Add Atmosphere To Your Cafe Or Coffee Shop With These 6 Best POS Systems
There are few retail or food service industries more fast-moving than your local coffee shop. Unless you’re running an establishment that specializes in hand-crafting the perfect gourmet latte and assures its clientele the result is worth the wait, the name of the game for most coffee shops is speed. Quick turnover is essential for maximizing your profits. One factor that plays a huge role in making sure you’re running as smoothly as possible is your point of sale system.
Software that is difficult to use, glitchy, or lacking in inventory or reporting functionality can severely hamper an otherwise finely-tuned operation. At the same time, you want a system that has a nice aesthetic and modern, easy-to-use interface. It may seem like all POS systems are basically the same, and therefore, you might be tempted to make a quick decision. But rushing to purchase your POS software without doing a bit of research first could be a costly mistake.
I’ll try not to bore or overwhelm you with an excessive amount of industry information in this post. Instead, I’ll list a few factors to keep on your radar before you make a decision and then suggest a few of our favorite POS systems.
Read on for a look at the best POS systems for coffee shops and cafes.
Other Featured Options:
- Free POS software
- All-in-one system
- Simple to use and set up
Read more below to learn why we chose these options.
Table of Contents
- How We Chose The Top Cafe & Coffee Shop POS Systems
- The 6 Best POS Systems For The Modern Coffee Shop Or Cafe
- What To Look For In A Cafe POS System
- Manage Your Coffee Shop Inventory With Your POS System
- Which Cafe/Coffee Shop POS Is Right For You?
- In Summary: The 6 Best POS Systems For The Modern Coffee Shop Or Cafe
How We Chose The Top Cafe & Coffee Shop POS Systems
Our top POS systems for coffee shops and cafes have a lot going for them. They include the above-listed coffee-shop-centric functions as well as other important all-around POS features, such as cloud connectivity, good customer support, affordable pricing, payment processing (either in-house or via third-party integration), and month-to-month contracts. Some of these systems can expand to include advanced features, such as touchscreen kiosks, online ordering, and kitchen display systems.
Like many companies during the Covid-19 pandemic, the point of sale industry had to quickly and dramatically make changes to accommodate its customers’ needs. The systems below all exceed in areas that have become necessities when businesses had to shift on a dime and have features that are likely to remain important even when things return to normal. Strong online ordering functionality and contactless payment options figure to remain crucial in the coffee shop industry.
These are primarily tablet-based systems, though some use iPad, some use Android, and others may give you options for what type of hardware you can use. And they’ll all look modern and sleek on your countertop. The following top-rated cafe and coffee shop POS software options are also all rated 4.5 stars or higher on Merchant Maverick.
The 6 Best POS Systems For The Modern Coffee Shop Or Cafe
Square, Lightspeed, TouchBistro, and Toast are among the best point of sale systems for cafes and coffee shops, featuring affordable software, strong inventory management, and modern interfaces.
Revel POS Systems
Bottom Line: Revel Systems is best for a powerful and versatile iPad POS system for cafes and other QSRs, but it is on the more expensive side, and some plans require a three-year contract.
Revel is an advanced iPad POS that is exceptionally powerful and wonderfully fast. Revel has all the standard cloud POS features you would expect — inventory and employee management, reporting and analytics, and payment processing, plus a lot of cool add-ons that expand the POS’s functionality even further. It’s not cheap; pricing starts at $99/month with a three-year contract. However, it has strong core functionality if your needs are pretty basic, and if you pay a bit more, you can opt for a month-to-month contract. Revel is both super customizable and expandable, so if you have a larger budget, you can use Revel to do just about anything you want.
Revel has a proprietary iPad-Ethernet connection option, Revel Ethernet Connect™, which makes for a faster and more stable internet connection than Wi-Fi. If your internet connection fails, Revel’s Always On mode lets you continue to ring up orders and even process credit card payments offline. Revel is also used by retail businesses and is suitable for a business that sells coffee as well as merchandise.
Revel offers flat-rate in-house payment processing, which is Apple Pay-ready, and it has an in-house dedicated support team in case anything goes wrong. However, you can also use Revel with an outside merchant account, depending on your contract’s terms.
