TouchBistro has enjoyed a fast rise in the restaurant POS world. Since launching in 2010, the point-of-sale (POS) provider has grown to power over 16,000 restaurants in more than 100 different countries, while processing over $8.5 billion in payments.
TouchBistro does live up to the hype. In particular, the low monthly costs for hardware and software make it a very good option for very small restaurants that can’t afford more expensive options. Even better, TouchBistro is a scalable solution that can keep providing you with additional functionality as your business grows.
What is TouchBistro POS?
TouchBistro is a POS system for restaurants, meaning it provides both the hardware and software restaurants need to run transactions. TouchBistro advertises solutions for full-service restaurants, quick-service restaurants, cafes, bars, nightclubs and even food trucks.
The POS software is designed to run specifically on the iPad and iPad Mini. It is locally installed, meaning it can run directly from your device and does not require hosting. If you are operating more than one register, you must download TouchBistro’s Pro Server application, which allows all iPads running TouchBistro to synchronize with each other. Note that you will need an internet connection to process payments, as TouchBistro does not offer in-house payment processing.
When you sign up for TouchBistro, the customer support team will provide you with in-person, one-on-one support to help you set up your hardware, account, menu and payment processing.
TouchBistro was made by people with restaurant-industry experience, meaning they have tried to add features that are manager and server-friendly.
TouchBistro requires you to integrate with a third-party payment service provider in order to accept debit and credit card payments. Among the most popular payment service providers TouchBistro works with are Square, PayPal, Worldpay and Chase Merchant Services. Your payment processing fees will depend on which provider you choose to work with.
Regardless of which option you go with, you’ll be able to accept all major credit cards and payment methods (swipe, dip, contactless). TouchBistro also provides functionality for splitting bills, taking multiple forms of tender for a single bill (cash, credit, gift card, etc.) and setting taxes and gratuity to automatically calculate at checkout. Other perks include the ability to punch in “card not present” transactions and the option to start bar tabs with the swipe of a card.
TouchBistro offers a really nice selection of hardware to accommodate a lot of different types of businesses:
Star Micronics Impact SP 700 series kitchen printer.
Star Micronics TSP100III series, TSP100 series and TSP650 II thermal printers.
Star Micronics TSP100III series, TSP100 series and TSP650 II series wireless thermal printers.
MMF Val-u-Line Series, APG models VBS320-BL1915-CC, VP320-BL1616 and VP320-BL1416 cash drawers.
S-certified Socket S740, S700, CHS 7Ci and CHS 7Qi barcode scanners.
iPad handheld strap.
TouchBistro also sells a variety of routers, keyboards, monitors and ethernet ports. Your credit card terminal is something you will have to acquire through your payment processor. TouchBistro will provide you with a hardware bundle that makes sense for your business, but the price is directly tied to how many registers (i.e. iPads) you plan to run the TouchBistro app on. The more registers you use, the more expensive your hardware bundle. There’s one other hardware piece offered by TouchBistro worth mentioning.
Digital Menu Board: TouchBistro sells a digital menu board for an additional $20 per month that allows you to display menu items from your POS onto a large mounted screen for customer convenience. The board can be customized to match your business’s branding.
TouchBistro offers a simple interface for tableside ordering. Using the POS, servers can browse the menu and punch in items and modifiers and then send the entire ticket to the kitchen when the order is complete. Tickets can be organized by table, name, date or amount, and orders can be voided in a matter of two taps. The POS can also arrange to have receipts printed or shared with the patrons via text or email.
Dining room management
Through TouchBistro’s floor plan and table management interface, you can lay out your entire restaurant floor plan, assign staff to sections and view availability in your dining room with ease. The interface also shows you how many people are sitting at a table, how long they have been sitting at the table and the amount they owe. If someone calls to ask for a reservation, you can associate a specific table at a specific time slot with that reservation.
Customer relationship management (CRM)
TouchBistro’s CRM database allows you to create customer profiles for those who patronize your restaurant on a regular basis and track their order preferences. With the customer’s permission you can also store payment information, making it possible to settle future bills without a card.
The TouchBistro POS features a clock-in/clock-out function that allows you to track employee hours worked. You can also assign custom titles to different employees and adjust their permissions in accordance with their roles. Communication can be streamlined between staff through an in-app messaging system. The POS can even calculate staff wages based on hours worked and evaluate cost of labor. TouchBistro also provides scheduling solutions via integration with 7Shifts.
Building and adjusting your menu can be done directly through the POS. Menus can be customized with photos and include ingredients, descriptions and cooking instructions to help your new staff learn the menu faster. You can also create multiple menus and menu categories and adjust their availability based on the time of day, set discounts on specific menu items and assign specific cooking instructions or modifiers to dishes to satisfy customer requests.
Through the POS you can create and track ingredients and receive costing and unit measure information, which can be used to determine ingredient-level food costs. The POS can also determine menu item profit margins so you can make the call whether a menu item stays or goes. When inventory is running low on a specific dish, the POS can notify staff so they can withdraw it from the menu.
TouchBistro comes preloaded with over 50 reports that can be run to help you gain valuable insight into your restaurant’s performance. Some of the areas you can access reporting on are sales, promotion performance, average tip amount, individual shift performance, void summaries and end-of-day reports. All data is updated in real-time and can be exported via PDF or CSV file or emailed to your staff. Through a partnership with Shogo, TouchBistro users can export their reports directly to QuickBooks or Xero.
TouchBistro also integrates with a few other in-house applications that cater to specific business types.
Self-ordering kiosk: For quick-service restaurants, TouchBistro will provide you with the software to turn one of your iPads into a user-facing kiosk, allowing patrons to follow simple steps to punch in their order and complete payment. The kiosk can be customized with your business’s branding, and the software will upsell customers with recommended add-ons. The kiosk runs on an iPad and integrates seamlessly with the rest of your POS. The pricing is quote-based and varies by the number of registers you have in use.
Kitchen Display System: Another type of software you can run on your iPad is TouchBistro’s Kitchen Display System, which provides a consolidated view of all unprepared items across all open tickets. Tickets can be sent directly from the POS and appear with a loud chime. Servers can also prioritize tickets via color-coding. The price of the Kitchen Display System is quote-based and depends on the number of registers you have in use.
Customer-facing display: Another little perk you can add to your POS is the ability to allow customers to review complicated orders via a customer-facing display. Simply pull up the display after completing an order and allow the customer to look it over. The display can be customized to match your business’s branding. The price of the customer-facing display is tied to the number of registers you have in use.
Loyalty program: Starting at $49 per month, TouchBistro Loyalty allows you to automatically collect and save customer information, offer gift cards and rewards points for dining at your restaurant and create targeted messages to your customers via email or text. There are more advanced versions of the loyalty program with additional features available for $99 per month and $189 per month.
TouchBistro’s Restaurant Success Team is available via phone and email to field customer inquiries 24/7, every day of the year — including holidays. TouchBistro also offers remote access, allowing a staff member to take control of your POS to diagnose issues. On the website you can find a Support Center complete with guides and webinars to help you run your restaurant. There is also TouchBistro’s VIP Community, an online network of fellow TouchBistro customers that can advise you on how to get the most out of your system.
TouchBistro lists pricing information on its website but defines it as more of a starting point depending on the software and hardware capabilities you are looking for. It’s important to note that these prices are billed annually and come with 24/7 customer service, onboarding help, software updates, reporting and unlimited users.
For quick-service restaurants, TouchBistro recommends the Solo plan. This plan starts at $69 per month for the software or $105 per month for the software and hardware bundle (billed annually) and allows you to use the TouchBistro software on one terminal. For restaurants that want to operate at least two terminals, TouchBistro’s Dual plan will allow them to do that starting at $129 a month (software only) or $209 a month for the software and hardware bundle.
The Team plan is designed for restaurants that want to have three to five terminals in use. It starts at $249 per month for just the software or $359 for the hardware and software combo. Finally, the Unlimited plan allows for the operation of six or more terminals and starts at $399 per month for the software or $539 per month for the software and hardware.
Note that TouchBistro offers 0% interest financing on its software and hardware bundles for qualified customers.
TouchBistro offers a lot of different options to satisfy a lot of different business types. Offering software additions like the self-serving kiosk and kitchen display menu is a nice touch. Plus, the software/hardware bundles are designed to help businesses of all shapes and sizes.
It might seem like a lot of money at first, but the prices TouchBistro charges for software and hardware bundles are actually quite reasonable when you consider how much restaurant POS hardware costs by itself. With TouchBistro, instead of laying out one lump sum, you get to pay off your hardware over time. TouchBistro also provides financing to those who cannot afford the monthly fees.
It’s not the biggest deal, but having to go to a third-party payment processor can be an annoying extra step that some customers don’t want to take. It is more convenient to have your POS and payment processor with the same company (and many merchant services providers do), so this is a mark against TouchBistro.
Most POS providers offer cloud hosting, but TouchBistro asks that you download a server application in order to locally host your system (if you are using more than one terminal).
Here are how customers rate TouchBistro on the major review websites:
G2 Crowd: 4.5 stars out of 5.
Capterra: 4.5 stars out of 5.
TrustPilot: 4 stars out of 5.
TrustRadius: 8.8 stars out of 10.
Better Business Bureau (BBB): B+.
In positive TouchBistro reviews, users tout TouchBistro’s ease of use, variety of reporting functions and the ability to customize the hardware and software to match their business’s needs. In negative TouchBistro reviews, users complained that the POS was only available for iPads, locked you into a one-year commitment and had slow or unresponsive customer service representatives.
TouchBistro POS alternatives
If you’re not sold on TouchBistro, here are some alternatives to consider:
Toast POS is another POS system designed specifically for restaurants. It receives very similar ratings on the major review sites. The two main differences are that Toast offers in-house payment processing and does not bundle hardware and software costs. That means it can be cheaper month-to-month to use Toast POS, but you’ll have to pay a lot upfront to get the hardware you need to get started.
Square for Restaurants
A cheaper restaurant POS alternative is Square for Restaurants. The software costs either $0, $60 or $299 and up per month and includes a good deal on payment processing (2.6% plus 10 cents). You’ll still have to splurge on your hardware, but Square’s kits are slightly cheaper than Toast’s and well-reviewed across the board.
A version of this article was first published on Fundera, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.