While restaurant point-of-sale systems (POS) share many features with their retail counterparts – such as inventory tracking, reporting and customer management – there are several restaurant-specific tools that can help you run your business more efficiently, such as table management, order modifiers and bill splitting. Depending on the type of restaurant you have, you may need your POS to have additional capabilities, such as online ordering, reservation management and a loyalty program.
Our 2020 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 learn more about how about we reviewed POS systems and selected TouchBistro (and our other best picks), and to see a list of POS systems, visit our best picks page.
TouchBistro is our pick as the best POS system for restaurants because it has a strong mix of restaurant-specific features that help you manage inventory, orders, tables, reservations, catering and delivery, making it a good choice for nearly every type and size of establishment. It also has the other qualities we look for in a top POS system. Its software is competitively priced, and it's compatible with multiple payment processors and third-party POS hardware, so you can shop around for the best prices.
Editor's note: Looking for the right POS system for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.
Competitive Pricing and Terms
TouchBistro's pricing is competitive. It has software-only and bundled plans that each offer four tiers based on the number of iPads you intend to use with the system. The rates and plan details for each one can be found on the TouchBistro website.
All plans are billed annually, and include the full selection of features, updates, cloud reporting and support for an unlimited number of users. Custom quotes are available, and the company offers a free trial so you can test-drive the system before subscribing.
- Solo: $69 per month.
- Dual: $129 per month.
- Team: $249 per month.
- Unlimited: Contact the company for a custom quote.
In addition to the POS provider's core offerings, there are supplemental services you can use to augment your system as your restaurant grows. These carry an additional monthly fee.
TouchBistro Loyalty. This program costs extra, and there are three plans to choose from. You can view pricing for this option on the company's website. All plans let you collect customer contact information, offer branded gift and loyalty cards, track points, and offer rewards.
- TouchBistro Loyalty: Starting at $49 per month. This plan supports a single reward, such as discounts.
- TouchBistro Loyalty Plus: Starting at $99 per month. This plan supports multiple rewards, and it includes targeted email and text marketing.
- TouchBistro Loyalty Premium: Starting at $189 per month. In addition to Plus features, it comes with a white-label app that you can customize with your branding.
TouchBistro Reservations. The company recently introduced a reservations platform. It fully integrates with the company's POS system but can also be used as a stand-alone app. With it, restaurants can accept reservations on their websites, through Google Search and Maps, or through the new TB Dine website and mobile app.
- TouchBistro Reservations: $229 per month.
Other add-ons and costs. You can use additional iPads and external screens to customize your POS system. Here are some of your options.
- Setup fee: $200. This fee covers installation assistance and training. It applies to both software-only and bundled plans.
- Self-ordering kiosk: Priced as an additional license. This feature allows customers to place their own orders and pay with a credit or debit card using the same device.
- Customer-facing display: Pricing varies, depending on your plan. Customer-facing checkout services show your customers the menu items, modifiers and prices of their orders as you enter them into the POS system, so they can verify that they're correct.
- Kitchen display system: Pricing varies, depending on your plan. It works with the kitchen printer to help kitchen staff manage orders and cooking times so they can run the kitchen more efficiently.
- Digital menu board: $20 per month. This option connects your POS system to large external screens where it displays your menu and pricing.
- Configuration support fees: Pricing available by quote. If you need help setting up, upgrading or troubleshooting your hardware, it costs extra.
Terms of Service
The company posts its terms of service on its website, and you should read it before subscribing, as you would with any POS system. TouchBistro's POS software-only plan has a one-year contract, which means if you decide to cancel your account, the annual prepaid fees are nonrefundable. So, you'll likely want to wait until the end of the term to cancel to avoid losing money. You'll also need to submit a written cancellation notice 60 days before the term ends so it doesn't automatically renew.
If you choose a bundled plan with software and hardware, the term length is three years. Before you choose this plan, do the math so you know exactly how much you're paying over the life of the contract, and read the contract carefully to ensure you're aware of all possible fees, renewal policies, and the cancellation procedure.
Choice of Integrated Credit Card Processor
TouchBistro now has its own credit card processing service through a partnership with Chase called TouchBistro Payments. However, you can work with one of several other payment processing companies when you use this system, including Chase, PayPal, Square, TSYS (Cayan) and Worldpay from FIS (Vantiv). This is an important consideration, as it allows you to look for the best rates and terms, or you can continue working with your current processor.
POS Hardware Compatibility
TouchBistro works with the iPad, iPad Pro and iPad Mini. Your servers can use them to take orders and accept payments tableside or to attend to customers waiting in line. You can also attach them to stands to set up checkout stations. Additionally, TouchBistro allows you to add extra iPads to your system to use as displays and kiosks, though as mentioned in the pricing section above, there is an extra cost for this.
TouchBistro isn't a purely web-based system – it's a hybrid solution. So, even if you're using a single iPad, you need an AmpliFi HD Mesh Router to get started, and if you're using multiple iPads, you also need a Mac Mini or iMac to use as a server. The locally installed network ensures that there's no disruption to your system if your internet connection goes down, which is advantageous for businesses in areas with spotty internet service. Because the system stores your data in the cloud, you can access reporting tools when you're away from your business using any device with a browser, as you would with other cloud-based restaurant POS systems.
You can also add cash drawers, receipt and kitchen printers, and barcode scanners to your TouchBistro POS system. The company doesn't sell unbundled POS hardware, but it posts a list of recommended models on its website that you can consult to see if you can continue using what you already own, or you can shop around if you need to purchase new POS equipment.