Every Revel account includes 24/7 support, personalized onboarding, and unlimited users. But with its scaleable, modular design and open API, Revel can be tailored and expanded to meet the needs of any business size. Some add-ons you can purchase for Revel include gift cards, loyalty, online ordering, kiosks, mobile ordering, multilocation management, and an inventory app that lets you use your phone as a barcode scanner.
- All-in-one system
- Strong customer service
- Always On mode
- Not incredibly user-friendly
Bottom Line: TouchBistro is best for an affordable iPad POS that provides excellent value for small restaurants.
TouchBistro is an iPad POS app for restaurants, and its affordability is only matched by its popularity (it’s the most popular restaurant app on the App Store). The starting price point is $69/month for one terminal. All plans include full tableside and quick-service POS features as well as 24/7 customer service and cloud reporting. TouchBistro is expandable with add-ons, but its core feature-set is arguably the most comprehensive of all the options on our list and includes floor planning and raw ingredient tracking. All in all, TouchBistro is a great value if you only need one or two iPad terminals.
Optionally, TouchBistro integrates with Square for payment processing. So if you already use Square’s processing at your establishment but need a POS with more restaurant-centric features, TouchBistro might be a worthwhile addition.
TouchBistro is also notable in that it is a mostly locally-installed POS system. Your iPad terminals back up all of your data to a Mac computer, which acts as a local server. However, TouchBistro does have some cloud features, such as reporting. Keep in mind that you will need an internet connection to access your payment gateway to process payments. In addition to Square, TouchBistro also integrates with TSYS, WorldPay, Chase Paymentech (Canada), Moneris (Canada), Tyro (Australia), and Barclaycard (UK) for payment processing.
Paid add-ons for TouchBistro include:
- Online ordering integration
- Consumer-facing display
- Digital menu board
- Strong inventory management
- Excellent integrations
- Not entirely cloud-based
- Add-ons can get expensive
3. Lightspeed Restaurant
Bottom Line: Lightspeed Restaurant is best for a fully cloud-based iPad POS that will offer you everything you need to get a cafe up and running, but it can get pricey if you opt for add-ons.
Lightspeed is an innovative company that offers plenty of advanced features at a competitive price. Lightspeed’s entry-level plan starts at $69/month if billed annually, and you will likely not have to purchase very many add-ons if you’re running a smaller shop that’s just getting started.
The software is exceptionally easy to learn and prides itself on the ease in which new employees can be trained. Lightspeed is a highly mobile cafe POS software, allowing employees to take orders on the go, potentially mitigating long lines. The reporting functions are strong, giving you the ability to track sales in real-time from any device with the internet. But the system’s employee management features are what truly set it apart. You can change the visibility of employees in the app, making them appear or disappear — this is extremely useful in seasonal industries or ones where there is a lot of employee turnover.
Permissions are easy to assign, and Lightspeed also offers a unique timed-events feature to encourage sales. Lightspeed’s inventory management is also robust for the price. Lightspeed can accept pretty much any barcode gift card. If you opt for the loyalty program, it’s easy to add customer information and bring up their sales history while storing their reward points. Lightspeed’s offline functionality is still somewhat lagging, as it can store data during an outage but cannot process card payments.
As for add-ons, Lightspeed Restaurant offers:
- Customer-facing display
- Kitchen display system
- Advanced reporting
- Self-order table menu
- Loyalty app
- Self-order kiosk
- Delivery integration
Lightspeed offers in-house, flat-fee payment processing and also integrates with several merchant services providers.
- Employee management
- Loyalty options
- Online ordering
- Offline mode lacking
- Can get pricey
Bottom Line: Toast is best for a POS solution custom-made for cafes and coffee shops, with some extremely robust features that should cover even multilocation businesses that have extensive menus.
Toast POS was created with small cafes and coffee shops in mind, though it’s also capable of handling full-service restaurants. Toast POS offers custom pricing options and has a free Starter package that includes basic POS functionality, cloud-based reporting, menu management, and kitchen operations. Toast’s Android POS hardware choices include multiple screen sizes, form factors, and color options. In addition to offering a free plan, Toast also allows you to purchase a Starter kit hardware package with no upfront fee — you will repay your hardware with a percentage of sales. Notably, Toast also features some of the industry’s best customer service.
