re a multi-unit restaurant using Aloha across your venues, that could mean spending tens of thousands just to replace outdated hardware.
TouchBistro, on the other hand, is a modern POS system that runs on iPad tablets. Each of TouchBistro’s iPads is equipped with POS software that stores your data in the cloud via remote servers. This means that you can access your POS data from any device, at any time, as long as you have an Internet connection.
Since your hardware (the iPads) are not installed directly on-site, the benefit is that you don’t need to bring a technician to your restaurant just to carry out updates or repairs. In fact, with a cloud-based system, updates are rolled out automatically across your devices, so you never have to worry about your operating system being out of date.
Of course, every restaurateur knows that relying on a strong WiFi connection can be risky. So to ensure that slow or unreliable WiFi doesn’t bring service to a standstill, TouchBistro also has a hardwired, local connection for your POS that can act as a backup if the Internet goes down in your venue. The major benefit of a hybrid cloud POS system like TouchBistro is that there’s no risk of downtime, even if you lose your Internet connection.
In addition to the actual setup of the POS system, it’s important to understand the operating system that your POS software runs on.
Unlike most modern POS systems, Aloha customers have the option to choose between a Windows or an Android operating system for the countertop POS terminals. More specifically, Aloha requires at least Windows 10 or the most recent Windows system to operate.
While some restaurateurs and staff may appreciate the familiarity of a Windows system, this type of operating system is not commonly used for restaurant POS systems because of its steeper learning curve. Similarly, Android operating systems are a less common choice for POS systems because they too can be tricky to learn and because they are the primary target of malware (meaning they are at a higher risk of security breaches).
If you’re not a fan of Windows or Android, Aloha’s mobile app is also available on iOS. NCR Aloha Mobile is an extension of the Aloha Table Service and Quick Service POS software, and can be used on iPads and iPhones. For many restaurant staff, the iOS operating system is a bit more intuitive and may be preferable to Windows or Android when used for tableside ordering.
The intuitive nature of iOS is exactly why TouchBistro’s POS system is run exclusively on iOS. iOS is generally considered the preferred operating system for restaurants because Apple owns both the hardware (the iPad) and the software (iOS). This allows for a seamless integration between POS software and iPads, and the automatic rollout of updates across devices.
Ease of use is also an important factor when it comes to the operating system of a POS, and there are some important differences between TouchBistro and NCR Aloha on this front.
As mentioned above, most of Aloha’s systems run on Windows and Android operating systems (though the mobile app is available for iOS). Both Windows and Android come with a steeper learning curve than iOS and are rarely considered intuitive systems to learn. As a result, Aloha is not considered a user-friendly, plug-and-play kind of system. As many Aloha POS reviews mention, the POS system takes more time to set up, properly configure, and learn to use.
If your restaurant staff is already familiar with Aloha, this won’t be too much of an issue. However, if you have new staff that are more familiar with Apple devices, it may make the training process more difficult.
Of course, if your staff is familiar with Apple products, they will have no trouble picking up TouchBistro. TouchBistro was specifically designed to be a plug-and-play POS system so restaurateurs can get up and running immediately – without a lengthy learning process. This kind of intuitive design not only speeds up the training process, it also makes it easy for staff to troubleshoot issues on their own, if they arise.
“The best part about TouchBistro for our staff is the ease of use. The POS system we had before did the job, but was extremely complicated. You could actually see the demeanor of our team change when we switched to TouchBistro.”Sean McHaffie, Vermillion Fork, Princeton, B.C.
“The best part about TouchBistro for our staff is the ease of use. The POS system we had before did the job, but was extremely complicated. You could actually see the demeanor of our team change when we switched to TouchBistro.”
Despite their many differences, TouchBistro and Aloha are fairly similar when it comes to regional availability.
Aloha’s parent company NCR is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia and the primary market for the POS system is the U.S. However, NCR is a global business and Aloha is used in more than 180 countries around the world. As a result, the company has gathered significant global insights that it uses to inform its ongoing research and development.
