Our 2017 research and analysis of POS systems leads us to again recommend TouchBistro as the best POS system for restaurants. We chose TouchBistro from a pool of dozens of POS systems we considered. To read our full methodology and for a more comprehensive list of POS systems, visit our best-picks page here.
TouchBistro is one of the most cost-effective POS systems for restaurants, especially for small businesses. It is our pick for the best POS system for restaurants because it has everything a small business needs to run all types of food establishments, without all the fuss. Whether you run a fine-dining restaurant, casual eatery, café, food truck, pub or any other type of restaurant, TouchBistro is an affordable and easy-to-use POS system that focuses solely on your unique needs.
With TouchBistro, you don't need to invest in a lot of hardware, as you do with traditional restaurant POS systems. At the minimum, all you need is an iPad or iPad mini and a cash register to get started. This will cost you less than $1,000, whereas other POS systems — complete with a touch-screen monitor, computer, credit card reader, receipt printer and other peripherals — will easily set you back $2,000 or more just for a single terminal.
In addition to the hardware, you'll need to pay for a monthly fee to use the service. TouchBistro offers low-cost monthly plans that are well within most small businesses' budgets. Even better, plans are based not on features, but the number of licenses you need (one license per iPad). This means that even the cheapest plan comes with all the features, 24/7 customer support and an unlimited number of users. This is a great deal compared to many POS systems that limit your capabilities if you can't afford more expensive plans and tack on additional fees for priority support and extra users.
TouchBistro plans start at $69 per month for a single license. If you need more than one terminal, TouchBistro also offers discounted multilicense plans: $129 per month for two licenses, $249 per month for up to five licenses and $399 per month for unlimited licenses. Custom quotes are also available based on your business's needs. If you'd like to test-drive TouchBistro, a free trial is also available.
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One of the things we really liked about TouchBistro is that it focuses solely on features that restaurants truly need. There are no unnecessary bells and whistles that add bulk to the software, making it the perfect solution for a small business.
Here are the time-saving features we liked most about TouchBistro:
Mobility. Because TouchBistro is an iPad POS system, you're not stuck at the checkout counter. Servers can take your POS anywhere in your restaurant — for instance, to take orders and payments at tables, or to attend to customers waiting in line. This makes your restaurant more efficient and allows your servers to focus more on providing excellent service and spend less time running back and forth on the floor.
Table or bar. If you have a dine-in restaurant complete with a floor plan, TouchBistro lets you color-code tables and seats to make it easier to take and distribute orders, as well as to identify which server is associated with which table. TouchBistro also makes it easy to open tabs — for instance, by storing credit card information based on customers' names, which is particularly helpful in a bar or pub setting.
Lock-in register. Not every restaurant has a floor plan or sit-down area, so we like that TouchBistro comes with Register Mode, which locks the system into a regular register. This lets you easily take orders, process payments and print receipts, so you don't have to fuss with any table or bar settings. This would be ideal for food trucks, takeout, delivery only, bar registers and quick-service restaurants.
Bill splitting. Splitting the bill among large parties can be a real pain for servers. TouchBistro helps them save time and their sanity by making it easy to split entire bills or different parts of the bill. The system is designed in such a way that it takes just a few taps to split drinks, appetizers and individual orders.
Custom orders. Custom orders pose their own set of problems for servers, particularly for large parties. We like that TouchBistro's intuitive interface makes it easy to add and use all types of modifiers and customer identifiers to make custom orders fast and easy. Whether you have 10 types of milk for your coffee shop, substitute vegetables for potatoes at your restaurant, offer gluten-free options or whatever other custom order a customer wants, TouchBistro can do so without all the headaches. We also like that TouchBistro keeps a record of these custom orders, so you can identify any trends and popular profit makers.
Automatic pricing. Another time-saving feature we like about TouchBistro is its automatic pricing. This capability becomes very helpful during happy hour, promo days and other special events — instead of having servers manually input discounts, you can set up TouchBistro to automatically apply preset discounts based on time, days and other variables. Items will also automatically go back to their regular pricing once happy hour or other events are over.
