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Why You Should Consider A Self-Ordering Kiosk For Your Restaurant (Plus The 5 Best Kiosk POS Systems & How You Can Afford Them)

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

In the restaurant industry, business owners are constantly looking for areas where they can potentially cut overhead costs or increase their turnover rate even slightly to maximize their profits. But reaching that goal is often much easier said than done. Fortunately for these owners, technological advances in the industry might just have a practical solution. One of the more recent trends in the point of sale industry has been to offer self-ordering kiosks. What started as a novel or niche idea just a few years ago has now spread to a large number of the top restaurant POS companies, making it a feature that you may not even realize you can implement affordably.

There are different types of self-ordering kiosks as well. Some allow customers to walk through the entire purchasing experience on their own, punching in their order, walking through automated modifiers, and eventually paying. If you don’t want to lose the personal touch entirely, on-table kiosks can simply ease the burden from a server, either by automating the payment process or by allowing customers to browse a digital menu.

Learn More About Our Top Picks

CompanySummaryNext Steps
Lightspeed Restaurant features cloud-based software for all sizes of restaurants or food retailers. It comes with a large number of useful integrations and has plans starting at $69 a month.

Visit Site

Read More

Toast is an excellent POS for all food-service establishments. The Android-based system has easy-to-use hardware for tableside ordering and outstanding customer service. Plans start at $79 a month.

Visit Site

Read More

Upserve is a highly customizable POS system that is cloud-based for iOS and Android devices. The software is feature rich with strong inventory management; plans start at $60 a month.

Visit Site

Read More

Revel is a hybrid POS system that can be used for both restaurants and retail establishments of all sizes. It has an extremely robust feature set and can handle large amounts of inventory with plans starting at $99 a month.

Visit Site

Read More

TouchBistro is a restaurant-specific hybrid system designed with servers in mind. It features an intuitive interface and a strong feature set with plans starting at $69 a month.

Read More

Read more below to learn why we chose these options.

8 Must-Have Features To Look For In A Good Kiosk POS

Even if your POS system does offer kiosk hardware and software, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a good fit for your business. You’ll want to make sure that the system has all of the functionality you’re looking for to make it worth actually implementing. Here are a few features that POS systems can offer in kiosk mode:

Menu Building

Designing an eye-popping menu that highlights your unique or profitable items can be a difficult task. Having a kiosk can show customers appealing photos of each item and allow individuals to click on various menu options to either view a description or a list of ingredients. This can lead to an increase in impulse sales and free up employees. It can also save you money on printing and laminating when physical menus get destroyed — or when the menu simply changes. With most systems, menus can be updated quickly with a few button pushes.

Menu Prompts

Along that same vein, when a customer is filling out his or her order, the system can quickly and efficiently walk them through various options and areas for up-selling. These prompts and modifiers can be easily added in most POS software apps and can lead both to a decrease in ordering errors and a potential uptick in sales.

Loyalty

Have you ever been asked to enter your phone number or email address to receive promotions, right as you are getting out your wallet to pay? By this point, most customers are ready to be done with the transaction and don’t feel like lingering to spell out their information. An automated system can also make this process easier, allowing customers to enter their own information that is then automatically stored for future marketing. In some instances, you can also incentivize customers to sign up for loyalty programs by offering an immediate or future discount on a purchase.

Variety Of Payment Options

This is one of the most important aspects to consider. Today’s customers will look to pay in a variety of ways and a lack of options at your kiosk could turn them away. At a minimum, you will want a system that can process magstripe and EMV chip cards. However, many systems will also accept other methods like Google Wallet or Apple Pay. If your business also utilizes gift cards, you’ll want to make sure that your kiosks are set up to accept those as well.

Barcode Scanner

This is somewhat more of a niche item but, for convenience stores or quick-service cafes, it can be a life-saver. Having a scanner that hooks up to your kiosk directly can allow customers to purchase self-serve or ready-made items by ringing them up themselves and paying for them in a matter of seconds.

Kitchen Display System Support

If you’re operating a larger full-service restaurant with a busy kitchen, having your kiosk directly sync to your KDS is a necessity. This will allow your cooks to see exactly when the orders were placed and they can view any special instructions or modifications that customers put in themselves. It also eliminates a potentially time-consuming step for your employees who would otherwise have to take down the order and then go to a separate station to send it to the kitchen.

Customer Notifications

To increase the efficiency of your restaurant, kiosks can alert customers that their orders are ready either on an individual screen or by sending a text or email directly to a mobile device if wait times are longer. This is also a useful way to gather customer information for future marketing campaigns.

Tip Prompts

It’s a simple feature but one that can make a huge impact on your business’s bottom line. Simply offering a prompt to add a gratuity is proven to increase profits across the board and is a simple, non-intrusive way to, um, gently nudge customers to reward your employees for their exemplary service.

