A POS (‘Point of Sale’) refers to the technology used to sell a product to a customer, usually in-store. The POS service has to be affordable and linked with other services, most notably payroll, accounting, and inventory management.
As a customer, I know what a difference it makes to use a smooth and novel POS for easy payment. And as a business owner, I also know the difference it makes to have a seamless system that records payments and automatically updates inventory and tax, integrated with a website. For both classes of people, it’s really important.
The following is my experience with a number of point of sale systems for small business owners and an explanation of my 3 favorite services.
Table of Contents
- 3 Best POS Systems for Business Owners
- POS Comparison Table
- Benefits of an Efficient POS Technology
- How to Choose the Right POS Solution for Your Business
- Pricing Comparison Table
3 Best POS Systems for Business Owners
#1 – Square POS (Website): A perfectly well-rounded platform with modern terminals and slick web building and inventory management capabilities. Excellent for mobile food trucks and small business owners in general.
#2 – QuickBooks POS (Website): Great for medium-sized business owners that already use the suite of Quickbooks products, including accounting and payroll. Not cloud-based, and you pay an upfront fee to use.
#3 – TouchBistro (Website): A software designed specifically for restaurants with the features to match. Not cheap, but certainly worth the investment for restaurant owners. Excellent menu functionality.
|Vendor||Base Price||Pro Price||Best For||Summary|
|Square POS (Website)||$60 Per Month + $40 Per Terminal.||N/A||All Small Business Owners||Excellent Integration Between Payroll, Web Building, And Terminal Technology.|
|QuickBooks POS (Website)||One Time License Fee Of $960||One Time License Fee Of $1360||Businesses Using Quickbooks, Medium-sized||Powerful POS Technology For Owners Preferring A Local Install And Use Other QB Products|
|TouchBistro||$50 Per Month||$69 Per Month||All Kinds Of Restaurant Owners||Great For Restaurant Owners, But Real Price Is $229 For Those Who Want To Use ‘Reservations’ Feature|
#1 – Square POS
The number one POS technology for small business owners would have to be Square. Square point of sale has become increasingly popular in recent years, and with good reason. They offer specific packages for restaurant owners and for retail sellers. Square pretty much has it all and is perfect for business owners with a pronounced online presence. It bought out Weebly and now has its own site-building platform. With all the tools and plugins, this allows for seamless integration between inventory management, payroll, orders, and point of sale technology. Oh, it’s also very cheap, extremely cool, and with brilliant mobile functionality. I love it and recommend it to everyone.
Many Square users will have businesses that use iPads as a point of sale technology. So it is perfect for alternative independent coffee shops and certain restaurants that want to stand out. But it is also perfect for technology stores selling electronic products. Square point of sale is just cool and alternative, while also being extremely simple and efficient. Within the POS technology, you can manage inventory, receipts, and payroll. It takes the word ‘integrated’ to a whole new level.
The Square dashboard is awesome. And the tools within the Square site builder can be used to launch marketing campaigns linked to data obtained from the point of sales. That’s pretty sweet, So, what about the downsides associated with Square POS? There aren’t that many, but they are certainly there. It is not suited to larger business models, and the transaction fees are a tad more expensive than the competition. Businesses with large inventory and warehouse of products will find Square a little basic for their needs.
Other than that, this software rocks and is far ahead of the competition. If you are a small business owner looking for an affordable, functional, and stylish POS service, save yourself some time and get Square – you won’t regret it.
Businesses that are just starting out or that are still small, such as coffee shops. Also extremely popular and literally perfect for mobile businesses such as food trucks that need easy payments, stylish POS terminals, and basic inventory.
List of Features
- Inventory Management
- Point Of Sale
- Centralized Hub
- Card Reader
- Sales Analytics
- Excellent Mobile POS Technology
- Offline Mode
#2 – QuickBooks POS
It allows for seamless integration between all aspects of a business, which is a feature that can be hard to beat. It’s quite frustrating trying to sync up different software systems and can actually be something of a nightmare. Still, at $960 for the most basic package, can it truly be worth paying for Quickbooks POS?. Quickbooks POS is perfect for businesses that already use Quickbooks Accounting.
In certain instances, it actually can be. One reason is that it is a one-time purchase without any recurring fees. Square for Restaurants and Square for Retail costs $60 per month per location, and $40 per additional POS. That’s pretty expensive. In fact, it’s more expensive in a very short space of time compared to the prices offered by Quickbooks.
In two years you might spend as much on Square, with far fewer available features. Then there is also the fact that Quickbook card transaction fees are just 1%. The industry standard is around 2.5%. Meaning that if you take a long-term view and have a moderate to large-sized business, then Quickbooks could actually be a sound investment. Quickbooks excels in terms of its automatically updated inventory management and reporting analysis. These features become even more powerful if you have many Quickbooks platforms and want to cross-sync the data.
