8 Restaurant POS Systems With The Key Features You’ll Need In 2021
These restaurant POS systems are built with the tools you need to adapt and thrive during these challenging times.
When it comes to choosing a point of sale system for your full-service restaurant, there’s a lot more at stake than you might initially think. Besides just taking payments, modern restaurant POS software helps restaurant owners manage tasks from accounting to staff management — the kind of things that can determine whether your restaurant succeeds or becomes one of the 60% of restaurants that fail within the first year of opening.
During the coronavirus pandemic, restaurants face greater peril than ever. While a strong restaurant POS system can’t save every business, it can give you an edge to help you survive and even thrive during these trying times.
What follows is a list of the best point of sale systems for full-service restaurants (sit-down, table-service restaurants), though most of these solutions work well for cafes, bars, and quick-service restaurants as well. These POS systems for restaurants do everything from managing ingredient inventories to taking reservations online and everything in between. Moreover, these restaurant POS systems have COVID-friendly features for our current times, helping restaurants serve their patrons in a socially distanced fashion. With these systems, you can accept contactless payments, take online orders for delivery or curbside pickup, edit table plans to allow for social distancing, and even collect customer data and save reservation info for contact tracing.
Read on to learn about the best point of sale software for full-service restaurants, followed by some advice to help you choose the best restaurant POS system for your business.
Other Featured Options:
- Square For Restaurants POS: Best for free restaurant POS software.
- talech POS: Best for restaurants wanting a cost-effective system.
- Lavu POS: Best for numerous integrations.
Read more below to learn why we chose these options.
Table of Contents
The 8 Best Restaurant POS Systems
The best restaurant POS systems help restaurant owners do much more than just take payments. Cloud-based restaurant POS software includes tableside ordering, ingredient tracking, ApplePay, and customer loyalty. And each top POS system for restaurants has a different specialty. Let’s dig in!
1. Lightspeed Restaurant
Lightspeed Restaurant POS
Best for restaurant owners wanting an affordable all-in-one system.
Lightspeed Restaurant is a premium iPad POS for restaurants and works as well for quick-service as it does for full-service restaurants. With pricing starting at $69/month (billed annually), Lightspeed is an affordable and quality choice of POS for small to medium full-service restaurants.
Lightspeed Restaurant is arguably one of the most feature-rich POS systems for restaurants on the market. The software also has in-depth ingredient tracking and real-time alerts when ingredients are running low. Tableside ordering allows servers to take and send orders directly from the table to the kitchen using an iPad or letting customers place orders themselves on a kiosk. For employees, Lightspeed offers unique and intricate timed events to push certain items or reward hard-working servers. Add-ons, such as a branded loyalty app, delivery, QuickBooks integration, customer-facing displays, and KDS, cost extra.
For payment processing, you can use Lightspeed Payments. At 2.6% + $0.10 for each swiped, dipped, or tapped transaction, Lightspeed Payments’ flat-rate pricing model works best for lower-volume restaurants. You can also integrate with an outside payment processor, but this requires an additional monthly fee. Learn more about this restaurant POS in our Lightspeed Restaurant review.
Lightspeed has a slew of tech-forward features that help you run a socially distanced restaurant. Lightspeed Restaurant integrates with all major third-party delivery apps and even gives you the option to create a delivery-only menu. Dine-in customers can order from their table on an iPad with the self-order table menu add-on or use a self-order kiosk before paying with a contactless payment method. The system also has table management so that you can easily rearrange your restaurant to allow for social distancing and reservation management to limit dine-in capacity.
- Affordable base price
- In-depth ingredient management
- Reservation management
- Customer-facing loyalty app
- Monthly software fee can get expensive with add-ons
- Flat-rate processing is expensive for high-volume restaurants
Best for full-service restaurants wanting an easy-to-use, sleek system.
TouchBistro is a secure, on-site iPad POS that works for any type of restaurant, including the full-service variety. With its sleek, attractive interface and a slew of easy-to-use features, TouchBistro is extremely popular among restaurants. TouchBistro’s unique model allows you to run your entire restaurant on an iPad, even with no internet connection. If you want to use two or more iPads, you can set up a local Mac server to sync your restaurant’s devices.
TouchBistro lets you accept just about any type of payment and integrates with multiple payment gateways., including Square and TouchBistro’s in-house processor, among others. Keep in mind that while the POS itself doesn’t require Wi-Fi, you will need the internet to take credit card payments. You also have the option to access additional real-time data on your restaurant online via a cloud-based app.
