The 5 Best POS Systems for Restaurants in 2024

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Costs are up in the restaurant industry, with 38% of restaurant owners saying their restaurant wasn’t profitable in 2024, according to the National Restaurant Association. On top of this, customers are tightening their purse strings and spending a lot less when they eat out.

If you want help streamlining your operations, cutting down on waste, and managing costs, then a POS system is the tool for you. For our money, Square is the best POS system currently on the market, especially for small restaurants with ambitions to scale.

But it’s not the only player on the field. In fact, there are plenty of great restaurant POS systems to choose from, so we’ve narrowed down the list for you. Here’s our top five:

What are the top 5 POS systems for restaurants?

  1. Square – Best for scaling up your restaurant business
  2. Toast – Best for established restaurants with complex operations
  3. SpotOn – Best for simplifying staff scheduling and communication
  4. Clover – Best for professional restaurant hardware
  5. Lightspeed Restaurant – Best for increasing customer loyalty

We recommend these providers based on results from our independent research and testing. Please scroll down to the Methodology section to learn more.  

For a quick overview of the best POS systems, check out the table below. If you don’t have time to read our in-depth reviews of each platform, you can use our cost comparison tool to find the best value service for your business in under a minute.

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Toast

SpotOn

Clover

Lightspeed

Price
  • Starter – $59/month
  • Growth – $129/month
  • Optimize – $279/month
Price
  • Free: $0/month
  • Plus: $60/month
  • Essentials Bundle (includes hardware): $192/month
Price
Price

From $0 (including hardware)

Price

From $165/month for 36 months OR $1,699 + $89.95/month

Price

From $69/month

Key Features
  • Excellent features for onboarding new staff
  • Open API means hundreds of third-party integrations
  • Manage all vendor relationships in one place
Key Features
  • Optimized floor plans
  • Kitchen display system
  • Online ordering
Key Features
  • Hardware allows for fast checkout
  • Advanced plans incorporate payroll and team scheduling tools
  • Offline mode
Key Features
  • High customisation
  • Native payment platform
  • Versatile till hardware
  • No contract commitment
Key Features
  • Intuitive back office
  • Offline mode
  • Take payments & refunds over phone, email or mail
Key Features
  • Scalable
  • Delivery and contactless online ordering
  • Advanced insights

1. Square: Best for Scaling Up Your Restaurant Business

Square
4.8
Pricing $0/month (excl. processing fees)
Suitable for

Restaurants that want a low-risk option

Chains with no more than three locations

Businesses that want to integrate an online store

Not suitable for

Restaurants that change their table plan a lot

Businesses that need cost management tools

Restaurants that want to track ingredient usage

Pricing
Solution typePrice
POS software Free $0/month; Plus $60/month; Premium; Essentials Bundle (includes hardware) $192/month
Card processing fees From 2.6% + 10¢
Card machines $299 OR $27/month for 12 months
iPad stands (iPad not included) From $149
Register $799
KDS From $599

Square is the best POS system for scaling up your restaurant business.

Its POS software is app-based, and starts at $0 per month, making it a good entry-level system for new restaurateurs or small eateries. At the same time, the advanced features available on its paid plans (starting at $60 per month), and its wide range of hardware make Square an equally great option for small chains.

However, we don’t think Square’s inventory management tools have enough depth to meet the needs of large restaurant chains, or those with complex inventories. For that, Toast is a better choice.

What Are Square’s Restaurant POS Features Like?

On Square’s free POS plan, you’ll be able to manage orders, do the basics – such as set up your menu and table plan – from both the front and back end, and track which items have run out. You can also create an online ordering website for free, and accept payments through it.

Square’s paid plans, the $60 per month Plus plan and the $192 per month Essentials Bundle, will give you access to more advanced features. These include floor plan customization, advanced staff management tools, and the ability to reopen closed bills to make amendments.

You’ll also get access to in-depth reporting tools, such as live sales tracking, and reports divided up by section (bar, dining room, and so on) or time of day (for example, lunch vs dinner service).

What Is Square’s Restaurant Hardware Like?