Toast’s interface is visually appealing, highly intuitive, and super fast. This software lets you take orders and process payments from around the shop using a handheld POS for tableside ordering called Toast Go. There’s also an option for a customer-facing screen, which increases tipping. Toast’s reporting suite is extensive, updating in real-time and offering detailed breakdowns of a wide variety of data points. You can also manage employees easily, assigning permissions with a simple click, and the software features time tracking as well. The inventory management is equally strong, allowing you to stay on top of all of your stock levels.
Many of Toast’s advanced features come as paid add-ons. Loyalty is an additional $25/month, although it is integrated directly into the software and is highly developed. Paid plans, starting at $165/month, include an online ordering website and customer-facing mobile ordering app, features that are becoming more popular in the coffee shop industry. Gift cards, touchscreen kiosks, and payroll are some other extras you can include.
Be aware that Toast users are required to use Toast’s in-house, flat-rate payment processing system — the fee for in-person transactions is 2.49% + $0.15 — and contracts are two years.
- All-in-one system
- Excellent customer service
- Restaurant-grade hardware
- Pricey add-ons
- Locked into Toast processing
Vend by Lightspeed
Bottom Line: Vend is best for high-volume cafes needing strong inventory management and could utilize a built-in loyalty program or very small operations that could use the free plan.
Vend boasts extremely versatile software that can fit any sized cafe or coffee shop’s needs. Vend is one of the rare companies that does offer a free plan. While the free plan is really only functional for very small operations (offering 10 active products and up to 1,000 customers), it’s perfectly capable of handling a small coffee cart.
For those who need a bit more, Vend isn’t a total bargain, starting at $99 a month, but that includes everything a small business would need, including inventory management, basic reporting, and accounting add-ons. For $30 a month more, you can really tap into all that Vend offers, with eCommerce, loyalty, and API access, among other perks. It’s a powerful software that has integrated payments and a modern, adaptable interface with intuitive features (such as quick keys), which is useful in the cafe industry.
If you’re running a store or multiple stores that sell a variety of products and one that has an extensive customer base to keep track of for loyalty and promotions, Vend can handle whatever you might throw at it and would be well worth the price.
- Intuitive, customizable interface
- Excellent loyalty and gift cards
- Advanced inventory
- Cost for smaller businesses
- Reporting not as strong as some other features
Bottom Line: Square is best for an affordable and simple to understand POS that can provide you with a lot of versatility, depending on your business’s size and scope.
We like Square a lot around here, but not without good reason. If your small establishment is just getting started, you’ll particularly love the price. Square’s basic app, called Square Point of Sale, is free. And Square will even throw in a free card reader when you sign up. Of course, to access Square’s more advanced features, you’ll need to purchase some of its add-ons. But everything is affordable, and Square makes it easy to add to the system as your business expands.
Square also has a competitive and easily understandable pricing structure with its own processing system: 2.6% + $0.10 per in-person card swipe. If you opt for the NFC-capable Square Register hardware (pictured above), you’ll get a lower rate of 2.5% + $0.10. Otherwise, you can use pretty much any hardware you want. Note that Square is a third-party payment processor that uses an aggregate merchant account.
Square boasts one of the most intuitive interfaces in the industry, with customizable color coding and item pictures that make order entries simple. Square features seamless onscreen tipping functionality to increase profits and is capable of accepting virtually any form of payment available. The reporting feature isn’t incredibly robust, but it has everything you would likely need for small to mid-sized coffee shops, and the reports are easy to access and digest.
Basic employee management includes free timekeeping, but if you want more advanced features, such as custom permissions, you can get Team Management Plus for $35 per month. You can digitally run your entire loyalty and gift card program for $25 a month as well. And if you want to get into the delivery game, Square integrates with some of the biggest names in delivery, including Postmates and DoorDash.
If you like Square but need a more advanced option with floor plans, multiple menus, and advanced modifiers, consider Square for Restaurants, which runs exclusively on iPad and costs $60/month.
- Low cost
- Affordable and simple processing
- App store
- Occasional fund holds
- Add-ons can add up
What To Look For In A Cafe POS System
Let’s start by briefly discussing what features you should be looking for in your cafe POS system.
