5 POS Systems For Restaurants and Bars

Sifting through all the POS systems for restaurants and bars can be a daunting task. Below we’ll review the top 5 POS systems out there for food and beverage, and grade each system on 10 different categories that are critical to your business’s success.  The 10 Categories & Why They’re Important 1. Credit Card Processing …

Point of Sale

Sifting through all the POS systems for restaurants and bars can be a daunting task. Below we’ll review the top 5 POS systems out there for food and beverage, and grade each system on 10 different categories that are critical to your business’s success. 

The 10 Categories & Why They’re Important

1. Credit Card Processing

Understanding credit card processing fees is a little complicated, but the short of it is that accessing credit card networks isn’t free, and every credit card issuer has a base fee. There are also flat fees per transaction, and these vary by POS system providers. Here are 2 payment structures and some vocabulary you should be familiar with:

Interchange

Interchange is the pass-through costs set by card networks and issuing banks. It’s a variable rate that changes based on each individual transaction, and it’s impossible to perfectly predict ahead of time. It’s also non-negotiable, and everyone that accepts credit cards pays these fees. 

Interchange Plus = Interchange Rate + % of transaction + transaction fee

The equation above is how POS companies determine credit card processing fees. Because Interchange is variable and non-negotiable, you should keep an eye out for the other 2 numbers that your prospective POS presents. The percentage of the transaction and the transaction fee vary among POS systems. 

Keep in mind that every POS company is hopping the same credit card processing hurdle. If a POS company is boasting incredibly low rates here, they are making up that money elsewhere, likely in fees for additional features or customer support. 

The Flat Rate Model

The flat rate model charges a flat fee for each transaction processed, regardless of the type of card used. This idea of this pricing model is to keep costs relatively constant and predictable. 

Beware, though: This model can seem more manageable, but in most cases ends up being more expensive, because it doesn’t take into account all of the interchange rates out there, and instead ends up rounding up the interchange fees. 

Credit card processing is the bread and butter of where POS systems for restaurants and bars make money, which is why it’s the first category on our list.

Also included in this category is whether or not the POS systems for restaurants and bars require monthly software fees. These are charges on top of credit card processing fees for just using a company’s system.

2. Contractual Obligations

Most POS systems for restaurants and bars require contracts of some kind before they engage in business with you. Sometimes these contracts specify a contractual length of time that you must continue with a specific POS provider, and they should outline the monthly costs you’ll be charged. (Unfortunately, some companies nickel and dime you down the road after you’ve signed, so make sure to ask a lot of questions about the contract you enter into!)

These monthly fees are known as “subscription” fees, and they often depend on what features you’re using each month. Be careful to comb through these documents, as some low-integrity companies can put caps on what your monthly fee covers—ending up charging you even more later on than you initially expected to pay.

The best POS systems for restaurants and bars don’t bind you to a contract, because they’re committed to exceeding expectations in your partnership and don’t need a legal document to keep you around.

3. Hardware

The actual hardware that POS systems for restaurants and bars equip you and your staff with are important aspects to consider. Is the hardware durable enough to withstand the daily wear and tear of your establishment? If a device ends up breaking, is it really expensive to replace? Are the devices mobile, high-speed, and easy to use? Is the POS company charging way over market prices for their hardware?

Some POS companies also charge monthly fees per device, which can add up quickly, especially as you add new staff members and therefore need more devices.

4. Customer Support

POS systems for restaurants and bars are in the business of customer service, too. And when you’re packed on a Friday night with a burning question regarding your POS, you need a helpful human on the other end of that phone line ASAP. 

When looking into the customer support of a particular POS company, consider the cost to access support, the hours they’re available to help, and who it is that will actually be answering your emails and calls.

5. Business Management

This category is broken into two parts for POS systems for restaurants and bars: inventory management and venue management. 

Inventory management is the way a POS system handles inventory — and how that data flows into other systems. It’s important because it might save you the most time on a day-to-day basis. Plus, with all that data syncing together, you can glean major business insights that would otherwise require hours of manual data entry and analysis.

Venue management is about having the necessary tools to differentiate between different spaces within your restaurant or bar. You might have a large front patio, a main dining area, and an assortment of yard games and barrel tops in the back. Savvy POS systems will allow you to manage each of these venues differently—say, offering different menu items for the outdoor areas. Being able to separate and control different aspects of your space like this separates good POS systems for restaurants and bars from great ones.

