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 the dozens of POS systems we considered. To read our full methodology and see a more comprehensive list of POS systems, visit our best picks page here.
TouchBistro is our pick for the best POS system for restaurants because it has a strong mix of restaurant-specific features that help you manage not only tables and reservations, but catering and delivery as well. It's an affordable system with no long-term contract requirement. Plus, it's compatible with multiple payment processors and third-party hardware, so you can shop around for the best prices.
Competitive pricing and favorable terms
TouchBistro is one of the most cost-effective POS systems for restaurants, especially for small businesses. It has four plans available for its software, based on the number of iPads you intend to use with the system, and you can view rates (based on annual billing) and plan details on the company's website. The Solo plan costs $69 per month and supports one iPad. The Dual plan costs $129 per month and supports two iPads. The Team plan costs $249 per month and supports up to five devices. The Unlimited plan costs $399 per month and, as the name implies, can be used with as many iPads as you want. All plans include the full selection of features, have cloud reporting and support an unlimited number of users. Custom quotes are also available based on your business's needs, and a free trial is available if you'd like to test-drive the system.
You're not required to sign a lengthy contract to use TouchBistro, giving you the freedom to cancel your account at any time without penalty, so you can move on if the system doesn't meet your needs or you find a better deal elsewhere. You can choose from several payment processing companies when you use this system, including Chase Paymentech, PayPal, Square and Vantiv. This is an important consideration, as it allows you to look for the best rates and terms, or may allow you to continue working with your current processor.
TouchBistro works with the iPad, iPad Pro and iPad Mini. As with most mobile POS systems, you don't need to invest in a lot of hardware, and because the system is compatible with third-party POS equipment, it's less expensive to set up than most traditional restaurant POS systems. At the minimum, all you need is an iPad, an AirPort Extreme router and a cash drawer to get started. You can also add other peripherals such as receipt and kitchen printers. However, if you use multiple iPads with this system, you'll need a Mac Mini or iMac to use as a server. The company posts a list of recommended models on its website that you can consult to see if you can continue using hardware you already own or to shop around if you need to purchase equipment.
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One of the things we really like about TouchBistro is that it's specifically designed for restaurants. Whether you run a fine-dining restaurant, casual eatery, cafe, food truck, pub or any other type of restaurant, TouchBistro has the features you truly need. Here are the time-saving features we liked most:
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, allowing them to take orders and payments tableside or to attend to customers waiting in line, whichever setup makes the most sense for your restaurant. This helps your restaurant run efficiently, allowing your servers to focus on providing excellent service rather than spending their time running back and forth on the floor.
Additionally, it has cloud-based reporting, so you can access back-office features remotely using any device with a browser. This gives you the ability to keep tabs on your restaurant even when you're at home, on the road or on vacation.
Table and bar management. 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. This POS system 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.
Kiosk and menu-only mode. If you have a quick-service restaurant, you can use TouchBistro's Kiosk app to let your customers place their orders themselves and pay on the same device. If you have a table-service restaurant, your servers can use the menu-only mode to show your customers full-screen images of menu items, helping indecisive diners with their ordering.
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 by seat or combine and split different parts of the bill. It takes just a few taps to split drinks, appetizers and individual orders.
Modify and customize orders. Custom orders pose their own set of problems for servers, particularly with large parties. TouchBistro's intuitive interface makes it easy to add forced and optional modifiers to the system. Your servers can also add a customer's special request to an order as a custom modifier. Whether you need to know how a customer wants their steak, substitute vegetables for potatoes or customize an order, TouchBistro accommodates it easily. We also like that this POS system has a Modifier Report that keeps a record of these custom orders so you can identify popular options.
Automatic discounts for events. Another time-saving feature we like is TouchBistro's automatic discounting. This capability becomes very helpful during happy hour, promo days and other special events. Instead of servers manually inputting discounts, you can set up the system to automatically apply preset discounts based on time, day and other variables. Items automatically return to their regular pricing once the event is over.
Reports. TouchBistro offers robust reporting tools to help you manage and grow your business. With inventory counts, sales data, expense reports and other analytics, 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.
We were very impressed with TouchBistro's customer support. The representatives we spoke with were friendly and knowledgeable, and the company provides several ways to reach a live representative or 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 can talk or email with a real person whenever you need help.
Guides and videos. TouchBistro offers multiple resources to help you learn about the system and how best to use it, including video tutorials, step-by-step guides and a searchable knowledgebase.
Blog and articles. If you're interested in learning about TouchBistro's latest updates and new features, you can check out the company's blog. You can also read articles that address the challenges of running a restaurant in the Restaurant Success Library.
Although TouchBistro is our pick for the best restaurant POS system, here are a couple drawbacks to consider as you evaluate the system.
First, TouchBistro is a strictly iPad POS system that relies on an Apple-based infrastructure. In addition to an iPad, you'll need an AirPort Express router to get the system up and running. If you use more than one iPad, you'll also need a Mac computer such as a Mac Mini, iMac or iMac Pro to use as a server. This is fine if you're already an Apple user, but if you're looking for an Android- or Windows-friendly POS system, TouchBistro isn't for you.
Second, unlike most POS services, TouchBistro is not a cloud-based POS system. Rather, it's a hybrid solution that has cloud-based reporting but runs on a local network, which is why you need the router and server. If the internet connection in your area is unreliable or slow, this may be a good option for you, since the system's functionality is dependent on the device and local network, not the internet. However, if you prefer a cloud-based POS system that you can access, change and sync from anywhere at any time with an internet connection, you may want to consider other options.
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:
Additional reporting by Sara Angeles.