TouchBistro is a little light on raw ingredient management and reporting features, but you can pair it with Shogo for more robust inventory tracking and various other integrated apps to extend your system’s functionality. Overall, TouchBistro is a solid, cost-effective choice for smaller restaurants with 10 or fewer iPads/registers. Pricing starts at $69/month. Online ordering is an additional $50/month, gift cards are $25/month, loyalty is $49/month, and reservations are another $229/month.
TouchBistro has core features and add-ons that help restaurants keep patrons and staff safe during COVID, including an in-house online ordering system that’s free for the first 12 months. The system doesn’t accept online payments (customers must pay when they pick up), but if that doesn’t work for you, TouchBistro also integrates with third-party delivery services. TouchBistro’s editable floor plan, kiosk option, and tableside ordering functions are also useful for full-service restaurants staying open during the pandemic. TouchBistro’s in-house reservation management add-on is especially functional, as it allows you to accept reservations through your website, TouchBistro’s web and mobile discovery apps, or Google Reservations. The add-on also includes guest records for small business contact tracing.
- Locally-installed POS app (doesn’t require the internet)
- An excellent in-house reservation system
- Works with Square
- Integrates with third-party delivery apps
- No online payments
- Can be pricey with add-ons
Revel POS Systems
Best for restaurants needing a rich feature set.
Revel Systems was not made specifically for restaurants. Nevertheless, this incredibly customizable iPad POS can handle the needs of a full-service restaurant or busy quick-service restaurant. It includes key restaurant-specific features, from visual menus with automated prompts for modifiers to advanced raw ingredient tracking across multiple locations, in-depth restaurant employee management, and scheduling. Revel has one of the most complete feature sets of any restaurant POS, especially since the addition of a table reservation feature.
Pricing starts at $99/month (billed annually), and you get a three-year contract with Revel Advantage, Revel’s in-house payment processor, which offers flat-rate processing. With its vast feature set and premium price tag, Revel is more suitable for larger restaurants with multiple locations. Add-ons, such as loyalty and online ordering, cost extra. Though it is one of the pricier options on this list, it is still an affordable and very capable alternative to enterprise-level POS software, such as Micros or Aloha.
Revel can be customized for any restaurant and has many different hardware options, such as digital menu boards for a quick-serve restaurant or a low-profile setup for a fine-dining experience. The cloud-based Revel POS also has good offline functionality with its “always-on” mode, allowing you to continue processing payments even if the internet goes down. Revel also has many compatible credit card processors, though it charges a premium if you don’t use Revel’s processing service.
Revel’s table layouts feature has table timers and color-coding, helping you keep close track of your restaurant patrons. Revel also includes other features for an organized and socially distanced dine-in experience, including tableside ordering, reservations, and ApplePay acceptance. QSR and fast-casual restaurants have the option of a self-order kiosk, while restaurants offering takeout can implement online and mobile ordering with delivery management.
- Highly customizable
- Advanced restaurant features
- Full offline functionality
- Flat-rate processing
- Many features cost extra
- Requires a long-term processing contract for the best price
Best for advanced digital ordering features.
Toast is one of our favorite POS systems for restaurants that want to use a cloud-based tablet POS but don’t necessarily want an iPad system. In fact, Toast runs exclusively on Samsung Android devices. Despite that distinction, it has a lot in common with the other tablet POS systems on our list — it’s feature-rich, user-friendly, and easy to set up. Toast is highly mobile, allowing servers to send orders directly to the kitchen display screen and even process payments right from their Toast Go tablets. Toast has a free plan, but its all-in-one packages start at $165/month, which includes its takeout app and online ordering.
What really sets Toast apart is its stellar 24/7 customer support, which comes at no additional charge in your package and is offered by a 100% US-based tech support team. Toast places a lot of importance on customer support — a major advantage of using this system. Toast’s employee management and reporting functions are also top-notch.
Besides using Android tablets, you also have to be okay with using Toast’s in-house payment processor. Its rates are competitive (2.49% + $0.15 for in-person transactions), but you’ll be out of luck if you want to switch POS systems and still stick with an existing processor. A Toast Payments contract requires a 2-year commitment and charges an early termination fee should you end your contract early. Also, note that the processing fee for online orders is pretty high, ranging from 3.5% to 3.89% + $0.15.