Square’s POS system is app-based and compatible with both Apple and Android tablets (although these are not provided by Square). That’s something to consider if you don’t already own a tablet, or need to purchase multiple since doing so can drive up setup costs.

The equipment Square does provide is pretty modern-looking, which is a plus if aesthetics are important to your business. Available hardware includes:

  • Register: A standing register with a staff screen and customer-facing touchscreen terminal
  • Card machines: Most can accept contactless, chip and PIN, and mobile payments
  • Tablet stand: Doubles as a contactless and chip and PIN card reader (tablet not included)
  • KDS: a 15.6-inch or 21.5-inch touchscreen

Also available through Square are POS kits that include registers or tablet stands with cash drawers and receipt printers (prices range from $579 to $1,389) and a mobile POS kit that comes with a card reader and Samsung Galaxy A32, and costs $599.

Is Square Easy to Use?

Square’s POS system is relatively easy to use, but we found setting up the back end a little easier than dealing with the front end. The main struggles we had were finding the floor plan feature and creating a discount code

One big downside is that Square doesn’t have a training mode, so teaching your staff how to use the system might take more time than it would with another provider. To compensate, there’s a help center that contains a large range of guides, on topics from how to set up the system, to how to create items and modify orders.

screenshot of Square POS items listing
Here's what menu items look like in the Square backend. We were able to edit and add items quite easily. Source: Expert Market

2. Toast: Best for Established Restaurants with Complex Operations

Toast
4.8
Pricing From $0/month
Suitable for

Medium to large restaurant establishments

Restaurants with complex and large inventories

Businesses looking to build a customer community

Not suitable for

Businesses that have iPads and require an iOS solution

Small cafes or restaurants with simple inventories

Owners who want a knowledge center for support

Pricing
Solution typePrice
Starter Kit Plan (includes basic terminal) $0/month
Point of Sale Plan (includes custom hardware options) $69/month
Build Your Own Plan (includes custom hardware options) Custom
Card processing fees 2.49% + 15¢-2.99% + 15¢

Toast is the best POS system for established restaurants with complex operations, whose owners are looking to optimize efficiency.

It offers a large array of inventory and profit management tools, as well as some neat customer engagement features, which are most suited to restaurants that are well-established and have multiple locations.

One thing we don’t like, however, is that all of Toast’s marketing and advanced profit and inventory management tools come as add-ons, meaning you’ll have to pay extra for them. How much exactly isn’t something Toast advertises, which does raise some eyebrows.

What Are Toast’s Restaurant POS Features Like?

At its most basic, Toast’s POS system comes with table and order management features and reporting tools.

However, the platform really shines when it comes to its add-on features, although unfortunately most of these come at an extra cost. Features you can add to your Toast POS system include in-depth inventory management, which includes food and recipe cost management, as well as low stock alerts.

You can also take your restaurant online with online and mobile ordering, Toast’s delivery services and takeout app, and a host of integrations with third-party delivery apps.

Other useful add-ons include customer engagement tools, like loyalty program building (set spends and create a points system), email marketing, and gift card creation.

But again, Toast doesn’t tell you how much these extras cost. Providers such as Square are much more transparent about how much each add-on will cost per month. So, if clear pricing is what you need, Square should be your go-to.

What Is Toast’s Restaurant Hardware Like?

Most of Toast’s hardware is matte black, creating a discreet, unflashy look. Its free Starter Plan includes either a terminal or a handheld POS kit, while its paid plans allow you to choose the equipment you need.

The core pieces of restaurant POS equipment available through Toast are:

  • Toast Flex: A terminal with a 14-inch touchscreen that can accept all payment types, thanks to its built-in card reader
  • Toast Flex for Guest: A 14-inch terminal with an 8-inch touchscreen customer-facing display, that can either be attached to the terminal, or mounted separately
  • Card readers: A black compact card reader that connects to the terminal and accepts swipe, dip, or tap payments
  • Toast Go 2: a handheld POS system that’s waterproof and lets you take tableside orders
  • KDS: A 22-inch touchscreen that can be mounted on the wall, can withstand high temperatures, and can aggregate orders from multiple channels

Toast also has POS accessories, such as receipt and kitchen printers, scales, and cash drawers.