The integration also eliminates human error. Moreover, the Quickbooks CRM management toolkit is actually a lot better than the majority of competitors. Overall, the software is quite simple to use and streamlined, if as intuitive as Square. If you meet the following criteria, then you should definitely consider Quickbooks POS:
- You already use one or more Quickbooks products.
- You have annual revenue above ~$60,000 in sales.
- You have one than one retail location.
The reason you should have at least ~$60,000 in sales is that spending $1,000 or more on a POS system is not worth it if you have minimal sales. It is a disproportionate figure and you could allocate that capital elsewhere. Use cheaper alternatives first and when you are up and running then you can make the switch. Also, keep in mind that Quickbooks POS is not cloud-based, only works on Windows, and does not provide any hardware. Personally, it is not for my business model or preference, but the software itself works perfectly well with a rich feature set.
Medium to large-sized businesses that already use Quickbooks platforms. Especially worth it if you have more than one retail outlet.
List of Features
- Ring sales (basic)
- Accept contactless payments (basic)
- Track and manage inventory (basic)
- Ecommerce integration (basic)
- Manage customer data (basic)
- Basic reporting (basic)
- Works with more tablets (basic)
- Integrates with QuickBooks Desktop financial software (basic)
- Generate purchase orders (Pro)
- Rewards and loyalty program (Pro)
- Offer layaway and gift cards (Pro)
- Manage employees and payroll (Pro)
- Advanced reporting (Pro)
- Manage multiple stores (Multi)
- Manage and transfer inventory between stores (Multi)
- Advanced reporting by store (Multi)
#3 – TouchBistro POS
TouchBistro is probably the best POS service when it comes to restaurants. This is because TouchBistro was designed specifically for restaurants. Because it focuses on one industry, it has developed features and functions that are perfectly tailored to that industry.
TouchBistro is available only on IOS, and if you use more than one iPad, then you need a Mac computer to operate it. It is a hybrid system, meaning it is installed locally but the data is stored in the cloud. This is the most resilient system so your POS technology never goes down.
When it comes to functionality, TouchBistro is unparalleled for restaurants. All that a restaurant owner could want is there, whether you are large or small, with one or many restaurants. The tracking technology will even help you to layout your restaurant with tables and chairs to maximize efficiency. It tracks how frequently tables turn over. It facilitates easy online ordering as well as tableside order and checkout. This is perfect during COVID times. It offers excellent mobile POS functionality. Inventory management is superb.
If you run out of ingredients for a particular dish, the dish will be removed from the menu. It even has the capability to display how much each dish costs based on the individual ingredients. TouchBistro can also offer a strong loyalty program, though it comes at a cost of $99 per month. The loyalty features include:
- A CRM platform
- Customer web application
- Reward options
- Digital loyalty accounts for customers
- Marketing & rewards reporting analytics.
- Marketing tools to design & distribute promotions
Coming soon is TouchBistro Loyalty Premium, which will further include mobile payments, customer feedback, marketing automation, and In-app messaging.
Touchbistro offers more than 50 reports, but the area I liked the most about TouchBistro is employee management. You can assign as many employees as you like and further assign them particular roles, limiting what they can do. The platform has a built-in time clock and messaging system. It really has it all. It is easy to use with strong reporting features and is designed specifically for restaurants, including awesome inventory management.
There are few downsides to this particular Point of Sale service, but there are definitely some things you need to be aware of. There are not that many integrations with Touchbistro, though it happens to be an all-inclusive software anyway. It is a locally-based system with cloud connectivity, meaning that you won’t have any connectivity issues for payment (a definite no-no in the restaurant industry). But there will be an additional cost for the installation.TouchBistro is an excellent point of sale service for restaurant owners.
It’s pricey and you can only operate it on an IOS machine, but business owners who want to streamline their orders and inventory management would be hard-pressed to find better software. The customer service is quite slow, but it gets there and the team is professional. The price is the main downside:
- POS license – Starting at $69 per month
- Reservations – Starting at $229 per month
- Online ordering – Starting at $50 per month
- Gift cards – Starting at $25 per month
There is little doubt that TouchBistro is the most expensive POS on the market, with a 2.99% +$0.15c processing fee, which is well above average.
All manner of restaurant owners looking to move from paper tickets to something more modern and efficient. However, mobile food trucks and very small food outlets like cafes might be better with Square or something cheaper to start off.
List of Features
- Advanced Inventory Management
- Advanced Restaurant Management
- Customer Management
- Loyalty Programs
- Gift Cards
- Reporting Analytics
- Marketing Automation
- Employee Management
- Online Ordering
- Tableside Ordering
- In-App Messaging
- Mobile Payments
POS Comparison Table
The following table should give you a general idea of the 3 point of sale services and where they excel. As a quick recap, Square is the best solution for small business owners in general, Quickbooks is for business owners who already use similar Quickbooks products, and TouchBistro is for restaurant owners of all sizes.
|Price||Functionality||Inventory Management||Integrations||Ease of Use||Online Reviews|
Benefits of an Efficient POS Technology
What exactly are the benefits of point of sale technology, and do you really need them? Unquestionably, the answer is yes, you do. The point of sale technology is, firstly, the way you take payments from customers. There is a major difference in using a modern iPad in tandem with a contactless payment device. The customer can fill in their receipt preferences and how much they would like to tip on the screen. It is more modern and a better user experience for the customer. The customer can also decide to receive their receipt by email. Anybody who has done online marketing understands that email addresses are a golden form of information for advertisement. People tend to hold onto them for a long time. And this is only the beginning, at the payment level and on the level of customer experience. An efficient POS system will integrate a number of disparate systems. Inventory will be automatically updated and removed from the menu where it is no longer available. From a sales perspective, you can easily observe what items are selling, and at what time. You can better market to customers discounts and promotions. In sum, the benefits of an efficient POS system are:
- Improved Customer Experience
- Increased Marketing Opportunities
- Better Reporting
- More Methods Of Payment
- Streamlined Inventory Management
- Immune To Power Outages And Internet Failures (For Local Installs)
- Industry-Specific Systems Provide Customized Solutions
Different Kinds of POS SolutionsWhile it is possible to define POS solutions in terms of mobile, desktop, local, or cloud-based, the most efficient classification is for the industry type. Different POS solutions are designed for specific sectors and will thus have different features. It should make it easier for you to decide on the correct one.
- Restaurant POS – This includes technology such as TouchBistro. It will inevitably come with an inventory management function for food items as well as a reservation system so that customers may order. Restaurant POS technology also comes with online ordering, employee management, and the ability to track customer analytics in terms of orders and average time and money spent per visit.
- Bar POS – Most restaurant POS services can double for bars, but it does have its own unique area. The difference is that these POS services need to be fast. On a busy night where people are ordering many drinks, a delay cannot be entertained. It could lead to a serious loss of funds. iPad POS systems are not fast enough for bar environments and can have connectivity issues.
- Retail POS – You will never use a retail POS in a restaurant or vice versa. These tend to be a little more generic. But they still come with employee management, inventory management, purchase orders, and a customer database. However, these often do come with very sophisticated reports and analytics. Where possible, use an industry-specific POS as opposed to a general retail POS. Specialization is always better, even if it comes at a cost.
- Service-Based POS – Service/appointment-based businesses will also need to have a good POS system in place. This will basically be an appointment calendar where people can schedule and book appointments. Barbers, beauty salons, pet grooming, massage, tattoos parlous, and many other areas will require an easy platform so customers can view, book, cancel or alter up-and-coming appointments. It also allows for analytics and marketing, as you can easily view what customers are looking for.
This is a very broad scope in terms of POS solutions. There are a variety of classifications. Ultimately, you need to narrow down specifically what it is that you are looking for and find a POS merchant to cater to it.
How to Choose the Right POS Solution for Your Business
Selecting the right POS solution can have an incredibly profound impact on your business profitability and viability. If your system goes down and the vendor isn’t cooperating, it can be hell to try and migrate over without losing sales and customers. So take the following criteria into account before you go with any given POS provider.
- Pricing – How much does this POS solution cost per month/year? What percentage is this cost in comparison to total estimated sales? Are the features essential? It is worth [paying more if it really helps to streamline things.
- Ease of Use – Most of the specialized software will have something of a learning curve. In truth, this is not a major consideration. Because once you know how it works, then it will be smooth sailing. If it fails to work, this is an entirely different scenario.
- Workability – Potentially the most important consideration. Does it actually work when implemented? If your POS system does not work, then you will have a literal nightmare and lose a lot of money. This has happened to many people who opted for low-quality POS providers with poor customer service.
- Integration – Ideally, you will want to integrate as many systems as possible. The main ones will include accounting, payroll, inventory, sales, reporting, and employee management. You want to get a solution that caters to all of these, or, alternatively, has available integrations.
- Inventory Management – The POS service needs to be linked to your inventory. This is essential, especially for restaurant owners. It should automatically update when something has been sold. Some POS solutions offer only basic inventory management, which may not be enough for expanding businesses.
- Reporting – People make a lot out of reporting features. But at the end of the day, there are probably only a few metrics that you really need to make use of. Having sophisticated reporting functionality is a nice addition, but should not be a dealbreaker for most small businesses looking to streamline operations and enhance the customer experience.
- Local, Cloud, or Hybrid – A locally-based install with data kept in the cloud (a hybrid system) is best, as it is the most secure. Cloud-based solutions are the most popular as updates are automatic and you can access the data on any device. But there are certain reasons to go local, such as the one-time fee which works out more affordably on a longer time horizon.
