The Best POS Systems For Food Trucks
So you’ve finally financed that food truck you’ve been dreaming about since college, and it’s exactly what you always hoped it would be. You’ve fitted it up with gorgeous new equipment and commissioned a killer custom paint job and a perky little striped awning. You’re on your way to Portland, or New York City (or any location with a sufficient mix of hungry foodies, hipsters, and construction workers), armed with a handful of parking permits and your great-grandmother’s famous tamale recipe. Everything is perfect; with such an arsenal of culinary weapons, there’s no way you can fail, right?
Think again, friend. You also need a good POS system to succeed as a food truck owner.
POS software is critical to the success of any business, but it is absolutely vital to the survival of businesses in the foodservice industry. Don’t kid yourself. Food truck owners are not exempt from the general fate of restauranteurs. Every day you get in that truck and sell your wares, you are drowning in shark-filled waters; POS software is your lifeboat. A good point of sale system keeps you organized and can do anything from analyzing data to processing coupons/gift cards, managing payments, and keeping orders straight.
With so many potential features available (and so many restaurant management solutions out there), it’s easy for new food truckers to become confused. Fear not! Once you’re armed with a little knowledge about POS software, you will be able to make the best decision for your business.
Read more below to learn why we chose these options.
What Features Should You Look For In A Food Truck POS?
Some food truck POS software is more robust than others, and choosing the one that’s best for you has a lot to do with the size of your business and your priorities. But generally, here are some important features to look for in a food truck POS.
Any quality POS system for food trucks should have the following features:
- Mobile System (iPad, Smartphone, Or Tablet): A mobile business necessitates a mobile, cloud-based POS. A full-sized traditional POS just won’t do when you have a small (and sometimes moving!) space.
- Payment Processing: Your customers expect you to be able to process credit cards and, ideally, mobile payments, too. Cash-only will deter some cashless-but-hungry potential customers. Your payment system must be fast and should ideally have an offline mode in case you are in a spot with a spotty Wi-Fi signal.
- Digital Signatures, Tipping, & Receipts: A touchscreen POS with these features speeds up your checkouts, reduces paper waste, and makes it easy for customers to tip you. Email receipts also let you market to your customers and save space if you can’t fit a printer into your setup.
- Inventory Management: This helps you keep track of your stock and prevents you from running out of a key ingredient during the lunchtime rush.
- Menu Management: You should be able to quickly and easily change up your offerings from your device’s touchscreen as needed and also push these changes to your other trucks if you have them.
- Sales Reports: Your POS should have at least a basic reporting and analytics suite that gives you insights about your sales and customers.
- 24/7 Customer Service: Occasional problems are bound to arise with any POS, but a system with consistently available customer service will help you fix any issues no matter the time of day, so you can get back to selling.
Depending on your needs, you may benefit from systems that offer the following features. Not every food truck owner will need (or want to pay extra for) these features, but they are worth considering.
- Multi-Location Support: The ability to manage all of your inventory, change your menu, and see your sales data in one place is critical for multi-truck setups.
- Kitchen Display System: Choose a POS system that supports a kitchen display system if you’d rather use a KDS than a kitchen printer.
- Loyalty Program: Integrated loyalty software can encourage repeat business to your food truck.
- Advanced Reports: If you’re a data-oriented business owner, advanced POS reports may be worth paying a premium for.
- Employee Management: Some POS systems double as employee time-clocks where workers can clock in and out. Some systems also provide the ability to set employee permissions and view employee analytics, such as who sells the most, who gets the most tips, etc.
- Online Ordering: This can be a convenient addition to your restaurant ordering system, putting your business out there online and reducing lines at your truck. With an online ordering app, customers can place their order ahead of time online and then go straight to your pickup window.
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Square has beefed up its mobile food service features in the past couple of years, making it a big contender in the food truck industry — especially since there is no monthly fee for the basic system, and it includes a free card reader. Hardware upgrades are available, of course, but the free reader is a nice touch to get you started.
Food truck owners may be especially interested in the following features:
- It’s mobile, so you can take orders outside your truck.
- There’s a free phone app, so multiple employees can easily become walking POS stations.
- Customers can order online, so you can avoid a long line of customers waiting to order and increase efficiency.
- Inventory management is included for free, with third-party integrations available if you want a different solution.
- A super simple tipping process is built-in, so you can encourage more tips and make more money for the whole team.
- Multi-location support lets you add multiple stores and users under the same account, for no extra charge.
