Best POS systems for restaurants – more than just a till

Business owner completing a sale on her POS system

Choosing a payment system for your small business can be a difficult task – with so many options available, what’s the right choice for you? In this guide, we’ve covered the differences between the two types of point of sale systems and the benefits of using one.

While point of sale systems have been used in restaurants for many years, they’ve continued to change with technology. Historically, a point of sale system would be a till or cash register – and some businesses may still choose to use these.

However, nowadays point of sale systems can do so much more. Keep reading for some examples of how a modern POS system could benefit your business – and our top five picks for the best POS system.

What is a restaurant POS system?

A point of sale (POS) system is simply a way of taking payments for your restaurant or small business. It can be either hardware or software and allows a business to manage customer transactions and sales in person.

But that’s not all they can do. There are so many benefits of choosing a powerful POS system – so we’ve listed a few of the top reasons below.

Make payments easier

POS systems can handle all manner of transactions – including credit card, cash, and even mobile payments. Not only does this make it easier for customers to settle their bills but it can also simplify the process for your staff too..

Order management

POS systems designed specifically for use in restaurants can also be used for order management. Your staff can put customer orders directly into the system, which can then be sent automatically to the kitchen for preparation – helping your team work quicker and minimise mistakes.

Keep track of stock

Long gone are the days of keeping track of specials and how many of your most popular dishes are still available. Many restaurant-specific POS systems allow you to update and modify your menus and track stock levels as your staff take orders.

Guest management

POS systems can also be used to help with taking and managing reservations, seating customers, and tracking turnover – all tasks which used to rely on members of staff. Some systems even allow you to collect customer data and implement a loyalty programme or rewards system.

Employee management

Alongside guest management, you can also use your POS system to help make your employees’ work life easier. You can manage schedules and even tip allocation through your POS system – a great feature as a new law states that all tips and service charges must go to hospitality staff.

Reports and analytics

A good POS system can also help you understand and develop your business. Certain point of sale systems can generate reports on sales, customer preferences, and other how well you’re performing. These can help you when it comes to making decisions about your business – from what dishes to put on your menu to what ingredients to order.

EPOS systems and software

Not all point of sale systems are the same. And depending on your specific business, you can choose between a traditional POS system (often sold as hardware) or an electronic system (often sold as software). You’ll probably have seen the software referred to as an EPOS system.

Traditional POS systems are less reliant on technology, whereas EPOS systems often use touchscreen interfaces and may even run on tablets and phones. EPOS systems are often more flexible than their traditional counterparts and you can easily make changes to your menu and pricing.

Another big difference between the two options is mobility. EPOS systems allow staff to take orders and process payments from anywhere in your restaurant, improving customer service. Whereas traditional systems tend to be stationary and mean your staff have to process orders at a fixed point.

Whether you choose a POS or an EPOS for your business will depend on the needs and goals of your restaurant. Smaller restaurants may work well with a traditional point of sale system – but if you have more than one location, an EPOS can help you keep better track of each location.

Another thing to consider is your budget. While EPOS systems may have a higher upfront cost, they can often help your business save money in the long run as they can be updated as technology advances. Traditional POS systems may also have higher expenses for maintenance and upgrades.

Ultimately the decision on whether you invest in an EPOS system or a more traditional POS system depends on your business goals and the features you want in a system. If you’re hoping to use your point of sale system to analyse and report on your business and use this insight to grow, an EPOS system may be the best choice for you.

Small business POS systems – what’s right for your business?

Now that you have more of an understanding of the different types of point of sale systems and the features they offer, let’s take a look at some of the top-rated POS systems available for restaurants and hospitality businesses.

5 top-rated payment systems for your restaurant

Square – from free (pay on each transaction)

Square is a POS system that gives you the choice of software or hardware.

Square’s software has everything you need for your restaurant business. Square’s specialised restaurant POS allows you to connect to many third-party apps to help support your business – from accounting to reservations and booking to employee management.

The software alone can be used on your phone, tablet, or computer but Square sells additional POS hardware too. Hardware includes card readers and a stand for an iPad, all the way up to a full two-screen cash register.

You can start using the EPOS software for free – only paying when you take a payment – making it great for businesses just starting out or that are new to EPOS systems. Square’s plus subscription includes analytics and reporting and starts at £69, making it a great software that can grow alongside your business.

Lightspeed – from £59 a month

Lightspeed is an EPOS system designed specifically for restaurants. The EPOS software includes built-in sales reporting so you can easily pull data to help make smarter business decisions.

It’s also a great option for businesses with multiple locations, as it integrates with the cloud so you can access data anywhere. However, Lightspeed still works offline without an internet connection.

Smaller businesses can start on their lowest pricing level at £59 a month – with the option to add on additional features such as online ordering and inventory management.

Designed to work with iPads, you can also buy additional hardware to help support your POS. Compatible hardware for Lightspeed systems include card readers and even a mobile receipt printer.

Zettle – from free (pay on each transaction)

Zettle is another POS system that offers targeted software for hospitality businesses.

Zettle is owned by PayPal, so you may already be familiar with its interface, which all focus on simplicity and ease of use. Zettle also integrates with your PayPal Business account – this means you can easily use funds to pay vendors directly from your PayPal account.

What makes Zettle different from other POS systems is that you don’t even need to use the software. If you already have a POS system that works well for your business, you can just buy the Zettle card reader and the two should work together. This makes it a great choice if you want the benefit of PayPal integration but are happy with your current POS system.

However, if you do choose to switch to Zettle’s own POS system, you can install it as software on your own device and then pair it with a Zettle card reader – or alternatively turn your phone into a payment device by installing the app.

Another interesting feature of Zettle is that you don’t have to sign up for a contract or subscription to use the service. Zettle charges you by each transaction made, with no additional recurring fees. The only upfront charges you’ll come across are if you choose to buy the supporting hardware.

TouchBistro – from $69 a month

TouchBistro, as the name suggests, is a POS system that doubles as a restaurant management system. As a POS system, TouchBistro includes a tableside ordering system so your staff can make sales and take payments from anywhere in the building – perfect for providing a good customer experience.

As a restaurant management system, TouchBistro helps you manage staff, your menu, and seating. You can also use data you’ve collected through orders to create reports and use analytics to inform your business decisions.

TouchBistro’s POS system starts at $69 (roughly £57) a month. You can add on other features to your subscription for additional charges.

Shopify – from £25 a month

Shopify may be best known as an ecommerce platform but they also offer their own POS system for brick and mortar businesses. While not designed specifically for restaurants, Shopify POS has a lot of features that food and drink businesses will find useful.

Like other POS systems, you can use Shopify to manage staff, inventory, and create reports.

But Shopify’s unique perspective as an ecommerce business means you get other features such as buying online and collecting from your premises (perfect for restaurants that offer takeaway and collection).

You can also build out customer profiles to help improve customer retention.

Shopify is available to use as EPOS software or you can buy additional hardware such as card readers. Small businesses who need fewer than two staff accounts can get a Shopify subscription from £25 a month, with the option to upgrade as your business grows.

Taking online payments for your restaurant business

As mentioned above, sometimes you’ll need to take payments online. For a food and drink business, this could be offering online delivery and collection.

Online ordering can help you to increase your customer reach and profits – with recent data showing that a person’s average annual spend on takeaway food from restaurants rose by 42 per cent between 2019 and 2021.

Visit our guide on how to take payments online or on how to open a takeaway here for more information on running an online food business.

Secure payment systems for restaurants

Cyber security is becoming an increasingly important subject for both customers and business owners. Most modern POS systems will have built-in security features to help protect both your money and your customers’ personal information.

To learn more about cyber security in your small business, read our helpful guide.

Remember that there’s more ways than one to protect your business – make sure that you have sufficient coverage on your business by building a tailored restaurant insurance policy.

Do you prefer traditional POS systems or more modern EPOS systems? Let us know in the comments below.

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Rosanna Parrish

Rosanna Parrish is a Copywriter at Simply Business specialising in side hustles – as well as all things freelance, social media, and ecommerce. She’s been writing professionally for nine years. Starting her career in health insurance, she also worked in education marketing before returning to the insurance world.

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