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Keep The Drinks Flowing With These 6 Great POS Systems For Bars

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Advertiser Disclosure: Our unbiased reviews and content are supported in part by affiliate partnerships, and we adhere to strict guidelines to preserve editorial integrity.
bar nightclub pos systems

Bars can be community cornerstones that bring together people from all walks of life, and they can also be seedy dives — and sometimes, they are both. I’m partial to friendly dive bars, but I love a swanky space paired with inventive craft cocktails for special occasions. As a bar owner, you know that what gives your bar its charm is a unique combination of factors, and everything has to be just right. The drinks need to be strong, or tasty, or both. The music needs to be on point, whether you have a DJ or a fully-loaded jukebox. Bartenders should know how to make any drink order a customer can throw at them, even if it’s not on the menu.

Whether you own a neighborhood bar reminiscent of “Cheers” or manage an elite speakeasy, having the right point of sale system can keep your bar running at peak efficiency. After all, you want guests to keep those drink orders flowing every night, all the way to the last call.

In this post, I’ll go over the important features in a POS system for a bar and give some recommendations for great bar POS systems that have everything you need to make your bar a fixture in the local nightlife scene.

Learn More About Our Top Picks

CompanyBest ForNext Steps
Best for bars looking for a scalable system built specifically for the foodservice industry and has a large number of features for the price.

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Best for bars that want exceptionally easy software and a complete system with built-in processing and intuitive hardware.

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Best for bars looking for an android-based all-in-one system that is constantly adapting to trends and features excellent customer service.

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Best for smaller to mid-sized establishments looking for a low-cost option with versatility and strong customer service.

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Best for mid-sized to larger establishments looking for incredibly feature-rich software on both the front and back end.

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Other Featured Options:

  • TouchBistro: Best for nearly any sized bar or restaurant that values a highly intuitive and simple interface and a low-cost entry point for its software.

Read more below to learn why we chose these options.

How We Chose The Best POS For Bars

There are a number of POS systems for bars that would be adequate. But here, we’re delving a bit deeper and looking for the best POS systems for bars and restaurants. While things such as cost and customer service are always going to play a huge factor in our overall rating, we’re also looking for how easy it is to run multiple tabs and split tickets, among other things. How deep is the inventory reporting? Can you include drink recipes on specific items to help out your bartenders? How well does the software manage employees who are working inconsistent hours? Overall, the vendors we’ve chosen thrive in many of these categories and often have features that were created specifically for bar owners. Let’s check out our top point of sale systems for bars.

The 6 Best POS Systems For Bars

Toast, ShopKeep, TouchBistro, and other point of sale systems are affordable, easy to use, and offer great back-end features that can help your bar run at peak efficiency.

1. Lightspeed Restaurant

Lightspeed POS



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Lightspeed Restaurant is an iPad POS that provides a refreshing balance of functionality and affordability. It’s not as powerful as an enterprise-level system (such as Revel or Toast), but at a price point of $69/month, Lightspeed can handle the needs of a small-to-mid-size bar/restaurant setup quite aptly.

Lightspeed features a customizable POS interface for both the front end (register) and back end (reporting and analytics suite) that make the system easy to use and put the functions you need — and only the functions you need — at your fingertips. Tableside ordering lets servers take orders from tables or booths with an iPad and send those orders directly to the bar or kitchen. Staff can also receive (optional) upsell prompts and use the iPad to run payments from the floor. The timed Events function lets you set promotions and offers to run for a specific time or on certain days (e.g., happy hour).

The “ingredients” tab links raw ingredients to specific menu items. If a server tries to send an order with ingredients that aren’t available, they will be alerted. Employee permissions include the ability to set permissions for different levels of employees. Permission settings can also change the “visibility” of employees to determine whether or not they will appear in your app — which can be useful for seasonal or part-time staff. The adjustable floor planner is highly customizable and easy to use for bar-restaurant setups or nightclubs offering table service. The menu-building functionality allows you to create a simple menu in minutes and on any device. Lightspeed charges 2.6% + $0.10 for payment processing (the same rate as Square for Restaurants) but can also integrate with outside payment processors, which you might prefer to use if you can secure a better rate elsewhere.