Square is a simple mobile payment processing solution that allows you to take orders from customers at your window or inline (or online) using just an iOS or Android device. The best part of Square is the price: a $0 monthly fee. Square payment processing is 2.60% + $0.10 for all card-present transactions — which is not super friendly to small transaction sizes, but it’s not unreasonable either. Plus, many merchants like the convenience of flat-rate pricing for all cards. You do have to pay a little extra if you want a stand for your device, a chip card reader, the ability to create gift cards, and other things along those lines. However, the prices are reasonable and, more importantly, competitive.
As Square puts it, your employees “can each be their own point of sale.” Square works fine without any additional hardware, but if you’d like to be a bit more traditional, it is a simple matter to buy just a cash drawer and a small printer.
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ShopKeep is a favorite here at Merchant Maverick and an excellent system for food truckers looking for a full-featured POS system. In addition to a limited free plan ideal for new businesses, ShopKeep has reasonably priced monthly plans, which include lots of useful features that work great for quick-service setups, including food trucks:
- 24/7 support and 60 days of personal training from a ShopKeep expert get you up-and-running as smoothly as possible (not included in free plans).
- The ShopKeep Pocket™ iOS app with access to real-time analytics lets you check on your business when you’re at home or on vacation.
- Raw goods tool provides ingredient-level inventory tracking.
- Offline mode means ShopKeep does not require internet access to accept transactions, so you can keep going even if you’re in the middle of nowhere.
- Advanced reporting tracks everything from low inventory to your top-selling menu items to the times of day business is best.
- Digital tipping and traditional tipping options include the ability to print, email, and/or customize receipts.
- A gift card/loyalty integration is provided via AppCard.
- In-house payment processing is offered via ShopKeep Payments — with interchange-plus pricing — or you can integrate an outside merchant account of your choice.
ShopKeep does not disclose its pricing, so you will have to call for a quote. Pricing is generally comparable to the other systems on this list. It’s possible to get a free consultation about using ShopKeep with your food truck business, and you should consider taking advantage of that.
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3. Lightspeed Restaurant
Lightspeed Restaurant is an iPad POS created specifically for small restaurant setups such as food trucks. Its $69/month single-register plan covers all the basics that single-register food trucks need, with some cool extras as well.
- 24/7 support and personalized onboarding with free updates is a hallmark of quality in the POS world.
- A cloud-based reporting suite puts all your important sales data at your fingertips.
- Raw ingredient management includes real-time raw goods tracking, with purchase order support if you integrate with MarketMan.
- Multiple integrations for online ordering, delivery, scheduling, and loyalty programs extend your system’s functionality even further.
- The Timed Events function is useful for promotions, specials, happy hour, etc.
- Employee management has an intricate permissions system that lets you decide exactly what each employee can and cannot do.
- The Lite Server option gives you offline functionality, keeping the POS working in the event of an internet outage.
- Easy menu building makes it super easy to create and change up your menu.
- Integrated Lightspeed Payments has a rate of 2.6% + $0.10 (the same as Square’s), or you can use a third-party payment processor.
Lightspeed doesn’t have every single feature out there, and the lack of ability to process credit cards offline can be a problem. However, if you invest in the onsite server option, this will queue your transactions and run them once the internet comes back.
Overall, Lightspeed provides a pretty great value for its price. If you expand to a multi-truck setup or want to sync your food truck data with your main restaurant, you can easily upgrade to a multi-location plan. You can also upgrade a single-register plan with additional functions, such as advanced reporting (extra $20/month), or loyalty/CRM ($49/month).
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Revel is an industry leader, known for its robust, feature-rich software and for developing specific apps for different facets of the foodservice industry, including pizza parlors, grocery stores, fro-yo shops, cafes, and — of course — food trucks. This POS runs on a 4G iPad, which can stand alone or be supplemented with traditional hardware printers and card swipes. Revel is so powerful that you can truly do just about anything you want with it, though you will have to pay extra for add-ons, such as online ordering, loyalty, and kiosk mode.
Some popular Revel features include:
- 24/7 live support, as well as unlimited data storage and offline mode, keeps your system stable.
- Direct integration with QuickBooks is convenient for QB users. There are also many other third-party add-ons, including mobile payments, online ordering, gift/customer reward cards, and financial software suites.
- A built-in Twitter integration lets you tweet your location to your hungry followers and monitor feeds directly from your POS.
- Inventory tracking helps you manage your food truck stocks on an ingredient level.
