Best Restaurant POS Software: 7 Must-Have Features
How to find the right point of sale (POS) software for your restaurant‘s needs.
So much goes into running a successful restaurant.
From engineering your menu and choosing decor to hiring the right people and marketing your business, being a restaurant owner is so much more than just owning a restaurant.
And for many restaurant owners, technology is outside of their comfort zone. You may know a ton about plating a meal and delivering great hospitality, but choosing a point of sale (POS) platform? Not so much.
But, no worries! Today, we’re going to cover what you need to know when choosing a POS system for your restaurant. Plus, we’ll review some of the most popular POS systems for restaurants and which features you should be on the lookout for. Let’s jump in!
And to help you evaluate more tools along the way, you can download the Restaurant POS Comparison Tool and check out the Toast vs competitors compare guide.
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What is the most popular POS system for restaurants?
There are several POS systems to choose from for your restaurant. However, something to keep in mind is whether or not the POS platform you’re evaluating was built specifically for restaurants. While many retail POS systems can work for your 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, 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 restaurant and helps improve efficiency for both your front- and back-of-house staff.
Toast for restaurants
Toast's Starter Kit package is the ideal POS system for restaurants that need one or two terminals to get up and running. You can choose between a countertop kit or a handheld kit, both of which come with free setup and installation support, a point of sale software subscription, and a router.
With Toast, you can serve up food and drinks 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. Plus, Toast has the right plan for every restaurant — offering up bundles and á la carte options to fit any service model’s needs.
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.
The best restaurant POS systems in 2023
Toast ranks #1 in the restaurant POS system category based on consumer reviews. G2 examines over 15 data points to determine market presence, using a combination of proprietary and third-party data, and exclusively uses consumer reviews to determine satisfaction. All of their scoring methodologies are explained in more detail on the G2 website, but we’ll provide a bit more information below.
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.
The top 7 features of restaurant POS software
Below are seven features to look for when evaluating POS software options for your restaurant.
1. 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, 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 restaurant POS software.
2. Inventory management
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 tracking and management. Being able to quickly take stock of your inventory with a simple glance can help you make smarter purchasing decisions and control your costs.
Using inventory management software helps you ditch the sheets and clipboards with app-based processes. The best inventory management platforms will help get counts done quicker on your phone or mobile device by mapping count lists to your unique kitchen setup and tracking patterns of missing value to identify waste, shrinkage, and theft.
xtraCHEF by Toast offers modern inventory management tools to keep your culinary and finance teams on the same page. Control waste, rising costs, and manage your profitability with value-based inventory insights.
3. Loyalty programs and integrated gift cards
Loyalty programs and gift cards are a great way to reward your raving fans and return guests. Long gone are the days of punch cards that inevitably go missing in a customer’s pocket, wallet, or purse. Modern point of sale systems offer digital loyalty programs associated with a guest’s email address, phone number, or even their credit card.
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 restaurant 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.
And did we mention that, on average, restaurants see additional sales when guests use gift cards? It’s a win for the guest and a win for your restaurant.
4. Table management
If you’re operating a full-service restaurant, having table management software built into your POS platform can help your servers streamline orders and provide a great customer experience.
With Toast, table management is a breeze. Not only does the table management screen show you which tables, seats, or other portions of your dining area are currently in use, but data is also included directly on the tables to allow the restaurant manager, servers, or whoever else is viewing the table management screen to learn more. This data includes the initials of the server assigned to the table, the current total of the order, the number of guests, and how long the guests have been at the table.
Plus, if your full-service restaurant also offers outdoor seating or seating at the bar, the table service screen on the POS allows you to swipe between the dining areas for a quick view of availability.
Being able to do all of this via your POS rather than an additional tablet makes it that much easier for your waitstaff.
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.
6. Tableside ordering options
Whether you’re operating a full-service restaurant or a quick-service concept, offering opportunities for guests to order from the table can increase check sizes and drive better guest experiences.
For a full-service concept, handheld POS devices put the power of the POS in the palms of your servers, allowing them to move about your floor plan taking orders on the mobile POS without having to backtrack to the terminal between tables.
For a quick-service restaurant, such as a counter service pizza shop or cafe, QR codes can put the ordering power back on your guest, giving them the functionality to place an order at their own speed. If a guest wants to order a second coffee while they work remotely, it’s as easy as scanning the code.
With Toast Mobile Order & Pay™, guests can easily scan a QR code to browse the menu, order, and pay, all from their mobile device. Plus with Apple Pay, guests can pay in less than 10 seconds.
7. Integrated online ordering platform
There’s no denying the power of online ordering. After all, it’s growing 300% faster than in-house dining.
Online ordering systems help drive revenue for your restaurant, allowing guests to order wherever and whenever, for takeout or delivery. And with no one in line behind them, guests have the opportunity to linger over a menu with no pressure, making them more inclined to get that extra menu item. Plus, allowing the guest to place their own order online leads to more accurate orders, which means happier customers and less wasted inventory.
When choosing whether to go with a third-party online ordering service, such as Grubhub or Uber Eats, or an in-house online ordering solution, be sure to weigh the costs and benefits. While third-party services may allow you to reach customers who haven’t heard about your restaurant before — a huge benefit when you’re opening a new restaurant — they also come with a price: commission fees and no ownership over your own customer data. An in-house online ordering solution helps you control your brand and keep money in your pocket.
But if you do decide to use third-party online ordering services in addition to your own online ordering platform, be sure to use a POS platform that offers third-party integrations to avoid extra tablets cluttering the counter or double entry by your staff.
This is probably a good time to mention that Toast is the only POS with direct integrations with Doordash, Grubhub, Ubereats, Caviar, and Postmates.
Offering online ordering is a great way to get your business in front of folks when they’re hungry and looking for a solution. If your restaurant isn’t online, they’ll find one that is.
Your restaurant deserves the best software and technology
Trusted by restaurants of all sizes, Toast is built for you.
Set your restaurant 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.
At the end of the day, reliable POS hardware and software will both improve your business's bottom line and help your establishment become one of the hottest joints in town.
Find the right POS for your restaurant's unique needs
We’ll handle your info according to our privacy statement.
DISCLAIMER: This content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal, accounting, tax, HR, or other professional advice. You are responsible for your own compliance with laws and regulations. You should contact your attorney or other relevant advisor for advice specific to your circumstances.