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Square for Restaurants, a comprehensive cloud-based point-of-sale system, is a good option for quick-service restaurants and is increasingly adding features for full-service restaurants. It integrates with a kitchen display system, a customer loyalty program and staff management tools. The pricing is easy to understand, and it uses a flat rate for payment processing.
Payment processing cost
Easy to scale up as your business grows.
Flexible system can adapt to restaurants of many types.
Other systems have more front-of-house features.
Limited inventory management.
How does Square work?
Square for Restaurants is based on its standard POS software with a few key food-service-related additions, like seat management and support for its kitchen display system. It also:
Has a customizable user interface.
Lets you build your menu by adding items with descriptions and photos.
Supports multiple locations.
There are two versions of Square for Restaurants: a free version and a paid version. While the free version doesn’t have every feature many larger venues might consider necessary — like the ability to match orders to each seat in your restaurant — it is one of the most comprehensive free restaurant POS systems available and can be a great fit for smaller operations that don’t need complex features.
Features common to both free and paid versions include:
The ability to build a website with Square Online and take orders on it.
The ability to show servers if you’re out of an item.
Basic reporting tools.
Restaurant Plus costs $60 per month for one POS device and $40 per month for each additional device. Additional features include:
The ability to make a floor plan.
The ability to open closed checks.
The option to assign orders to seats — not just tables.
24/7 live customer service.
Unlimited KDS use at no extra cost.
Advanced reporting tools.
Square doesn’t top the list for most complete restaurant POS system. For example, you’ll need to look to third-party software for reservation management if you use Square, whereas TouchBistro includes this feature. But Restaurant Plus has a robust list of features that will work for many, and its pricing is straightforward and competitive.
In addition to core POS features, Square’s entire ecosystem of products can support other common business functions:
Customer loyalty program management.
Gift card management.
Square uses apps that run on a variety of devices.
Magstripe reader for iOS or Android phone: Free.
Plug the reader into a phone and start swiping. (Note: A merchant who swipes a card that has a chip is probably going to be on the hook in any payment dispute.) Square also offers Tap to Pay on iPhone, which lets merchants accept card payments using only a regular iPhone with the Square POS app. Customers hold their cards or their own iPhone wallets near the merchant's phone to pay.
Wireless reader: $49.
Accept chip cards, contactless payment, Apple Pay and Google Pay with Square’s wireless reader.
Swivel iPad stand: $149.
The stand has a built-in card reader. The iPad is not included.
This all-in-one hand-held device accepts card swipes, dips and taps. It also prints receipts.
Square’s Register includes a built-in touch screen for you and a smaller, customer-facing touch screen.
Kitchen display system
Square’s KDS replaces printed tickets in the kitchen with a touch screen. It runs on an iPad and can route one order to multiple places, like burgers to the grill and onion rings to the fry station. You can create custom notifications, like an alert when a table’s food is taking too long, and use kitchen-specific reports to review performance.
If you have the free plan, each KDS display costs $20 per month. Square Plus comes with unlimited KDS support at no extra cost.
Every time you process a card transaction with Square, you’ll pay a percentage plus a flat fee.
2.6% plus 10 cents for in-person transactions (2.5% plus 10 cents with Retail Plus plan).
2.9% plus 30 cents for online transactions or invoices without a card on file.
3.5% plus 15 cents for manually keyed transactions or card-on-file invoices.
Benefits of Square
Easy to quickly scale up or down
With contract-free subscriptions and a big lineup of products, Square can keep up with the quick pace of change found in the restaurant world.
You can also easily add features, like KDS or customer loyalty management, on an as-needed basis without reconfiguring an old contract or making a long-term commitment to a new one.
Offers flexible tools that are simple to set up and simple to use
The ability to configure Square’s hardware and software in different ways makes it a good fit for different types of food-service businesses:
A single iPad on a swivel stand paired with a customer loyalty program could work well for a small coffee shop hoping to attract repeat customers.
A KDS and a website could be the right fit for a ghost kitchen with a digital-first approach.
Three or four Square Terminals in a row can help move customers swiftly through a fast-casual restaurant at lunchtime.
Drawbacks of Square
Other systems have more front-of-house features
Some full-service restaurants might benefit from certain features Square doesn’t have, like Lightspeed’s option to add suggested wine pairings or detailed dish descriptions for servers to review, or TouchBistro's fully integrated reservation management system.
Limited inventory management
If you want a POS that has advanced inventory baked in, you’ll need to look elsewhere, like Upserve by Lightspeed. If you don’t mind third-party services, Square does integrate with third-party inventory-management services like MarketMan and Peachworks.
Alternatives to Square
Toast: for restaurant-specific hardware
2.99% plus 15 cents per transaction, if you choose pay-as-you-go option on hardware.
2.49% plus 15 cents for card-present transactions, if you pay for hardware upfront.
3.50% plus 15 cents for card-not-present transactions, if you pay for hardware upfront.
Why we like it: Toast builds POS software and hardware exclusively for restaurants. Its KDS was built to withstand the high heat and grease found in kitchens. Square’s KDS relies on an iPad and a tough case. Toast’s hand-held device is slim enough to slip in an apron pocket, whereas Square’s is a little too clunky for that.
TouchBistro: for a long list of features
TouchBistro does not offer payment processing.
Why we like it: If you are looking for a POS system that can manage a high level of complexity, consider TouchBistro. It allows customers to note allergies and special occasions along with their reservation, keeps track of your top customers and ensures they're getting a consistently great experience, and gives you access to more than 50 reports about your restaurant’s performance.