The Best Cafe POS Systems: 7 Must-Have Features (2024)

Cafe Hero

You opened your cafe because you love coffee and hospitality, not cash registers. We’re here to make sense of which cafe POS system is best in 2023.

When it comes to running a cafe, your focus should be on retaining great staff members, serving high-quality food, and crafting the best lattes in town. 

Notice worrying about your point of sale system didn’t make the list? That’s because your cafe POS features should make your day-to-day easier so you can focus on more important parts of your business. 

Restaurant technology is constantly changing. With an increased demand for contactless options, such as takeout and online ordering, it’s more important than ever to choose a cafe POS platform that offers all the bells and whistles while remaining easy to use and affordable. 

Whether you’re just starting your journey as a cafe owner or you’ve been in business for years, let’s determine the best POS system for your cafe. In this article, you’ll discover which software features you should consider if you want to serve a lot more lattes in 2023.

What is the most popular POS system for cafes?

There are several different coffee shop pos systems to choose from for your cafe. However, something to keep in mind, is whether or not the POS platform you’re evaluating was specifically for restaurants. While some retail POS systems might work for a restaurant, they often come with drawbacks and missing features that can complicate your day-to-day processes.

Another consideration is whether to choose a cloud-based POS or a legacy POS system. Some examples of cloud-based POS platforms include Toast, Square POS, Lightspeed, and Clover. Examples of legacy POS platforms include NCR and Oracle Micros. When it comes to the benefits of a cloud-based POS system, greater flexibility, cleaner data, and frictionless guest experiences top the list. 

All in all, it’s important to choose a POS system that can grow with your cafe and help increase efficiency for your baristas.

How the G2 Grid Restaurant Review Scoring System Works

G2’s scoring system is based on thousands of customer reviews and a unique algorithm that helps to process the data and find meaningful patterns and results in real-time. Here’s a breakdown of the different elements in the grid and scoring system.

  • X-Axis: Satisfaction, based on user reviews and feedback
  • Y-Axis: Market presence, based on proprietary usage data, third-party data, and customer reviews
  • Top right quadrant — Leaders: The restaurant POS systems that have both strong customer satisfaction ratings and a strong market presence Ex. Toast, Square, Lightspeed
  • Top left quadrant — Contenders: POS systems with weak satisfaction scores and a strong market presence Ex. NCR Aloha POS
  • Bottom right quadrant — High performers: POS platforms with strong satisfaction scores, but a weak market presence Ex. Upserve, CAKE
  • Bottom left quadrant — Niche: These platforms have weak satisfaction scores and a weak market presence Ex. POSitouch, Payfacto

The G2 scoring methodology and grid system incorporate several attributes to surface the most helpful reviews for prospective technology customers. Some of the factors in satisfaction rates include customer satisfaction with product features, popularity, quality of reviews, age of reviews, net promoter scores (NPS), and more.

Toast for cafes

Toast's Starter Kit package is the ideal POS system for cafes or coffee shops with fewer than 10 employees. With the choice between a countertop or handheld kit, Toast’s Starter Kit helps you get up and running fast with intuitive tools that help your staff focus on food and hospitality, not complicated software. 

The Toast Pay as You Go plan keeps startup costs low by including Starter Kit Hardware for $0* (just pay shipping and taxes), and eliminating monthly POS software subscription fees. The payment processing fee covers all costs, meaning Toast only gets paid when you do. One flat rate applies for all credit card transactions, regardless of card type and entry method.

(Have more than 10 employees? Schedule a quick demo today with a Toast specialist to discuss which Toast products and packages would be best for you.)

With Toast, you can serve up coffees or pastries fast with easy and efficient tools, all at your fingertips. From 24/7 reliability to flexible options for every budget, here's to finally getting that me time back.

But don’t just take it from us. Here’s what others have to say about Toast:

Quick to learn, and even easier to use: Toast's restaurant-first platform is built with you in mind. Interested in learning more? Request a demo with a Toast specialist.

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The top 7 features of a cafe POS system

When it comes to running your cafe, you have enough on your plate. From deciding on your menu and hiring employees to providing great hospitality and managing inventory, being a cafe owner is no piece of cake. But choosing the right cafe POS technology will make a lot of these tasks easier and more efficient.

Here are the top seven features to consider when choosing a cafe POS.

1. A reliable and modern cloud-based POS terminal

When it comes down to it, everything in the front of house revolves around one thing: the cash register.

Without a POS system, you wouldn’t be able to process orders or collect payments. So while you may have the friendliest baristas in town or espresso strong enough to wake up the whole city, the POS hardware you install helps keep track of cash and, in effect, keeps the doors open for more customers.

Finding a terminal that’s easy to use and train employees on—as well as one that can manage all on-prem and off-prem order sources in one system—can help integrate FOH and BOH to reduce ticket times and improve customer service. A cloud-based POS terminal helps link the various technologies you’re using, such as handhelds, a kitchen display system or KDS, a payroll system, and more.

Toast Point of Sale
Learn how a better point of sale system can help you run your restaurant.

2. Guest-facing POS screen

This is how it’s always been: your customer says their order, the server or cashier repeats the order back to confirm, they swipe their card, a receipt prints, and they sign with a pen.

Rinse and repeat. 

But what if your customers could see their order in real-time on a guest-facing screen, sign with the swipe of a finger, and cut down on wait times?

Guest-facing POS displays do just that, improving order accuracy and giving guests the transparency they want.