- Sales Tracking – Your POS service should be able to track sales, preferably with a way to attain the email address, offer discounts, and provide a personalized sales experience for customers. The high-quality platform should also be able to formulate tax items making bookkeeping a whole lot easier.
- Point of Purchase Advertising – According to the latest research, customers are more likely to spend money when they have their wallets open. The POS solution should allow you to advertise at the point of sale as much as possible.
- Online Reviews – What are the current and previous customers saying? I always recommend going to TrustPilot and the BBB to check out all potential companies, regardless of what they advertise. Remember, this is the technology you will be using, to take payment and keep track of inventory, reservations, and receipts. It’s pretty important, so do your due diligence and work with a top-notch provider.
Pricing Comparison Table
To understand the pricing of the 3 software systems in-depth, this table should help. There are lots of factors to account for in terms of POS solutions. You will need to work out all of the costs, including the hardware, and decide what one works best for you.
|Brand||Hardware Included||Free Version||Basic||Pro||Advanced||Processing Fees||Additional Programs|
|Square POS||Yes||Yes||$60 Per Location +$40 Per Terminal (Square Retail & Restaurant)||N/A||N/A||2.6% +$0.10c||Square Appointments. Invoicing And Site Building Integrations|
|Quickbooks POS||No||No||One-Time License Fee – $960||One-Time License Fee – $1360||One -Time License Fee – $1520||1%||No – But Lots Of QB Integrations|
|Touchbistro POS||No||No||$50 Per Month (Online Ordering Only)||$69 Per Month||$229 Per Month (Reservations)||2.99% + $0.15c||Loyalty Program ($100 Per Month). Gift Vouchers
($25 Per Month
How Hard Is It to Implement POS Technology?
The implementation of POS technology is quite straightforward. You need a card terminal of some kind along with a software install on your local computer. There is some time needed to set up all details and sync all of the parts. But implementation actually begins prior to the install. You need to ask your staff what they are looking for, do research into the best technology, and train your staff from the start in the usage of POS technology. The more clear and organized you are in the implementation of the POS technology, the more benefits it will bring to you.
What Is the Average Cost for POS Technology?
The fact is that most POS systems are not all that cheap (with the possible exception of Square). If you are paying a one-time license fee for a local install, the cost will probably average around $1,000 – $2,000 depending on the chosen package. For monthly subscriptions for small businesses, you are typically looking at $40 – $80 per month. This will typically increase the more terminals you need, meaning you don’t really benefit from scaling in terms of POS pricing. Larger businesses will have to pay between $100 – $300 per month. While it is not cheap, it is not something you can do without. And you need to balance the added speed, marketing potential, and inventory management against the cost.
What Is the Main Benefit of POS Technology?
The main benefit is that you have a modern way of charging customers that is universally accepted, offering a variety of payment options. This enables customs to pay easily. But the customer experience will be even further enhanced when you use an iPad or alternative modern point of sale technology that customers prefer. You also get the benefit of syncing your inventory and other analytics with your POS, making tax and accounting a whole lot easier. If you have a website you can tie in online analytics with in-store sales for maximum sales. Finally, you can market to customers with point of sale advertising and email capture. All in all, there is a myriad of different benefits.
Are There Card Processing Fees with Each Transaction?
Yes, though this is mainly to do with the payment providers as opposed to the POS service. Typically, the transaction costs are around 2.5% +$0.10c. This is pretty standard. But there are often different charges depending on the type of payment. For instance, key-in payments (where you type in your pen) can be charged more, such as 3.5% with Square. It is often cheaper to tap or swipe. POS services will accept cash, credit, debit, and contactless payments from all of the major operators (Mastercard, Visa, American Express, etc).
What Is the Difference Between Local and Cloud-based POS?
There are a number of differences. With a local POS, the information can only be accessed on a server/computer in the store. With a cloud-based POS, information can be accessed from anywhere once you have the login details. The problem with a local POS is that if your computer is stolen or there is a fire, then your data is gone (unless you run regular backups). With the local POS, you also have to run manual updates. But local POS has the advantage of one upfront fee which works out a lot cheaper in the long run. And you can install a hybrid system for the best of both worlds.
The fact is that point of sale technology can be used to enhance the customer experience, increase marketing potential, speed up sales, and manage inventory and employees – all in one streamlined dashboard. Such benefits are profound in the fast-paced world of business. I recommend Square, Quickbooks, and TouchBistro, but for different categories of business owners. Square for all new or small businesses in general, Quickbooks for all businesses making use of other Quickbooks products and with a larger business presence, and TouchBistro for all restaurant owners.
Ultimately, however, it is your decision. Just make sure you work with a solid POS provider that offers a seamless and smooth experience for both you and your customers. It’s not an area for casual experimentation as it can be a very stressful experience if you have payment processing or reservation difficulties.