A Point of Sale (POS) system is an integrated software and hardware solution that streamlines the operations of a restaurant. Essentially, it functions as the nerve centre of your establishment, managing everything from taking orders and processing payments to inventory control and data analytics.
For restaurant owners striving for operational efficiency, a robust POS system is not merely a convenience but a necessity. But which POS system is the best?
In this article, I’ll examine the top restaurant POS systems available in the UK market, dissecting their features, pricing structures, and respective advantages and disadvantages.
My goal is to help you choose the best solution to help your restaurant thrive.
What are POS Systems for Restaurants?
Point-of-sale (POS) systems for restaurants are much more than simply a way to take payments. They encompass both software and hardware solutions designed to optimise the management and operation of restaurant businesses.
These systems offer an integrated approach to key aspects of restaurant management, delivering a single user interface for tasks such as order management, payment processing, inventory oversight, and reporting.
Any POS system should include:
- Order Management: Efficiently handles customer orders, both in-house and online.
- Payment Processing: Manages a variety of payment methods, including credit/debit cards, cash, and mobile wallets.
- Inventory Management: Monitors stock levels and assists in automatic reordering.
- Reporting: Generates detailed reports on sales, inventory, and other key metrics.
- Table Management: Assigns tables to customers and tracks orders at each table.
- Online Ordering: Enables customers to place orders for pickup or delivery.
- Loyalty Programs: Manages customer loyalty programs to encourage repeat business.
- Staff Management: Tracks employee hours, manages payroll, and generates employee reports.
The Benefits of a Restaurant POS System
Here are the primary benefits that you can expect when integrating a POS system into your operations:
- Increased efficiency: POS systems streamline order management and payment processing, significantly reducing the time taken for these essential functions. Quick and accurate transactions enable staff to serve more customers in less time, optimizing both resource allocation and revenue generation.
- Reduced errors: POS systems automate key processes such as order-taking and inventory management, reducing the likelihood of human errors. This enhances operational accuracy and improves customer satisfaction by minimizing errors in orders or billing.
- Improved customer service: POS systems offer features such as table management and online ordering, making it easier to provide a personalized and convenient dining experience. This improves customer satisfaction and encourages repeat visits.
- Better insights for decision-making: POS systems generate comprehensive reports on various performance metrics, including sales trends and inventory levels. This analytical capability enables restaurant owners to make informed decisions aligned with their business objectives.
- Enhanced staff management: Features such as time-tracking and payroll management simplify administrative tasks and enable better performance assessment.
- Versatility and scalability: POS systems are highly adaptable, catering to the specific needs of a restaurant. Whether integrating with online delivery platforms or accommodating multi-location operations, POS systems can evolve in line with business growth.
Best Restaurant POS Systems at a glance
|Brand||Key Features||Hardware Options||Pricing Considerations||Ideal For||Visit|
|Square||User-friendly interface, table management, online ordering, loyalty programs||Mobile card readers, countertop POS terminals||Affordable monthly software fees starting at $0/month, competitive transaction fees (1.75% for card-present payments)||Startup and quick-service restaurants||Visit Square|
|Clover||Customizable software, app marketplace, layered security, real-time reporting||All-in-one POS terminals (Clover Station, Clover Mini)||Hardware costs from $400 – $1,300, software fees from $20/month, transaction fees of 2.3% + $0.08||Full-service restaurants||Visit Clover|
|Zettle||Simple to set up, mobile card reader, real-time sales insights, specialist POS integration||Card readers, POS terminals, customized kits||No monthly fees, 1.75% transaction fees||Small to medium restaurants||Visit Zettle|
|Epos Now||Scalability, front and back-of-house sync, automated reporting, inventory efficiency||Complete systems, tablet systems, handheld options||Hardware costs from $399+, subscription fees from $25/month||Multi-location restaurant chains||Visit Epos Now|
|Lightspeed||Highly customizable, unified online/takeout/dine-in ordering, robust inventory management, accounting integrations||Countertop POS terminals, receipt printers, cash drawers||Monthly fees from $59 – $339, additional costs for addons like online ordering and inventory management||Established restaurants with multiple locations||Visit Lightspeed|
5 Best Restaurant POS Systems in the UK
The following five top POS systems are the best I’ve found from a huge shortlist. They represent different ranges on a spectrum of price and complexity. Of course, there is no single ‘best’: you’ll have to find which meets the needs of your particular business.
Square Restaurant POS System and Software: Best for Startup Restaurants
- Ideal for startup and quick-service restaurants
- User-friendly interface
- Affordable pricing plans
- Table management and online ordering capabilities
- Limited advanced reporting features
Square is a popular POS system for small to medium-sized restaurants, known for its user-friendly interface and affordable pricing. It offers features that can help you streamline operations, increase sales, and improve customer loyalty.
One of the biggest advantages of Square for Restaurants is its price point. It offers a free plan for businesses that are just getting started, and its paid plans are extremely competitive. Square also offers a variety of well-priced hardware options, including mobile card readers and countertop POS systems.
Another key benefit of Square for Restaurants is its comprehensive set of features, which include table management, online ordering, and loyalty programs. Square also offers a variety of integrations with popular third-party apps, such as delivery services and accounting software.
Square for Restaurants is particularly well-suited for quick-service restaurants. Its user-friendly interface and one-touch terminal make it easy to process transactions quickly and efficiently. Square also offers a variety of features that are specifically designed for quick-service restaurants, such as table management and online ordering.
However, it is important to note that Square for Restaurants is not ideal for full-service restaurants. The software does not include all of the features that full-service restaurants need, such as reservation management and table service.
Pricing: Hardware Costs, Monthly Fees, Transaction Fees
Square offers a relatively straightforward pricing structure.
For instance, a basic stand with a card reader can cost around £169, while a more advanced terminal may set you back approximately £399. Monthly software fees start at £0 per month for basic usage, escalating based on additional features you may require.
As for transaction fees, Square charges 1.75% for card-present transactions and 2.5% for keyed-in or online transactions. Given these percentages, it’s worth considering your transaction volumes and types to determine the financial implications.
|Online Payment (UK cards)||1.4% + 25p|
|Online Payment (Non-UK cards)||2.5% + 25p|
|Manually Keyed-In Transaction||2.5%|
Square Pros and Cons for Restaurants
- Easy to use: Square is known for its user-friendly interface, making it easy for restaurant staff to learn and use.
- Affordable: Square offers a variety of affordable pricing plans, making it a good option for restaurants of all sizes.
- Comprehensive features: Square offers a wide range of features for restaurants, including table management, online ordering, and inventory tracking.
- Flexible: Square is a flexible POS system that can be customized to meet the specific needs of your restaurant.
- Limited reporting: Square’s reporting features are not as robust as some other POS systems, so restaurants may need to use third-party software to get the reports they need.
- Customer support: Some users have reported difficulty getting in touch with Square customer support.
- Transaction fees: Square’s transaction fees are higher than some other POS systems, so restaurants with high sales volumes may pay more in fees.
Clover Restaurant POS System and Software
- Robust all-in-one POS hardware options
- Customizable software with app marketplace
- Layered security features
- Real-time sales and analytics reporting
- Proprietary hardware limits flexibility
Clover is a POS solution with fantastic hardware, a 30-day trial, and 24/7 phone and email support. As one of the biggest names in the POS industry, they offer all-in-one systems which are designed to get you up and running quickly.
Their POS solutions look great and are functionally robust, which is useful in a busy catering environment. Their two primary offerings—Clover Station Pro and Clover Mini—are aimed at both full-scale restaurants and smaller environments like cafes
Clover Station Pro is the more comprehensive solution, aiming to be an all-in-one business management system. It not only handles payments locally, internationally, and online, but also offers an intuitive dashboard that allows for efficient inventory tracking, staff scheduling, and more. The device itself is built with a 14-inch high-resolution anti-microbial touchscreen and offers a wide array of hardware, software, and accessories. One standout feature which I like is its shift and staff rota management, making it an excellent choice for businesses with complex staffing needs.
