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Toast is a point-of-sale system for restaurants. Its wide range of hardware options and restaurant-friendly features make it easy to accept, manage, prioritize and track food orders.
If you’re in the food and beverage business, Toast should be at the top of your list. While you need to do a little homework to get a true picture of what it costs, it has earned its reputation of being a robust and versatile platform for restaurants with solid customer support.
Toast deciding factors
Quote-based pricing for hardware, payment processing and custom software packages, which can make it tough to quickly compare.
Pricier than some competitors. Toast offers preconfigured versions of its POS system for free, $140 and $165 per month. Custom plans are also available.
Strong lineup compared to competitors, but pricing is difficult to compare. Options include desktop terminals, handheld device, kitchen display terminal and customer kiosk.
On a par with peers. Email marketing, customer loyalty programs, employee scheduling, payroll and delivery services.
Excellent options relative to peers. Includes online ordering page, access to Toast’s Takeout app and in-restaurant Order & Pay service that lets customers order with phone using table-specific QR codes.
Customer service availability
Excellent. Offers 24/7 support for all plans. While many peers offer 24/7 services at some levels, not all offer it at all pricing levels.
Hardware options and online ordering tools make it easy to take orders in a wide range of settings.
Software includes multiple-location support and strong reporting features.
24/7 customer service comes standard with all pricing levels.
Quote-based pricing makes it tough to quickly compare prices.
Requires a long-term contract.
How does Toast work?
Toast combines a point-of-sale system, custom-built hardware and payment processing.
A customer’s order can be taken in different places: at a checkout counter using a touchscreen monitor, tableside using a handheld device or at a checkout kiosk. You can give customers the option to place orders online, including at a table in your restaurant. Orders can be sent to a kitchen display system, also made by Toast.
Toast offers supporting services that tie into its POS system, including:
A customer loyalty program.
Food delivery services.
Scheduling and payroll.
In-depth reports, including real-time sales, guest feedback, discounts and sales by location.
Integrations with third-party software providers, including restaurant-specific services such as the meal delivery app Grubhub and reservation apps OpenTable and Tock.
When a customer pays with a card, Toast processes the payment and sends you funds within one or two business days.
How much does Toast cost?
Payment processing fees
For each transaction, you'll pay a fee. The fee is quote-based and is based on factors such as your restaurant model (for instance, whether you have a sit-down restaurant or a bar).
Toast offers a variety of hardware with quote-based pricing, including devices for service staff and kitchen staff, and a kiosk option for customer self-service. You can choose to pay for the hardware upfront or in monthly payments.
Toast Flex: 14-inch touchscreen that can swivel to customers. You can also add a dedicated guest-facing 8-inch screen.
Toast Go 2: Phone-size device that takes orders and card payments (swipe, tap, and insert).
Restaurant self-order kiosk: Large touchscreen on a stand.
Kitchen display system: Durable monitor for kitchen, replacing the need for paper tickets.
Starter: Free or $69. Take orders and view reports with this basic option. It doesn’t come with online ordering or staff management features. This plan comes with one terminal, payment device and terminal. You can choose either no monthly payments with higher processing fees or $799 upfront and $69 per month with lower processing fees. Choosing the latter gives you a payment processing fee that’s half a percentage point cheaper per swipe.
New Restaurant Basics: $140 per month. This plan combines Starter features with basic team management features, like payroll and scheduling. It does not include online ordering services. Hardware, installation and payment processing costs are custom.
Essentials: $165 per month. Essentials takes the features found in the Starter plan and adds digital ordering, delivery services and access to Toast’s Takeout app. It does not include staff management tools. Hardware, installation and payment processing costs are custom.
Side-by-side plan comparison
Starter (free or $69/month)
New Restaurant Basics ($140/month)
Essentials (starts at $165/month)
In-person dining, basic hardware.
In-person dining, basic payroll and staff management, custom hardware setup.
In-person dining and online ordering.
Yes (Toast Flex, Toast Tap and a router).
Yes (custom configuration).
Yes (custom configuration).
24/7 customer service
Reporting and analytics
Online ordering + Toast takeout app
Payroll and staff management
What kind of restaurant is the Toast POS system best for?
Toast is a good fit for many types of restaurants. It's NerdWallet's pick for best POS system for restaurants overall, and is an especially good fit for midsize-to-large restaurants, coffee shops, bars and fast-casual dining venues. In particular, it benefits restaurants that want to accept orders in a variety of ways, including at an in-store kiosk, on an app at home or on their own phones while in the restaurant. It also allows you to coordinate among multiple locations. Its kitchen display system, which syncs with POS systems in front, helps with prioritizing tickets.
However, Toast isn't the best option for restaurants that aren't in a position to commit to a contract that lasts a year or longer. Newer restaurants might prefer looking into POS systems that offer month-to-month subscriptions and free cancellation until they become more established.
Benefits of Toast
Multiple ways to accept orders, including online ordering
In addition to the terminals and portable devices you probably expect to see, Toast also offers:
Customer self-serve kiosks.
Toast Order & Pay, a system that allows dine-in guests to order and pay from their own devices.
App-based ordering via the Toast TakeOut & Delivery app, which competes with apps like Grubhub and DoorDash.
Online ordering through a page linked directly to your POS system.
You’d be hard-pressed to find another POS system that offers this many options for accepting orders.
Built specifically for the restaurant industry
Some POS systems are designed to work in a variety of other industries, like retail, while Toast is made exclusively for restaurants. That focus shows in details like hardware built to survive spills, grease and heat and software that can handle complex demands for order modifiers, like adjusting the cost for toppings on a pizza depending on the pizza’s size.
Live customer service 24/7 at every pricing level
Business hours for restaurants are anything but standard. That makes Toast's 24/7 customer support, which is even available on the Starter plan with no monthly fee, all the more valuable.
Easily manage multiple locations
If your restaurant has multiple locations, Toast makes it easy to keep information current, even if different locations have differences in menu or prices. When creating reports, you can view data by location or group locations together. And even for those with a single physical location, if your restaurant has an online presence you might run into similar problems staying organized. With Toast, changing the central menu will automatically update it online and on Toast’s app.
Drawbacks of Toast
Quote-based pricing makes it hard to compare
With Toast, payment processing fees are quote-based, varying from one customer to the next, as are hardware and software in many cases. This means more work for potential customers upfront: You’ll need to have a consultation with a Toast rep in order to receive an estimate.
Switching or canceling can be expensive
To sign up with Toast, you’ll need to sign a contract. The first contract usually is for one to three years and is typically renewed in yearly increments. Leaving prior to the contract’s end date will cost you. Specifically, you could be on the hook for paying software fees for the remainder of your contract term.
Alternatives to Toast
Square for Restaurants: More transparency, easier to switch
Square for Restaurants offers plenty of useful features, such as table and menu management capabilities and multi-location setups. Subscription fees are month-to-month with no fees for early termination and it's easy to cancel or switch if needed. Square also lists its fees for software, hardware and payment processing online, making it possible to do some preliminary comparison before getting a full quote.
Clover: Affordable prices, top-notch hardware
Clover offers a variety of excellent hardware options for restaurants at a reasonable price. The company's POS software for quick service restaurants starts at $44.95 per month plus the cost of hardware. For those eyeing the Toast Go 2, an all-in-one handheld device for accepting card payments away from the counter, the Clover Flex could also be worth a look. It's a similar product priced at $499.