Is Toast Easy to Use?

Toast is easy to use. We found the back end particularly intuitive and easy to navigate, and the setup tutorial offered a clear step-by-step guide that helped us find our way around the platform.

Another aspect we like is that Toast’s customer service line is open 24/7, 365 days a year (that’s right, even on holidays) – this includes a phone line and a web messaging service.

Use our comparison tool to receive no-obligation quotes from trusted POS system providers

3. SpotOn: Best for Simplifying Staff Scheduling and Communication

SpotOn
4.7
Pricing From $0/month (excl. processing fees)
Suitable for

Businesses seeking a low-risk option

Restaurant owners who need seamless staff management

Small to mid-sized restaurants with 1-3 locations

Not suitable for

Restaurants that change their floor plan frequently

Businesses that want to purchase additional accessories

Restaurants owners who want a tablet-based system

Pricing
Solution typePrice
Quick Start plan (includes hardware) $0/month (excl. processing fees)
Counter-service plan (includes hardware) $99/month +$3 per employee/month
Full-service plan (includes hardware) $135/month +$3 per employee/month
Customize Your Own plan Custom
Card processing fees 1.99% + 25¢-2.89% + 25¢

SpotOn is a great POS system for simplifying staff scheduling and streamlining communication. It’s designed specifically for restaurants, and has a proprietary “Teamwork” app that handles shift management and cost projections.

It’s well-suited to new restaurants, since its starting plan is free, and includes a terminal, customer display, stand, receipt printer and cash drawer. All you’ll have to pay is the 2.89% + 25¢ card processing fee, which goes down to 1.99% + 25¢ once you upgrade to one of SpotOn’s paid plans.

However, SpotOn doesn’t offer as wide a range of POS hardware and accessories as competitors, so if you want all your equipment bases covered, you’re better off with a provider like Clover or Square.

What Are SpotOn’s Restaurant POS Features Like?

SpotOn’s POS system comes with the basic features necessary for restaurants, including menu and table plan management, payment processing, and reporting tools.

Where the system really shines is with its staff management tools. It’s got automatic tip sharing, labor vs revenue assessments, and centralized payroll administration. Unfortunately, these features aren’t all available on the free plan, but all of SpotOn’s features can be added as add-ons (for a fee) to any plan.

On the customer side, SpotOn has a customizable customer facing screen, and optional marketing tools, such as email marketing, discount code and gift card creation, and a loyalty plan builder.

The software also has an automatic offline functionality, which means none of your data will be lost if your connection is.

What Is SpotOn’s Restaurant Hardware Like?

Hardware is included on all of SpotOn’s plans, even its free tier. Here’s what you can expect to get in your package:

  • Station POS: a black, 15.6 inch countertop terminal with a touchscreen and built-in customer display screen that can take tap, dip, or swipe payments
  • Counter POS: a white 10.1 inch countertop terminal, with an optional customer display screen/card reader, or clip on card reader
  • Handheld: a handheld mini POS device that doubles as a card reader (tap or dip) for tableside service
Screenshot of SpotOn POS order checkout.
SpotOn only has dark mode, which we didn't love. It might not be a problem for bars or evening only restaurants, but could lead to reduced visibility during the day. Source: Expert Market

Is SpotOn Easy to Use?

During testing, we found SpotOn to be the one of most intuitive POS systems to navigate.

However, the back end was easier to use than the front end, mainly because the front end required a few extra clicks to add items to order compared to how quickly we could do this using other POS systems.

We also didn’t like the floor plan functionality, since it’s not drag and drop. To change the size of the tables you have to click a bar chart button rather than drag them to make them bigger, something restaurants with large floor plans might want to consider.

SpotOn also has a comprehensive help center with guides to all its hardware and software, and there’s a 24/7 phone line you can call if you run into trouble.

