iPad Restaurant POS Systems Review
We've reviewed this category since 2014. In the last year, we considered 23 systems and spent over 150 hours researching, testing and reviewing to find the 10 best. The right iPad POS system can streamline processes like taking orders and accepting payments, which helps your restaurant run more efficiently. Here's what you need to know about pricing, contracts and feature sets.
SalesVu - iPad Restaurant POS Systems Review
Linga POS Review
Lavu - iPad Restaurant POS Systems Review
Restaurant Manager - iPad Restaurant POS Systems Review
ShopKeep - iPad Restaurant POS Systems Review
Aldelo Touch Review
What Is an iPad Restaurant Point-of-Sale System?
With an iPad restaurant point-of-sale system, the iPad replaces the touchscreen monitor. The register software that records sales transactions and includes tools for recording customer orders, managing inventory and running sales reports is installed on the device as an app. The card reader or credit card terminal connects to the iPad via the headphone jack or Bluetooth. Any other hardware you wish to add, such as a cash drawer, receipt and kitchen printers, or barcode scanners, also connect to the iPad via Bluetooth. Most systems are cloud-based, so you can use any computer, tablet or phone with a browser to access back-office features such as reports and inventory.
The difference between iPad restaurant POS systems and retail POS systems is that restaurant POS systems have feature sets for managing menus, food inventory and tips. Even though some retail POS systems can be used for counter-service restaurants, most full-service restaurants and bars will be best served by a system with restaurant-specific capabilities.
Why Is Choosing an iPad Restaurant POS System Challenging?
Each iPad restaurant POS company provides a different mix of software and hardware. Some also bundle payment processing into their services. As you compare systems, you want to calculate the costs of all three components to make sure you're getting the best value.
Many iPad restaurant POS companies offer several service tiers or plans to choose from; higher tiers typically have more features or allow you to add more users or devices to the system. Some systems may have all the features you need, though you may need to add modules or third-party integrations to others. On the hardware side, some companies offer bundles that have everything you need for a countertop checkout station, while others allow you to use your own iPad and add peripherals such as receipt printers and cash drawers individually, so you can customize your system or gradually build your setup as your restaurant grows. You want to include the costs for these factors as you calculate the costs for the systems you're considering.
What Features Do the Best iPad POS Systems for Restaurants Include?
The best iPad restaurant POS systems have the following features:
Basic Customer & Employee Management
- Add customer contact information to database
- Create user profiles and assign permissions
Menu & Order Management
- Add descriptions to menu items
- Support order modifiers
- Support kitchen printers
- Print tickets for pickup and delivery
- Manage cash
- Prompt customers for tips with suggested tip calculators
- Track tips, payouts and voided transactions
- Split tickets multiple ways
- Remotely access analytics and management tools
- Generate multiple reports, including sales and profit and loss reports
- Integrate with or export data to accounting programs
After you select two or three iPad restaurant POS systems to learn more about, you want to call the companies for pricing quotes specific to your restaurant. You'll also want to schedule a demo and download a trial version of the software so you can take it for a test drive and see which system is easiest to use and has features that will streamline your restaurant's processes. You can also determine whether a system has all the features you need or if you'll want add-ons, modules or third-party integrations so you can compare total costs accurately. These are some features you may wish to look for, either as built-in features, add-ons or third-party integrations:
Advanced Customer Management
- Manage customer loyalty program
- Track customer order history
- Automate marketing tools
- Integrate with social media accounts
Advanced Employee Management
- Manage employee schedules
- Send messages to staff within the system
Advanced Inventory Tools
- Account for inventory waste
- Support liquor control devices
Advanced Order & Till Management
- Support online menus
- Manage tabs
- Track discounts
- Accept and issue coupons and gift cards
iPad Restaurant POS Hardware Considerations
Cloud-based iPad restaurant POS systems are popular because they're cheaper, sleeker and easier to customize than legacy POS systems. Plus, most give you the option of taking orders and accepting payments tableside. Restaurant POS setups can be very basic with just an iPad, a card reader, a cash drawer and a receipt printer. You typically supply the tablet and buy the card reader or terminal from your payment processor. You buy the cash drawer and receipt printer from the POS company or from a third-party POS hardware reseller. Most companies offer equipment in bundles and as individual components.