Toast may have the most electronic and socially distanced ordering/payment options of any of the restaurant POS systems on our list. Dine-in features for COVID-19 include a self-ordering kiosk, NFC-friendly card readers, reservation management, and a QR code payment option that customers use to pay for their meal on their phones. For customers who want to stay home, Toast also has its own Toast Takeout App, which lets customers order and pay for their order online for pickup or contactless delivery. Toast enables you to implement an in-house delivery system and even has a network of delivery drivers if you don’t have your own. Customers who want to support your restaurant during a pandemic-induced closure can also purchase eGift cards online to redeem at your restaurant at a later time.
- Numerous digital ordering options
- Advanced employee management
- Advanced reporting
- Long-term commitment
- High transaction fees for online orders
Best for restaurants seeking an intuitive interface.
Clover is a popular and incredibly easy-to-use POS system that gives restaurant owners everything they need to start selling food and managing their restaurant. Simply select your desired hardware setup and software plan, and once it arrives, plug in your POS and begin serving customers in a matter of minutes. Clover’s proprietary hardware is always sold with a Fiserv (formerly First Data) merchant account, which means you can’t reuse it with another type of POS software plan or merchant account, so it’s important you choose a reputable provider (some Clover resellers are not so reputable). We recommend purchasing your system directly from Clover.com or a reputable Clover reseller.
As far as software plans, you can choose from two month-to-month, pay-as-you-go Clover Dining plans: a sit-down restaurant should choose the table service restaurant plan, which is $69.95/month for the first device and $9.95 for each additional device, with 2.3% + $0.10 processing when purchased from Clover.com. QSRs can choose Clover’s counter-service plan for $39.95/month and 2.5% + $0.10 processing. For your hardware setup, a Clover Station with a Clover Flex is ideal for a large, busy restaurant, whereas the Clover Mini is perfect for small-to-medium restaurants with a limited number of tables.
Some useful Clover Dining features for restaurants include online ordering, online payments, contactless delivery, and dynamic floor plans to adjust your layout for social distancing. Servers can also use a mobile Clover Flex for tableside ordering and payments, helping keep patrons at their tables and eliminating the need for servers to use the same POS. You can split checks in any proportion, apply discounts at the order level, and run reports per revenue center (for example, patio vs. bar). Using the Clover Marketplace, you can extend the capabilities of your POS even further with paid apps. Clover Dining already comes with some bundled apps specific to restaurants, including Bar Tab Auths, Tips, Shifts, Discounts, and Happy Hour.
Clover’s complete online ordering module lets you accept food orders from your website, Google search and maps, and/or third-party delivery apps with contactless delivery. For in-person dining, you can rearrange your tables with a dynamic floor plan and have customers pay at the table with a card or NFC payment using the mobile Clover Flex device. Clover also integrates with SeatOn to let diners book online reservations. For restaurants serving customers in outdoor spaces — for example, a food truck — you can add an LTE plan to your Clover account for $15/month and sell in whatever socially distant settings suit your business.
- Sold by numerous merchant account providers
- Full-service and quick-service software plans
- Convenient pay-as-you-go pricing through Clover.com
- Several sleek Clover hardware setups to choose from
- Can’t resell or reprogram hardware after purchase
- Not all Clover sellers are reputable
6. Square For Restaurants
Square For Restaurants POS
Best for free restaurant POS software.
With Square for Restaurants, the processing and POS giant hit the bullseye once again. Square for Restaurants is available on iPad and Square’s sleek all-in-one POS, customer display, and card/NFC reader, Square Register ($799). Square for Restaurants is extremely easy to use, includes employee management, and doesn’t skimp on restaurant-specific features, all for a very reasonable $60/month rate for the “Plus” version, which has advanced reporting, seat management, auto 86-ing, and advanced team management. Or you can choose the free plan if you are okay with a more basic feature set. Either plan you choose, you’ll receive Square’s flat-rate pay-as-you-go payment processing rate of 2.6% + $0.10 per swiped, tipped, or tapped transaction — 2.9% + $0.30 when customers pay for their food on your free Square Online Store.
You can create and customize your menus in a matter of minutes with Square for Restaurants. Functions that can be tedious on other systems, such as setting up discounts or forced modifiers, can be done with a few touches and keystrokes. Reporting and inventory management functions are solid, and for employees, permissions can be easily assigned. Individuals can log in at the register, while hours are managed automatically through Square Payroll. You can manage your entire restaurant remotely if need be with the ability to keep tabs on stock levels and real-time sales monitoring.
Square’s customer service isn’t 24/7 if you choose the free plan, offering live support only from 6 AM to 6 PM, but it has a large database for troubleshooting on its website. If you opt for the $60/month Plus plan, you will receive 24/7 customer support. Square for Restaurants is best suited for small to mid-sized full-service restaurants but can handle multiple locations.
