The Best POS Systems For Cafés And Coffee Shops
There are few retail or food service industries more fast-moving than your local coffee shop. Unless you’re running an aggressively hipster establishment — the kind that specializes in hand-crafting the perfect, gourmet latte with fresh-squeezed almond milk that 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. 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 you 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 software for cafes and coffee shops.
Table of Contents
What To Look For In A Coffee Shop POS System
Let’s start by briefly talking about what features you should be looking for in your coffee shop POS.
Ease Of Use
In the world of coffee shops and cafes, not only is there high turnover among customers, but there is also 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 functionality.
Along the same vein, having reports that are simple, easy to read, and easy to access can save you a ton of headaches. The ability to fully analyze data and identify your best-selling items, most efficient employees, and busiest times of day 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-logo-ed coffee behemoth from the Northwest. Having a strong loyalty 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.
So now let’s get to the fun part. Here are some of our favorite systems for coffee shops.
Try out Lightspeed Restaurant: Free trial offer
Lightspeed is an innovative company that offers plenty of advanced features at a competitive price. Lightspeed’s most popular plan starts at $69 a month and you will likely not have to purchase many add-ons if you’re a smaller shop just starting out.
Lightspeed is exceptionally easy to learn and prides itself on the ease in which new employees can be trained. The software is highly mobile, allowing employees to take orders from around the cafe, 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 really 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, and its loyalty package is included. 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 behind as it has the ability to store data during an outage but cannot process card payments.
Bottom Line: Lightspeed Restaurant is well worth a look if you want a system that will offer you everything you need to get a cafe up and running. That said, it may be a bit pricey for very small operations and the offline functionality is occasionally worrisome.
Best Overall Mobile POS
Retail POS: Free trial ($60/mo value)
Restaurant POS: Free trial ($60/mo value)
Square POS: Always free
We like Square a lot around here, but not without good reason. If you’re a small establishment just starting out, you’ll particularly love the price. Square’s basic app is free. And they’ll even throw in a card reader when you sign up. Of course, to access some of 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. It also has a competitive and very simple-to-understand pricing fee structure with its own processing system: 2.75% per in-person card swipe.
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 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 a small to mid-sized coffee shop, and the reports are easy to access and digest.
Employee management is a $5 per month add-on but it’s worth the small fee. You can easily assign employees permissions and track hours. You can digitally run your entire loyalty and gift card program for $25 a month as well. And thanks to Square’s recent partnership with Caviar, if you want to get into the delivery game, you have everything you’ll need already installed in your software.
Bottom Line: Square is affordable and simple to understand and can provide you with a lot of versatility depending on the size and scope of your business. The free POS lacks some functionality, but if you enjoy Square’s interface, the add-ons are worth it.
Excellent all-around POS: Get your custom quote
ShopKeep is one of our top-rated point of sale systems, and for the independent, small to mid-sized coffee shop owner, it’s a seemingly ideal POS. ShopKeep’s pricing is quote-based and they do a good job of not charging you for features you won’t need, making this software exceptionally affordable for what you get. If you’ve looked at other systems in the ballpark of ShopKeep’s price range, you’ll likely be blown away by the depth of its inventory management and reporting capabilities.
ShopKeep tracks all of your inventory in real time and its mobile app makes it easy to access and make changes on the go. The reporting feature is also robust and can help you view all of your best-selling items — and know when they’re flying off the shelves. ShopKeep’s loyalty system is also top-notch. The company integrates with MailChimp, making it easy to store customer information and send out customized promotions and coupons.
Like Square, ShopKeep’s interface is easy to understand and training can basically be done on the job. You can create and print orders with just a few quick touches, making it easy to cut through even the busiest of morning rushes.
Bottom Line: ShopKeep is affordable and constantly on the cutting edge of POS trends. For the price, the system offers some of the best inventory and reporting options you’re likely to find.
Try it out: Schedule a Toast demo
Toast was created with small cafes and coffee shops in mind. The company offers custom pricing options but also has starter packages beginning at $79 a month.
Toast’s interface is visually appealing and highly intuitive and it’s built to take orders quickly. This software features the ability to take orders from around the store or in line, and there’s also an option for a customer-facing screen which increases tipping. Toast’s reporting 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 featuring time tracking. The inventory management is equally strong, allowing you to stay on top of all of your product levels.
Toast can get a little pricey as many of its advanced features come as add-ons. Loyalty is an additional $25 a month, although it is integrated directly into the software and is highly advanced. You can also add an online ordering function, something that is becoming more popular in the coffee shop industry. Be aware that you are locked into Toast’s credit card processing system. (This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how much you like it.) Toast also features some of the best customer service in the industry.
Bottom Line: Toast is custom-made for cafes and coffee shops. If you’re willing to spend for the add-ons, this POS solution features some extremely robust features that should cover even larger businesses.
Whether you’re opening up a cafe or coffee shop or you’re just in the market for a new POS system for your existing business, 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 point of sale systems, make sure to check out our comprehensive restaurant POS reviews.