6. Technical Savviness

Now, the entirety of POS systems for restaurants and bars can be considered technically savvy. But this category is focussing more on the way in which POS systems go above and beyond in their tech features. Whether or not a POS system is cloud-based, offers offline mode, needs physical cards to keep tabs open, or has the ability to sync tabs across all devices are the types of tools that we are focussing on.

7. Integrations

POS software integrations connect POS systems with 3rd party applications through APIs in order to have all systems working together to streamline business data. In other words, integrations connect your POS software with other softwares that specialize in certain areas of business. This makes your overall POS system more capable, efficient, and data-savvy.  

POS systems for restaurants and bars vary on the types of integrations they offer. If a POS doesn’t integrate with a software you’re already using, like QuickBooks, it could be make or break for your partnership.

8. Add-Ons/Features

POS systems for restaurants and bars often include a variety of extra features, such as:

What features each POS system offers, and what fees are associated with them, will all be assessed below.

9. Reporting

To truly understand what is effective in your business, you need a POS system that tracks real-time data and gives you access to it at any moment, from anywhere. The right POS systems for restaurants and bars will provide data that helps you save money and allows you to make proactive decisions on staffing, menus, production schedules, events, and overall business operations.

All POS systems typically offer some kind of reporting features. Whether or not the data updates in real-time (ensuring utmost accuracy at all times), what types of reports are available, and how exactly robust that data is are all considered in the following breakdown.

10. Growth Opportunities

Lastly, do the following POS systems for restaurants and bars set your growing business up for success? This sounds vague, but you can actually measure whether or not a company cares about your business growth based on how they handle the previous categories.

For example, POS systems that charge for additional staff devices (apart from just the hardware itself), put a cap on the amount of loyalty members you can have, or charge any other fees that restrict your business from expanding are NOT companies that are invested in your business growth. So they probably wouldn’t be good partners for you, either. 

Alright, time to dive in!

Arryved

Credit Card Processing Transparent, fair CC processing fees, with no monthly software fees
Contractual Obligations No contracts – partner only as long as you’d like
Hardware Market prices on Android devices with no monthly fees
Customer Support Free, unlimited customer support 7 days/week, 13 hours per day, from a team of industry professionals that have worked in restaurants and bars themselves
Business Management Expansive inventory and venue management tools
Technical Savviness Cloud-based, offline mode, card on file, and seamless tab syncing
Integrations A portfolio of robust integrations that continues to grow
Add-Ons/Features A myriad of additional features, all available for FREE
Reporting Free, real-time data reports pre-built in a comprehensive sales dashboard accessible from anywhere at any time
Growth Opportunities High growth opportunities: No contracts and no monthly fees means no BS

That’s a lot of green! Arryved has a 99% retention rate, meaning that while no contract is required, there’s obviously an exceptional partnership provided that is keeping folks around. 

Here are some of the features that are all available for free:

Arryved is also one of the few POS systems that use Android devices. Though not always the most popular brand of technology in peoples’ back pockets, Android devices are proven to last longer than iOS devices. You want hardware that can endure the daily weathering of your restaurant or bar without having to worry about replacements, afterall! If a replacement is eventually needed, Android devices sit at a much lower price point, so they are less costly to replace, too. 

The last tool to point out here is card on file, because staff members love it. Holding physical cards in a crammed CC rolodex is stressful for staff and guests alike, because it’s a pain in the butt kind of thing to misplace. Arryved keeps tabs open after the card has been swiped, so no guest leaves a physical card behind!

Toast

Credit Card Processing Competitive CC processing fees, but packages beyond 1-2 POS terminals cost significant monthly software fees
Contractual Obligations Must negotiate out of a typical 18-24 month contract
Hardware Custom hardware, meaning Toast is the only one able to fix broken devices
Customer Support Outsourced onboarding and support
Business Management Inventory management tools available, but no venue management
Technical Savviness Offline mode, cloud-based. BUT, tabs don’t sync and holding cards is required to keep tabs open
Integrations Many available integrations
Add-Ons/Features All features offered are “add-ons” with additional monthly fees for each
Reporting Reporting tools available, but customized built-in reports not available
Growth Opportunities Low growth opportunities: Every extra device and feature requires another monthly charge

While Toast boasts 24/7 support, the individuals on the other end of the phone line are outsourced in other countries and time zones. They’re also not hospitality professionals with the knowledge and empathy necessary to adequately solve problems for restaurant and bar staff. Toast also touts fast and easy setup, but you’re onboarding with the same team of ill-equipped outsourced individuals.

