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The Best Bar POS Systems: 10 Must-Have Features

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The right bar POS system and features can help owners increase their profit margins while also attracting loyal customers and big spenders.

In the nightlife industry, true success isn’t just measured by high sales and large crowds.

The ultimate goal is to achieve status as one of the hottest venues in your city or town, and this is in part accomplished by consistently providing guests with exceptional service. Depending on your bar or club, that can mean quick service, personalized service, or service that includes a long chat over a beer.

But for any bar or nightclub, it’s critical to have staff and systems in place that can keep up with a uniquely challenging, fast-paced, and crowded environment. 

To keep the service and guest experience seamless, you need a nightclub or bar point of sale (POS) system that can keep up with the rush.

The Bar and Lounge POS Comparison Tool
A free, customizable Bar and Lounge POS Comparison Tool to research and compare point of sale systems in one Excel spreadsheet or editable PDF.

With the right bar management software and technology, owners and operators can increase their profit margins and better understand both their business and their customers. More importantly, the right POS system will allow bar and nightclub staff to spend less time in front of the screen and more time in front of customers, pouring delicious drinks and making connections.

If you're searching for a new POS system for your bar or nightclub — or looking to open a bar — here are 10 must-have POS features to look for.

And to help you evaluate more tools along the way, you can download the Bar and Lounge POS Comparison Tool and check out the Toast vs competitors compare guide.

Toast for bars and nightclubs

Toast's Starter Kit package is the ideal POS system for small bars or 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.

The Toast Essentials package is ideal for existing bars and restaurants that are ready to get started with Toast. 

With Toast, you can serve up 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.

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? View and compare Toast packages or request a demo with a Toast specialist to get started.

The best POS systems for bars in 2022

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 10 features of a bar POS system 

1. Menu item customization 

Ask a bartender about the strangest drink order they've ever concocted, and they'll probably list off a slew of cocktail combinations you're not familiar with.

Here’s a funny example of actual drink orders this bartender has gotten:


TikTok thumbnail image for TikTok user @anevilbag's video on "weird drink orders"

The skills needed to make both common and uncommon drinks are crucial — which is why many bars and nightclubs have apprenticeship training programs — but the skills needed to ring up those orders on the POS system are also important.

You need a bar POS system that’s easy to use, designed to handle the volume, and makes it easy to customize every drink combination your guests can dream up. Customization is key. It shouldn’t be difficult to enter a mojito with vodka instead of rum and basil instead of mint. A bar POS should be built to support bartenders no matter the customization request.

Plus, for bartenders who are still getting started or may forget a drink recipe, a POS system built for bars will allow you to put recipes into the system. This way, bartenders can easily pull up the recipe within the POS as a reference.

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

2. Ability to move and split the check

"Oh, by the way, could we split the check?"

To a bartender or server, this can be one of the more grating requests a customer makes. It could mean you have to remember what everyone ordered, go back into the system, and print a check for each person. It might also mean your guests are about to have a debate about who's going to cover the nachos everyone shared.

Maybe less frustrating — but still frustrating nonetheless — is a customer who orders at the bar while they're waiting for a table and leaves without closing out their tab.

When choosing a bar POS system, it’s important to find one that makes moving checks from the bar to the table and splitting them easy. Guests at bars are more likely to want to divide the bill, either among locations or members of their party. With the right bar POS software, you can make this process fast and easy for everyone.

[With our last POS system] when a large party wanted to split the bill into separate checks, we had to void everything out and start over. It clearly wasn’t built to handle the volume and complexity of our business. With Toast, we simply drag the items onto separate checks and print the receipts. It takes seconds.

- Gina DiZonno, GM and Assistant Brewer at Arrowhead Ales

3. Preauthorization of credit and debit cards

Credit and debit card preauthorization (or "preauth") allows bartenders to swipe a customer's credit card, securely save that information as their bar tab, and verify that the card is both real and has a preconfigured amount of funds on it.