On the other hand, TouchBistro is headquartered in Toronto, Canada, and its primary markets include Canada, the U.S., Mexico, and the U.K. Beyond these primary markets, TouchBistro has a significant global reach and is used in more than 100 countries around the world. TouchBistro also uses global insights to configure its products, services, and features to the unique needs of restaurants in different markets. For instance, TouchBistro systems in the U.K. integrate with one of Britain’s leading payment providers, Barclaycard, while TouchBistro systems in Mexico integrate with regional food delivery platforms such as DiDi Food.
Now that you understand the basics of each system, it’s time to dive into some of the specifics of TouchBistro and Aloha. And the best place to start is by looking at each system’s core features.
When you compare TouchBistro vs Aloha on core POS features, you can see that both platforms are equipped with the following tools:
Though both TouchBistro and Aloha check all the boxes when it comes to must-have features, there’s no question that Aloha is a more feature-rich system. Aloha was designed for enterprise, which means that Aloha’s features come with all the bells and whistles you could possibly want from a restaurant POS, and can even be customized to fit your exact needs.
For instance, Aloha’s inventory management feature is highly robust with tools for creating and tracking purchase orders, store-by-store inventory comparisons, and the ability to predict future sales amounts. Aloha’s multi-unit management is also very advanced and well suited to the needs of major chain restaurants with hundreds or even thousands of locations.
While Aloha’s robust and customizable features are a major plus for enterprise-level restaurants, they may actually be a problem for independent, single-location venues. Because Aloha is so feature-rich, it can take many clicks just to accomplish simple tasks. In fact, the sheer number of complex functions that the Aloha POS offers can sometimes make navigating the software overwhelming and slow down the initial training process.
In contrast, TouchBistro offers a more standard set of core POS features. This is because TouchBistro was specifically designed with independent restaurants in mind, and most of these businesses do not actually need enterprise-level functionality.
TouchBistro’s more streamlined list of functions not only makes the software easier to learn, but also faster to navigate during service because fewer clicks are required to complete common tasks, such as sending orders to the kitchen and splitting checks. In other words, TouchBistro’s core POS features are equipped with everything you need to run an independent restaurant, and nothing you don’t.
As you’ve probably gathered by now, TouchBistro and Aloha have very different hardware needs based on their different operating systems. Below, we parse through some of those differences, highlighting the benefits and concerns that come with each system.
Unlike many of the modern restaurant POS systems on the market, the Aloha system does not use iPads. Instead, NCR sells its own proprietary hardware, which is available in two different POS terminal options: desktop (countertop) terminals and mobile (handheld) devices.
If you opt for a desktop POS terminal, your options include:
As for mobile devices, NCR offers:
By adding mobile devices to its hardware lineup, Aloha has made its POS system comparable to some of the newer POS providers. These devices give restaurateurs a bit more mobility than most legacy systems, which is a major bonus. However, there are a number of important considerations to think through before investing in NCR’s proprietary hardware.
First and foremost, investing in proprietary hardware is an expensive prospect. Though NCR does not list prices on its website, ordering an entire set of proprietary hardware doesn’t come cheap. Not to mention, that if the hardware becomes outdated and no longer supports Aloha’s current software, you will have to buy a whole new set.
Pricing aside, using proprietary POS hardware can also be a problem because it also requires you to commit to one POS provider for the long haul. Most of the top restaurant POS systems rely on Apple iPads and iOS software so if you invest in NCR’s pricey terminals, you won’t be able to use your NCR devices with another POS system if you switch providers down the line.
Though NCR’s POS hardware certainly has its benefits, the cost and risk of using proprietary hardware are major considerations for any independent restaurants without big corporate budgets.
Unlike Aloha, TouchBistro runs on iOS, which means the only POS tablets you can use are iPads. On the one hand, this means that you’re limited to a small number of available iPad models. However, the big upside is that you’re not obligated to purchase your iPads from TouchBistro because the tablets are not proprietary hardware.
