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- Date Established
- New York City, NY
- Elegant, simple design
- Secure, onsite system
- Excellent for small and large restaurants alike
We’ve all seen morning coffee buyers anxiously standing in line, waiting for the caffeine fix that will carry them through their day. Picture this instead: staff walking the line and taking orders and payment ahead of time so that when the customer reaches the counter their coffee is waiting and ready to go. You may have even seen this system implemented at some of your favorite drive-thru coffee chains. That’s part of the reality that Toronto-based TouchBistro founders Alex Barrotti and Geordie Konrad created with their sleek POS app. It’s catching on too, as more restaurants are migrating to tablets and downloadable POS applications. The hospitality industry appears to be in favor of making paper orders and clunky hardware a thing of the past. In the POS world, TouchBistro has rapidly climbed to the top of the market, and is ranked as the top-grossing POS Application on Apple’s App Store in over 35 countries; the company has also received multiple industry awards and honors. Touch Bistro was recently a 2016 Stevie winner (an international business award) in Customer Service and was rated the best POS system for restaurants in 2016 to name just a few.
Designed for restaurants, cafes, and bars–really any business with a menu–TouchBistro is a proven, successful Point of Sale application that runs solely on mobile iPads that are synchronized through a local network. The TouchBistro hardware setup is simple and low cost and the licensing fees are also cheap compared to the gigantic POS systems of yore. Better yet, customers love the modern look and feel of the tablet-based check out system that can handle seating and table assignments, menu selections and ordering, wireless transfer of orders to the kitchen, split tickets and tabs, and daily sales reports. Even payment can be completed tableside, with the option for receipts that can be quickly emailed to customers. The mobility allows restaurants to complete every task with greater ease and speed. Staff can spend more time on the floor attending to customers and creating a positive dining experience.
The TouchBistro pricing is as follows:
- Solo – $69/month for 1 license.
- Dual – $129/month for 2 licenses.
- Team – $249/month for up to 5 licenses.
- Unlimited – $399/month unlimited licenses.
Each license equals one register. All plans include 24/7 customer service, free updates,cloud reporting and analytics, full tableside and quick service POS features, and unlimited users (staff who are not licensed). You can book a free demonstration of TouchBistro to see how it works before committing to a plan.
Cloud-Based or Locally-Installed:
TouchBistro is locally-installed and does not require W-iFi or Internet to operate outside of the initial download and software updates. For the Standard subscription, all you need is the one iPad—your whole restaurant will be run and managed directly from the device. For two or more iPads, you must run the Pro Server Application on a Mac Mini. This acts as the central database for your restaurant, and all iPads will communicate with it to stay in sync with one another. TouchBistro also offers cloud based services for viewing reports and other important restaurant data.
You will need an internet connection for credit card payment processing, though (see Product Overview for more information).
TouchBistro is intended for the restaurant industry and is ideal for food trucks, cafes, bistros, bars, pubs, and casual or fine dining–basically any business that serves edible products.
Specific Size of Business:
The TouchBistro POS is well matched to businesses that fall in the small-to-medium range (it’s great for food trucks), but it has become more and more capable of handling large scale restaurants as well; it is actually the POS of choice for a few big name eateries in the US.
Ease of Use:
The TouchBistro iPad interface is very well done. It’s simple to navigate and attractively designed with a fresh color palette. The simplicity and aesthetics are important as the app is designed to act as both a POS and a digital menu with full color, high-res photos of each menu item. Anything your customers are directly interacting with needs to look sleek.
I do have one user-friendly count against TouchBistro, which is the fact that the entire menu has to be setup, by hand, on the iPad. This is fairly intensive compared to other cloud-based POS systems that feature an online back-end where you can upload a CSV file with your data and photos instead of laboriously adding each product individually. If you have a small menu, you’ll be fine. If you have a large menu, prepare to get comfortable at your desk.
Hardware and Operating System Requirements:
TouchBistro is partnered with Apple and the app runs on either the iPad or the iPad Mini (with the exception of the first generation iPad). If you have more than one iPad device and are using TouchBistro Pro, you’ll need a local server, which can be housed on an Apple Mac Mini, an iMac, or a Macbook Pro. To learn more, click this link.
Many POS apps only deal with the software side of things and direct clients to outside dealers for hardware. TouchBistro is a little different in this respect as they offer custom hardware packages. If you don’t want to go with a package, you’re also free to purchase the different hardware elements on your own. See below for hardware compatible with the TouchBistro app.
- iPad/iPod Touch – TouchBistro runs on either the iPad Mini or the iPad (except for the first generation iPad). These range from $199 to $1099.
- Routers – You can use the Apple Airport Extreme.
- Cash Drawers – TouchBistro leaves the decision on cash drawers up to you. TouchBistro does require that the drawer uses an RJ12 connection and is a printer-model. Since there is not a huge variation in hardware, so most drawers should be compatible. Depending on the model, cash drawers generally run from $100-$130.
