A restaurant POS system is the central nervous system of your restaurant. It carries messages and important information from the head (the leadership team) to the heart (your staff) and throughout the rest of the body (your restaurant as a whole, and your guests).
Choosing which restaurant POS system to invest in is a big decision, one that involves a lot of research and demos with various vendors. You need to consider the best POS software in addition to POS hardware. And that's no easy task.
Sometimes, even after spending a lot of valuable time searching for the best possible system, restaurant owners end up making a mistake by basing their final decision on cost alone. This usually leads them to choose the least expensive pricing proposal. Instead, when analyzing the cost of a POS system, it’s important to focus on how the various costs will translate into value for your business.
So, here’s the real question: What are the different components of a restaurant POS system, how much do they typically cost, and how will they improve your restaurant operations? Below are answers to the questions restaurateurs have about restaurant POS system cost.
What Does a Restaurant POS System Do?
The basic function of a restaurant point of sale system is to facilitate customer orders and accept payment. With the advent of new technology, however, POS systems have become increasingly robust in their capabilities.
Along with sending orders from customers to servers to the kitchen, modern restaurant point of sale systems often offer users the following features:
Analytics & Reporting
Employee/Labor Management (time clocks, track hours worked, and track earnings)
CRM (Customer Relationship Management)
Loyalty/Rewards Program Management
Online Ordering and Delivery
Tableside Service and Payment
How Much Does a Restaurant POS System Cost?
The range for restaurant POS systems cost typically falls between $79 - $150 per month for software. In addition to monthly software costs, the hardware costs are a one-time fixed cost that starts at $799.
Hardware: This includes routers, terminals, kiosks, handheld devices, card readers, kitchen display systems, printers, and guest-facing display.
Software: This includes the tech stack or platform with features like the ability to place orders, payment processing, and analytics and reporting.
Additional Features: This includes software integrations, gift card programs, online ordering and delivery, payroll/team management, and loyalty/rewards program hosting.
There are many different types of systems and pricing structures. More expensive doesn’t always mean a better system, and less expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better value.
With each of these systems comes different hardware and capabilities from different brands, including hardware, software, and additional features. Because of this, you can’t compare quotes from different POS vendors like apples to apples.
How Much Does Restaurant POS Equipment Cost?
Here’s a comprehensive breakdown of the POS hardware costs you can expect to encounter.
1. POS Hardware
POS hardware costs vary depending upon the type of system you're looking to purchase for your restaurant. The two main types of restaurant point of sale systems are:
- Cloud-Based Systems: These are also referred to as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) or web-based, cloud-based POS systems. These systems store data on remote servers and give users the ability to access said data anywhere they have an internet connection.
- Legacy Systems: Legacy systems — sometimes called traditional POS systems — store data on local servers (in your restaurant) and run on a closed internal network.
Here are some of the hardware items you can expect with point of sale systems:
Front of House
Back of House
Rather than looking at the total charge for the hardware, focus instead on the cost of each line item. Ask questions like:
Legacy POS systems
How does the cost of the handheld POS systems and counter terminals compare?
Are credit card readers, receipt printers, cash drawers, stands, and cases included in a bundle cost? Or is each additional item an additional fee?
traditionally have the largest hardware costs, ranging from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars.
Most POS providers offer customers terminal and handheld POS systems
as well. Only one of those providers has created a comfortable and compact version that offers restaurants a streamlined solution to the chaos of a dinner rush. Click here to learn more about Toast Go™
, the future of handheld restaurant technology.
Here's how much you can expect POS system hardware to cost:
- Approximately $850 for a terminal and credit card reader bundled
- Approximately $1,400 per terminal bundle (terminal, case, stand, credit card reader, receipt printer, cash drawer, cabling)
- Approximately $350 - $400 for each additional receipt printer/kitchen ticket printer
- Approximately $400 for a router
- Approximately $600 for a handheld POS system with a credit card reader. If you're investing in handheld systems, you should expect additional networking hardware costs. These costs can range anywhere from $200 to $800, depending on the number of handhelds you are purchasing and the square footage of your restaurant.
- Approximately $1,000 - $1,500 for a kitchen display system (KDS)
2. POS Software
Software is a huge differentiator when it comes to purchasing a restaurant point of sale system.
In a restaurant, it's necessary to have reliable, durable POS hardware. But if the software powering your concept isn't lightning-fast, robust in functionality, and always improving and updating, it isn't worth your money.