This means you could save a significant amount of money on setup costs if you already own a compatible iPad. Additionally, if you’re switching to TouchBistro from another iPad-based POS system you can also continue using any existing iPads you already have (as long as the devices are a compatible generation).
The added benefit of using iPads is the seamless user experience. As mentioned, iOS is a very user-friendly software and so are iPads. The experience is the same across all Apple devices – whether it’s an iPhone or an iMac – so any users who are already familiar with these devices will instantly be able to use an iPad. In other words, if your staff already know how to use an iPhone, they’ll have no trouble learning to use an iPad-based POS.
In addition to core features, most POS providers also offer additional tools to help restaurants carry out specific functions such as taking online orders, creating loyalty programs, managing reservations, and more. Both TouchBistro and Aloha offer many different add-on solutions, including integrated payment processing.
These days, it’s virtually impossible for restaurants to get by on cash alone. As a result, most restaurants need to work with a payment processing partner – a company that allows you to accept credit, debit, and digital payments. To simplify things, most POS providers – TouchBistro and Aloha included – will offer integrated payment processing as an add-on solution.
NCR is a leader in banking and ecommerce, so it should come as no surprise that NCR Aloha offers its own integrated payment processing solution, NCR Merchant Solutions. NCR Merchant Solutions is an end-to-end payments processor that allows you to accept all forms of payment and integrates with all major credit cards.
With the ability to process everything from mobile payments to card not present transactions, NCR Merchant Solutions is certainly a good payment processing option for major restaurant chains that handle a high volume of payments.
However, NCR is not very transparent when it comes to the fees associated with its integrated payment processing solution. Though the company does promise competitive payment processing fees, you need to contact NCR directly if you want to know what you’ll actually be paying each month.
In contrast to Aloha, TouchBistro is more transparent when it comes to your payment processing options. TouchBistro customers can choose to use either TouchBistro’s in-house payment processing solution, TouchBistro Payments powered by Chase, or one of several integrated third-party processors, including:
TouchBistro Payments is also a great option for restaurateurs because the fees are structured according to a cost plus pricing model. With cost plus pricing, the restaurant owner pays the non-negotiable interchange fee (for the type of credit card being used) and a flat mark-up. This means that you end up paying a custom rate for each transaction, instead of a flat rate for all transactions. This pricing model generally ends up being less expensive than fixed rate pricing for most independent restaurants.
Of course, TouchBistro Payments may not be the right fit for every single restaurant, which is why TouchBistro also gives restaurateurs the option to use third-party processors. You have the freedom to shop around and compare different payment processing rates in order to find the best option for your specific restaurant (and budget).
Beyond integrated payments, most restaurants need additional features to grow their businesses. This can include everything from adding online ordering to your restaurant’s website, to using reservations software to manage capacity limits in the wake of COVID-19.
In a direct comparison of TouchBistro vs Aloha, it’s clear that both providers offer the following add-on solutions:
As a POS system built for enterprise, it should come as no surprise that Aloha also offers a number of additional add-on solutions. For instance, Aloha offers an automated marketing tool that integrates your website into your POS system automatically. This is extremely valuable for restaurants with an ecommerce component to their business because any changes made are automatically reflected online and in-store simultaneously. Another unique add-on that Aloha offers is delivery management, which is a plus if delivery is a significant part of your restaurant’s business model.
While Aloha certainly offers a lot when it comes to add-on solutions, Aloha is missing one very important feature: an in-house reservations management system.
Unlike NCR Aloha, TouchBistro offers a complete reservation system and guest management platform called TouchBistro Reservations. TouchBistro Reservations is a POS add-on and end-to-end solution that allows guests to reserve tables directly through a restaurant’s website, Facebook page, or the TouchBistro Dine platform. These reservations sync directly to the TouchBistro POS, giving restaurants an easy way to manage and optimize their bookings – something that is especially valuable for restaurants contending with COVID-19 dining restrictions such as capacity limits, social distancing measures, and mandatory contact tracing.
