A restaurant POS system is like the central nervous system of your restaurant, carrying messages and important information from the head – the leadership – to the heart – your staff – and throughout the rest of the body – your concept as a whole.
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 equipment, and that's no easy task.
Unfortunately, after all that time spent searching for the best system, many restaurant owners end up making a huge mistake bybasing their final decision on the least expensive pricing proposal. Instead, when analyzing POS system cost, it’s important to focus on how the various costs will translate into value for your business.
So, the question then becomes: what are the different components of a restaurant POS system and how much do they typically cost?
What Does A Restaurant POS System Do?
The basic function of a restaurant point-of-sale system is to facilitate customer purchases and accept payment. With the advent of new technology, POS systems have become increasingly robust in their capabilities. Along with facilitating orders, modern restaurant point of sale systems often offer users the following features:
Additional Features - like software integrations, gift card programs, and loyalty/rewards program hosting,
There are many different types of systems and pricing structures. More expensive does not always mean better system, and less expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better value. With each of these systems comes different equipment from different brands, including hardware, software, and additional features.
As a result, you cannot compare quotes from different POS vendors as apples to apples comparisons.
How Much Does Restaurant POS Equipment Cost?
Here is a comprehensive breakdown of the POS equipment costs you can expect to encounter.
Cloud Based Systems - 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.
Typical point of sale hardware items include:
Front of House
Credit Card Readers (EMV Compliant)
Back of House
KDS (Kitchen Display System)
Router (cloud-based system)
Servers (legacy system)
Rather than looking at the total charge for the hardware, focus instead on the cost of each line item. Ask questions like:
How does the cost of the handheld tablets 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?
Legacy POS systems traditionally have the largest equipment costs, ranging from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars.
Most POS providers offer customers terminal and tablets as well, but only one has created a comfortable, compact, handheld version that offers restaurants a streamlined solution to cumbersome chaos.
Here's how much you can expect to pay for POS system hardware:
~$850 for a terminal and credit card reader bundled.
~$1,400 per terminal bundle (terminal, case, stand, cc reader, receipt printer, cash drawer, cabling)
~$350 - $400 per each additional receipt printer/kitchen ticket printer.
~$400 for a router.
~$600 for a handheld POS tablet with a credit card reader. (If you're investing in handheld tablets, you should expect additional networking equipment 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)
~$1,000 - $1,500 for a kitchen display screen (KDS).
At the end of the day, what truly separates one restaurant point-of-sale system from another is the software.
In a restaurant, it's important to have reliable, durable POS equipment, but if the software powering your concept isn't lightning fast, robust in functionality, and always improving, it isn't worth your money.
Cloud-based POS systems typically have a monthly or yearly software fee; 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:
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 release?
Most restaurant owners will agree that it's worth paying a little more each month in order to ensure both that you and your staff can get support when you need it and that you will always have the most up-to-date system 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 does not include regular software updates, feature releases, or support.
Here's how much you can expect to pay for POS system software:
Though the basic purpose of a restaurant POS system is to transact and accept payment from customers, 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 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 like:
Online ordering facilitation.
Gift card program hosting.
Loyalty/rewards program hosting.
Credit card pre-authorization.
Inventory tracking & management.
A CRM (customer relationship management) solution.
Integrations with other software vendors.
At Toast, these features are integrated into the POS experience, so a user – 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 online ordering integrated, your customers can order food online from you website and those orders will be routed directly to the kitchen to be fulfilled; they will also be tracked in your POS system's reporting.
Some restaurant POS systems offer these features as an integrated part of their system, but many do not. What's more, 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 to pay for additional POS system features:
~$50/month each for gift cards,online ordering facilitation, and inventory tracking.
~$25/month for loyalty/rewards program hosting.
~$25/month for access to third party integrations.
How Much Does Restaurant POS Installation & 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 this?
Installation and training are two very important factors to consider when choosing a new restaurant POS system. These services are critical for ensuring the system and network are set up properly and both you and your staff feel comfortable with all of the different features.
Here's the thing: not all POS vendors offer these services. If you choose a restaurant POS system that does not offer installation and training, it will be on you to both install and train your staff. This can take days to weeks to accomplish.
When you’re comparing installation and training costs, it’s important to look at exactly what is included in those services. Here are some questions to consider:
Is there an hour 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 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 the system is set up correctly from the get-go.
Here's how much you can expect to pay for restaurant POS system installation & training:
~$75/hour for remote install (support gives set-up instructions digitally).
~$100/hour for onsite install (support comes to your restaurant to to perform install in person).
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 will add to your restaurant. If the quality of the software, support, and services, will prove itself as an investment, not simply an extra business expense, it will be worth it. Your ultimate goal should be to find the system and vendor that is going to help you better your operations, serve more guests, and improve every customer's dining experience.
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