Bar Patrol

POS companies suck! If you're a POS company and that offends you, I'm offended by your offense. Seriously! Where are you when we need you?

Sure, they're great in the beginning, when you're on the POS dating scene and they're trying to get into your pants.

It's all wine and lobster and good times, but the moment they close the deal and sign you up, you wake up the next morning to realize that the bed is empty and no matter how many times you dial the number, they won't return your call. Regret sets in. Especially if you signed a long-term contract.

This is my main issue with POS companies. Many of them have great (or at least good) features and perform the basic tasks that are required, but the people behind the product are rarely available for support, or you have to pay an exorbitant amount for tech support each month just to get them on the phone.

All of this--and the fact that I have owners and managers asking me all the time about which POS system they should invest in--inspired me to take on a sort of RealBarman Consumer Affairs challenge to find the best POS systems out there so you don't have to.

Which meant I had to roll up my sleeves and do some research, so I went out and started using and working with the top 10 most popular POS systems on the market, but I didn't stop there. I also spoke with more than two dozen owners and managers who are my acquaintances and my clients and got their feedback on those very same systems.

In addition, I sent out surveys to other owners and managers asking what systems they liked best. I used our Bar & Restaurant Facebook Group as a resource as well and asked our members there.

I took all this information to come up with the top 5 systems that I could recommend to my audience and those who come to me personally, which has allowed me to feel confident about my answer now, instead of just going by hearsay. Warm fuzzies for all.

And do you know what? In the process I found some good ones. And some really bad ones. But I was thrilled to discover that the POS world is evolving to provide modern technology, and even some decent support and service on occasion.

For this article, I chose to narrow my list to the top 5 POS systems you should be looking at, because you don't need to analyze the top 53 systems and have your head swimming like a cartoon cat who just had a frying pan dropped on his head.

Simple and compact is better.

You'll also notice that we are trying to get away from the old legacy systems (Aloha, Micros, etc.). These are outdated, expensive and clunky, with poor service. Unless they jump on board quick, they are going to be the dodo bird of POS world.

So let's do this, David Letterman style, with a countdown from #5 to #1.

THE TOP 5 BAR & RESTAURANT POS SYSTEMS

#5 - REVEL SYSTEMS

         VISIT REVEL

OVERVIEW: Revel is one of the most robust systems around. It was founded in 2010 and was one of the first to use an iPad as part of the POS system. Revel is geared towards bars, restaurants and retail and has very good reporting. The main knock on Revel is that it's so robust that some say it's a bit too complex to get set-up and learn, and it is also one on the higher end, pricing-wise.

WHAT'S GOOD ABOUT IT: 

  • Robust Reporting
  • CRM (Customer Relationship Management)
  • Employee Management
  • Table Management
  • Online Odering
  • Discounts
  • Customer Loyalty Program
  • Intuitive Interface
  • Offline Mode

WHAT'S NOT SO GOOD:

  • The set-up and learning curve for all it's features can be complex
  • Overall interface is user-friendly but confusing in some spots
  • Some reported"glitchiness" in terms of syncing issues and being disconnected
  • Cost is pricey compared to other similar POS systems
  • Open API access requires more money
  • Company seems to have some A.D.D. when it comes to focusing on what's important. Straddles the fence between restaurants and retail.
  • No free trial to see if you like it

SUPPORT (GOOD)

Revel offers 24/7 customer support. I have received mixed reviews about their service. Some say it has been fine, while others say it's a grind to get someone to help them with the learning curve or reconfiguring to fit their needs. I have a couple clients who use them and they say that the customer service and support is decent for the POS industry. 

PRICING (HIGH)

Costs are unclear but little birds tell me it's up to $2,500 for set-up and hardware. Monthly fees are also added and depends on number of terminals 

OVERALL

Certainly a player when it comes to the POS industry, and nobody can question the robustness of their technology and reporting. I enjoyed using it, though it wasn't as intuitive in some areas as I would have liked. Nevertheless, a quality POS system for sure, but you can find the same for a lot less, and the fact that they don't have a free trial period really annoys the shit out of me considering how expensive they are. In addition, the fact that they also focus  a lot of their energy on the retail side and don't specialize in bars and restaurants makes me a bit squirmy, like going to get laser eye surgery from a doctor who specializes in feet and eyes.

#4 - SQUARE

   VISIT SQUARE

OVERVIEW: Launched in 2009, Square remains a popular choice for many smaller bars, restaurants, fast food and retail stores. They were also one of the first mobile processing systems with inbuilt swipe technology. The overall take on Square is that it is one of the more inexpensive POS systems on the market, with all the basics you need to get started.