You can add peripherals such as iPad stands, barcode scanners, kitchen printers, liquor controls and scales to most systems. System configurations can be very advanced with additional iPads for kitchen displays, customer displays and self-serve kiosks that customers can use to place their own orders. Splash-resistant covers may be worth investigating if you'll use the iPads at the bar or near a drink station.
Is It Better to Purchase or Lease Restaurant POS Equipment?
You'll save money by purchasing your POS hardware outright, and you won't be tied to a multi-year contract. Leasing can be an attractive option because it's cheaper upfront and allows you to get a fancier setup than you could afford otherwise. However, experts warn that by the end of the term, you'll have paid much more to lease the equipment than you would have paid to purchase it. Plus, you don't own the equipment at the end of term, so you have to either renew the lease and continue monthly payments or buy out the equipment. Most leases are noncancelable, and you only have a 30-day window at the end of the term to cancel and return the equipment before the lease automatically renews.
We added a section about costs and contracts to our comparison chart when we updated the review this year, because this is some of the most important information you need as you compare systems. We started our evaluation with a list of 23 iPad restaurant POS systems. We combed company websites for details about each system and looked through resources that would give us more information, such as user manuals and video tutorials, and asked live chat agents questions with companies that offer that service. Removing companies that don't provide service to U.S.-based restaurants, as well as those that don't cater to small businesses, brought our list to 17. The iPad restaurant POS systems presented here as our top 10 picks are those that earned the highest scores in our testing.
We used the following criteria to evaluate each iPad restaurant POS system:
- Pricing transparency: We value transparent pricing because it's a timesaver; it allows you to decide whether an iPad restaurant POS system fits in your budget before you call the company and spend time talking on the phone or scheduling a demo with a sales agent.
- Monthly subscription fees: We considered how much the software for a single iPad POS system costs each month. Keep in mind that the price you're quoted may be different, owing to various factors such as the number of users and the feature modules or integrations you add to the system. However, this number is useful because it gives you an idea of the subscription fee you can expect to pay per iPad each month. This amount is very different from company to company because each one offers a different feature set and supports a different number of users. For example, some systems have an extensive array of features and charge extra for each user or iPad you add to the system. Other systems start with a basic feature set and a low base rate and then charge for each of the modules you add.
- Contractual terms: The best terms are month-to-month or pay-as-you-go; this allows you to avoid incurring a cancellation fee or having to wait out your term if the system doesn't meet your expectations or you find a better deal elsewhere. If your restaurant is new or your budget is tight, you want to pay close attention to term lengths, as some contracts have multi-year terms with early cancellation clauses that allow the POS company to charge you expensive fees if you exit your account before the term expires. Companies offering free equipment typically have noncancelable contracts, which are problematic because if your restaurant goes out of business and you return the equipment, you're required to continue making payments until your contact expires. You also have to make sure that you submit written notice to cancel your account before it automatically renews.
- Processing options: Being able to choose your payment processor can be a money saver because you can shop around for the best rates. Some restaurant POS systems for iPad are compatible with a handful of processors, while others work with almost every U.S.-based processor. Some systems are used alongside the payment processing service, while others integrate with it directly. All of the iPad restaurant POS systems in our top 10 give you this flexibility.
- Hardware requirements: Some systems require you to purchase or lease the POS company's proprietary equipment. Others are compatible with third-party hardware, which can save you money because you can look for deals or use equipment you already own. Plus, this may allow you to continue using the hardware if you switch to a different POS company later.