- Printers – TouchBistro supports the following printer models: Star Micronics Impact TSP100 Series and Star Micronics Impact SP 700 series, Epson Thermal Printer–TM-T88V, and Epson Impact Printer–TM-U220B. These printers range from approximately $250-$350 dollars. If you go with an Epson printer, be sure that it is LAN based. TouchBistro does not work with parallel or USB printers
If you visit the TouchBistro website you can find information on app features and descriptions of the various industries the software is suited for. Below is a list of current features. Keep in mind that while these features are mostly accurate, things change quickly. If you have specific POS requirements you’ll want to directly confirm with TouchBistro on whether or not the app can meet your needs.
- Taking Orders:
- Staff can take customer orders tableside with the TouchBistro app. The app can double as both a menu and a POS system.
- If you’re taking an order at a counter (rather than at a table) you now have the option to set up and view the iPad screen with a landscape orientation.
- Easily scroll through different menu categories and customer parties with touch tabs.
- Send the order to any printer in the business.
- Take orders in table view or in tab view.
- Send orders to the kitchen all at once or by course, depending on the type of venue.
- Create tabs appropriate for a bar or pub setting.
- Items can be shared by the whole table, moved from one guest to another or edited.
- Take notes or make special accommodations for each order.
- Move an order from the cash register to a table or tab.
- View all current orders at once.
- Lock the register so you can serve multiple customers without being locked out.
- Print or email receipts.
- Order taking can now be customized for right or left-handed employees.
- Table Management:
- Design the table layout with the floor plan function. Use templates or start from scratch. Move or edit the floor plan at any time. Combine tables for large parties.
- Manage multiple tables at once, with one iPad. Or manage one table with multiple synchronized iPads.
- Choose a table to seat a party and then name the party and record the number of guests. Each table is color coded according to the section of the server.
- Quickly assign seats to each customer and pair orders with seat assignments.
- Managers can directly assign waiters when opening a table on their behalf. You can also reassign a waiter to a closed bill or check.
- Convert an open table order to a bar tab.
- If you have TouchBistro Pro, you can take advantage of the “Reservations” function which allows you to associate tables with a reservation.
- Course/Menu Management:
- Design a custom menu with separate categories (i.e. appetizers, entrées, desserts, etc.). Each menu item features a full screen photo that can be uploaded or taken directly with the iPad camera feature. The full screen shot is paired with a short description of the item that can be shown to customers.
- Add or edit modifier groups. Assign a UPS code for basic inventory purposes.
- Assign additional costs to special items or order additions.
- Use the “duplicate feature” function to build your menu more quickly.
- Switch between breakfast, lunch and dinner menus.
- Create up to 8 different courses.
- View sales history for any given date or time by moving rotating dials and refreshing the page. Print receipts or email sales history from this point.
- View sales statistics for section totals, category totals, waiter totals, food totals, alcohol totals, tax, menus, and discount totals.
- Create sales reports for various line items of your choice. Save your reports preferences as a template.
- Print or email end of day report.
- Export data as a CSV file.
- Employee Management:
- Staff members can log in and out for each shift. Some basic scheduling capabilities available as well.
- Assign titles according to employee status (i.e. hostess, bartender, manager).
- Set permissions and passcodes for each employee.
- Assign security settings (low/medium/high) to help monitor activity
- Assign specific sections of the restaurant or bar to each employee.
- Track which employees are deleting items on a regular basis, or using the No Sale button more frequently than necessary.
- Taking Payment:
- Split payment across any combination of guests. Assign different forms of payment to different guests.
- Process multi-tender payments: cash, card, check, gift card, and hotel room.
- Email bills and receipts to customers with one tap.
- Customize the bill and guest checks to your liking. Add your logo.
- If desired, add a Tip Guide to the bottom of bills and guest checks.
- Void multiple items at once and print voided items on a separate chit.
- Use the “Fast Bar” feature to quickly complete payments and close orders.
- Gift card capabilities through Mercury Payment Systems.
- Split and close by seat or by a group of seats/table.
- Guest’s checks can now have multiple tax amounts printed on them.
Integrations and Add-Ons:
Currently, TouchBistro integrates with:
In addition, TouchBistro has recently partnered with JUST EAT, an online restaurant/food ordering service that helps connect restaurants and customers. You can read more about this collaboration here. What’s more, TouchBistro just released an update that allows the app to be used in Spanish or French. If your iPad’s default language is English, French, or Spanish, TouchBistro will automatically switch to that language once it is installed. To learn more look here.
Compatible Credit Card Processors:
TouchBistro is compatible with the following gateways:
- Premier Payments
- Smooth Pay
- PayPal Card Processing
- Chase Paymentech (CA)
- RBC Caribbean
- Tyro Payments
- OpenTable Payments
- Sculpture Hospitality
Keep in mind that although your TouchBistro wireless network does not require Wi-Fi or an Internet connection to operate, your payment gateway DOES require a wireless connection. If your Internet goes down, you will not be able to process credit card payments. To learn more about the TouchBistro’s integrations and add-on’s, look here.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
TouchBistro offers 24/7 customer service for both Standard and Pro subscribers. You can either call them at (855)363-5252 or if you have a simple query you can also email the company directly at email@example.com.