Help During Covid

Lightspeed has made strides to help customers with their ability to sell online through its eCommerce platform. Lightspeed offers free social media templates and the ability to list products on Google Shopping. It also has options for setting up delivery for customers who may not be currently utilizing that integration. One of the more unique things Lightspeed has to offer for struggling bar and restaurant owners is free webinars with experts in the industry as well.

Pros

  • Intuitive interface
  • Deep reporting
  • Customization options

Cons

  • Occasional outages
  • Average inventory management

Get Started with Lightspeed POS

Read our in-depth review

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2. Square For Restaurants

Square For Restaurants POS



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Square for Restaurants is an iPad POS for restaurants, bars, and bar/restaurant establishments. This option is appealing due to its simplicity and low price — only $60/month (+$40/month for each additional register). While it doesn’t have every feature under the sun, Square for Restaurants offers many useful bar-centric features. Drink modifiers (neat, shaken, stirred, dry, dirty, etc.) can be grouped with different menu items. They will automatically appear, so servers can see precisely how to prepare any drink. You can also use the modifiers to customize drinks. There’s an option to switch to dark mode to fit in well with low-light bar settings. Menu management lets you switch between different menus for different parts of the day, such as during happy hour.

On the back end, employee permissions allow you to assign roles to your team (such as servers or managers) and choose their access level. This function also gives every employee their own passcode so that you can track the sales activities of each server. The reporting suite shows you how each employee, liquor, and drink performs so that you can plan accordingly. Square uses in-house payment processing with a rate of 2.6% + $0.10 per swipe, chip, or NFC (e.g., Apple Pay) transaction. This rate is potentially better than the 2.75% you’d get with just a basic Square POS reader or Square Stand, especially with customers who run up larger tabs. Check out the following blog post for a more detailed breakdown comparing Square POS and Square for Restaurants.

Help During Covid

As you might expect, Square is at the forefront of helping business owners who need to adapt quickly during the pandemic. Square offers touch-free checkout options with the ability to sell through the use of QR codes. The company also has a strong eGift card program. With Square Online, you can set up your website to offer curbside pickup or delivery and accept payments remotely.

Pros

  • Intuitive interface
  • All-in-one system
  • App marketplace

Cons

  • Occasional fund holds
  • Average reporting suite

Get Started with Square For Restaurants POS

Read our in-depth review

Jump back to comparison chart

3. Toast

Toast POS



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Toast is an Android POS that any restaurant or bar establishment can use. Toast’s powerful system can meet the needs of a large bar/restaurant or buzzing nightclub, though it’s a little pricey, with plans starting at $79/month. It does come with a number of useful features for bars, however. Pre-authorization lets you verify and securely save card information on a tab, limiting fraud from fake cards and unpaid tabs at the end of the night. Pre-auth also makes it quicker and easier to close out bar tabs. Flexible menu management lets you set automatic happy hour pricing, quickly add new drinks, and easily remove drinks from the menu when inventory for that item is low.

Mobile point of sale devices allow bartenders and servers to take and transmit drink orders and transfer tabs, all electronically. That way, customers won’t have to close out at the bar before moving to restaurant seating. More benefits of mobile ordering include quicker checkouts and onscreen tipping suggestions, among others. Advanced POS reporting notifies managers of any theft (customers or employees), shows menu and liquor sales trends over time, and analyzes customer data with built-in CRM. Includes a Cash Drawer Report, which allows you to monitor each register to see who opened and closed the drawer at what times. An excellent kitchen display system option makes for fast, streamlined service if your bar also serves food as well.