Why is this important? In the bar and nightclub industry, things move fast. Besides having to look out for fake IDs, you might also have to look out for fake credit cards. With preauth, you limit fake and stolen cards, as well as the liability of large, unpaid checks due to insufficient funds or a dine-and-dash situation. You can also customize the amount that you preauthorize, only allowing cards that have a certain amount — whether it's $1, $50, or the exact amount on the check — to be used.

Plus, because preauth only requires one tap, bartenders can speed up service, spending less time at the point of sale system and more time making drinks. It also delivers a better customer experience, as guests won’t have to worry about leaving their physical credit card with a bartender to keep a tab open.

Nightclub or bar POS software with preauthorization will also immediately tokenize and encrypt customer credit card information when it's swiped, so no sensitive information is stored on the device.

Overall, preauth ability is an absolute must-have for a bar POS system and should be considered when deciding which platform to go with. 

4. Easy menu management for daily drink specials and happy hours

At a bar or nightclub, a menu might change daily.

Drink specials, happy hour specials, and pitcher specials — not to mention weekly inventory changes from your beer and liquor vendors — make your menu a living, breathing entity.

So why should you have to restart your system to change a menu item or physically be at the bar to get into the menu management software?

With a cloud-based bar POS system, like Toast, you can add your specials on your phone, while lying on your couch at home. Or, if you're suddenly out of a keg, you can 86 an item with the tap of a button, communicating that change to every bartender or server so they know immediately not to take orders for that beer.

Gina DiZonno even once updated the daily specials for Arrowhead Ales Brewing Company in Chicago while at the zoo. “The mobility and flexibility of not having to be here is fantastic,” she said.

Easy menu management tools make your life, and the lives of your staff, easier. Be sure to choose a bar POS system that offers these simple customization options.

Menu Engineering Worksheet
Use this worksheet to determine which items on your menu are your strongest performers and which ones are costing you the most.

5. Suggested tip percentages

Bartenders and servers can make a ton of money on tips — and for good reason. For most bartenders, tips make up a very significant part of their livelihood.

As a bar or restaurant owner wanting to keep your bartenders happy and put more money in their pockets, you may want to implement suggested tip percentages to help increase the value of tips your servers and bartenders get.

On the check, terminal screen, or a handheld POS device, you can suggest tip percentages to customers so they don't have to do the math. Not only does this improve guest experience, but it also increases the likelihood of a guest tipping.

The most popular options for suggested tip percentages are 15%, 18%, and 20%.

However, with Toast, you also have the option to show tip suggestions in dollar amounts below a certain transaction threshold. For example, a check that is less than $5 can be shown tip options of $1, $1.50, and $2 rather than percentages.

More than anything, choosing a bar POS system that allows you to easily customize and set suggested tip percentages will make your staff and your guests happier.

Tip Pooling Calculator
Use the Tip Pooling Calculator to learn how to distribute tips back to your restaurant’s employees using the tip pooling method.

6. Detailed customer reporting and sales reporting

One of the biggest challenges for bars and nightclubs is getting customers through the door and coming back for more. It becomes a lot easier with the right bar POS software.

Nightclub and bar POS management software that has a built-in customer relationship management (CRM) system enables you to collect guests’ contact information and detailed order history any time customers pay with a debit or credit card. This information can be used to create a contact list to notify customers via email about upcoming promotions and events without having to hire a promoter or marketing professional.

By storing customer data, you can identify and reach out to your biggest spenders for high-value nights, such as New Year’s Eve, and invite them to book tables before anyone else.

A great bar POS system also allows nightclub owners and bar managers to see exactly how their business is performing in real time, from anywhere. Cloud-based POS solutions that offer enterprise reporting give owners and managers secure access to detailed sales, inventory, and labor reports across all of their businesses or segmented for each location.

You can even drill down into reports to see more in-depth information such as a specific employee’s productivity or the sales of a particular menu item. If you already own multiple businesses or plan to expand in the future, this feature will prove invaluable to you as you look to manage and understand all of your various operations and how each is contributing to your bottom line.

Toast Reporting & Analytics
Learn how to get the data you need to power your restaurant's performance.

7. Mobile POS hardware

When staff members spend more time with your guests, your bar or nightclub’s efficiency and reputation drastically improve. Mobile POS systems eliminate the clunky technology that typically stands between staff and guests. Equipping your bar service and table service programs with these handheld devices will allow your staff to provide guests with the best possible service.

