Busy Chefs

4 Best POS Systems For Restaurants - Ultimate Comparison

Danielle Collard
7 Nov 2022

Restaurants face peak periods when capitalizing on every order, upsell opportunity, and every seat in the house determines success. They also face quiet "between rush" moments when inventory control and staff productivity must be completed before the house refills.

A POS system (point of sale system) can help restaurants achieve the best results in optimizing sales and streamlining operational tasks. But to do so, they need the best restaurant POS systems. 

Knowing which of the available providers best suits your business can be challenging, given how complicated restaurant POS software can be.

That's why we've put together the ultimate guide to help you evaluate which POS systems can do the most to help your restaurant flourish.

What can a good POS system do for restaurants?

A good POS system automates as much of your business operations as possible. POS providers try to incorporate all usual business functions (and many more specialist needs). 

For restaurants, this means digitally stored and updated inventory management, menu management, table management, online ordering capabilities, and kitchen printing (or, ideally, kitchen display screens).

A restaurant POS system can help with all manner of back office processes, such as accountancy and payroll while generating reports on transactions and product performance. But a POS must be able to help businesses streamline sales before anything else.

How to tell the difference between good and bad systems

In each of the above cases, restaurant owners judge good POS systems based on how widely and effectively they save time and improve performance. Compared with businesses before the POS era, tasks like stock counting and data collection took longer and gave less reliable results.

Now, with so many options on the market, and most businesses using these systems, the important decision for businesses isn't whether to have a POS but which one to choose. 

Some POS providers have great transaction software but fewer back-office features. Others may be less dependable, slower, more complicated, or less flexible.

There may be POS systems with the attractive offer of a free version, but few of these will offer all-around POS system services that most businesses will need. The same is true for any offers of free POS software.

One of the best ways to judge these systems, as your business is often judged, is through reviews. Seeing what those who have bought from a POS provider helps tell you about its strengths and weaknesses.

The next stage of your research might be speaking to their teams. But, importantly, you must establish precisely what you need from your system. Your business will have its own needs, and planning out what you intend your purchase to achieve for your business is a key part of this process.

The best restaurant POS system will look different for specific businesses. During the sales process, most providers (such as Epos Now) will offer a trial of the software so you can judge whether you prefer the product to others.

The Epos Now restaurant POS system

The first example of a POS system is Epos Now. Like many providers, Epos Now have specialized systems for retail and hospitality, with different hardware and software options for each.

We will look in detail at hardware and software specifically for Epos Now, and extras and distinguishing features, before making comparisons with other restaurant POS systems on the market.

Epos Now hardware

Epos Now hardware offers flexibility to any restaurant business looking to create a bespoke setup. 

With in-house payment processing services, businesses using an Epos Now the system can afford to create a table service restaurant plan that frees staff from the bar to take orders at the table.

The payment products can integrate smoothly and are designed as partner products of the POS terminal, POS80 receipt printer, and Epos Now cash drawer. These make the staple hardware that most restaurants, hotel restaurants, food trucks, or takeaways might need.

Epos Now restaurant POS hardware

  • 15.6" HD touchscreen terminal to run your checkouts
  • High-speed receipt printer connected to your sales devices via USB or ethernet
  • Secure cash drawer with options to auto-release on completion of the sale, on request, or by restaurant management only
  • Order printer to alert back-of-house staff to new dishes to prepare, with sound options and able to split dishes for multiple kitchen stations
  • Kitchen display system, which can create an immediate, visible communication channel between front and back-of-house teams, with colour-coded timing to ensure no dish is forgotten and no customer has to wait too long for their food.
  • Countertop and mobile payment processing allow speedy completion of card transactions, a fully integrated transaction system, and simpler reports on card sales.
  • The swipe card reader offers quick, secure login for staff members, aids with clock-in functions, and creates a stylish method of running bespoke loyalty programs with personalized customer cards to keep customers coming back.
  • Display screens can run advertisements wherever you need them, keeping customers updated on the latest offers and events and boosting engagement with your business.
  • Checkout display screens streamline the sales process and keep customers informed on pricing so your staff can focus on informing them about and upselling your products.

Using Epos Now to create the system you need

The hardware options of the Epos Now Store can help you shape your business and can mould around the plan you make to run your business through a POS system for restaurants.

Kitchen Communications

Quick service restaurants, for example, can use multiple terminal screens printing to order printers or a KDS that immediately begin work on the order. Separate order printers can be set to print food to the kitchen and another to print drinks so that the sales team does not need to stop taking orders, keeping queues to a minimum.

Full-service restaurants with complex kitchen setups can break down food orders further still, with separate order printing for the sous chef, dessert chef, and any further kitchen stations, all with their own dishes or parts of dishes to prepare.

Epos Now's Kitchen display screens (KDS) can be invaluable in situations with many intricate dishes. Both order printers and KDS devices provide instant links between the bar and kitchen. However, the KDS orders can be altered once sent, with flashing notifications to ensure these are seen.

Epos Now KDS devices have audio capability and can function at multiple stations with order grouping, just like order printers. Both of these can also incorporate delivery and takeaway orders instantly so cooks and chefs can alter their preparation and immediately begin work without the need to wait for front-of-house processing.

Personalized setups with Epos Now

POS systems are the foundations of the businesses that rely on them. If you have special needs and hardware that you want incorporated to run alongside a restaurant POS, then Epos Now can incorporate that with developers.

The software also runs on personal PCs, laptops, tablets, and mobile, providing the restaurant industry with the choice they need to create more individual setups, using pre-owned hardware, favoured hardware, or technology already being used to run other software the business needs.

Loyalty hardware

Epos Now's restaurant point of sale possesses functions to incorporate staff and customer swipe cards to help provide a more streamlined and personal service, encouraging repeat customers. 

Customers using these can receive a customer card you have designed, with logos, contact information, and colour themes, giving you a constant presence in their purse or wallet.

Customer cards help bring customer accounts up on the system so transactions can be entered by name, building loyalty points while improving reliability and reporting. Customers can then find out, for instance, which dish they had during their last visit if they have found their new favourite.

A restaurant POS like no other

When it comes to helping your restaurant achieve your dreams, Epos Now systems have the flexibility, the features, and the innovations you need:

  • Integrated card payment systems.
  • Quick and easy product management.
  • Flexible reports on everything from stock levels to staffing.
  • Hundreds of apps to adapt your system to your business needs.
  • Expert support to ensure you get the most out of your system.

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Epos Now's restaurant software

No matter the hardware you use, Epos Now's software excels at helping restaurants keep queues short and optimize the various operations restaurants rely on.

Transaction software

Arguably the most vital element of all restaurant POS systems, Epos Now's transaction software is simple, flexible, and contains all the functions any restaurant might need.

Your menus can be divided into categories, with the option to have your recent bestsellers on the top-level screen to save time during the sales process. All categories and products can be colour-coded and numbered, so you have complete control over how to structure your menu on the POS.

Using Epos Now, your staff will have user-friendly software at their disposal to help ensure even new team members are informed about the products they use. 

The Product Plus feature can show product information and images quickly and clearly. The staff hold their finger on a product, and anything from allergen information and ingredients, to images, prep time, and any details you choose will appear on the screen.

Epos Now restaurant POS systems even help during the onboarding process for new staff. Helpful features like product plus do not take much time to master. Like most of the software, it is simple, intuitive, and quick to master.

This ease of use helps contribute to the fifteen-minute training time for new users. In only fifteen minutes, new team members can begin gaining confidence and experience independently, quickly becoming a valuable part of your enterprise.

The table plan

Restaurant owners always need a dependable way to assign tabs and orders to tables. POS providers that struggle with this will cost users money on unpaid tabs that can cause serious problems for traders.

The Epos Now table plan can be broken down into sections, such as the garden area, front and back areas, and bar. Tables can be numbered and then shaped as squares, rectangles, circles, ovals, and stars (for other shapes). 

They can also be given a default seating number to help staff set the correct number of covers when opening a tab for that table.

Hotel restaurants will have tabs 1-99 pre-programmed to help ensure tabs can reconcile with their room expenses, helping both the hotel and restaurant sides of the business work as one. 

All businesses can navigate between tabs, table management, and existing and previous orders through buttons at the top of the till screen, keeping till navigation simple.

Payment processing

Whether a customer is just buying a quick drink or a large table is paying for a three-course meal, being able to accommodate payment methods quickly is a key part of your restaurant service. Top restaurant POS systems like Epos Now will provide easy ways to take payments from multiple sources.

The front till software allows the payment methods you allow to be inputted into the system to aid your reporting and financial security. Adjusted prices can be preset for dining type if one type costs more than another (e.g., delivery premiums). Dining types can be easily switched with an action button on the main screen.

In addition to dining methods, managers require several other restaurant-specific features to run their restaurants easily. Many diners eat together on one tab, but they prefer to pay for their own food when it comes to payment.

Epos Now's split bill function allows staff to move dishes from one tab/table to another and merge tabs. It also allows customers to pay by amount, pay for certain dishes, and can easily help calculate and print specific parts of the dishes.

While restauranteurs need these functions, it's important staff still feel comfortable performing these difficult tasks, as nothing ruins a pleasant evening for customers more than payment difficulties. The Epos Now software maintains its intuitive and user-friendly design even in these more complex areas of the system.

Tipping

To ensure the due processing of gratuity, most restaurants now use their POS systems to put tips through during transactions. For some, this also allows equal sharing between all staff, which the Epos Now gratuity reports make easy.

The gratuity app simply adds an action button to your main screen to allow users to add an additional fee to the bill. The prompt requests a monetary amount or a % (with 5, 10, and 20 suggested).

Your business may have a default service charge, though. If this is the case, the Epos Now Back Office allows the setting of a default service charge percentage that can be added to all bills. This can be toggled on or off by staff at the customer's request.

Flexible front till software for stress-free sales

Epos Now software prides itself on flexibility. Different businesses require changes to the software to process payments easily and maintain reliability and security in the way they would like. 

The software has many other settings that can adapt transactions and ordering to suit each restaurant, including the details the restaurant manager would like during the end-of-day cash-up.

Now let's look at the back office software of the Epos Now POS system for restaurants and how that can benefit users.

Epos Now back office software

Having looked at the available hardware and transaction capabilities of Epos Now technology, there are two additional elements important when looking to judge the best POS system for restaurant use.

The first of those is how helpful the back office software is and how it can help the management of the business. This includes ease of setup, product management, tracking inventory and update stock levels, employee management, reporting, and accounting.

While all POS systems will include sales capabilities, the extent to which a POS system can help automate business operations behind the scenes often makes the difference between a good restaurant POS system and a great one.

Epos Now inventory management: master products

Restaurant owners spend huge amounts on their inventory. Beer and cider kegs, spirits, wines, meat, veg, potatoes, sauces, and more all hike up the supplier costs. 

This makes tracking your ingredients accurately an important task for the team, and a restaurant POS system should help do this quickly and reliably.

The Epos Now master product function automates a part of inventory management that might otherwise be difficult to update. Master products allow restaurants to automatically reduce individual ingredients' stock levels whenever they sell a dish. 

For instance, when a restaurant using Epos Now sells a prawn cocktail starter, they can automatically remove 250 grams of prawns, a set amount of lettuce, and sauce, from their inventory.

Master products are important for both wet and dry inventory management. As drinks such as wine also sell in different measurements. 

Tapped drinks can be sold in halves or pints as well. In short, tracking stock levels becomes much more difficult if a supply of something is used in more than one product you sell.

Master products will work with any dining type, in-house, online ordering, or takeaway, and can maintain accurate inventory data. That's why Epos Now's master products are so important for businesses.

Epos Now inventory management: stock updates and alerts

Restaurants have dozens of ingredients that restaurant owners might not want to consider. You'll notice if beer kegs are missing in the cellar, but running low on a lesser-used sauce will be hard to keep track of. But running out of any single ingredient can cause bigger issues, such as the loss of a customer when you're not able to complete a dish.

This makes Epos Now's stock alerts feature a quiet but clever addition to the inventory management software. Restaurant owners can set a minimum stock level, at which point their POS will send them an email alert informing them the inventory needs to be replenished.

Managers can then update inventory when supplies arrive through purchase orders or the stock-taking sections (present in both the front and back of the system so access can be granted to non-management staff).

Purchase orders involve inputting ordered inventory into the system at the beginning of the delivery management process. This makes updating stock levels much quicker on arrival. The alternative stock-take simply adjusts the figure when the new products arrive. 

The restaurant POS makes both methods quick and simple, using grouped products through a supplier, category, or previous stock-take information.

Employee management

If companies are to trust in restaurant POS systems, they need a way to keep their business data and finances secure without removing the tools staff need to carry out their jobs. A POS system for restaurants needs staff with access to inventory control and transaction software, with some able to access end-of-day software and other important management tools.

The Epos Now employee setup sets your team up under a series of manager-made staff roles, which grants access to or restricts each function on the system. These functions range from the "no sale" opening of the till to updating stock information, taking payments, accessing tabs, or the back office side of the business.

This gives the business complete control over who handles money, data, and the responsibilities the team needs to manage collectively. Those who have back-office access and the company login data, however, will have 24/7 complete control, allowing them to check on sales reports, performance, and inventory even when off-site.

This access comes through Epos Now's cloud-based pos system. Epos Now POS systems for restaurants store all company data on secure servers, which means it can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection, providing the user has login information and approved access.

This makes employee management simple to set up, extremely secure, and flexible enough that the company management team will face no restrictions as they go about the day-to-day running of the business.

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Epos Now apps

The best restaurant POS systems can adapt themselves to the user's needs. The Epos Now AppStore shows how this provider aims to mould itself to business requirements, often through partnerships with leading business software.

Accounting

In some cases, this is about choosing to use more advanced, specialist software. Take accounting, for example. Epos Now's exportable accountancy data processing can make completing taxes much more painless, with daily, monthly, quarterly and yearly reports, payroll information, and gross profit information auto-generated by the system.

However, Epos Now has also partnered with internationally celebrated accounting software producers Sage and Quickbooks so that businesses already using their software or seeking the advantages they bring can do so.

Through these integrations, point-of-sale data sends straight over to the accounting software for easy management of business finances, saving hours of administrative work. Both Sage and Quickbooks stay up to date with local laws, helping you rest easy about accurate taxation, and generate invoices and bills for the business, which helps you run a professional operation.

Pay at table

Any provider designing POS systems for restaurants needs to incorporate pay-at-table capabilities. Many companies and customers opt to order via mobile apps and QR codes when it comes to quick-service restaurants. As with other kinds of online ordering, This saves on staffing and gives consumers more options.

Epos Now's pay-at-table software was produced in partnership with Yoello and has 94% approval from hospitality staff who feel it is helpful in their work. 

Pay-at-table doesn't require an app. Customers can scan the QR code the restaurant leaves on the table, and can still split the bill, tip, and pay by Apple or Google pay as well as on a card.

The POS app is proven to help restaurants turn tables over 20% faster, creating more opportunities and a more efficient service for consumers to enjoy. 

Epos Now's pay-at-table shows the provider's determination to innovate to find restaurant solutions to the problems modern POS systems often struggle with. Epos Now solve these problems without making things difficult for the business or customer.

Booking, marketing, and business management

There are dozens and dozens of useful apps that restaurants can employ to create their own method of trading. These improve or altar every area of trade.

While we cannot discuss every Epos Now app, here are a few more examples to demonstrate the kinds of business software you can incorporate into your restaurant POS system:

  • Mailchimp can link up with the Epos Now customer database with the popular marketing service. Organize your mailing lists and automate emails to your customers. Add new subscribers to your marketing emails through Epos Now. Stay on top of your customer relations management with email campaigns such as monthly newsletters, new product releases, and sales promotions.
  • Epos Now Delivery. The delivery app extension links entire restaurant POS systems, including KDS and order printers in your kitchens, with huge food delivery platforms like Doordash, Ubereats, and Deliveroo. These connections save staffing requirements, reduce payroll by 25%, and cut errors by 80% through automation while bringing in more customers with improved business exposure.
  • Bulk Import spreadsheets allow restaurants to make big changes to their product list, inventory, staff, or customer lists quickly. Bulk Import allows business data to be exported and imported from the Epos Now cloud into spreadsheet software, speeding up the process of making large, sweeping changes to your restaurant. Bulk Import saves hours of administrative work by allowing restaurants to benefit from the technical and mathematical innovations of spreadsheet computing.
  • The Booking App adds a calendar to restaurant POS systems, adding the functionality to add bespoke events, reservations, and reminders into your system. This Epos Now development can have staff members, cover numbers, allergen information, or any other notes attached. Double bookings can be prevented, updates can be made, and historic bookings can be easily remade when your happy customers arrange a return visit.