Find the right POS system for your business with our comparison tool

4. Clover: Best for Professional Restaurant Hardware

clover logo
Clover
4.7
Pricing From $165/month for 36 months OR $1,699 + $89.95/month
Suitable for

Medium to large restaurants

Owners or managers who want to deep dive into their analytics

Businesses that want top of the range hardware

Not suitable for

Small pop ups or simple establishments (food trucks or independent cafes)

Business owners who want to avoid hefty upfront costs

Restaurants that want automated tip sharing tools

Pricing
Solution typePrice
POS Software (including basic hardware) From $165/month for 36 months OR $1,699 + $89.95/month
POS terminals (included in some software plans) From $45/month for 36 months OR $799
Card processing fees From $2.3% + 10¢
Card machines (included in some software plans) From $49
KDS From $799 + $25/month per device

Clover is the best POS system for professional restaurant hardware. Its collection ranges from countertop terminals complete with screens (no need to purchase your tablets separately), to handheld devices that sync with the main EPOS system, and allow you access to all features, from order management to reporting.

We particularly like Clover’s customer display screens: they’re bright and very reactive to touch, making it easy for customers to use them. Another standout is Clover’s fingerprint login function, making it quicker for staff to access the interface and serve customers.

It is on the expensive side, however, and if you’re a budding restaurateur, you might be better off with cheaper options like Square or SpotOn, both of which have free plans.

What Are Clover’s Restaurant POS Features Like?

Clover’s POS system includes all the basics and more. You can create custom table plans that perfectly match your restaurant’s layout, create customized orders for guests, and even transfer orders from one table to another if customers switch seats.

You’ll also be able to see the status of each table in real-time, track and transfer bar tabs, send orders straight to the kitchen, split bills, manage staff, take bookings, and track your sales.

There’s also a Clover app store, where you can find a variety of marketing and reporting tools to integrate into your POS system.

What Is Clover’s Restaurant Hardware Like?

Clover has a variety of payment plans, most of which include a software account and a set of hardware, with hardware options varying by plan. All of Clover’s equipment has a sleek modern design, with white frames and silver finishes.

Here’s what’s available with Clover:

  • Station Duo: A terminal with a 14 inch staff touchscreen, customer screen (complete with swipe, dip, or tap reader), cash drawer, and receipt printer
  • Station Solo: Same as above, minus the customer-facing screen and card reader functionality
  • Mini: A small terminal with an 8 inch touchscreen, that can also take dip or tap payments
  • Clover Flex: A handheld device that connects to both wifi and 4G, and doubles as a card machine and POS interface, complete with a built-in receipt printer
  • KDS: A 14 inch or 24 inch touchscreen

Clover also offers a bunch of restaurant accessories, such as KDS bump bar (to operate KDSs mounted on the wall), stands and wall mounts, scales, kitchen printers, and employee login cards.

Clover POS terminal with screen set to table plan
We really liked Clover's layout. It's spaced-out, clear, and bright. Source: Expert Market

Is Clover Easy to Use?

We found Clover much easier to use than the other POS systems we tested – with the exception of Toast – because the layout of the front and back end is very straightforward.  Everything is nicely spaced out, avoiding clutter, and Clover makes use of different colors to visually separate items from each other.

However, Clover doesn’t have a training mode, and its support center doesn’t have as large a library of guides as competitors’, such as Square’s.

POS Systems in Action

Wondering which providers are chosen by the world’s biggest chains? Check out the best examples of restaurant POS systems in real businesses.

5. Lightspeed Restaurant: Best for Increasing Customer Loyalty

lightspeed logo
Lightspeed
4.5
Pricing From $69/month
Suitable for

Businesses who want to pay no up-front costs

Restaurants owners looking to expand and grow

Establishments who have extensive and complex inventories

Not suitable for

Businesses who want a physical terminal

Restaurants that need automated tip management

Restaurants that change their floor plan frequently

Pricing
Solution typePrice
Starter plan (hardware not included) $69/month
Essential plan (hardware not included) $189/month
Premium plan (hardware not included) $399/month
Enterprise plan (software and hardware bundle) Custom
Card processing fees From 2.6% + 10¢

Lightspeed Restaurant is the best POS system for restaurants looking to increase customer loyalty, thanks to its range of integrated marketing features.

You’ll get access to email and SMS marketing, loyalty programs, and automated marketing, all of which can entice customers to return.