Cloud-based POS systems typically have a monthly or yearly software fee, and it varies significantly between vendors. When you’re trying to judge how the software price will translate into value for your restaurant, you need to look beyond the listed price. Here are a few questions worth considering and asking any vendor you’re evaluating:
Does the software subscription include U.S.-based phone and email support?
Does it include free updates and feature releases?
How often are software upgrades being released?
Most restaurant owners would agree that it's worth paying a little more each month in order to ensure that: 1) you and your staff can get support when you need it 2) you’ll always have the most up-to-date software available.
Legacy on-premise systems often charge very little for the software and discount the listed price significantly to make a sale. This is because the monthly subscription typically doesn’t include regular software updates, feature releases, or support (let alone 24/7/365 support). Legacy software updates can also sometimes require a total shutdown of the system.
Here's how much you can expect POS system software to cost:
3. Additional POS Features
The basic purpose of a restaurant POS system is to facilitate orders and accept payment from customers. But most (if not all) restaurant owners are looking to invest in a system that does way more than that.
In a way, this is similar to the purpose behind restaurants: A restaurant's basic function is to feed people, but you and your staff do way more than that by creating delightful, memorable dining experiences.
The best modern restaurant POS systems offer customers additional features that allow you to take things to the next level. These can include:
Online ordering facilitation
Gift card program hosting
Loyalty/rewards program hosting
Credit card pre-authorization
Inventory tracking and management
A customer relationship management (CRM) solution
Integrations with other software vendors
At Toast, these features are integrated into the POS experience. This way, a user — whether they’re a customer or staff member — can access and use these services whenever they're connected to the system.
For example, if you invest in a restaurant POS system with an online ordering integration, your customers can order food online from your website. From there, those orders will be routed directly to the kitchen to be fulfilled. They’ll also be tracked in your POS system's reporting. Pretty cool, right?
Some restaurant POS systems offer these features as an integrated part of their system, but many do not. And if your restaurant uses additional, third-party vendors to power different areas of your business, you'll want to invest in a restaurant POS system that offers the ability to integrate their services into your system via API sharing.
Here's how much you can expect additional POS system features to cost:
Approximately $50/month each for gift cards, online ordering facilitation, and inventory tracking
Approximately $25/month for loyalty/rewards program hosting
Approximately $25/month for access to third party integrations via an API
How Much Does Restaurant POS Installation and Training Cost?
You've chosen a restaurant POS system, and you're ready to get up and running. Then, it hits you: Who's going to install this thing? Me? My vendor? Who's going to teach my staff and I how to use it?
Installation and training are two crucial factors to consider when choosing a new restaurant POS system. These services are critical for ensuring that the system and network are set up properly and that you and your staff feel comfortable using all of the different features effectively.
But here’s the catch: Not all POS vendors offer installation and training services. If you go with a restaurant POS vendor that doesn’t offer installation and training, it’ll be on you to both install and train your staff.
This can take days to weeks to accomplish, with costly speed bumps and road blocks along the way.
When you’re comparing installation and training costs, it’s important to look at exactly what’s included in those services. Here are some questions to consider:
Is there a time limit on the amount of time the company will spend installing the system and training the staff?
How much does it cost if additional time is required?
Will the vendor actually come to the restaurant to complete these tasks? Or will you have to use online documentation and phone support to install and learn how to use the entire system?
Will the POS vendor build the entire menu for my restaurant, complete with all of the menu groups, items, and modifiers that you offer?
Paying more for a professional installation and hands-on, in-person training is often worthwhile to restaurant owners who care about a seamless transition and making sure that the system is set up correctly from the get-go.
Here's how much you can expect restaurant POS system installation and training to cost:
Approximately $75/hour for remote install (support gives set-up instructions digitally)
Approximately $100/hour for onsite install (support comes to your restaurant to perform the install in-person)
Approximately $400 for full menu build in the POS
How Does POS System Cost Factor Into Your Decision?
A restaurant POS system is a significant business investment, and it's important to treat it as such.
Select the system based on the value that it’ll add to your restaurant. If the quality of the software, support, and services will prove itself as an investment — not just an extra business expense — it’ll be worth it.
Your ultimate goal should be to find the system and vendor that’s going to help you improve and strengthen your operations, attract and serve more guests, and improve every customer's dining experience.