Clover Mini, on the other hand, is designed for smaller operations that require flexibility. With its 7-inch high-resolution anti-microbial touchscreen, it’s compact yet powerful. It comes with built-in 4G LTE and WiFi capabilities, enabling you to run your business from virtually anywhere.
Across both devices, Clover offers multi-layered security features like fingerprint login, Chip & PIN, and end-to-end encryption for each transaction. The platform provides robust reporting tools, offering real-time insights into sales, revenue data, and customer behaviour.
Finally, the ability to customize is one of Clover’s strong suits. Choose from an array of apps in Clover’s App Market to make the system work for you.
Pricing: Hardware Costs, Monthly Fees, Transaction Fees
The upfront cost of Clover hardware varies depending on the model you choose.
The Clover Station Pro is the more advanced and comprehensive system, and it costs around £1,000 to £1,300. The Clover Mini is designed for smaller operations and costs around £400 to £600. These costs can fluctuate based on any additional accessories or features you need.
As for software, Clover offers various software plans that cater to businesses of different sizes and needs. The basic plan starts at around £20 per month, with more advanced plans that offer additional features costing upwards of £40 per month.
Clover charges a transaction fee of 2.3% + £0.08 per sale.
You won’t find much pricing information on their website, though. Like many POS companies, they have multiple pricing tiers and prefer to quote on a case-by-case basis.
- Customization: This includes everything from the hardware setup to the software applications. For example, you can customize your menu screens, order tickets, and receipts. You can also create custom reports to track your restaurant’s performance.
- Scalability: You can add additional modules and features as needed, such as online ordering, gift card processing, and loyalty programs.
- User-Friendly Interface: The Clover system is designed to be easy to use, even for staff with minimal training.
- Integrated Payment Processing: Clover seamlessly integrates payment processing, eliminating the need for a separate payment terminal.
- Real-Time Analytics: For example, you can track sales by item, employee, or time period. You can also track inventory levels and food costs.
- Inventory Management: Clover’s inventory management features can help you reduce waste and improve the accuracy of order placements. For example, you can track inventory levels by location, item, and expiration date. You can also set up alerts to notify you when inventory levels are low.
- Cost: The initial setup cost and ongoing subscription fees can be high, especially for small businesses with tight margins.
- Proprietary Hardware: Clover uses proprietary hardware, meaning you can’t switch to another POS system without incurring additional hardware costs.
- Limited Offline Functionality: While basic functionalities are available offline, some features require an active internet connection. This could be a limitation in the event of connectivity issues. However, Clover offers a variety of solutions to help mitigate this risk, such as offline processing and backup devices.
- Transaction Fees: In addition to subscription fees, Clover also charges transaction fees. The transaction fees are competitive with other POS systems, but they can add up for businesses with high volume sales.
- Learning Curve: Though user-friendly, the Clover system can be complex due to its extensive features. Staff may require some time to become fully proficient.
- Software Compatibility: While Clover offers a wide range of apps through its marketplace, there may be limitations in terms of compatibility with third-party software that you may already be using.
Zettle Restaurant POS System and Software
- Simple to set up and user-friendly
- Portable card reader ideal for mobile service
- Real-time sales insights for data-driven decisions
- Seamlessly integrates with specialist POS systems
- Lacks advanced features for complex operations
After testing Zettle by PayPal as a point-of-sale option for food and drink businesses, I find it simple and user-friendly. Its core strengths lie in its ease of setup and its efficient inventory management, both of which could be particularly beneficial for small to medium-sized enterprises.