There’s also an optional Order Anywhere feature, which allows you to give your customers more ways to order, such as online, or via a QR code. These tools can help create a loyal customer base and contribute to growth.

However, because Lightspeed is a tablet-based type of POS system, it can only be operated via iPad, and the company doesn’t sell physical terminals. If you’d prefer a physical terminal, providers like Toast or Clover have got you covered.

What Are Lightspeed Restaurant’s POS Features Like?

On top of its marketing and loyalty tools, Lightspeed restaurant also has a robust array of restaurant management features.

You’re able to customize your floor plan, menu, and displays, which is especially useful for customer-facing screens and KDSs. Other top features include ingredient usage tracking, cost vs profit breakdowns for menu items, and automated resupply orders.

Lightspeed’s POS system also has an offline function, which means it’ll log data even if you get disconnected from the wifi, and sync everything automatically when connection returns.

What Is Lightspeed Restaurant’s Hardware Like?

Lightspeed’s POS software is completely app-based and only works on iPads. You can purchase iPads from Lightspeed, or use your own if you already have them.

Lightspeed doesn’t disclose the price of any of its hardware, which is kind of frustrating if you’re trying to budget.

The KDS and customer display screens are also app-based, and Lightspeed doesn’t offer dedicated hardware for these. This means you’ll need to buy additional tablets, which can really drive up costs if you need to buy tablets for multiple locations.

A lot of restaurants prefer these types of systems because they offer mobility to staff, but if you want dedicated KDS of customer display hardware, you can get them through providers like Clover, Square, or SpotOn.

When it comes to accessories, here’s what Lightspeed can provide your restaurant with:

  • iPad stand: A black, Lightspeed-branded stand for the counter
  • Cash drawer: Available in sizes large or small, and connects to the iPad stand
  • Receipt printers: A variety of Epson models are available (some designs are slightly clunky)
  • Card machines: three mobile Verifone models (Verifone e285, Verifone P400, Verifone 400m), including one with a built-in receipt printer, and a Mobile Tap card reader attachment for iPads and iPhones

Is Lightspeed Restaurant Easy to Use?

Lightspeed Restaurant is generally easy to use. We found the front end slightly more difficult to navigate, and struggle with adding a tip and splitting the bill. However, creating and editing menus and table plans in the back end was simple enough.

Lightspeed also has a training mode, which is particularly useful if you have a large team, and its help center contains guides on a range of common topics, such as system setup (for both hardware and software), and how to use features such as table plans and order management.

Screenshot of Lightspeed Restaurant POS order summaries
Here's a look at order summaries in Lightspeed 's POS system. We appreciated the level of detail awarded to each order. Source: Expert Market

Buying Guide: How to Choose a Restaurant POS System

It’s a good idea to define the specific needs of your restaurant before you choose a POS system. Aspects you should take in to account include the size of your restaurant, how you serve your food (for example, counter ordering, table service, or QR code), and the number of locations you have.

Here’s what else to consider when evaluating your choices:

Costs and Pricing Structures

Consider upfront costs and monthly fees, as well as what’s included in them. Is it both software and hardware, or one and not the other? For example, SpotOn offers “free” software and hardware, but its transaction fees are high, and you’ll need to pay extra to get access to its best features.

Don’t forget to include the added cost of integration and training in your budgeting, and to plan for any projected growth by choosing a system that can accommodate your future needs. Switching systems is expensive, so it’s easier to stick with the same provider in the future if you can.

Software

Make a list of must-have and nice-to-have software features based on your restaurant’s operational model.

These could include:

  • Inventory management: To help you keep on top of your ingredients and prevent you from running out of something unexpectedly
  • Reservation management: To help you book out tables in advance and gather customer data
  • Staff management: So you can reward your best employees and identify those that need further training
  • Online ordering functionality: So you can offer your food to takeout customers or accept online pre-orders
  • Analytics: So you can learn which meals are most popular, which staff members are processing the most transactions, and more
  • Customer loyalty programs: So you can offer benefits that entice customers back to your restaurant as repeat visitors

If you prioritize features that help you automate workflows and prevent manual work, you might be able to reduce your labor costs.