3. Integrated kitchen display system

When it comes to that early-morning rush hour, staff shouldn’t have to fumble with paper receipts to keep up.

A kitchen display system (KDS) is a digital screen used to view orders at a glance. A KDS replaces printers and physical tickets. Some kitchen display systems can even automatically fire orders based on prep time, ensuring that one item doesn’t get cold while another is still being prepped. Plus, having a KDS allows your staff to be both efficient and sustainable by cutting down on paper use.

Hardware Built for Restaurants
Power your restaurant with hardware that won't let you down.

4. Easy menu management

If the POS is the heart of the restaurant, the menu is the backbone. 

Having a POS system that allows for easy, on-the-fly menu updates is a must. Being able to 86 menu items helps to avoid poor customer experience and streamline kitchen operations. With a legacy POS platform, every time an ingredient runs out or a menu item needs to be updated in the POS, the entire system needs to be restarted. Imagine that during a lunch rush!? With Toast, it’s as easy as using Quick Edit Mode to mark an item as out of stock. 

Plus, Toast POS uses a hierarchal system to organize your menu offerings into menus, groups, subgroups, and items for better organization and easy access. 

Need to change your pricing? No sweat. Not only can you easily update the price of an item using Toast, but you can also take advantage of size pricing, group pricing, and even time-based pricing for things like happy hours or weekly specials. 

Being able to easily upload, edit, and view your menu is a must for any cafe POS software.

5. Employee management

Having your basic operational tools integrated into one system can be a game changer. Rather than jumping from software to software, the convenience of having an all-in-one platform can simplify your tasks as a restaurant owner. 

Choosing a POS system that will help speed up employee onboarding, facilitate payroll, and ensure your team is paid on time can be a big stress reliever. Then, add in the ability to schedule employees and communicate with your team, too?!

With Toast Payroll & Team Management and Sling by Toast, restaurateurs can do all of that and more. Save time, reduce miscommunication, and streamline vital HR processes with an integrated POS platform like Toast.

Payroll & Team Management
Learn how a better payroll system can save you time and make your staff happy.

6. Online ordering integration 

Having a seamless online ordering solution integrated with your POS saves both your staff and customer time. The fact of the matter is that your guests are on the go, and want their coffee to be ready when they arrive at your cafe. Set up a beautiful online ordering site that showcases your brand with custom font, color, and images to let your guests know it’s the restaurant they love.

Plus, mobile dining solutions such as Toast Mobile Order & Pay™ can be a huge delighter for guests; this technology means that your regular who works remotely from your cafe can order a second coffee without having to get up!

7. Cafe loyalty program & gift cards

In 2023 customer loyalty is of the greatest importance, especially for small business cafes. Offering a rewards and loyalty program for your regulars will keep them coming back time and time again. Gone are the days of punch cards to keep track of coffee orders; in 2023, it’s all about digital loyalty programs.

Designed to attract and retain guests, loyalty programs allow guests to rack up points-based rewards that can be customized by you. From setting up sign-up bonuses and accrual and redemption rates, or even special rewards for birthdays or anniversaries, loyalty programs reward your frequent supporters and gamify the experience of visiting your cafe. 

Meanwhile, gift cards are a great way to offer future experiences to your guests. But what good is a gift card if you have to jump through hoops to redeem it? The best cafe POS software allows for integrated gift card sales and management. With integrated, digital gift cards, guests can check their balance easily online, from your website or your online ordering site. And, since they’re integrated with your POS, many platforms — including Toast — offer reporting & analytics to analyze gift card sales by day, week, month, or more and see detailed order history on each gift card transaction.

“The Toast POS has been a great asset in building our customer loyalty and communication, through marketing and rewards add-ons and seamless integration with the customer displays in-store. Customer retention/loyalty can be a bit of a moving target, but the tools Toast equips us with are perfect for navigating the customer's needs and response.” - Christian J, coffee shop owner

(Read the full review on G2)

Toast Loyalty
Toast Loyalty is a simple, integrated rewards program that restaurant owners can use to increase guest frequency.

Other things to keep in mind when choosing coffee shop POS technology

  • No use crying over spilled oat milk! Whichever POS hardware you choose, make sure it can withstand the wear and tear of accidental drops and spills.

  • Your POS providers should be versatile enough to process different payment options and support both online and offline orders. 

  • User-friendly POS hardware is a must, whether your staff is taking orders or customers are using self-service kiosks. With relatively high employee turnover in cafes, implementing a POS system that’s easy to use will make a huge impact when onboarding new baristas.

  • At a time when inflation is at a high and cost control is more important than ever, it’s important to have POS software that offers inventory management and tracking. Being able to quickly take stock of your inventory with a simple glance can help you make smarter purchasing decisions and control your costs.  

Deliver a better experience with POS technology that is built for your coffee shop or bakery

Whether your cafe is a quick grab-and-go spot or a place for students to spend hours in with their laptops, it’s important to find the right POS technology for your needs.

Trusted by thousands of cafes and restaurants of all sizes, Toast is built for you.

Set your cafe up for success by opting for a cloud-based POS system, like Toast, that will grow with you and allow you to drive great hospitality — even without the table service. 

At the end of the day, reliable POS hardware and software will both improve your business's bottom line and lead to happier staff and customers.

Related coffee shop, cafe, and bakery resources

*Pricing applies to new customers and single locations only.

DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.