Zettle streamlines the onboarding process; one can add prices, VAT, and start selling in a relatively short span of time. This simplicity extends to employee training, allowing quick account switches and enabling checkout processes that take mere seconds. If you’re running a busy venue, the speed and ease could be quite advantageous.
But simplicity doesn’t mean a lack of depth. Zettle offers robust sales reporting capabilities that feed directly to your mobile device. It’s designed for business owners who value real-time insights for data-driven decision-making. While not as extensive as some competitors, the feature set is adequate for the essentials.
What makes Zettle even more compelling is its integration capacity. If you’re already using a specialist POS system for your restaurant, Zettle can seamlessly sync data and offer a fast payment solution. The platform touts its compatibility with a range of popular services, enhancing its utility.
On the downside, it may lack some of the advanced features that larger or more complex operations may require. As a standalone system, it is powerful but limited in scalability compared to other platforms on the market.
Zettle Pricing: Hardware Costs, Monthly Fees, Transaction Fees
Zettle by PayPal offers a transparent pricing structure designed to suit various business needs. The central tenet is a transaction-based fee model, devoid of long-term commitments or hardware rentals.
Additional bespoke rate plans are available for businesses that process more than £10,000 in card payments every month.
|Pricing Component||Cost (£)||Remarks|
|Card Transactions||1.75%||Per transaction for major cards and mobile wallets|
|PayPal QR Codes||1.75%|
|Zettle Invoice||2.5%||For accounts registered before 8 May 2023|
|Customised Store Kits||From £189||Excl. VAT, delivery fees apply|
|Terminal||From £149||Excl. VAT, delivery fees apply|
|Card Reader||From £29||For new business users, excl. VAT, delivery fees apply|
- Affordable: Zettle has no monthly fees and competitive transaction fees, making it a cost-effective option for restaurants of all sizes.
- Easy to use: Zettle has a user-friendly interface that is easy for restaurant staff to learn and use.
- Portable: Zettle’s card reader is portable and lightweight, making it ideal for use in restaurants with multiple service areas.
- Comprehensive features: Zettle offers a wide range of features for restaurants, including table management, online ordering, and inventory tracking.
- Limited customer support: Zettle’s customer support is not as robust as some other POS systems, so restaurants may have difficulty getting help if they need it.
- Limited reporting features: Zettle’s reporting features are not as comprehensive as some other POS systems, so restaurants may need to use third-party software to get the reports they need.
- Not ideal for large or complex restaurants: Zettle is a good option for small and medium-sized restaurants, but it may not be the best choice for large or complex restaurants, which may need more advanced features.
- Built to scale across multiple locations
- Front and back-of-house synchronization
- Automated monthly performance reporting
- Promotes table turnover and inventory efficiency
- Steep learning curve and complex pricing
If you’re a larger restaurant or a chain of premises, Eposnow is definitely one to shortlist. This UK-based company, founded in Norwich, now covers 64 countries and supplies over 65,000 businesses.
They make systems with a lot of power and flexibility. You’ll get front and back-of-house synchronisation as standard, kitchen management capabilities, and an integrated workplace management system known as Deputy. Integrate with delivery apps like Deliveroo, utilise a clocking in/out feature for staff, and generate automated monthly reports for employee performance.
Epos Now Payments lets you take up to 650 at-table payments on a single charge, an incredibly handy function when things get busy. If you add in Epos Now Bill Pay, you can also speed up table turnover by 20%, which is essential for those peak hours.
Stock management is yet another area where Epos Now shines. With low-stock warnings and the ability to automate purchase orders, it takes a lot of the guesswork out of inventory management. I could see this being invaluable in managing multiple restaurant locations.
I was also quite pleased with the reporting tools. They offer insights into what dishes are popular, and this data can easily be synchronized with accounting software such as QuickBooks.
On the flip side, Epos Now is very feature-rich, and that can mean a steep learning curve for those new to the system. Additionally, while the upfront cost may seem affordable, the price can escalate when you start to add more features.
