Restaurateurs these days are spoiled for choice when it comes to the tools they have to manage their businesses. Metaphorically speaking, you can throw a rock and hit an app designed to help make running a restaurant a little easier. The unintended consequence of this is that it can be hard to parse what’s the best fit for your business. This is crucial information to have when choosing the best POS system for your needs. Bearing that in mind, five POS systems rise above the rest to help make that choice a little clearer.
Upserve comes to the table with the benefit of being purpose-built for restaurants. While this is true of many popular POS systems, Upserve is also a relative newcomer to the business, which brings the benefit of a very contemporary perspective on restaurant needs. The most notable of these include integration with Resy (a cloud-based reservation management system) and an absolute powerhouse suite of analytic tools.
Upserve tracks what items sell well and can break down trends based on customer satisfaction and reviews, and truncates all of this into daily digest emails that are sent automatically to restaurant owners. It’s also chock full of other valuable bells and whistles, like inventory management software, labor analytic data, a built-in online ordering platform, an employee training mode setting, and 24/7 in-app customer support functions.
The major con of Upserve is that it’s somewhat pricey. The basic plan is $59 monthly, with an additional $60 monthly fee per terminal. Additional features like online ordering and inventory management come with their own fees. For smaller businesses, this can get very expensive very quickly. But if you can afford it, Upserve is a heavy-hitter that will make running your restaurant a breeze.
Square is another fairly recent entry into the POS market, and it’s easy to see why. For one thing, Square is very affordable, with its basic plan offered for free with no limit to the number of devices you can utilize. The company is also highly transparent with its pricing; the primary means to pay for Square is individual payment processing fees, which are pretty standard, and hardware purchases.
As hardware goes, Square offers numerous options, which lends a lot of flexibility to find the right fit for your operation, whether you’re working out of a food truck or a brick-and-mortar. Square has a few extra features that are nice to have, too, like appointment scheduling, built-in loyalty program support, and built-in tipping, which can save you a lot of time.
The most significant drawbacks of Square include the fact that it doesn’t have any Windows support and is not uniquely specialized for restaurants. That second con might not seem as necessary, but compared to Upserve or Toast’s specialized features, it’s easy to see why that focus is incredibly helpful. If you’re looking for a very affordable option, though, Square has got you covered.
Like Square, Clover is more of a multipurpose POS platform as opposed to being built specifically for restaurants. This isn’t inherently a drawback, as its wide range of functionality can be very flexible and adaptable to the specifics of a business’s needs. If you’re working out of a food truck or a pop-up stand, Clover will still make sales a fairly breezy experience.
Clover has a great variety of hardware options, which all perform incredibly well. In addition, the software has some great analytic tools that can note things like busiest times, best-selling items, and per-employee sales. Clover also has a comparatively low payment-processing rate, which can be helpful for businesses trying to keep costs down.
There’s also the added benefit of Rapid Deposit, which can immediately transfer revenue to an associated bank account for a 1% fee. This can be incredibly helpful for small businesses or one-person operations where workers might need income more quickly than the standard 1-3 business day window.
There are two notable cons to Clover. The first is that there is no free monthly plan option, which can be tricky in contracted situations. Lacking a free plan also somewhat subverts the lower fees in helping business owners keep costs down.
The second con is in the same vein – trying to determine costs and fees with Clover can be somewhat cryptic. Customers can purchase hardware and plans through their website, but the pricing structure can be hard to navigate. Additionally, you can buy Clover through other retailers like Sam’s Club and Wells Fargo, but those retailers have their own pricing and contract structures, which can add to the confusion. Still, for reliability and ease of use, if you can navigate the prices, Clover might be for you.
TouchBistro is unique in that it’s not wholly cloud-based, unlike the others listed here. The software is locally integrated into your hardware of choice, but transactions are still uploaded in real-time. This can be great if there are disputes or problems with banking, as you’ll have locally-stored data to pull for clarity.
TouchBistro is also heavily modular and very easy to use, with add-ons like built-in gift card functionality, a reservation management platform, a kitchen display system, and loyalty program support. Some great software features include tableside ordering and payment and on-the-fly menu, table, inventory, and employee management. It’s also easy to scale as your business grows. Integrating new features and terminals is a simple process, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to get around one of the most significant drawbacks – it’s tough to predict running costs with TouchBistro. Hardware costs aren’t disclosed before speaking with a sales rep, and all those integrated features require monthly payments of their own. It also prioritizes Chase bank over others, which means your money will be available quickly with Chase, but less with any other.
TouchBistro also locks users into contracts with no cancellation clause, and the contracts renew automatically unless a restaurateur intervenes. If these aren’t stumbling blocks for your business, TouchBistro might be your restaurant’s perfect platform.
The final destination of this whistle-stop tour of POS platforms is industry mainstay Toast, a cloud-based POS system recommended by MustHaveMenus. Toast is one of the newest in the game and has built its reputation on functionality and prioritizing restaurant usage. If you want email marketing integration, payroll and scheduling systems, profoundly detailed sales reports and analytic functions, integrations with third-party delivery services like DoorDash and GrubHub, and more, Toast has got you covered. Toast also offers phenomenal 24/7 customer support and payment processing fees that are quote-based to fit your needs as a business better.
Toast also offers an excellent range of hardware, which is all purpose-built for restaurants. (Seriously, they thought about this – Toast’s hardware was built to be resistant to heat, spills, grease, and stains.) Not only is there a range of different device options, but the team at Toast is also great at helping determine which devices are best for your style of service and team size.
Toast has some cons – they require a minimum contract period of two years, and the cancellation fees can run a little bit high. It also uses a quote-based pricing system like TouchBistro, which means that the initial time to set up a plan and establish costs will require some time. That said, for the sheer quantity of features and functions that Toast offers, it’s a fantastic tool in your arsenal for running a great restaurant.
The Best POS is the One That Works For You
If you couldn’t already tell, none of these POS systems are one-size-fits-all. Every business’s needs are different, but there is a system for every business. Whether you need something light and inexpensive or a workhorse that can withstand a busy weekend dinner service, one of the systems here will be a great fit. Take your time and compare them to your needs, and you’ll pick a POS system that will make your work smarter, not harder.