There are few (if any) areas Toast is lacking in, though the system cost could get pricey depending on if you use add-ons (e.g., online ordering) or extra hardware, such as handheld POS devices and a kitchen display system. However, if you own a large, busy establishment, you probably need the power that a system such as Toast can provide. Note that Toast uses in-house payment processing with flat-rate pricing (customized per business).

Help During Covid

Toast has a restaurant re-opening checklist on its website with valuable information for restaurant owners needing to adapt on the fly. It also has links to relief funds that have been set up across the country.

Pros

  • Android-based
  • All-in-one system
  • Excellent customer service

Cons

  • Locked into Toast processing
  • Early termination fee

Get Started with Toast POS

Read our in-depth review

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4. ShopKeep

ShopKeep POS



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ShopKeep is an elegant and easy-to-use iPad POS that can work great for smaller and mid-size bars looking to keep things simple and inexpensive. ShopKeep also runs on Clover devices, such as Clover Station and Clover Mini. Though it doesn’t include as many industry-specific features as some other systems, ShopKeep has a super-affordable starting price point of $49/month (billed annually) and a lot to offer in the areas of inventory and employee management. The inventory management system includes raw ingredient tracking and will let you set reorder points within the system, track the supplier and supplier code for each item, and run reports showing what you received from each supplier. The system will send you alerts when you are running low on any item. The employee permissions system includes unique employee logins and four access levels (cashier, manager, back-office manager, and account owner). You can also track each employee’s actions by monitoring their cash flow and register usage with the Shifts Summary report.

ShopKeep has some handheld register options that include an iPad mini with a portable card reader or a Clover Go device. The “ShopKeep Pocket”  app, available in the App Store and Google Play, lets you see daily reports and check in on your bar’s sales in real-time using your smartphone. ShopKeep Capital provides quick and easy merchant cash advances to ShopKeep merchants in good standing who need a fast business loan to buy inventory, hire employees, cover day-to-day operational expenses during slow times, etc. ShopKeep doesn’t offer as many advanced features as Toast or Revel. However, its raw ingredient tracking software and advanced employee permissions still place this POS system ahead of many of its competitors in these areas. ShopKeep uses in-house payment processing with flat-rate processing (2.5% + $0.10) but will also integrate with some outside merchant accounts.

Help During Covid

ShopKeep has made its eCommerce platform available to all of its customers at no extra cost and has made it possible to take credit and debit payments through ShopKeep Payments online. Further, ShopKeep made it easier to update your eCommerce store and provide social distancing signs that you can print out. ShopKeep is also running specials on contactless credit card readers.

Pros

  • Simplicity
  • Strong customer service
  • Bang for your buck

Cons

  • Occasional software glitches
  • Average inventory management

Get Started with ShopKeep POS

Read our in-depth review

Jump back to comparison chart

5. Revel

Revel POS



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Read our Review

Revel is a robust iPad POS with a starting price point of $99/month for one register. Though Revel is not built specifically for bars/restaurants, the system is highly customizable and feature-rich, to the point that it rivals Toast and any other restaurant-centric POS system.  Revel is an excellent system for a large or multilocation bar/restaurant/nightclub/you name it.

The always-on mode allows you to run credit cards without the internet or even power. A wired ethernet iPad connection — the first of its kind — makes for a faster and more stable signal. You can set age prompts so that bartenders must verify that a customer is 21 before placing their drink order. There is also an option for mobile ordering to let you take orders electronically from tables and booths.

On the back end, ingredient-level inventory controls simplify liquid inventory tracking, automatically adjusting inventory levels based on the exact amount of alcohol poured for each drink. Employee management features include advanced employee permissions, shift tracking, and more. Revel even offers a video surveillance integration. Customer management lets you learn about regular customers, with information such as their favorites items and order history, and includes a built-in loyalty program.

Help During Covid

Revel has some useful information on its site about ways foodservice establishments, in particular, can adapt to the pandemic and has hardware that is compatible with non-contact payments.