Ease of Use
Since TouchBistro is a hybrid system and you must install a router (and in some cases set up a Mac to use as a server), the setup is more involved compared to some of TouchBistro's cloud-based competitors. However, the setup guides on the company's support page are very detailed and have step-by-step instructions with photos. The company's support team is available 24/7 to help you remotely; if you want onsite installation assistance, TouchBistro has a partnership with Boomtown, so you can hire someone to set the system up for you.
Once the system is set up, TouchBistro is easy to use and has an intuitive layout. When you log in, you see the floor plan screen, with buttons at the top for the menu, orders, register, reservations and options, and a button at the bottom of the screen for switching users. The tables are color-coded, so you can see which tables are open or reserved and which seated tables are assigned to each server. Servers simply tap on a table to assign it to a group of customers, select the party size and begin taking orders.
What Are the Key Features of Restaurant POS Systems?
When you're shopping for a POS system for your restaurant, you want to look for back-office functions that help you track your inventory, understand your customers and manage your employees. You want to be able to generate reports that help you use your sales data to make better business decisions, and if you use other business applications, you want to sync your data to save you the time of manually exporting and importing it. Finally, you want to make sure your POS system won't go down every time your internet connection drops. Here's how TouchBistro measures up for each of these feature sets.
TouchBistro has automated inventory tracking that works on an ingredient level and low-stock alerts to help you avoid running out of the supplies, including those you use to make menu items from scratch. It has cost-tracking tools that show your profit margin on menu items to help you set menu prices. It doesn't manage vendors and purchase ordering, though you can use its inventory lists and low-inventory reports to guide this process.
This restaurant POS system comes with a customer database that you can use to create accounts for your most frequent customers and catering clients. Here, you can see purchase histories, account balances, and add notes about customer preferences or allergies.
TouchBistro has role-based user permissions and allows you to create roles – such as server, manager and chef – so you can decide which tasks and information each can access. Your employees can clock in and out using the system's built-in timeclock, and when you add the pay rate for each employee or role, you can run labor reports. In-app messaging allows you to communicate with your staff, and your staff to communicate with you and other employees – for example, if a server needs someone to cover or switch a shift.
TouchBistro comes with dozens of reports that help you analyze how your business is performing, with specialized reports on sales data and customer habits. It shows your best sellers and top servers, helping you identify trends to better strategize your menu.
You can view reports directly on your iPad. If you want to view sales data remotely, you can use TouchBistro's Reports To Go app on any iOS or Android mobile device, or access its cloud portal using any browser. This gives you the ability to keep tabs on your restaurant even when you're at home, on the road or on vacation.
Only a few integrations are available, but there are options for accounting, bar inventory, scheduling, online ordering and analytics. Only select partners can access TouchBistro's API.
As mentioned above, TouchBistro is a hybrid POS system that uses a local router or server, so you can continue working without interruption if your internet connection is lost.
TouchBistro's Standout Features
TouchBistro is specifically designed for restaurants, and the company says it has more than 200 features. Whether you run a fine-dining restaurant, casual eatery, cafe, food truck, pub or any other type of restaurant, TouchBistro has the features you need. Here's a sampling of TouchBistro's restaurant management features.
Table and Bar Management
You can customize the floor plan to match your restaurant's layout, and TouchBistro's tables and seats tools make it easy to reserve tables, take and distribute orders, and even transfer items from one table or seat to another. This POS system also manages tabs, which is particularly helpful in a bar or pub setting.
Modify and Customize Orders
TouchBistro's intuitive interface makes it easy to add forced and optional modifiers to the system. Your servers can add customers' special requests to menu items as custom modifiers as well. Whether you need to know how a customer wants their steak, substitute vegetables for potatoes, or otherwise customize an order, TouchBistro accommodates it easily. The Modifier Report keeps a record of custom orders, so you can identify popular options and adjust the menu to cater to your customers' preferences.
Automatic Discounts for Events
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.
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.
Catering and Delivery Support
You can accept deposits for large orders placed for future dates, whether you're hosting or catering a special event. The system applies the deposit to the bill so when it's time for your customer to pay, they're charged the correct amount.
You can also use the system to accept orders for delivery and takeout. When you enter the delivery address, TouchBistro displays the delivery route on a map and allows you to add notes to the driver.
TouchBistro provides 24/7 customer support by phone and email with every plan at no extra cost. When we contacted the company, posing as a potential client, the representatives we spoke with were friendly and knowledgeable.
TouchBistro has resources on its website to help you solve issues on your own, including video tutorials, step-by-step guides and a searchable knowledgebase. If you're interested in reading articles that address the challenges of running a restaurant, check out the company's blog.
TouchBistro is our pick for the best restaurant POS system, but there are a couple of issues to consider as you evaluate the system.
The system relies on an Apple-based infrastructure. In addition to an iPad, you'll need an AmpliFi HD Mesh 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.
Unlike most services we reviewed, 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 and change in real time from anywhere at any time with an internet connection, you may want to consider other options.
The system lacks built-in purchase ordering and vendor management tools, so you'll have to find another solution to accomplish these tasks or do them manually using inventory reports.
Finally, although TouchBistro's core POS software is competitively priced, its add-ons are more expensive than those offered by its competitors, and it offers fewer third-party integrations, which may be limiting.
Editor's note: Looking for the right POS system for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.