All Square for Restaurant merchants can add a Square Online Store free of charge. Using this eComm hub, you can offer online ordering and curbside pickup, integrate your POS with third-party delivery apps, and even sell online gift cards during a closure. In-person diners can pay with a contactless payment form using the Square Register, which has a built-in NFC reader, or with Square’s contactless and chip reader. You can also easily rearrange your tables using the intuitive table maps feature and have servers send orders to the kitchen wirelessly using tableside ordering to keep waitstaff separate from the kitchen staff.
- Free plan
- Free online ordering
- Works on iPad or Square Register
- Includes employee management
- Doesn’t include your own merchant account
- No reservation management
Best for restaurants wanting a cost-effective system.
talech is a user-friendly tablet POS offered at an amazing starting price of just $29/month. This POS’s inventory management is excellent, displaying product history and performance and letting you track ingredients for all locations with ease. Notably, talech also includes the ability to create and auto-generate purchase orders, which is pretty advanced for an iPad POS (talech can also run on Android hardware, including Ingenico MOBY tablet POS solutions and Poynt Smart Terminals). Small cafes should be able to get by with the $29 Starter plan. Full-service restaurants will likely want to choose the $99/month Premium plan, which includes online ordering, gift cards, table management, purchase orders, pay by position, split and merge orders, coursing, and more.
talech allows multiple choices for merchant account integration, including Elavon, Global Payments, Bank of America Merchant Services, Vantiv, Chase, and others. Also, talech’s USAePay gateway allows customers to connect to all major credit card processors in the US.
One of the only negative things about this feature-packed budget restaurant POS is it doesn’t allow you to accept credit card payments if your system goes offline because you lose your internet connection.
talech has a superb online ordering system that allows for online payments, and it also tracks customer data, aiding in the pickup process. In-person diners can pay with Apple Pay or other NFC payments. talech also includes table management and can be used for tableside ordering and payments with a handheld POS tablet.
- Low monthly price
- Purchase ordering
- Works with multiple payment processors
- Works on iPad and Android
- Can’t accept credit cards offline
- No integrated reservation system
Best for numerous integrations.
Lavu is another affordable and aesthetically pleasing iPad POS for small to medium-sized restaurants, including multilocation restaurants. Lavu has tons of features (over 300), and with its super-affordable price tag — $69/month for all features — it can potentially save your restaurant a lot of money, especially if you’re switching from a clunky, Windows-based POS. Lavu is cloud-based but has a local server backup option that offers added stability for restaurants that want to sync multiple devices.
Lavu offers so many features it would be difficult to list them all. Some examples include advanced employee management features (timekeeping, job rates, calculation of overtime pay, and more). You also get granular inventory control that’s viewable at a glance. Furthermore, Lavu is conveniently flexible about which payment gateway you can use — though it’s currently incentivizing its in-house Lavu Pay as well as PayPal Here for payment processing.
Lavu’s downsides include no purchase order support or mass import functions; some customers also complain about being talked into an expensive long-term equipment lease. Fortunately, you have the option to purchase your Lavu POS equipment outright rather than leasing.
One great thing about Lavu is it has tons of integrations with other business and restaurant software, including multiple online ordering and delivery platforms. Lavu’s MenuDrive integration, in particular, allows free integration with DoorDash for just a per-order flat fee. For sit-down restaurants, Lavu’s Resy integration lets you accept online reservations, a useful function for contact tracing and limiting dine-in capacity. QSR and fast-casual eateries can also set up an optional PayPal Here-powered self-service kiosk that accepts chip-and-tap payments. Lavu’s rearrangeable table map and tableside payments options are useful for socially distanced dining.
- Competitive monthly pricing
- Local server option for full offline functionality
- Works with PayPal
- Free DoorDash integration
- Expensive equipment leases
- No purchase ordering
How To Spot A Great POS System For A Restaurant
Now you know that there are plenty of companies that offer restaurant-specific POS services. But now comes the hard part. How do you narrow it down and select the POS that’s best for your establishment?
We’ve already given you some worthy options, and it would be difficult to go wrong with any of the above software platforms. But that doesn’t mean that some aren’t a better fit for you than others. Here’s a brief rundown of things you should be looking for in a very strong POS for your restaurant:
- Cost: It sounds simple, and quite frankly, this is often the factor that we look at first. Most of the companies we mention above are similarly priced, but you’ll want to make sure you’re not paying for features you won’t use. Try to avoid any long-term contracts, and if you’re going with a company’s built-in processor, make sure the rates are competitive. Also, if you plan on expanding into additional hardware, such as extra registers or mobile ordering devices, make sure those purchases won’t break the bank. To read more about what to expect, check out our POS system cost buyer’s guide.