POS provider comparisons

With the detail of our Epos Now analysis, you can see the high benchmark that POS providers need to achieve to fulfil the criteria of modern restaurants. 

The market is extremely competitive, so let's take a look at the competition Epos Now face and what the other providers have to offer.

Lightspeed POS system

Lightspeed restaurant POS systems are a popular choice for small to medium restaurants. Lightspeed only caters to the hospitality industry, like Epos Now, which means all of its development focuses on the restaurant and hotel industries. 

Lightspeed has a recognizable brand and the power and ambition to purchase Vend, another of the competitors on the market, showing that they have established themselves as influential players in the point-of-sale market.

Lightspeed offers most of the key features that make managing your restaurant easier, from online ordering and inventory management to marketing and bookings and to the larger among their customers, providing all of the functionality they might require.

Lightspeed restaurant POS features

Evaluating the Lightspeed restaurant POS system is difficult because the system runs very differently depending on the package your company takes out. There are some features that an intuitive POS system must contain to run a restaurant that is not included with the "Essential" Lightspeed package[1].

The Essential Lightspeed deal includes a till license, their point of sale transaction software, basic sales reports, product management, basic inventory, and the offer to take out the Lightspeed payment processing deal.

While running a business using this software is possible, it is safe to say the best restaurant POS system cannot be put together on the Lightspeed essential deal. Without reports that go into enough detail to provide information on the performance of the business, managers will be making decisions without as much data to use as their competitors.

Meanwhile, the master products that Epos Now includes with every software package are not part of the Lightspeed point of sale. Ingredient tracking and more detailed inventory management need to be sourced from 3rd party software, as Lightspeed has not produced any considerable inventory control software. 

This means an extra expense for Lightspeed customers or a basic part of what the best restaurant POS systems offer.

It is still possible to include allergen information on products to keep staff and customers informed about dietary requirements, but inventory cannot be tracked for specific ingredients. The result is Lightspeed uses require 3rd party software to run a simple restaurant inventory system on their restaurant POS system.

Lightspeed Pro and Enterprise packages

A further restaurant must-have included with all Epos Now packages, but not with Lightspeed, despite its hospitality focus, is table service management. This is not included in Lightspeed's essential package. Instead, users need to upgrade to the more expensive Pro package, which has all the same functions with the additions of table management, customer loyalty, and gift cards.

Furthermore, while the Pro package might have everything small business owners need, as the business grows, Lightspeed users will need to upgrade to the Enterprise package to run multiple locations.

The confusion surrounding the different Lightspeed packages means researching before taking a package out is very important. Requiring a package upgrade can make establishing the restaurant POS system cost more difficult and potentially higher.

Lightspeed interface

In general, Lightspeed is considered user-friendly. However, some of the navigation has been criticized for being counterintuitive. In particular, the order processing and tab management, which businesses will rely on if they cannot use the table management software on the Pro package.

Given the importance of tab management in a restaurant POS system, managers will need to spend some time mastering and training staff before the team can reliably handle orders from customers.

Toast restaurant POS system

The Toast POS system for restaurants is a well-established and competitive point of sale with many positive features to shout about. Like Lightspeed, it is geared toward restaurant and hospitality businesses. It offers robust, beer-proof hardware and, like Epos Now, numerous integrations and add-ons to help users set up the best restaurant POS system for their business.

Here are a few notable positives of the Toast POS system:

  • A good range of hardware options, including KDS, handheld POS, display screens, and more.
  • Expansive software, including the Toast takeout app, online ordering, good quality reporting, email marketing, and loyalty programs.
  • Simple payment options with all essential restaurant software included in the initial package, along with training resources to help you get to grip on the more awkward parts of the system.