- Employee management and analytics, which, if not strictly necessary to run a food truck, provide information and insights that help you do business more intelligently.
- The ability to adjust taxes based on location lets you generate different tax groups (organized by state/region) and set them up to alter as you travel.
- Wired (Ethernet) connection to an iPad makes for a more stable Wi-Fi connection.
- Support for numerous payment processors, as well as in-house payment processing with Revel Advantage (call for quote), offer the chance to get competitive credit card processing rates.
Revel is not the cheapest option available. Still, considering the number of valuable features offered, most people would agree that the software is fairly priced. Revel packages start at $99/month, billed annually with a three-year contract.
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Like Revel, TouchBistro is an iPad-based POS solution created specifically with food trucks in mind (as well as bars, restaurants, cafes, and other foodservice facilities). Currently, TouchBistro is the Apple App Store’s number one grossing food and drink application in over 28 countries and for good reason. This software is feature-rich, yet easy to use, and ideally designed for owners of food trucks.
Users like the following things about TouchBistro:
- 24/7 customer support and free product updates keep your POS running smoothly.
- The ability to accept any type of payment, including gift cards and mobile payments, makes for convenient customer experiences.
- Online ordering via a Checkmate integration includes support for Grubhub, Postmates, Uber Eats, and more.
- Onsite data storage with an iMac server means TouchBistro can still function without an active Wi-Fi connection. TouchBistro describes its unique hybrid system as a POS that “uses the cloud but doesn’t rely on it.”
- The employee management suite has useful features, such as the ability to see which employees are regularly deleting items or using the “No Sale” button more frequently than necessary.
- Digital menu board and kitchen display system options create a streamlined, high-tech ordering system.
- Kiosk mode lets customers place their orders on an iPad.
- Reservations and loyalty are available for an additional monthly charge.
- A choice of payment processors gives you several options (including Square) to accept payments; no in-house processing is offered, though.
If you don’t use any integrations or add-ons, TouchBistro is a somewhat more basic system than an advanced iPad POS such as Revel. It’s also more affordable than Revel at just $69/month (for a single register, billed annually).
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Which POS System Is Best For Your Food Truck?
The food truck industry can be fickle and merciless to newcomers. If you invest in a good POS system right off the bat, you will have a considerable leg up on a huge percentage of the competition.
But which POS system should you choose, though? Consider the following questions:
- What is your monthly POS budget?
- Are you a standalone food truck business, or do you have a restaurant you want to sync your food truck POS data with?
- How much are you willing to pay for credit card processing?
- Would you rather have a simple, easy-to-use system, or do you need a system with advanced features (online ordering, loyalty, CRM, etc.)?
Generally, food truck owners with simpler needs and a smaller budget should look to Square, which offers most of the features a food truck business could foreseeably need and with a free price tag. Square is also the only free POS system that has multi-location support (that I’m aware of). If you need more advanced features and can pay upwards of $69/month, then you should look at ShopKeep, Lightspeed Restaurant, Revel, or TouchBistro. However, you could also use add-ons for Square to extend its functionality to match any of the other mentioned providers, with perhaps the exception of Revel.
If all this sounds like too much, as an alternative for a very basic POS system with a small footprint, check out our article on the best mobile POS apps.
I’ve mentioned some of the best POS systems for food trucks, but there are many more. If you’ve used a great POS or mobile payment processor in your food truck, please tell me all about it in the comments section. Now get out there, start cooking, and make some money!
A Last Look At Our Top Picks
Summary - Square has beefed up its mobile food service features in the past couple of years, making it a big contender in the food truck industry -- especially since there is no monthly fee for the basic system and a free card reader is included.
- ShopKeep POS
Summary - In addition to a limited free plan ideal for new businesses, ShopKeep has reasonably priced monthly plans, which include lots of useful features that work great for quick-service setups, including food trucks.
- Lightspeed POS
Summary - Lightspeed Restaurant is an iPad POS created specifically for small restaurant setups such as food trucks. Its $69/month single-register plan covers all the basics that single-register food trucks need, with some cool extras as well.
- Revel POS
Summary - Revel is an industry leader, known for its robust, feature-rich software and for developing specific apps for different facets of the foodservice industry, including pizza parlors, grocery stores, fro-yo shops, cafes, and -- of course -- food trucks.
Summary - TouchBistro is an iPad-based POS solution, created specifically with food trucks in mind (as well as bars, restaurants, cafes, and other foodservice facilities).