Send to kitchen. TouchBistro can also help you save time by automatically sending orders to the kitchen. Once orders are entered into the iPad, orders are automatically sent to the kitchen printer or device for fast, efficient turnarounds. Restaurant owners like that this feature eliminates the need for their staff to go back and forth to the kitchen just to place orders, so they can focus more on customers and running the floor.
Reports. TouchBistro offers robust reporting tools to help you manage and grow your business. From inventory counts to sales data, expense reports and other types of insights, TouchBistro can give you comprehensive and detailed views of how your business is performing, what your best sellers are, who your top servers are and more. It can also help you identify trends to better strategize your menu and establish marketing campaigns to boost sales.
We were very impressed with TouchBistro's customer support. In addition to having a friendly and knowledgeable team, TouchBistro offers many ways to help you, whether you need to reach a live representative or want to solve issues on your own.
Anytime support. All customers get 24/7 phone and email support at no extra cost. Whether you pay for the cheapest plan or the most expensive one, you'll get access to a real person whenever you need help. A designated phone line is also available to help you quickly resolve critical issues.
One-on-one training. If you need help teaching your staff how to use your new POS system, TouchBistro offers a personalized training program designed specifically for your type of restaurant. The company will connect you with restaurant specialists who can train both you and your staff so you don't have to waste time doing it yourself.
Videos. This is where TouchBistro's customer support shines. Unlike most other POS systems that leave you to figure out the software yourself by reading lengthy documentation, TouchBistro offers an entire library of help videos covering everything from connecting your hardware to setting up your restaurant in the software. It also features step-by-step how-to videos on a wide range of features, so you and your staff will always have easy access to quick tutorials.
Support center. If you prefer to read self-help guides, the support center contains a searchable database of how-to guides, articles, frequently asked questions and other documentation to help you get started and use the system.
Although TouchBistro is our pick for the best restaurant POS system, here are a couple drawbacks to consider, based on your needs.
First, TouchBistro is a strictly iPad POS system that relies primarily on an Apple-based infrastructure. You'll also need a Mac device, such as a MacBook or Mac mini, to set up the Pro Server Application (see below), and use Apple's AirPort router and Utility apps to set up your POS network. This is great if you're already an Apple user, but if you're looking for an Android- or Windows-friendly POS system, TouchBistro is not for you.
Second, unlike most POS services, TouchBistro is not a cloud-based POS system. This means functionality is dependent on the device and local network. Cloud-based POS systems, on the other hand, can be accessed, changed and synced anywhere, anytime with an Internet connection.
For instance, if you use TouchBistro on only one iPad, you'll be running your entire restaurant straight from that iPad alone. If you use multiple iPads, you'll need to use the Pro Server Application to connect all of your iPads and act as a central hub that stores and syncs data across all of your devices.
The upside to TouchBistro's locally-connected setup is its reliability. A typical complaint restaurant owners have about completely cloud-based POS systems is that when the Internet goes down, so does their POS system. This is particularly problematic if business comes to a standstill during a lunch or dinner rush. A rep confirmed that because TouchBistro doesn't rely on the cloud, it remains fully functional even without an Internet connection.
The rep we spoke with also said that TouchBistro does recognize the flexibility that a cloud-based POS system offers, so some cloud functionality is built into the platform as well. This includes cloud reporting and analytics, so restaurant owners have access to their data anywhere from any device with an Internet connection.
Ready to choose a POS system? Here's a breakdown of our complete coverage:
- How to Accept Credit Cards Online, In-Store or Anywhere
- Best POS Systems
- Vend Review: Best All-in-One POS System for Small Business
- Bindo Review: Best Mobile POS System for iPad
- ShopKeep Review: Best POS System for Retail
Editor’s note: Looking for information on POS systems? Use the questionnaire below, and our vendor partners will contact you to provide you with the information you need: