Add Atmosphere To Your Cafe Or Coffee Shop With These 7 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’s aggressively hipster — the kind that specializes in hand-crafting the perfect gourmet latte with fresh-squeezed almond milk 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 software for cafes and coffee shops.
||Best Feature: Employee management|
||Best Feature: Free POS|
||Best Feature: Inventory management|
||Best Feature: Customer service|
||Best Feature: Offline functionality|
Other Featured Options:
Read more below to learn why we chose these options.
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 a 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 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 some type of 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 what your best-selling items are, 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.
How We Chose The Top Cafe & Coffee Shop POS Systems
Our top cafe and coffee shop POS systems 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 even expand to include advanced features, such as touchscreen kiosks, online ordering, and kitchen display systems.
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 coffee shop and cafe systems are also all rated 4.5 stars or higher on Merchant Maverick.
The 7 Best POS Systems For The Modern Coffee Shop Or Cafe
So now, let’s get to the fun part. Here are some of our favorite systems for coffee shops.
1. Lightspeed Restaurant
Bottom Line: Lightspeed Restaurant is a fully cloud-based iPad POS that will offer you everything you need to get a cafe up and running. That said, it can get kind of pricey if you opt for add-ons, such as loyalty and a customer-facing display.
Lightspeed is an innovative company that offers plenty of advanced features at a competitive price. Lightspeed’s most popular plan starts at $59/month if billed annually or $69/month if billed monthly, and you will likely not have to purchase very many add-ons if you’re running a smaller shop that’s just getting started.
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 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 cards. 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, the following Lightspeed Restaurant add-ons start at $9/month:
- Customer-facing display
- Kitchen display system
- Advanced reporting
- Self-order table menu
And the following premium add-ons start at $30/month:
- Loyalty app
- Self-order kiosk
- Delivery integration
Lightspeed offers in-house, flat-fee payment processing and also integrates with several merchant services providers.
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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.
We like Square a lot around here, but not without good reason. If you’re 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 very simple to understand pricing structure with its own processing system: 2.6% + $0.10 per in-person card swipe. Or 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.
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Bottom Line: ShopKeep is affordable and continuously 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.
ShopKeep is one of our top-rated point of sale systems. For the owner of an independent, small or mid-sized coffee shop, it’s a seemingly ideal iPad POS — which also works on Clover hardware and Poynt terminals. ShopKeep’s software pricing starts at just $49/month, and the company does a good job of not charging you for features you won’t need, making this software exceptionally affordable for what you get. ShopKeep even offers a limited free plan for merchants processing less than $5K/month. 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, ShopKeep Pocket, 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 top-notch, too. The software additionally integrates with MailChimp‘s affordable email marketing program, which lets you store customer information and send out customized promotions and coupons.
Like Square, ShopKeep’s interface is easy to understand, and training can 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. In addition to quick-service, ShopKeep is also designed to handle specialty retail, which makes it ideal for coffee shops that sell some merchandise as well. ShopKeep’s integration with Clover mobile hardware is also a unique benefit, letting you do things such as accept contactless payments and scan merchandise with a multipurpose Clover Flex.
ShopKeep offers in-house, flat-rate payment processing at a competitive rate of 2.5% + 10¢ and can also integrate with an outside merchant account.
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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 multi-location businesses with an extensive menu.
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 but also has starter packages beginning at $79/month, which include cloud-based reporting, menu management, and kitchen operations. Toast’s Android POS hardware choices include multiple screen sizes, form factors, and color options. In terms of software, Toast can be more expensive than some other options. Still, if you need multiple terminals/devices, the Android-based hardware is cheaper than an iPad setup.
Toast’s interface is visually appealing, highly intuitive, and super fast. This software lets you take orders as well as 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.
Toast can get a little pricey, as many of its advanced features come as add-ons. Loyalty is an additional $25/month, although it is integrated directly into the software and is highly developed. 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 in-house, flat-rate payment processing system. (This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how much you like it.) Gift cards, touchscreen kiosks, and payroll are some other extras you can include. Importantly, Toast also features some of the industry’s best customer service.
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Bottom Line: Revel Systems offers one of the most powerful and versatile iPad POS systems for QSR, such as cafes. However, it is on the more expensive side, and some plans require a three-year contract.
Revel is an advanced iPad POS that is both 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 — but 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 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 of any size. Some add-ons you can purchase for Revel include gift cards, loyalty, online ordering, kiosks, mobile ordering, multi-location management, and an inventory app that lets you use your phone as a barcode scanner.
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Bottom Line: TouchBistro is an affordable iPad POS that provides excellent value for small restaurants. Management features are somewhat basic, but it should provide enough functionality for most coffee shops.
TouchBistro is an iPad POS app for restaurants whose affordability is only matched by its popularity. Offered at a starting price point of $69/month for one terminal, TouchBistro is the most popular restaurant app on the App Store. 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 set of features is arguably the most comprehensive of all the options on our list and includes features such as 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 and WorldPay as well as 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
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Bottom Line: Upserve is a solid, well-designed restaurant POS for iPad and Android that operates entirely in the cloud. It is super easy to use and affordable for simple coffee shops that don’t need advanced features.
With functionality that’s perhaps most similar to Toast’s, Upserve is another quality restaurant POS designed specifically for foodservice businesses, such as coffee shops and cafes. Upserve works on both Android and iPads and also has an optional handheld device called Upserve Tableside to collect orders and payments at tables. This feature won’t be necessary for simple coffee shops, but it can be a nice feature for a larger cafe with table service. You can access the back-office features online from any device — including Upserve’s live mobile app — and you do not need a back-office computer/local server.
Like TouchBistro, Upserve provides a lot of features in its most basic package, even employee management, marketing insights, and reputation management that shows you all of your online reviews in one place. Users especially like Upserve’s ease of use, excellent customer service, and strong reporting features.
Here are some of the features you’ll get in Upserve’s $59/month core package:
- Guest trends
- Offline mode
- Training mode
- Sales, product, and labor reporting
- Upserve Marketing
- Upserve Workforce (employee management)
- Reputation management
- 24/7 US-based customer support
- Live mobile app
Available add-ons include gift cards, online ordering, and automated inventory management. You’ll need to subscribe at the $199/month “Pro” level to access the customizable loyalty program, recipe costing, menu optimization, kitchen display system, and other advanced features. As with TouchBistro and other restaurant POS software systems, Upserve can get expensive if you use a lot of add-ons but can be quite affordable for simple coffee shops that don’t need advanced inventory management or table service features.
For payments, you’ll need to use Upserve Payments’ flat-rate in-house payment processing. Upserve provides legitimate first-party merchant accounts and is not a third-party aggregator; this makes for stable, reliable payment processing.
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Which Coffee Shop POS Is Right For You?
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 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 7 Best POS Systems For The Modern Coffee Shop Or Cafe
- Lightspeed POS: Best Feature: Employee management
- Square: Best Feature: Free POS
- ShopKeep POS: Best Feature: Inventory management
- Toast POS: Best Feature: Customer service
- Revel POS: Best Feature: Offline functionality
- TouchBistro: Best Feature: Integrates with Square
- Upserve POS: Best Feature: Reporting suite