Square POS for Restaurants 2022 Review: Pricing, Features, Alternatives

Square is a great point-of-sale option for quick-service restaurants; it's quickly becoming a solid choice for full-service restaurants, too.
Apr 22, 2022

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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.

Square Restaurant POS

Square
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on Square's website

Deciding factors

Price

  • Square Plus costs $60 per month plus $40 per month per additional POS device.

  • Square also offers a free version with fewer features.

Hardware cost

  • Square-made hardware ranges from $299 for a hand-held device to $799 for a fully featured terminal.

  • You can also run POS and a kitchen display system — or KDS — on devices you provide.

  • Card readers and stands range from free to $149.

Payment processing cost

  • 2.6% plus 10 cents for in-person transactions.

  • 2.9% plus 30 cents for online transactions.

Contract length

  • No contract.

  • Cancel at any time without penalty.

Live support

  • Phone support 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time, Monday to Friday, for the free version.

  • 24/7 support for premium subscribers.

Pros

  • Easy to scale up as your business grows.

  • Flexible system can adapt to restaurants of many types.

Cons

  • Other systems have more front-of-house features.

  • Limited inventory management.

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How does Square work?

Square POS

(Photo courtesy of Square)

Software

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.

  • Tipping support.

  • 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.

  • Course management.

  • 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.

Additional services

In addition to core POS features, Square’s entire ecosystem of products can support other common business functions:

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Hardware options

Square uses apps that run on a variety of devices.

Magstripe reader for iOS or Android phone: Free.

(Photo courtesy of Square)

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.)

Wireless reader: $49.

A vender holds the Square reader in one hand with a credit card inserted into it and his smartphone in the other. A vegetable market stand is in the background.

(Photo courtesy of Square)

Accept chip cards, contactless payment, Apple Pay and Google Pay with Square’s wireless reader.

Swivel iPad stand: $149.

(Photo courtesy of Square)

The stand has a built-in card reader. The iPad is not included.

Terminal: $299.

(Photo courtesy of Square)

This all-in-one hand-held device accepts card swipes, dips and taps. It also prints receipts.

Register: $799.

(Photo courtesy of Square)

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.

Payment processing

Every time you process a card transaction with Square, you’ll pay a percentage plus a flat fee.

  • 2.6% plus 10 cents per in-person transaction.

  • 2.9% plus 30 cents per online transaction.

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.

Square Restaurant POS

Square
Shop Now

on Square's website

Alternatives to Square

Toast: for restaurant-specific hardware

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 and has limited features compared to the iPad version.

TouchBistro: for a long list of features

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.