- Feature availability: Because iPad restaurant POS systems have an extensive array of features, we limited the ones we looked for on our comparison chart to those with the most variance between systems. We omitted social media, marketing and employee management feature sets, as these are commonly added to the systems as third-party integrations, though some systems offer them as modules or add-ons at an additional cost.
- Support availability: Every iPad restaurant POS system provides customer support via email and phone, though availability varies by hours or subscription tier. We looked at whether the company can remotely access your system to quickly fix software-based problems and whether the company can provide on-site installation assistance and training, as this may be important for restaurants with a complex setup and many employees who will be using the system.
The Best iPad POS Systems for Restaurants: Our Recommendations
No matter what type of restaurant you own, whether it's a table- or counter-service restaurant, a bar, or a nightclub, an iPad restaurant POS system can streamline your operation. You can use it to manage several parts of your business, such as taking orders, accepting payments from customers, and back-office tasks like managing inventory and generating sales reports.
Using our iPad restaurant POS systems review, you can identify cost-effective options with favorable terms and the feature sets you need to run your restaurant efficiently. The top three companies on our lineup offer iPad restaurant POS systems that are compatible with multiple payment processors, provide service on a month-to-month basis and can be used with compatible third-party hardware.
Below we've listed our top three recommendations and noted some of their best features. Read on to find out which qualities you should look for in an iPad restaurant POS system and for additional recommendations for specific feature preferences.
- Self-service kiosk ordering
- Customizable mobile app
- Scalable to grow with your business
- Supports unlimited number of users
- Delivery management tools sync with Google Maps
- Integrates with popular accounting systems
- Customizable mobile app
- Automated event-based discounting
Our top three recommendations – Revel Systems, TouchBistro and SalesVu – are great solutions for most restaurants. Each has an impressive feature set, can be used with compatible third-party hardware and allows you a choice of payment processor. Below we've listed additional recommendations for restaurants looking for specific features.
- If you need reservation management tools to keep your busy restaurant running smoothly, check out TouchBistro, Revel Systems and Lightspeed.
- If your customers would enjoy ordering with self-service kiosks, consider Revel Systems.
- If you want server tools that track menu items and offer substitution suggestions, consider Aldelo Touch.
- If you want timed menus or automated discounting for events such as happy hour, check out Breadcrumb POS by Upserve or SalesVu.
- If you need a system that helps you manage your vendors and create purchase orders, or if you want to add inventory to your system using a barcode scanner, Revel Systems, Lightspeed, Linga POS and ShopKeep are good options.
- If you want to work with a local dealer, Lavu and Restaurant Manager are worthy of consideration.
List of 10Best iPad Restaurant POS Systems
Breadcrumb POS by Upserve can help you spot buying trends and better manage your menu. Read on to learn more about this iPad restaurant POS.
Lightspeed's restaurant POS system can be used with iPads, iPhones and iPod Touch. Learn more in our review.
Linga POS is a restaurant POS system for iPad. With its paid plans, you can add as many iPads to the system as you want at no extra cost. Read on to learn more.
ShopKeep - iPad Restaurant POS Systems
ShopKeep is an iPad-based POS system well suited for casual restaurants. Read more in our review.
SalesVu - iPad Restaurant POS Systems
SalesVu is a module-based iPad POS system that can be used for many different business types, including restaurants. Learn more in our review.
Aldelo Touch is a restaurant POS system for iPads that doesn't require you to sign a contract. Read our review to learn more.
Revel Systems - iPad Restaurant POS Systems
Revel Systems impresses with its extensive feature set. Read on to learn more about this iPad restaurant point-of-sale system.
Restaurant Manager - iPad Restaurant POS Systems
Restaurant Manager is an iPad-compatible POS system that's available for purchase from local resellers. Read our review to learn more.
Lavu - iPad Restaurant POS Systems
Lavu's restaurant POS system for iPads can help you manage your restaurant. Read more about this iPad POS solution in our review.