The highlight of Toast is their strong amount of 3rd party integrations available. They integrate with ChowNow, Grubhub, and other apps that make it easy to utilize delivery for your restaurant or bar. Beware, though, as apps like those take a significant cut of your revenue. 

Frankly, Toast is expensive. And a POS company that attempts to lock you in on a long-term contract is a sure sign that they’re not invested in satisfying your needs, because they simply don’t have to if you’re legally bound to them.

 

Square

Credit Card Processing Competitive CC processing fees and no monthly software fees
Contractual Obligations Require contracts, though not long-term
Hardware Monthly hardware fees, both iOS and Android devices available
Customer Support “Live help” are via robots and automated answers leading you to help articles
Business Management Limited inventory management, and no venue management capabilities
Technical Savviness Must hold physical cards to keep tabs open, to-go inventory doesn’t sync with on-premise inventory
Integrations Well-rounded suite of integrations available
Add-Ons/Features Features like loyalty programs and marketing lists incur monthly fees
Reporting Insufficient as there’s no real-time data reporting
Growth Opportunities Low growth opportunities: required contracts, per-device hardware fees and monthly feature fees

Like Toast, Square offers a good variety of integration options, and also works with delivery apps that ease e-commerce integrations. 

The part where Square sorely lacks is in the data, and that gap simply limits your restaurant or bar business’s growth potential. Detailed, real-time sales data is absolutely essential so you can accurately reflect on business operations and iterate as necessary. 

Features fees are also a downfall of Square. POS systems for restaurants and bars should act as guest engagement platforms too, and by Square charging for loyalty programs (and capping membership at 150 unless you pay even more) and other marketing tools, they are limiting your ability to wholly build your brand.

Clover

Credit Card Processing Unpredictable CC processing fees, and pricey monthly software fees
Contractual Obligations Contracts required, and restrictive terms prevent restaurants and bars from flexing business models
Hardware Mid-market pricing, but Clover’s custom hardware means they’re the only ones that can fix it
Customer Support Phone support offered 24 hours/day, but support is variable
Business Management Inventory management incurs monthly fees, no venue management
Technical Savviness Offline mode is offered, but tab syncing is unreliable, and card on file is not available
Integrations Satisfactory suite of integrations, as well as 3rd party delivery apps
Add-Ons/Features Basic functionality (reporting) is treated as an add-on, and all features require additional monthly fees
Reporting Included reports are very basic and you must pay monthly fees to access them
Growth Opportunities Low growth opportunities: Large monthly software fees and feature fees, bad contract terms

Regarding Clover’s unpredictable customer support and processing fees, Clover allows anyone to resell the POS system,  so different credit card processors sell for varying rates and offer different service/support. That inherently leads to variable support and variable costs. This is often a POS pushed by individual banks and lenders, so they can jack up merchants’ processing fees. 

This, in addition to the large monthly fees they charge as part of the restrictive contracts, make Clover a bad option for POS systems for restaurants and bars.

Lavu

Credit Card Processing Flexibility in payment processing, but charge hefty monthly software fees
Contractual Obligations Require contracts, sometimes multi-year long
Hardware iOS tablets, leasing equipment
Customer Support Traditionally poor support, offering articles to read instead of humans to help
Business Management Inventory management offered, but not venue management
Technical Savviness No offline mode, tab syncing is unreliable, must hold physical cards for open tabs
Integrations Good variety of available integrations
Add-Ons/Features Per-feature charges incurred every month
Reporting Limited reporting capabilities, with no real-time, relevant data
Growth Opportunities Low growth opportunities – long contracts, large amount of monthly fees, and poor reporting

One big concern with Lavu is they sell their POS through a reseller system, which is typically a shady practice. Leasing equipment is incredibly expensive, especially if you plan to stick with them long-term. 

You can avoid Lavu’s contract if you commit to month-to-month software pricing, but that only gives you access to one stationary register, which isn’t useful to a bustling restaurant or bar. 


While there are certain areas where these other POS systems for restaurants and bars shine, Arryved is clearly the best choice for growing restaurants and bars. As the only POS system with high growth opportunities (and a team of industry-savvy people committed to helping you thrive) Arryved is the perfect all-in-one POS solution for you. Get a free, personalized demo today and we’ll prove it to you!