Pros

  • Feature-rich
  • Strong reporting suite
  • Excellent integrations

Cons

  • Complex setup
  • Pricey for small businesses

Get Started with Revel POS

Read our in-depth review

Jump back to comparison chart

6. TouchBistro

TouchBistro



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TouchBistro, which has plans starting at $69 a month, is one of the more affordable POS options on the market and has some handy features specifically for bars and clubs. The software boasts a “Fast Bar” mode in its register function that allows you to quickly take and close orders and navigate through multiple open tabs. It also has an easy promotional setting to create happy hours and events. A nice visual menu option allows you to write out recipes for bartenders or servers. Plus, there are simple permission settings that you can place on your employees.

More broadly speaking, TouchBistro has an exceptionally user-friendly interface, one created with restaurant employees in mind. There is a tableside ordering functionality that comes with the nifty feature of adapting to right-handed or left-handed servers. TouchBistro has a standard number of reports that let you track potential waste and view sales by time of day and employee, among other settings. TouchBistro isn’t overly deep with its back-end offerings, but it doesn’t lack either, and its inventory management should suit most bars. It also has a strong loyalty program for an additional monthly fee.

Help During Covid

TouchBistro has a “Recovery Navigator” on its site, and you can contact the company directly with questions. It offers its online ordering system free of charge for three months and gives links to national recovery resources.

Pros

  • Simple interface
  • Cost-effective
  • A large number of integrations

Cons

  • Occasionally spotty customer support
  • Average inventory management

Get Started with TouchBistro

Read our in-depth review

Jump back to comparison chart

6 Must-Have Features In A POS System For Bars

Bars have unique business models, and they need POS systems that can accommodate their particular needs. Today’s POS systems offer much more than just the ability to take payments. A specialized system with bar-specific features will do so much more for your business than a general POS. The following are essential features to look for in POS systems for bars.

1. Flexible Menu Scheduling

Most bars’ offerings and prices change up from time to time, either over the course of a day or year. For example, you might have special happy hour pricing, game-day specials, seasonal drinks, etc. Having a POS that you can program to accommodate these changes automatically means servers won’t have to remember all the specials or forget to charge the happy hour price instead of the regular price. Menu pricing control is vitally important to have if your bar also serves food.

2. Off-Hours Customer Support

Bars don’t operate during the same hours as most businesses, and you could potentially have issues with processing payments at 12 AM; ideally, you need 24/7 support on your POS system. Customer service needs to be responsive and helpful, any time of day or night, so you can get your system back up and running ASAP whenever problems arise. Your POS system should also have an “offline mode” that will keep your POS operational even if the internet goes down.

3. Inventory Management

A bar POS with a strong inventory management system can track the alcohol poured in every cocktail and alert you when supplies of any ingredient are low. They can also store drink recipes, report on the best-selling drink orders, and let you see your stock in real-time. The best bar POS systems can additionally integrate with third-party bar drink management software, including specialized keg-tracking software and liquor inventory management systems. Of course, there are also laws regulating the purchase and sale of alcohol. You should have a way to track all the information you need to stay compliant, including supplier information, purchase orders, etc. A shipping integration would be a nice feature for these purposes.

4. Employee Management

Spills, theft, and yes, on-shift inebriation are all problems bars must commonly deal with when it comes to their staff. But even if you trust your bartenders implicitly, you can still benefit from using employee management software. Modern POS systems can double as employee management tools, letting you do things such as set individual user permissions and generate reports to see who is making the most sales, who is bringing in the most tips, who is comping the most drinks, etc. At the very least, a POS should have basic time-tracking capabilities that let you set shifts and have employees clock their hours.

5. Tabs & Suspended Tickets

Naturally, you’ll want to be able to set up and track customer tabs via an “open ticket” or “suspend” function. Preferably, the system should have a pre-authorization feature that saves your customer’s card as soon as you start their tab. A larger bar also needs the capability to merge and transfer tickets between servers and split a tab among multiple people, especially if you serve food and/or bottles of wine.

6. Good Reporting Features

A POS with good reporting features lets you track your bar’s sales and other metrics so that you can measure your business’s performance, see areas for improvement, and make important business decisions. For example, POS reports can show you the most popular drinks and which hours are busiest, so you can stock up and staff accordingly. Modern cloud-based systems will generate detailed POS reports on your daily sales, inventory, and employees that you can view at any time from any internet-connected device.

Which Bar POS System Is Right For You?

So what is the best POS for bars? Though I’ve provided several high-quality POS options with similar capabilities, they do have some notable differences. The right one for your establishment depends on your specific needs. For example, you may have budgetary constraints, serve only beer and wine, or have a full food menu. Are you opening a new bar with brand-new everything, or are you switching from another POS system and want to see if you can use your existing hardware?

Generally, single-location bars that want a simple but capable system without breaking the bank would be wise to choose between Square for Restaurants and ShopKeep. Large, busy nightclubs or multilocation bars/restaurants would find everything they need in Toast or Revel. Somewhere in the middle? Upserve or Lightspeed Restaurant could be good bets. If your bar serves food, you should also check our piece on the best POS systems for restaurants.

When deciding on a bar POS system, it’s important to talk to a representative to determine if they have all the features you need and what they will cost. Often, the “starter” or “core” package does not include more sophisticated features, such as advanced reporting, the loyalty program, or granular inventory controls. It’s also important to find out upfront things, such as whether you will be billed annually or monthly, how much all the equipment will cost, and if you will have to enter a service contract. Finally, you should use a free trial of any POS you are considering, or at least schedule a demo, so you can see how the system works in action before committing.

If you need any additional help choosing a bar POS system, leave me a comment, and I’ll get back to ya!

In Summary: The 6 Best POS Systems For Bars

  1. Lightspeed POS: Best for bars looking for a scalable system built specifically for the foodservice industry and has a large number of features for the price.
  2. Square For Restaurants POS: Best for bars that want exceptionally easy software and a complete system with built-in processing and intuitive hardware.
  3. Toast POS: Best for bars looking for an android-based all-in-one system that is constantly adapting to trends and features excellent customer service.
  4. ShopKeep POS: Best for smaller to mid-sized establishments looking for a low-cost option with versatility and strong customer service.
  5. Revel POS: Best for mid-sized to larger establishments looking for incredibly feature-rich software on both the front and back end.
  6. TouchBistro: Best for nearly any sized bar or restaurant that values a highly intuitive and simple interface and a low-cost entry point for its software.
Shannon Vissers

Shannon Vissers

Shannon is a writer and editor based in San Diego, CA. Shannon attended San Diego State University, graduating in 2005 with a BA in English. She is the former editor-in-chief of SteelOrbis, an online trade publication. Shannon has also published articles for LIVESTRONG.COM, eHow, Life'd, and other websites. She has been with Merchant Maverick since 2015, writing about POS software, small business loans, and financing for women entrepreneurs.
Shannon Vissers
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2 Comments

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the vendor or bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the vendor or bank advertiser. It is not the vendor or bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

    James Jennings

    Hello, I appreciate your published article here. I am attempting to open a new nightclub, which will primarily focus on quick services for bartenders and cocktail waitresses. We hope to have simple bar food for our pool hall adjacent to the property, but I wanted to know what system you would personally recommend, especially when I am interested in high cost control. With whatever system I go with, I am also implementing a liquor control system call barvision, which has its own cost analysis for Cost of Goods Poured vs Cost of Goods Sold. All in all, I need something that will provide everything to make sales happen quickly, but protect the businesses interests most importantly. Thanks for reading and providing feedback, I wasn’t sure where I stood in your analysis with a nightclub.

      This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

      Jessica Dinsmore

      Hi James,

      Thanks for your question. I think Shopkeep is a great option for you, but you’ll want to make sure it integrates with Barvision. If not, I’d suggest looking at Toast as a close second. Best of luck to you!

        This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

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