Our evaluation began with a list of 56 restaurant POS systems, comprising companies we were already familiar with, those that contacted us and some we came across in our research. We looked at costs and contract terms, as we recognize this is key information for comparing systems. We also looked for tablet-based systems, because our research indicates that most restaurant owners want this type of system. We scoured websites for information about each system, looked through user manuals, watched video tutorials and contacted the company, posing as a potential client, to ask questions about pricing, terms and features. Here's the criteria we used to evaluate restaurant POS systems.
Monthly Subscription Fees
We looked at how much the POS software costs each month for a single terminal. Although your costs may differ from those we were quoted due to the specific needs of your restaurant (such as number of terminals, devices, users, and feature modules or integrations), this number gives you a ballpark estimate of the monthly fee you can expect to pay per register each month. Monthly subscription fees vary widely because each service offers different features, numbers of users and device licenses. Some companies have a comprehensive feature set but may charge extra for each user or device you add to the system. Others have basic feature sets and charge extra for additional feature modules; this type may save you money if you don't require advanced features.
Being able to see the pricing on a company's website saves you time, as you can determine whether or not a POS system is within your budget before you spend time on the phone or going through a product demo with a sales agent.
Month-to-month contracts give you the freedom to move on if the POS system isn't meeting your needs or you find a better deal elsewhere. This is particularly important for restaurants that are new or on a tight budget, as some contracts have lengthy terms and early-cancellation clauses, charging hefty fees if you close your account before the end of the term. Other contracts, particularly those from companies offering free equipment, are noncancelable, which means that even if your business closes, you're still responsible to pay on it until your contact expires and you submit written notice to cancel your account before it automatically renews.
Most of the companies that made it onto our short list allow you to choose between multiple payment processors, which may save you money, since you can shop around for low rates. This may also be an important consideration if you're currently under contract with a processor, to spare you the expense of early-cancellation fees.
We looked at whether the system gives you the flexibility of using equipment you already own or allows you to purchase it from a third-party vendor, as these options may save you money.
In addition to standard POS features, we looked for restaurant-specific tools and the availability of add-ons or integrations that allow you to customize the system and connect with other business applications.
All restaurant POS systems offer customer support via email and phone, though availability may vary by hours or the plan tier you subscribe to. Restaurants often keep irregular hours, so we looked for systems with 24/7 phone support.