- Robust Inventory: Any competent POS for restaurants will come with some basic inventory management, but if your inventory needs are somewhat complex, you’ll want to delve into what your POS has to offer. Features such as raw ingredient tracking, low inventory alerts, and purchase order management should be included. Also, double-check to ensure that a software’s advanced inventory options don’t need to be purchased as an add-on.
- Employee Management: Unless you’re running a very small establishment with just a few employees, you’ll want a POS that is not only user-friendly for your workers but also has features that will make all of your lives easier. It should be easy to assign permissions for individual employees, set schedules, clock hours, and tip management is a nice bonus feature. You’ll also want to look for security features, such as the ability to track voids and cash drawer openings.
- Loyalty: Some form of a loyalty program can be a boon to your restaurant. Many companies offer this feature as an add-on or an integration, but some have built-in programs as well. The ability to store customer information and send out tailored marketing can dramatically help with repeat business, and a solid gift card integration can also boost sales.
- Customer Service: While most of the major POS players try to stay relatively close to each other when it comes to pricing, their level of customer service can vary greatly. If excellent customer service is high on your priority list, pay close attention to what each company offers. You may be charged an add-on for 24/7 support, which is always a bummer, and some companies can only be reached live at certain hours. However, others make a big commitment to having friendly, knowledgeable staff available at all hours via phone or live chat.
- COVID-19 Features: Most restaurants are doing more takeout business these days, so a POS that has strong online ordering is essential, and a POS with an in-house restaurant delivery system is even better. Systems that let you sell eGift cards can also be a good way to bring in revenue when in-person dining is not possible. For dine-in, tablet POS systems increasingly offer features, such as reservation management, mobile payments via NFC or QR code, and other functions that allow for distancing and regulatory compliance. Though the current pandemic surely won’t last forever, the same web-based ordering and payment features that help your restaurant stay COVID-free also offer the benefits of speed and convenience, helping you run a more efficient and modern restaurant long after coronavirus is (hopefully) vanquished.
Get The Best Restaurant POS For Your Business
Full-service restaurants need quality POS software that provides reliable, industry-specific functionality and intuitive management features that keep your restaurant in the black. Today’s smart, web-enabled restaurant point of sale systems can help make your restaurant more efficient and might even improve your quality of service and customer communications.
I recommend test-driving any or all of these POS systems by going to their respective websites and setting up a free trial. The cool thing about tablet-based POS systems is they typically use a lot of the same equipment, making it relatively easy to switch to a different point of sale if you’re not entirely happy with the first one you choose.
Want a quick way to compare restaurant POS systems? Our restaurant POS software comparison table is a great place to start. If you want more details about any of the above systems — or any of their competitors in the foodservice point of sale arena — check out our selection of comprehensive restaurant POS reviews. Looking for the lowest in cost? Be sure to check out our latest post on free restaurant POS software. Find out what to expect and how to spot the best free POS restaurant systems.
Learn even more about restaurant POS systems by checking out these related posts:
- The Complete Guide To Restaurant Credit Card Processing & The 5 Best Companies For Your Small Business
- Does Your Restaurant Need An Online Ordering System?
- Modernize Your Business With A Good Restaurant Ordering System
- Why You Should Consider A Self-Ordering Kiosk For Your Restaurant (Plus The 5 Best Kiosk POS Systems & How You Can Afford Them)
- Get The Commercial Kitchen Equipment You Need With The Help Of One Of These Equipment Lessors
- The 8 Best Loans For Restaurants (Plus Tips To Improve Your Chances Of Being Approved)
- Coronavirus Survival Guide For Restaurants
In Summary: The 8 Best Restaurant POS Systems
- Lightspeed Restaurant POS: Best for restaurant owners wanting an affordable all-in-one system.
- TouchBistro: Best for full-service restaurants wanting a reservation management system.
- Revel POS Systems: Best for restaurants needing a rich feature set.
- Toast POS: Best for advanced digital ordering features.
- Clover POS: Best for restaurants seeking an intuitive interface.
- Square For Restaurants POS: Best for free restaurant POS software.
- talech POS: Best for restaurants wanting a cost-effective system.
- Lavu POS: Best for numerous integrations.