Epos Now Pricing: Hardware Costs, Monthly Fees, Transaction Fees
Epos Now offers its services under two main categories: Complete Systems and Tablet Systems. The contracts for these services are available for either one year or three years.
While their pricing can be relatively competitive, one common thread I did notice in the firm’s Trustpilot reviews is dissatisfaction with the lack of clarity that can arise around pricing, including hidden fees. You’ll want to go into the pricing in detail with your Epos Now rep before signing up to avoid any surprises. Although it advertises what seems to be straightforward pricing, additional charges, such as the £39 for the care and support package, are not immediately evident.
|System Type||Pricing Options||Included Features|
|Complete System||£399 total or £25/month||Pro-C15 terminal, Metal cash drawer, Thermal receipt printer, Installation and set-up.|
|Tablet System (Android)||£399 total (iPad option for £549)||Payment processing, Multiple devices, Multiple locations|
|Handheld System||Available via quote||Booking systems, Payment processing, Courier services, Front and back of house linkage|
- Comprehensive features: Epos Now offers a wide range of features for restaurants, including table management, online ordering, inventory tracking, staff management, and customer loyalty programs.
- Flexible and scalable: Epos Now can be customized to meet the specific needs of your restaurant, regardless of size or type.
- Competitive pricing: Epos Now offers competitive pricing, with a variety of plans to choose from.
- Good customer support: Epos Now offers good customer support, with a team of experts available to help you with any problems you may have.
- Can be complex to set up: Epos Now can be complex to set up, especially for restaurants with no prior experience with POS systems.
- Some features require additional fees: Some of Epos Now’s more advanced features require additional fees, which can increase the overall cost of the system.
- Hardware can be expensive: Epos Now hardware can be expensive, especially if you need to purchase multiple terminals or other accessories.
- Unclear pricing system – Some users note fees they weren’t aware of
Lightspeed Restaurant POS System and Software
- Highly customizable with scalable pricing tiers
- Unified online, takeout and dine-in ordering
- Robust inventory management and accounting integration
- Accepts wide range of payment types
- Expensive hardware and addon costs
Lightspeed is a powerful specialist ePOS system closely aimed at the restaurant industry. It’s highly customisable, built to scale, and best suited for an established brand with multiple premises.
It offers a holistic approach, covering everything from payment processing to inventory management, unlike some competing platforms that focus primarily on transactional capabilities.
One distinguishing feature is its versatility in payment options. While systems like Square emphasize the ease of credit and debit card transactions, Lightspeed goes a step further by accommodating a variety of payment forms, including QR codes, thereby offering an edge in payment flexibility.
Lightspeed goes further than systems like Zettle by PayPal in terms of inventory management. Both offer real-time stock counts and wastage logs, but Lightspeed adds an extra layer by providing menu pricing suggestions. This functionality could make it a more comprehensive choice for restaurant owners keen on optimizing their supply chain along with their menu.
Online and contactless dining options are becoming increasingly crucial in the restaurant industry, and Lightspeed’s Order Anywhere feature stands out in this regard. Unlike traditional systems that might require separate software for take-away or delivery services, Lightspeed integrates these services into its main platform.
Accounting integration is another area where Lightspeed excels. While many systems offer some level of integration with accounting software, Lightspeed provides automated syncing options with top accounting software like QuickBooks, Xero, and Sage.
Lightspeed Pricing: Hardware Costs, Monthly Fees, Transaction Fees
|Pricing Tier||Cost (GBP)||Billing Cycle||Ideal For||Additional License Cost (GBP)||Features Included|
|Starter||£59||Annual, billed monthly||1-2 locations||£33||Integrated Payments, 24/7 Support, Offline Mode, Basic Reporting|
|Essential||£109||Annual, billed monthly||1-15 locations||£33||All Starter features, Loyalty, Marketplace Integrations|
|Premium||£339||Annual, billed monthly||16-500+ locations||£33||All Essential features, £50 for Online Ordering, £100 for Inventory Management, Real-Time Reporting, Basic API Access, PMS Integration|
|Enterprise||Custom||Custom||Custom||Custom||Tailored Software and Hardware, Unlimited Launch and Consultation, Dedicated Support Team|
- Comprehensive features: Lightspeed offers a wide range of features for restaurants, including table management, online ordering, inventory tracking, staff management, customer loyalty programs, and more.