WHAT'S GOOD ABOUT IT: 

  • All-in-One Payment System
  • Free Tools For Selling Online
  • CRM (Customer Relationship Management)
  • Employee Management
  • Payroll (Additional Cost)
  • Discounts
  • Customer Loyalty Program
  • Intuitive Interface
  • Easy Set-up
  • Good for smaller venues
  • Transparent, Affordable Pricing

WHAT'S NOT SO GOOD:

  • Not specifically designed for for bars & restaurants
  • Lack of detailed reporting
  • Reports of account freezes and glitches
  • Not ideal for larger venues or sales, as flat fee could get expensive
  • No free trial (but price is low, so not a big deal here).

PRICING (LOW)

Pricing is simple here. There is no monthly subscription fee. Instead Square uses a flat 2.75% fee on every swiped transaction, 3.5% + $0.15 for keyed transactions, and 2.9% + $0.30 for online transactions. However, for larger volume places, the transactions costs can add up in a hurry.

SUPPORT (AVERAGE)

Support has been reported as being friendly and knowledgable, but here's the real kicker that would have me hitting the back arrow to find another POS system real quick. They claim 24/7 support, until you read the fine print and realize the 24/7 means you can go on to their website and read articles in their help section, and we all know how awesome that is to do when you're balls-deep in the weeds at 9:00 p.m. on a Saturday night.

In reality they have regular business support hours:

Mon-Fri, 6am-6pm EST
Sat-Sun, 6am-6pm EST

This is fine for the retail industry, but it looks like bars and restaurants that operate at night are shit-out-of-luck if something goes wrong. Not cool.

OVERALL

Square is a great option for anyone who wants to get up and running quickly and does not have "robust features and reporting" as one of its wish list items. It is also a cheaper option for smaller venues with the flat fee rate if you don't really care about tracking which credit cards you've taken or that you'll pay more on debit card transactions overall than the norm. I was impressed with its easy-to-use interface, but for me, it was way too simplistic when it came to real restaurant-based features and reporting, and again, they have a huge footprint in the retail sector which brings up that whole lack of specialization thing.

#3 - TOAST

    VISIT TOAST

OVERVIEW: Founded in 2012, Toast has great front-end and back-end features at competitive pricing. While using it I could see why so many servers & bartenders raved about using it. Very user-friendly

WHAT'S GOOD ABOUT IT:

  • Table-Side Ordering
  • Table-Side Payments
  • CRM Management
  • Employee Management
  • Guest Online Ordering
  • Customer Loyalty Cards
  • Decent Range of Reports
  • Customized Tipping
  • Digital Gift Cards
  • Split Checks
  • Modern, Intuitive Interface

WHAT'S NOT SO GOOD:

  • Locked into Toast credit card processing, which is more expensive than most
  • Locked into long-term lease with no way out
  • Reporting is better than some, but not great
  • No free trial
  • Only Android-based; no iOS device

PRICING (MID-RANGE-COMPETITIVE)

Pricing is very reasonable for what you get. It starts at $79/terminal + $499 installation. Where Toast really gets you though is that they lock you into a contract for credit card processing and leave you no choice for other options.

SUPPORT (WEAK)

This alone dropped them from #2 to #3. I have read POS website reviews that say the support is good, but that hasn't matched the feelings from the owners and clients I've spoken with. Multiple owners have told me that they call tech support with a question and they often won't know the answer and say they will call back but don't. I personally did not have the greatest experience with them either. I called and spoke to a representative on a Saturday and told him I was giving an extensive review on their POS system and wanted to speak with someone about that and he said he doesn't really deal with those situations and someone would call me on Monday. No call. I then emailed them with a similar description of what I was doing. No return email. That turned me off big time.

OVERALL

The features and intuitive interface alone land Toast a #3 spot on this countdown. The servers and bartenders seem to like it quite a bit which is a big factor when choosing a POS, as they will be using it the most. It is competitively priced and they seem to be one of the front-runners of the new mobile tablet POS technology. However, the long term-lease and credit card process lock-in, along with the questionable and shaky tech support would make me pause and consider before purchasing.

#2 - BREADCRUMB

   VISIT BREADCRUMB

OVERVIEW: Breadcrumb has supposedly been built by servers and bartenders for the most intuitive approach for the staff, and I say supposedly, because lots of bar/restaurant industry companies like to say that, but it's not always true. In this case, I will say that the interface was very intuitive and easy to use, though the aesthetics weren't as pleasing as some. Like Toast, this is an iPad based POS system with the option to take your iPad right to the table and take orders and process payments. Also like Toast, they want to lock you into their payment processing plan.