4 Surprising Ways Your Restaurant Can Benefit From A Self-Ordering Kiosk Set-Up

Reduce Labor Costs

Obviously kiosks, either at the table or standing alone, can do a lot of the work that would otherwise fall to employees. Not only can this reduce the sheer number of employees you might need, it can also improve the efficiency of the employees you have by taking some of the busy work off their plates. Kiosks can also mitigate issues like unexpected rushes or having an employee who calls in sick at the last minute.

Increase Check Sizes

It’s easy to program in modifiers and prompts within a kiosk that will walk customers through up-sells and add-ons. This can be done in an intuitive fashion and in a way that doesn’t come across as pushy, allowing customers to feel as if they have more onus in their decisions.

Increase Overall Efficiency

While the addition of kiosks may seem impersonal, it can dramatically streamline your operations. Giving customers the ability to send orders in their own time eliminates common annoyances, like when a server has to come back because a table hasn’t made its decision yet or stalls at one particular group of customers who take a long time to complete an order. Servers also don’t need to then make a separate trip to another station to fire an order off to the kitchen. Instead, your employees can focus on making sure customers have everything they need.

Increase Order Accuracy

Along these same lines, having customers input their orders directly obviously eliminates the potential for server errors and will increase the likelihood that food comes out exactly to a customer’s specifications. This makes for an overall happier experience for customers who are then more likely to leave a hefty tip.

4 Disadvantages & Concerns When Using Restaurant Kiosks

Impersonal

Many restaurants pride themselves on their customer service and hands-on approach to their customers. Cutting back on the amount of face-time your employees get with these customers might be seen as damaging to a restaurant’s brand.

Potential Confusion

If you end up with a kiosk system that isn’t extremely intuitive or has an interface with which customers struggle even slightly, it could defeat the kiosk’s purpose entirely. Likewise, if a server or other employee is having to routinely walk customers through the ordering process, any cost-saving benefits the kiosk could otherwise provide may be eliminated.

Customer Reluctance 

While the world, in general, seems to be trending toward automation more and more, there is still a large part of the populace that might be turned off by using kiosks to order as opposed to speaking to a human employee. A recent poll from Upserve found that 78% of customers said they would be less likely to frequent a restaurant that utilized self-serve kiosks. No doubt this current trend will take some getting used to for some customers.

Cost

While we’ve already discussed how kiosks may help your restaurant cut down on labor costs in the long term, you’ll likely need to do some math upfront to determine if the investment is going to be worth it. In short, kiosks aren’t exactly cheap and, if not utilized correctly, they could end up being more trouble than they’re worth.

The 5 Best Kiosk POS Systems For Restaurants

If you are interested in adding kiosks to your restaurant setup, there’s some good news: You might not have to switch POS providers or add on another software service in addition to your current POS. Many of the best restaurant point of sale systems come with a kiosk mode, and while it might add to your monthly subscription costs, the addition should be relatively painless to implement.

Here are some of the best systems on the market that offer specialized kiosk modes:

1. Lightspeed Restaurant

Lightspeed POS



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Read our Review

Lightspeed Restaurant is a cloud-based system designed specifically for small to mid-sized establishments but with the capacity to handle larger businesses as well. Lightspeed has a slick interface and offers great extras like mobile ordering and eCommerce, plus an excellent employee management system. It also offers a convenient pricing structure, making sure you aren’t charged for features you aren’t using.

Lightspeed makes it easy to switch to kiosk mode and conveniently walks customers through the ordering process with potential areas for up-selling and modifiers. The menu automatically syncs up with kiosk mode, making changes simple. You can also create your own payment methods, allowing customers to either pay upfront or wait until after their meal.

Get Started with Lightspeed POS

Read our in-depth review

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2. Toast POS

Toast POS



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Read our Review

Toast is an excellent POS company that is Android based and prides itself on usability and its outstanding customer service. The all-in-one system is ideal for pretty much any type of food-service establishment and has one of the better tableside ordering systems in the industry. The system is feature-rich but does charge extra for some of its services like loyalty and online ordering.

This kiosk system features Toast’s trademark simple interface and offers convenient order notifications directly to phone or email, eliminating the need for buzzers. You can also customize your screen, displaying your menu items. Toast comes with a convenient scanner integration for establishments with quick scan-and-go items. The Toast kiosk also syncs directly to a KDS.

Get Started with Toast POS

Read our in-depth review

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3. Upserve POS

Upserve POS



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Read our Review

Upserve is a cloud-based system that can handle any-sized food service establishment. Upserve features extensive menu building. It has a robust feature set, including strong inventory management and reporting and a simple, customizable interface. Upserve boasts strong tableside ordering functionality, while a convenient Upserve Live function allows managers to check on sales in real-time from anywhere on an iPhone.

Upserve’s Bite Kiosk comes with a unique algorithm that collects user data to help predict future customer behavior, allowing it to make suggestions and up-sell items automatically. It integrates seamlessly with Upserve, allowing for easy menu and pricing updates. It also syncs with Upserve’s loyalty program and, when purchasing, there are discounts for orders of 10 or more units.