Hardware

Think about what pieces of hardware are vital for your restaurant, and how many of them you need – from POS terminals and card machines to receipt printers, kitchen printers, and cash drawers.

Not all providers automatically provide you with portable card machines, for example. They’re sometimes replaced with a tablet or terminal that can take payments. But if you need your staff to do table service, you should choose a provider that includes portable card machines in their packages.

If you have existing hardware, just make sure to find a POS system that’s compatible with your existing equipment. This will save you from having to buy everything new. Most POS providers appreciate that you might be switching to them from another supplier, and that you won’t necessarily want a complete overhaul of all your hardware.

Add-ons and integrations

You should also pay attention to what software or apps your chosen POS system can integrate with. If you already use software, such as accounting software, make sure the POS system you choose has a ready-made integration for it, as this will help you streamline operations.

It’s also a good idea to check what other add-ons or apps are available via a POS system. Some providers offer advanced marketing or reporting features as add-ons, usually for an extra fee – but if these seem particularly valuable to your business they could be worth the extra price.

Customer support

Make sure you check how available the POS provider’s customer support team is, and how easily reachable they are.

A POS provider should have a customer support phone line that’s open on weekdays, at the very least. Live chat support and community forums you can go to in a pinch are a welcome addition.

You should also check the training resources, onboarding support, and post-implementation support terms provided by the POS provider to ensure your team will get the support they need to learn the new system.

Do you run a hotel?

Looking for a POS system for your hotel? Check out our guide to the best POS systems for hospitality businesses.

How Much Does a Restaurant POS System Cost?

On average, monthly fees for POS systems are around $69 per month. This sometimes includes one set of hardware (a terminal, card reader, and receipt printer), but if you need more, you’ll need to pay extra.

Hardware fees can be much costlier, especially if you’re purchasing equipment for several locations. The average cost is $1,000+ for one restaurant if you include a terminal, customer display, portable card machines, and receipt printer.

However, this is an initial cost, and once you’re set up, you’re unlikely to need to purchase new hardware for a long time.

You can read more about POS system costs in our complete guide.

Our Methodology

We tested and compared over 10 POS providers, evaluating them against each other on how well they cater to the specific needs of restaurants. We rated each provider according to how it performed in six key areas of interest, which where:

  • POS software: the breadth of features included in the EPOS software, and how valuable they are to the average restaurant
  • Hardware/equipment: the variety of equipment available to purchase or rent, with special importance given to key items, such as KDSs, portable card machines, and cash drawers
  • Ease-of-use: how easy the system is to use, navigate, and customize
  • Help and support: how effective and reachable the customer support team is, with bonus points given to EPOS systems with help centers and training modes
  • Costs: the price of the system, how it compares to competitors, and whether it’s good value for money
  • User experience: whether everyday restaurant owners know and like the system, whether they’d recommend it, and what they say about it in online reviews
Verdict

Our overall winner is Square, which offers a free POS app that is simple and straightforward, and is a great option for small but growing restaurants.

Next up is Toast, for the more established restaurants, which has all the features necessary to handle complex inventories.

For staff management and scheduling, SpotOn is the best option. It’ll help you locate and reward your best employees, and make everyone’s life easier by streamlining schedules so that your best employees stay with you.

If you want to get quotes from POS providers, you can use our free quote-finding tool to compare and save. We just need a few brief details about your restaurant, and we’ll then match you up with trusted providers who can cater to your needs. They’ll contact you directly with no-obligation quotes and answers to your questions.

Written by:
Zara Chechi
Zara is a Payments Expert, specialising in writing about Point of Sale systems. With a Law Degree from City University of London, she has used her legally-honed research and analytical skills to develop expertise in the Business Services world. Featured in FinTech Magazine, she quickly became an expert in payroll, POS systems, and merchant accounts.
Reviewed by:
Ruairi uses his 3+ years of research experience to uncover insights which can help Expert Market provide the best business solutions for their users. He has done this by meeting with business owners to find out what is important to them and what challenges they face on a daily basis. Ruairi specialises in tools that can be used to grow your business and has done research for a wide range of categories on Expert Market, such as EPOS, Website Builders, and Merchant Accounts.