Not to mention, TouchBistro Reservations costs one flat monthly fee for unlimited bookings, so you never have to worry about paying pricey cover fees like the kind charged by third-party reservation systems.
Like most of the top restaurant POS systems, both TouchBistro and Aloha offer integrations with third-party partners to expand the capabilities of their POS systems. These integrations are usually for specialized services such as accounting, payroll, marketing, ecommerce, and more.
A comparison of TouchBistro vs Aloha shows that both providers offer integrations for the following types of services:
In addition to the services listed above, Aloha also integrates with a number of other third-party apps, including DoorDash for delivery, OpenTable for reservations, and Springzy for marketing. In total, Aloha offers more than 250 certified partners that can be integrated into your POS system. For enterprise-level restaurant chains, this is extremely beneficial as it significantly extends the capabilities of the Aloha POS system.
In contrast, TouchBistro offers a more curated list of third-party integration partners. This list is largely made up of best-in-class solutions like MarketMan for advanced inventory management, Avero for multi-unit reporting, and Push Operations for payroll.
TouchBistro tends to lean on its in-house solutions for services like online ordering and reservations, rather than third-party partners. For many restaurants, these kinds of in-house solutions are preferable to third-party integrations because there is less risk of errors and data loss. Not to mention, in-house solutions make getting a hold of customer support far easier because there is only one number to call: your POS provider.
While features and add-ons like payment processing are important, pricing is one issue that may be a deal-breaker for some restaurateurs.
Unfortunately, NCR isn’t very transparent when it comes to pricing for the Aloha POS. NCR does not make any pricing information available publicly on its website, which means you must contact the company in order to get a quote for both Aloha’s software and hardware. Though this creates an extra obstacle for restaurateurs, the idea is that you end up getting a custom rate for your specific POS setup.
Though there are no specific figures available online, Aloha is primarily designed for enterprise-level restaurants and that kind of feature-rich system never comes cheap. In other words, you get a lot with an Aloha POS and you should expect a big price tag to match.
In contrast, TouchBistro is much more transparent with its pricing. TouchBistro’s plans start at an affordable $69 USD per month for one license. TouchBistro also offers tiered pricing so the price per license decreases with each additional license purchased. All of TouchBistro’s plans also include the core POS features, unlimited users, free updates, and 24/7/365 support.
If you are using TouchBistro and you don’t already own iPad tablets, you’ll also need to factor in the cost of this hardware. A regular iPad will set you back around $300 for a brand-new device. While this may seem a little steep, this is actually less than the cost of most legacy hardware, like the terminals sold by NCR. Not to mention, if you already own compatible iPads, you can simply reuse your existing tablets and avoid paying for new POS terminals entirely.
Perhaps just as important as pricing is the issue of customer service and technical support. Though you might not think about it until you really need it, great customer support can be the difference between a great POS system and a not-so-great POS system.
When you compare Aloha vs TouchBistro on customer support, Aloha comes up a little bit short. Though most modern POS companies offer 24/7 support, Aloha’s Help Desk is only available to contact from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. Central Time. If the support team can’t solve your issue over the phone, Aloha also offers on-site or on-call service during the same hours.
Though this time frame should cover most restaurants’ hours of operation, the limited support window means that you may face longer wait times because more people are calling during peak hours – an issue that some Aloha POS reviews highlight. Not to mention, if you’re a venue that stays open after midnight, you could find yourself without support entirely, right when you need it.
On the other hand, TouchBistro shines when it comes to customer support. TouchBistro also offers award-winning 24/7 customer service and technical support, 365 days of the year (including holidays). TouchBistro’s support team is based out of the company’s headquarters in Toronto, Canada, and can be reached by phone or email. And unlike many major POS companies, TouchBistro’s support team is largely staffed by former and current restaurant servers, owners, and managers. This means that whenever you call in, you’ll be speaking with someone who has first-hand experience dealing with similar issues.
In addition to phone and email support, TouchBistro also has an extensive online resource library, complete with step-by-step guides and video tutorials. These guides are designed to help you troubleshoot issues quickly on your own and get right back to regular service.
