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If you’ve ever faced a throng of caffeine-craving customers from behind the register, you know how important it is to have a reliable point-of-sale system. The right POS system will keep the line moving, include easy-to-use features, and help turn customers into regulars. Look for a system that offers customer-facing displays for tipping, loyalty programs, employee time-tracking features and online ordering options.
Here are NerdWallet’s picks for best coffee shop POS system.
Square: Best overall
Software pricing: Free and up.
Hardware pricing: $739 for the Square Stand Kit, which includes an iPad stand, card reader, cash drawer and receipt printer. (An iPad can be bought through Square or elsewhere.)
Payment processing: 2.6% plus 10 cents per in-person transaction; 2.9% plus 30 cents per online transaction.
Why we like it: Square is easy to use and built to incorporate customer-facing displays for tipping. The Square Stand swivels to face the customer, while the Square Register has a separate customer-facing screen. The free software plan, which comes with an online ordering page, may be sufficient for smaller coffee shops. With an array of add-ons, plan tiers and kitchen display system hardware, the product leaves room for growth, too.
» MORE: Best small-business apps
Clover: Best for taking payments from customers in line
Software pricing: $44.95 per month and up.
Hardware pricing: $749 for the Clover Mini, a compact POS system with a built-in receipt printer; cash drawer and swivel stand sold separately.
Payment processing: 2.3% plus 10 cents per card-present transaction; 3.5% plus 10 cents per keyed transaction; also works with third-party payment solutions.
Why we like it: Clover's core software plan for counter service restaurants like coffee shops includes a loyalty program and no-fee online ordering. Clover Flex and Mini POS systems are equipped with LTE, a standard for wireless data transmission, which will kick in during Wi-Fi outages and allow cashiers to continue taking orders as usual. And if your coffee shop deals with long lines, the handheld Flex POS system enables staff to take orders anywhere.
Toast: Best for larger coffee shops that serve food
Software pricing: Free and up.
Hardware pricing: $799 for the Starter plan, which includes a Toast Flex POS terminal, Toast Tap payment device and router; customer-facing displays, printers and cash drawers sold separately.
Payment processing: Toast uses quote-based pricing for most plans. The Starter kit has predefined rates of 2.49% plus 15 cents per card-present transaction if you pay for hardware upfront. If you opt for the $0 upfront option, the rate is 2.99% plus 15 cents per card-present transaction.
Why we like it: As NerdWallet’s best overall pick for restaurant POS systems, Toast is a solid pick for coffee shops that sell made-to-order food options and plan to expand. Highlights include an offline mode, in-house delivery service, the Toast TakeOut app for online ordering, a $50-per-month loyalty program and a kitchen display system.
TouchBistro: Best customer relationship management platform
Software pricing: $69 per month and up.
Hardware pricing: Quote-based.
Payment processing: TouchBistro Payments is quote-based; also works with third-party payment solutions.
Why we like it: TouchBistro's software is locally installed, meaning it’s fully functional in the event of a Wi-Fi outage. Just make sure your payment processor is integrated with the POS or has its own offline mode so you can continue accepting payments. The company’s loyalty program, which starts at $99 per month, doubles as a customer relationship management platform. The program keeps track of customer data like allergies, birthdays and preferences, and sends targeted offers to customers, making it easier to recognize repeat customers and their orders.
Lavu: Best cash discount program
Software pricing: $59 per month and up.
Hardware pricing: Lavu’s POS terminals use iPads, which can be bought through Lavu or elsewhere. The Vault Pro iPad enclosure is $175. Stands, rotation bases, receipt printers and cash drawers sold separately.
Payment processing: Lavu Pay, the system’s integrated solution, is quote-based; using a third-party payment processor costs $25 per month per terminal.
Why we like it: Lavu’s terminals are entirely iPad-based and business owners can piece together their hardware components, all the way down to the rotation bases and brackets. One of the company’s most unique features is its cash discount program that rewards customers for paying in cash and upcharges those who pay with a card.
How to choose a coffee shop POS system
Here are some of the most important questions to ask while comparing your options:
Does the system charge a monthly fee to integrate with your accounting software?
Does the terminal come with a customer-facing display? Can you add one to it?
Can you set tipping options on the customer-facing display?
Does the company offer mobile POS options for taking orders from customers standing in line?
Will an offline mode kick in when the Wi-Fi inevitably goes out?
Customizability and loyalty
Can employees add special notes to orders?
Is there a loyalty program that rewards customers for each visit?
Will the system help your employees spot regulars and remember their orders?
Is there an online ordering option or order-ahead option available?
Does the system let you accept contactless payments?
Are you stuck with the in-house payment processor, or can you use a third-party processor?
Does the system let employees easily clock in and out?
Does it let employees tip out when a shift is over?