Ease Of Use
In the world of coffee shops and cafes, not only is there a high turnover among customers, but there is also a high turnover with employees. As such, you’ll want a system that is easy to use and easy to teach. You also don’t want to be stuck with an interface that makes life difficult for your employees. A clean, modern front end helps employees cut down on ordering errors and speeds people through the line.
Even if your menu is relatively small, a cafe can go through a lot of product in a short amount of time. You’ll want to make sure that you always know if ingredients are running low. At the same time, you’ll want to know if certain items are hurting your bottom line. In the competitive POS market, there’s no reason to settle for a system that doesn’t offer strong inventory management and/or integrations with third-party inventory software.
Encouraging gratuity is important in the coffee shop biz, and a POS with onscreen tipping makes it easy for customers to leave a tip when they pay with a credit card. A POS that suggests preset tipping amounts ($1, $2, $3) or percentage-based tips (18%, 20%, 25%) before collecting the customer’s digital signature makes it more likely that you’ll get the tip you deserve for your excellent service. Onscreen signatures and tipping necessitate having a customer-facing display, which could just be a tablet that swivels to face the customer when it’s time to pay.
Along the same vein, having POS reports that are simple, easy to read, and easy to access can save you a ton of headaches. The ability to thoroughly analyze data and identify your best-selling items, which employees are the most efficient, and what the busiest times of the day are can be extremely valuable. Most good POS systems come with this kind of functionality, and you’ll want something you can access either right at your register or from your mobile device remotely.
Did coffee shops create the gift card boom? Perhaps not. But when you hear the phrase, you most likely think about that ubiquitous green-logoed coffee behemoth from the Northwest. Having a strong rewards program with gift card functionality is a nice bonus to keep customers choosing your shop instead of giving their custom to the countless other options in the area. Usually, loyalty is available as a paid “extra” and is not included in a POS system’s core feature-set.
Coffee shops are typically located in pretty small spaces, so you need a POS that doesn’t take up too much space on your counter. Minimalistic iPad and tablet-based POS systems also have an attractive, modern appearance, which is important if you want a trendy aesthetic. If you just operate a small coffee cart, you may even opt to go cashless or do without paper receipts to eliminate the cash drawer and/or receipt printer. However, most tablet and iPad-based POS systems are compatible with compact printers, cash drawers, and space-saving multipurpose accessories.
Manage Your Coffee Shop Inventory With Your POS System
In an industry that thrives on getting people in and out and selling large quantities of your product, having a POS system for coffee shops or bakeries with great inventory management is incredibly important. If you have a busy establishment with multiple employees working rapidly and going through stock, it’s difficult to keep tabs on everything you have, and the amounts used from day to day can be unpredictable.
Having a point of sale system with real-time inventory tracking can be extremely important, making sure you don’t run out of a crucial ingredient during a rush. Good coffee shop inventory systems will also provide analysis, tracking (e.g., item cost efficiency), and sales patterns.
Here are a few other things that many POS inventory management systems have that could really help out your cafe or coffee shop:
- Easy CSV spreadsheets
- Downloadable reports
- Daily stock alerts
- Barcode labels
- Item categories
- Vendor management
- Purchase orders
Which Cafe/Coffee Shop POS Is Right For You?
If you’re in the market for a new POS system for your coffee shop or cafe, it’s nice to have so many options. That said, those options can quickly become overwhelming if you’re not entirely sure what to look for.
You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to get all of the functions you need. While all of the above options are strong and highly rated, they all shine in different areas. Hopefully, this article has helped simplify the process for you somewhat! If you’re interested in other points of sale systems, make sure to check out our comprehensive restaurant POS reviews. Also, check out our post on coffee shop loans if you need help financing your POS or other aspects of your coffee shop business.
In Summary: The 6 Best POS Systems For The Modern Coffee Shop Or Cafe
- Revel POS Systems:
- $99 a month
- Open API
- Customizable interface
- Lots of integrations
- $69 a month
- Excellent inventory management
- Payment processing options
- Sleek interface
- Lightspeed POS:
- $69 a month
- Excellent employee management
- Scalable system
- Deep reporting
- Toast POS:
- $0+ a month
- Digital ordering suite
- Tableside ordering devices
- All-in-one system
- Vend by Lightspeed:
- $99 a month
- Built-in gift cards and loyalty
- Strong customer service
- Simple interface
- Free POS software
- All-in-one system
- Simple to use and set up