Based on this in-depth review of Aloha vs TouchBistro, there’s no question that both POS providers have their major strengths and weaknesses. While Aloha is feature-rich, it comes with a big price tag to match, along with a more complicated setup. And while TouchBistro offers a strong restaurant-centric solution, it lacks some of the premium bells and whistles for enterprise-level locations.
When you add all this information up, it’s clear that the Aloha POS is best suited to enterprise-level restaurant brands, such as major QSR and FSR chains. Aloha not only offers the complex features these big brands demand, but it’s integrated payment processing solution is also a good fit for restaurants that process an extremely high volume of orders.
But if Aloha is great for enterprise, where does that leave other restaurants?
Below, we’ll outline the four major reasons why TouchBistro is the better all-around solution for independent restaurants and other foodservice operators.
Most restaurants have notoriously thin profit margins, and in the wake of COVID-19, these margins are even smaller. TouchBistro knows that budgets are tight, which is why its software starts at just $69 per month. TouchBistro also helps restaurants keep hardware costs down by not forcing users to purchase pricey proprietary hardware to use its system.
With a system like NCR Aloha, pricing is an ongoing concern. On the one hand, simply getting set up with an Aloha POS means investing in proprietary hardware that can only be used with the Aloha system. You then have to factor in the cost of replacing all of this hardware every time there is a major software upgrade. For most independent restaurants, these ongoing costs can make a hybrid legacy system like Aloha too expensive to use and maintain.
As important as pricing is, you want to make sure that you and your staff can actually use the POS system you choose. TouchBistro runs on an iOS operating system and uses Apple hardware, which is generally considered the more reliable and user-friendly option when it comes to restaurant POS software and hardware. Even for staff who may not be familiar with Apple devices, the plug-and-play nature of the TouchBistro system makes both training and everyday use a breeze.
Though Windows and Android software do offer many benefits, neither of these systems are known for being the most user-friendly. And when these systems are used in conjunction with Aloha’s vast array of features, this can make completing even the simplest tasks a lengthy process. Though this may not be a problem for some restaurants, others may find that clicking through multiple screens just to split a check has a major impact on the speed and quality of service.
Great customer support isn’t always usually the first thing you think about when purchasing a new restaurant POS, but it should be. TouchBistro was created for restaurant people, by restaurant people, which is why the company’s customer support team is primarily made up of people with years of first-hand restaurant experience. This dedication to providing best-in-class support 24/7, 365 days of the year, is part of why TouchBistro has received the best International Customer Service Team of the Year award multiple times.
Running a restaurant is a round-the-clock job for many people and that demands 24/7 support. Aloha’s limited support hours mean that you could find yourself without access to help when you need it the most, bringing your service to a standstill. And even if you call during the support hours, you may be competing with one of Aloha’s 75,000 other customers for help – not exactly a queue you want to wait in.
While working with a big company has advantages, there are also many perks that come with working with slightly smaller players. TouchBistro is a rapidly growing company, adding thousands of new restaurants each year. This kind of rapid growth makes TouchBistro one of the most nimble POS providers out there, with the ability to quickly develop new products and services to meet the changing needs of its customers, like TouchBistro Reservations. And in the wake of COVID-19, TouchBistro was prepared to adapt to the needs of restaurants and launched an in-house Online Ordering solution at the peak of the pandemic.
On the other hand, the Aloha POS was acquired by NCR Corporation, which is a massive technology provider that largely works with enterprise-level companies. Though there are some benefits to working with major corporations, this can sometimes mean that the product development process moves a bit slower and new features are not rolled out as quickly as some restaurateurs may expect.
At the end of the day, every restaurant is unique, which means that no POS system can be a one-size-fits-all solution. With this head-to-head comparison of TouchBistro vs Aloha, you now have all the information you need to determine which company is the right POS provider and payment processing solution for your specific restaurant.
Know someone interested in switching from Aloha?
Katherine is the Content Marketing Manager 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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