- Versatile payment options: Lightspeed accepts a variety of payment forms, including credit and debit cards, QR codes, contactless payments, and mobile wallets.
- Advanced inventory management: Lightspeed provides real-time stock counts, wastage logs, and menu pricing suggestions.
- Unified online and contactless dining experience: Lightspeed’s Order Anywhere feature integrates take-away, delivery, and dine-in services into a single platform.
- Automated accounting integration: Lightspeed offers automated syncing with popular accounting software, such as QuickBooks, Xero, and Sage.
- Robust customer support: Lightspeed provides one-on-one onboarding and a dedicated support team.
- Can be complex to set up: Lightspeed can be complex to set up, especially for restaurants with no prior experience with POS systems.
- Some features require additional fees: Some of Lightspeed’s more advanced features require additional fees, which can increase the overall cost of the system.
- Hardware can be expensive: Lightspeed hardware can be expensive, especially if you need to purchase multiple terminals or other accessories.
Price for POS System for Restaurants
The cost of a POS system for restaurants can vary considerably depending on a number of factors, including features, scalability, and pricing model. Here is a breakdown of the key components that contribute to the overall price:
- Hardware: The hardware required for a POS system can include touch-screen terminals, receipt printers, cash drawers, and barcode scanners. The cost of hardware can range significantly, depending on the specifications and the number of terminals required.
- Software: POS software is often priced through a licensing model, which could be either a one-time purchase or a recurring subscription. Subscription models may offer more flexibility and are generally updated more frequently, but they can incur ongoing costs.
- Customization: Depending on the restaurant’s specific requirements, additional customization may be necessary. This could involve programming for special features or integrations with existing systems. Customization typically comes at an additional cost.
- Implementation and training: The process of setting up the POS system and training staff to use it effectively can also be costly. Some vendors offer free initial training and installation, but others may charge separately for these services.
- Maintenance and support: Post-implementation, there may be costs associated with maintaining the system, including software updates and hardware repairs. Many vendors offer maintenance and support packages, which can be a wise investment to ensure uninterrupted service.
- Additional modules: As the business grows, the need for additional modules like advanced reporting, inventory management, or multi-location support may arise. These modules usually come at an extra cost but can offer significant advantages in terms of operational efficiency and data insights.
Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
It is important for restaurant owners to consider the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), which includes not only the initial investment but also the ongoing costs such as maintenance, software updates, and any additional modules that may be required in the future.
Choosing a POS System for a Multi-location Restaurant
Choosing a POS system for a multi-location restaurant can be complicated, as the system must be scalable, consistent, and efficient across multiple sites. Here are key considerations to bear in mind:
- Centralized management: The POS system should allow for a unified view and control of all locations from a single dashboard.
- Data aggregation and reporting: The POS system should be able to aggregate data from multiple locations into consolidated reports, providing a macro-level view of performance metrics.
- Inventory management: The POS system should facilitate centralized inventory management, with features such as automated reordering, supply chain tracking, and real-time stock updates accessible for all locations.
- Scalability: The POS system should be able to scale with your business, accommodating the addition of new locations with ease.
- Integration capabilities: The POS system should seamlessly integrate with existing software solutions, such as accounting, CRM, and online ordering platforms.
- Staff training and usability: The POS system should have a user-friendly interface that requires minimal training.
- Reliability and support: The POS system should be reliable and offer robust customer support, including 24/7 assistance and regular software updates.
- Compliance and data security: The POS system should be able to handle cross-jurisdictional complexities and maintain stringent data security measures.