Get Started with Upserve POS

Read our in-depth review

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4. Revel Systems

Revel POS



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Read our Review

Revel Systems

Revel is an extremely robust hybrid system that can fit with nearly any sized restaurant or retail establishment. This iOS-based system has an extremely generous backend with inventory that can handle more than 500,000 SKUs and a wide variety of reports. It offers a wide variety of ordering options and has its own delivery management system, plus an impressive array of integrations.

Revel also is available with an intuitive kiosk mode. You can easily sync your loyalty program to the kiosk, allowing customers to look up past orders or simply make a repeat order. It also comes with the ability to take gift cards as payment. Orders are directly sent to Revel’s KDS. The interface makes it easy to browse menu items or retail inventory.

Get Started with Revel POS

Read our in-depth review

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5. TouchBistro

TouchBistro



Read our Review

TouchBistro is a hybrid system best-suited for small to mid-sized restaurants and other food-service businesses. In many ways, TouchBistro has always been on the cutting edge of POS technology, offering strong mobile ordering functionality and a sleek design catered specifically to make the lives of servers easy. It also was early on the scene with an automated kiosk system.

TouchBistro’s system comes with customizable branding and an easy-to-use interface that can feature pictures and descriptions of your restaurant’s products. The kiosk supports all types of payments, including Apple Pay and Android Pay, and syncs with TouchBistro’s Kitchen Display System as well for restaurants. As you would guess, the kiosk also walks customers through add-ons and combos and lays out prices and options in an easily digestible format.

Read our in-depth review

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How Small Businesses Can Afford to Invest In Kiosk POS Systems

Whether you’re interested in large, standalone kiosks or individual table kiosks, the cost can add up quickly. There are a few payment options and most companies will allow you to lease their hardware which can bring down the initial price. However, the long-term cost of leasing these systems is almost never a good idea. Buying the hardware outright ultimately saves you money (and you may be able to write off the purchases as a tax deduction) but that still doesn’t solve the problem of needing cash initially when things might be tight. Fortunately, there are options.

As a small business owner, you have flexibility when it comes to receiving a loan. You can apply for an alternative small business loan, which can provide you with cash quickly. This is a good option if you have less-than-stellar credit or aren’t bringing in much money. These loans can get you the cash you need but can also have somewhat high interest rates.

There are other small business loans for restaurants that you can look into as well, each with slightly different terms. Loans for fledgling restaurateurs are sometimes difficult to land as the industry is inherently viewed as risky. However, if you have a well-designed business plan, the right documents in order, and a good sense of your finances, you can dramatically increase your chances of approval. And, if you’ve run the numbers correctly and can bring down your costs by implementing kiosks, you may be able to pay off the loan quickly.

Are You Ready To Make The Jump To A Restaurant Kiosk POS System?

Hopefully, you have a good sense of what kiosk systems are and what potential benefits they could provide for your business. If used properly, self-ordering systems can dramatically bring down your labor costs, increase efficiency, and keep your customers happy by speeding up orders and cutting down on errors. It’s also a trend that may become the norm in the restaurant industry sooner than later.

However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t inherent risks in making that switch. Upfront costs need to be a heavy consideration along with your customer base and your restaurant’s brand. If you rely heavily on your servers for their unique brand of customer service or have a clientele that may be wary of a more automated ordering process, it may not be worth the risk.

A Last Look At Our Top Picks

  1. Lightspeed POS
    Summary - Lightspeed Restaurant features cloud-based software for all sizes of restaurants or food retailers. It comes with a large number of useful integrations and has plans starting at $69 a month.
  2. Toast POS
    Summary - Toast is an excellent POS for all food-service establishments. The Android-based system has easy-to-use hardware for tableside ordering and outstanding customer service. Plans start at $79 a month.
  3. Upserve POS
    Summary - Upserve is a highly customizable POS system that is cloud-based for iOS and Android devices. The software is feature rich with strong inventory management; plans start at $60 a month.
  4. Revel POS
    Summary - Revel is a hybrid POS system that can be used for both restaurants and retail establishments of all sizes. It has an extremely robust feature set and can handle large amounts of inventory with plans starting at $99 a month.
  5. TouchBistro
    Summary - TouchBistro is a restaurant-specific hybrid system designed with servers in mind. It features an intuitive interface and a strong feature set with plans starting at $69 a month.
Matt Sherman

Matt Sherman

Point of sale writer at Merchant Maverick
Matt Sherman has been immersed in point of sale systems for over a year now. Previously, he spent 14 years in the newspaper industry, the majority of which was as the sports editor for a pair of weekly newspapers in suburban Portland, Oregon. He is a graduate of the University of Oregon where he majored in English because he knows where the money is. Matt is the father to a pair of energetic boys and can easily be distracted by Netflix, Amazon and HBO Go.
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