WHAT'S GOOD ABOUT IT:

  • Specifically Designed For Restaurants
  • Table-Side Ordering
  • Table-Side Payments
  • Strong Reporting
  • CRM (Customer Relationship Management)
  • Employee Management
  • Customizable Interface
  • Easy to use for staff
  • Partnered With GrubHub
  • Online Odering
  • Discounts
  • Customer Loyalty Program
  • Offline Mode

WHAT'S NOT SO GOOD:

  • Glitchy service signal issues, causing system to go down
  • They are a payment process company first
  • Adding modifiers, menu items can be tedious, as well as transferring tables and comping tabs
  • Adding GrubHub is a large add-on expense
  • No floor plan, split checks or custom tips
  • No customer loyalty program
  • No PayPal or Quickbooks Integration
  • No free trial

SUPPORT (GOOD)

The overall support at Breadcrumb has been reported as quite good, which is what allowed them to leapfrog over Toast. They have 24/7 phone support, as well as online chat and tutorials. I have a few clients who use Breadcrumb and one of them allowed me to call tech support and pretend I had a problem and they were very friendly and responsive to my needs. For me, all POS systems will have cons, but if there is support there to help, I'm happy.

PRICING (MID-RANGE-COMPETITIVE)

Pricing is fair. A little higher than some, but still in that mid-range that's affordable for most mid-sized bars and restaurants.

Core: $99/mo. per location + $50 per additional terminal

Pro: $299/mo. per location + $50 per additional terminal

Set-up Fee: $1,000-ish

OVERALL

Though it seems like the Con list is a bit long, overall, Breadcrumb by Upserve is a very user-friendly and competent POS system, with modern table-side service. The biggest complaint seems to be about connectivity issues and the system going down, which is no small thing, as well as them locking you into the payment process deal, which can be a major regret for many owners. Though it's lacking a couple of features, I enjoyed using it. If you were to compare Toast and Breadcrumb side by side, Toast has a few better features while Breadcrumb has the support. You could flip-flop these two in the order based on your preference, but having a quality, intuitive system with great customer support lands this system at #2 for me.

And finally, the #1 POS system for bars and restaurants (drumroll please...even though you've probably already cheated and looked down before you were supposed to which makes you a total spoiler/downer)...

#1 - TOUCHBISTRO

   VISIT TOUCHBISTRO

OVERVIEW: Founded in 2012, this Toronto-based company is one of the pioneers of the iPad POS systems in which you can take orders and process payments at the table so you can do away with paper ordering and clunky POS systems. It is sleekly designed, easy-to-use (for both staff and owners/managers) and is used in more than 100 countries, powering 12,000 restaurants worldwide. After using, testing and surveying more than a dozen POS systems, TouchBistro, with all of it's savvy features and reports, is hands down my favorite system, and the top-rated system among those I surveyed. In addition, there are no messy payment processing contracts, or any contracts at all. Use it as long as you like and cancel when you like, and that freedom brings a peace of mind many companies can't provide.

WHAT'S GOOD ABOUT IT:

  • Great for all-sized businesses, including: cafe/bistros, family style restaurants, bars and grills, food trucks and fine dining restaurants
  • Built exclusively for restaurants
  • Free 24/7 phone and email support
  • Robust, intuitive and aesthetically pleasing reports
  • View reporting from anywhere at anytime either in the Cloud and on our Reports-To-Go app
  • Tableside ordering
  • Tableside payments
  • Modern, intuitive interface
  • Hybrid solution -  zero downtime
  • Only mobile POS designed to work offline indefinitely
  • Receipts emailed to customer
  • CRM management
  • Employee management
  • Customer loyalty cards and app
  • Easy bill-splitting
  • Customized yipping
  • Digital gift cards
  • Multi-location reporting
  • Runs on Apple hardware
  • FREE TRIAL

WHAT'S NOT SO GOOD:

  • Does not include an extensive inventory system
  • Some minor lag issues when switching between pages
  • Occasional connectivity issues, though few and far between

PRICING (MID-RANGE-COMPETITIVE)

Pricing is very reasonable for what you get. It starts at $69/terminal + hardware and services. Where Toast really gets you though is that they lock you into a contract for credit card processing and leave you no choice for other options.

SUPPORT (GOOD)

I'm not going to feed you horse shit and tell you it's filet mignon. The POS industry in general sucks at support and they have a looooooong way to go, but in my research with TouchBistro I found positive feedback from everyone, and my personal experience with them was excellent. They have a live person 24/7, as well as online tutorials.

OVERALL

Considering my pessimistic view of POS systems and companies, I couldn't be more fired up about finding TouchBistro. So much so that after using their system and speaking to my colleagues about it, I've since contacted TouchBistro and developed an affiliate partnership with them. That might sound biased, and it is. I only partner or affiliate with outstanding resources, tools and technology that I use or have used that I can recommend to my audience so they can have the most positive experience as well. In this case, TouchBistro has won me over as the most user-friendly, support-friendly and reasonably priced POS system on the market. AND they have a free trial. AND no contracts, limiting your risk.

CLICK HERE to set up a live demo or free trial.

If you have any questions or comments at all about POS systems, or you just want to send me a silly cat video, feel free to email me at anytime.

I'll see you next time,

Cheers,

Dave 

Tags:restaurant pos system how to buy a pos system bar inventory pos system restaurant point of sale system bar pos system best pos system for bar

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