If you run a restaurant, you’re intimately familiar with the concept of a point-of-sale system. Unless you’re cash-only, it’s the tech backbone of your operation. The POS doesn’t merely process credit and debit payments. These days, the best and most advanced POS systems track an ocean of data for you, interfacing with other softwares that you use to run your business, and offer insights that can guide just about every part of your operation. They’re also increasingly used to manage restaurants remotely, perfect for the days of pandemic dining and/or ghost kitchens.
And as restaurants’ needs continue to change, including an ongoing challenge with staffing, so do the best types of POS systems to effectively manage it. The ecosystem of POS systems features some extremely well-known players as well as niche products that meet the needs of a variety of business types. (Just see the favorite POS systems for food truck operators, as one example.)
You might want to get some pointers on how to shop for a POS before you dive all the way in. Or you can check out this roundup of some of the bigger players in the space, sorted by what distinguishes them from the pack. It’s a wild marketplace out there, so get ready to comparison shop, don’t be shy about asking for a free trial, and get a full accounting of the fees and equipment requirements before you sign that contract.
It may seem logical that all POS systems are Apple-compatible, but that’s not the case. Many are compatible with either iOS or Android, or they tend to perform better on one. Revel seamlessly integrates with your iPad or iPhone — as well as countless other softwares — and covers the gamut from mom-and-pop eateries to large-scale restaurants and multi-location franchises.
It also positions itself as a POS system that drives sales. The software includes a slew of customizable marketing features: push notifications to send promos directly to customers, a built-in loyalty program that auto-stores their personal info (e.g. birthdays or anniversaries). You can also manage it remotely, so staff can handle ordering, check-splitting, and reservations even when they’re physically away from the restaurant (or running a ghost kitchen!). Revel also does a deep-dive into sales reporting, giving you stats on the daily.
What it costs: The Revel POS software starts at $99/month. You might also have to pay an initial set-up fee of about $675, and a flat processing fee per order.
Toast continuously leads the pack in popular POS systems (among non-Apple users, anyway). It’s interface is simple, its features are easy to use, and people like its customer service. It’s also a solid choice for beginners, as it guides users through setup and comes standard with a menu maker. You can track inventory, update pricing, manage your staff, process payroll, and run your delivery systems — all from your tablet.
What it costs: Toast is free to start (which is why newbies love it) with basics like payment processing, online ordering, and customer care. The full lineup of features (loyalty programs, marketing, digital gift cards, et al) will run you closer to $275/month.
How mobile is Square? It jacks right into your smart phone, for starters. Opening a restaurant? Launching a food truck? Setting up a farmer’s market stand? It’s there in your apron pocket, working on Apple or Android alike. You can track orders, process payments, and get reports (it integrates with Quickbooks). The more robust Square for Restaurants (available only on iOS) features more functions specific to brick-and-mortar: table mapping, payroll, and check splitting.
What it costs: Square’s price is mostly contingent on the hardware purchased (which can range from a phone plug-in to a more comprehensive tablet). You’ll also pay a transaction fee of about 2.7% per charge.
Upserve’s claim to fame is being designed by folks deeply familiar with the restaurant industry, and its ease of use is looking prescient in pandemic times. It works on Android and iOS devices alike, it offers a customizable interface and on-the-go ordering systems, plus a live app that allows managers and staff to track restaurant action in real-time: sales, online orders, daily reporting, inventory, and detailed floor plan tracking. Among its best "handheld" features is its tableside ordering system, which allows customers to order / pay / tip without human interaction. That not only dramatically cuts down on ticket times for restaurants, it’s a safety feature these days.
What it costs: Upserve offers three plans ranging from the Core ($59/month) to the Pro Plus ($359/month). They also charge an equipment fee of $40-$60/month.
A comprehensive, advanced software that rules in the era of QR codes and digital menus. Your staff can use it to manage full and part-time employees, track ingredients (managers receive alerts when running low), and easily implement discount codes and promotions. Your guests will scroll its visually appealing menus that appear on their phones when they sit down — and use it to ordering without you having to so much as approach them. Lightspeed also syncs with major delivery apps, so your customers can track their orders in real time. And you can trick it out to include other digital shopping, so folks can scope out your swag while they wait for their orders.
What it costs: Lightspeed's Standard plan, at $119/month, works for mobile, laptop, and brick-and-mortar, and seamlessly integrates into e-commerce. The Lean plan provides basic POS functions for $69/month.