The TouchBistro Facebook does have some client/staff dialogue as well as information about updated features and new TouchBistro developments. Check out their Facebook here. You can also watch some short Youtube videos that give overviews on various TouchBistro functions ranging from setting up your wireless network to configuring your menu. I found their videos well done and helpful. TouchBistro has a Twitter too.
The TouchBistro website also features a comprehensive support section, complete with set-up guides, written instructions, and tutorial videos.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
After scouring the internet, a few negative complaints repeatedly showed up.
- Customer Service – There were many complaints about long wait times and customer service representatives taking a couple days to respond.
- Reporting – There were several complaints about reports having glitches.
- Lack of Features – A few customers asked for more extensive inventory and reporting features.
- Not An All-In-One POS – As I mentioned above, TouchBistro has put most of their development energy into the POS system itself. The result of that focus is an app that has been very successful in what it is designed to do–manage the customer experience inside the restaurant. However, if you’re expecting an app that also offers a lot of additional features, you’re going to need to look elsewhere, at least at this point. The inventory function is limited and probably wouldn’t be sufficient for a lot of businesses. For example, the system will register when a pizza has sold, but it can’t itemize the ingredients that went into the pizza (i.e. pepperoni, flour, tomato sauce). The reporting and accounting features are also fairly basic although the app now integrates with Shogo and Xero. Employee management has become easier, thanks to a recent integration with 7Shifts, and fortunately receiving and storing customer data has become a simpler process as well.
- Not Cloud-Based – I asked TouchBistro why they decided not to go with cloud-based servers for their product and they told me that their system is based on local servers for security and stability reasons. I can certainly appreciate this, but I also love the mobility that cloud-based POS apps offer business owners, and TouchBistro is beginning to realize how important mobility can be to a restaurateur. There’s a real benefit to being able to monitor every aspect of a restaurant in real-time from any location. For some restaurants, payment processing mobility or the ability to manage remotely might be a real issue, while for others it might not be a concern at all. It depends on your needs. If you’re comfortable with the new cloud reporting feature that’s currently in beta, then TouchBistro may be a good fit after all.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
If you’re looking for a really solid POS app that doesn’t have a bunch of bells and whistles, then TouchBistro might be a great match for you. Here’s why:
- Popularity – TouchBistro has been the top-grossing POS app on iTunes several times over the last year. That’s definitely something to pay attention to. TouchBistro has a lot of clients–from restaurants, to cafes, to bistros–that have modified their app to work for them. While the fact that the app is undergoing so much development is a little unnerving, it also indicates that the company is growing and successful. Many customers don’t seem to mind that there are constant updates and a few even see it as a positive.
- Solid, Easy Design – There are quite a few customers who rave over TouchBistro’s ease of use and that fact that its interface is really sleek. The design is modern and attractive, it’s intuitive and very simple to navigate and use. You’re not going to be spending much time training new employees how to use it like you would have to do with more complicated POS systems. The initial setup is also going to be minimal. Anyone with a small amount of technical know-how will be able to setup the entire system very quickly, which also helps reduce costs.
- Low Cost – TouchBistro is very cost-effective within the grand scheme of POS options. The hardware costs are minimal compared to large, hardware-intensive POS systems. If you have a very small business with only one terminal, it’s especially great: $299/year works out to about $25/month. This is completely feasible for smaller venues.
I have mostly positive feelings about TouchBistro. I really love the app and the way it seamlessly takes you through each step of the restaurant experience (while looking great to beat!). As a POS software it’s a solid, well-developed product. I hesitate a little bit because, in my opinion, cutting-edge hardware like the iPad ought to be paired with cutting-edge cloud technology as well. If I were opening a restaurant, I would really want to take advantage of the power that comes with a cloud-based app. Of course, I also understand that there are risks associated with having your entire POS system based offsite in the cloud. Anyone who has this concern will welcome the alternative that TouchBistro offers. It just depends on what you’re looking for in a POS and the degree of mobility that your business needs right now. If you’re willing to wait a while, TouchBistro is putting a lot of time and effort into becoming more cloud-friendly, and should be able to marry all of the good qualities and security of their onsite system with cloud technology fairly soon. They have already adopted a few cloud aspects to their software, and are working towards becoming more of a hybrid program.
Although I feel somewhat limited by the lack of additional services in the TouchBistro app (little in the way of inventory, employee, and customer management), I also have to admit that TouchBistro is significantly cheaper than some of the other POS tablet apps that are specifically designed for the hospitality industry (see: Breadcrumb and POSLavu). It might be worth it to use supplemental software in exchange for the low cost. TouchBistro is extremely cost-effective for smaller businesses that don’t need many terminals or devices and I would definitely recommend it for that, though larger businesses that have more than 10 iPads may want to shop around for an app with a more expensive licensing fee that allows unlimited devices.
Overall, TouchBistro is an elegant, successful POS system, with lots of potential for future development. I’m excited to see what it will be capable over the next few months. If they are successful, some of the new additions planned could really set TouchBistro apart.