Criticisms of the Toast POS system

Despite there being some strong positives around the Toast POS, some important issues will need to be sorted out before you decide they offer the best restaurant POS systems for you:

  • Lack of options around payment processing. Like most POS providers, Epos Now has its own payment processor, Epos Now Payments, but will also accept 3rd party processors such as Evo Payments or IBM. Not so with Toast. If you choose Toast as your POS, you must take out their payment processor in order to have integrated card payments. This means you cannot choose the best card deal, which may cost your business money, and limits you to the service Toast themselves provide. You may also have trouble switching to Toast if you have an existing payments contract.
  • Difficult to learn. Toast has many features that experienced small business owners will appreciate. However, Toast has received criticism for its complicated setup and the appearance of its hardware. Like Epos Now, they provide training materials and support for all users to help them get familiar, but they cannot boast the 15-minute training time that Epos Now do.
  • Value for money. Toast's variety of features and functionality has its POS celebrated by many reviewers, but it does come at an expense. Software advice online has rated Toast's ease of use and functionality at 4.1 but only awards them a 3.7 for value for money[2]. While their prices aren't advertised online, this suggests that users feel they are purchasing a competitive POS software with strong menu management, online ordering, and inventory management, but at less competitive restaurant POS prices.

Square restaurant POS system

In our search for the best restaurant POS system, we've looked at 3 of the main competitors in the market. Our final provider is one of the bigger names offering a restaurant POS system: Square.

None of the four companies examined here offer a free plan, and Square POS systems deals have to start with hardware costs of around £1000+, which means you'll likely have a hefty startup fee which not every POS system will require[3].

Even so, Square is a popular choice for restaurants, with an Apple-based aesthetic of white hardware with a simple square logo. This has been maintained since it started out as a card payments processor, offering small, unimposing card machines which were very different from the more traditional "chunky" card machines.

Square point of sale: the good and the bad

A great benefit of Square is that it can easily adjust as your business grows, incorporating extra locations and hardware as you acquire them. This is great news for restaurant management, which will not need to stress any more than necessary during difficult periods of expansion.

Square POS also has a modifiable user interface that many of the best restaurant POS systems have, allowing businesses to adjust their menu management to improve customer service and create a system staff finds easy to learn.

Square POS does have some key drawbacks, and one is a lack of inventory management features similar to Lightspeed. Users of Square POS that want to keep a watch on the inventory and ensure they do not run out of products will need to look to 3rd party integrations.

Square has partnered with many other software providers, but most restaurant point-of-sale providers, like Epos Now, will not expect managers to take out extra contracts for inventory features.

Another element Square has received criticism for is the transaction software and front-till features. While Square has a simple enough interface that matches its Apple philosophy focused on ease of use, there are some functions full-service restaurants would want to see.

Table management and reservation software are a part of that. 

The best POS systems help restaurants complete bookings and can easily integrate reservations with the software staff will be using as they work. Unfortunately, Square doesn't offer a complex booking system with their POS software which can slow down counter service and reduce customer satisfaction[4].

The verdict: stick with Epos Now for the best restaurant POS systems

The best POS systems can incorporate everything a restaurant needs, from online ordering to accountancy integrations, without compromising on the best transaction software that keeps queues to a minimum.

Epos Now software and hardware purchases come with multiple payment options and allow you to mould your restaurant POS system around your business, not the other way around.

Benefit from:

  • Streamline your sales process with fantastic transaction software, online ordering, and an all-in-one POS and card processing kit.
  • Manage cross-channel products and inventory and view reports on-site or off using a cloud-based POS system that sells reliably in an offline mode.
  •  Increase security and simplify sales for new starters with staff access controls and multiple access levels for a system that suits your needs.
  • Make better business decisions using hundreds of downloadable reports and integrations with the best industry software for accounting, marketing, online ordering, and more.

To find out more about Epos Now's retail POS and hospitality POS systems with every tool a business needs, submit your information below and speak to a member of our expert team.

 

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