Using handheld bar POS systems, such as the Toast Go® 2, employees can quickly and effortlessly accept orders, process payments, and complete transactions all while interacting with their guests. Customers can even tip, sign, and request text or email receipts right on the handheld POS interface.

This means you’ll be able to serve more guests in a shorter amount of time, all while your staff members spend more time interacting with your guests and VIPs — instead of maneuvering back and forth through the crowd to access a central payment terminal.

And in an environment that’s fast-paced and beer-filled, it helps to have hardware that’s durable. Toast POS handhelds are made with restaurant-grade durability, making them spill-proof, drop-proof, and dust-proof. Plus, with 24-hour battery life and lightning-fast processing, they’re ready when you are.

Harpoon Brewery put Toast hardware to the test, finding that when you spill a beer on it, all you have to do is, “wipe it down and go about the day,” according to GM Brad Tinkham.

When choosing a bar POS system, make sure it can withstand the rigor of your restaurant while also providing a sleek, modern look that blends into your bar rather than standing out.

Toast Go® 2
The Next Generation of Handheld POS

8. User access permissions

Many POS systems allow owners to customize user access permissions to control the information their employees can view and the actions they can complete. There are two primary ways to control user permissions: job-based permissions and individual personnel permissions.

Job-based permissions allow business owners to set specific, default configurations for all of their employees based on their roles. For instance, you can set up job-based permissions so your bartenders and servers cannot provide voids and comps without a manager's approval.

Individual personnel permissions are configured and assigned to specific employees. If one of your bartenders is being trained for a management position, for example, and you want to provide them with access to your labor reports, you can do so without assigning default permission to all of your bartenders. This lets you know that your data is secure and that your staff members are only capable of performing actions that you have approved.

9. Cash drawer management

Approximately 95% of all businesses experience theft at some point. Employee theft at bars and nightclubs is particularly high due to the large volume of cash flow.

In addition to helping owners and operators detect theft through detailed sales and inventory reporting, some bar and nightclub POS systems also offer cash drawer management. These systems offer functionality like the ability to track multiple cash drawers separately, the option to tie specific cash drawers to individual employees, and even the implementation of blind closeout capabilities.

Blind closeout requires employees to reconcile cash at the end of their shift without notifying them of the exact amount that they are expected to return. The blind closeout feature makes close-of-day tasks far less time-consuming for managers while also providing employee accountability and financial security.

10. Bar and liquor inventory

Liquor costs in the restaurant and bar industry are typically 18-20% of total liquor sales. And the more you can optimize your liquor cost percentage, the more money your business will make.

With real-time restaurant inventory software, you can track your food inventory, suppliers, units, and prices on your computer, phone, or tablet so you know what to reorder and when — without having to spend long hours updating a spreadsheet.

Plus, tracking inventory in a bar has its advantages — namely, noticing situations where bartenders are over-pouring or giving away too many free drinks. Inventory variance reports compare your actual inventory to your theoretical inventory so you can diagnose where your variances are — waste, over-pouring, theft — and start improving processes and training.

With a solution like xtraCHEF by Toast, you can track exactly where your money is going, integrate across systems, and optimize margins. 

Toast Inventory Management
Learn how inventory tools can help you save time and streamline kitchen operations.

Your bar needs the best technology

The features of bar POS systems are unique even when compared to other restaurant concepts. Preauthorization, the ability to split checks, and customized happy hour and drink specials are some of the most valuable features of bar POS software and will make a busy night in your bar a breeze.

With so much happening in a bar or nightclub, it can be easy for things to fall through the cracks. An optimized bar POS system will help you by streamlining operations, providing better insight into your customers, and allowing your staff to provide the best possible service to all of your guests.

At the end of the day, reliable bar POS software will improve your business's bottom line while helping your establishment become one of the hottest venues in town.

Related bar business resources

The Bar and Lounge POS Comparison Tool
A free, customizable Bar and Lounge POS Comparison Tool to research and compare point of sale systems in one Excel spreadsheet or editable PDF.