Square for Restaurants is based on its standard point-of-sale (POS) software with several key food-service-related additions, like menu and table management, automatic gratuity, order management and support for its kitchen display system (KDS). It also has a customizable user interface, lets you easily build and edit your menu, and supports multiple locations.
There are two versions of Square for Restaurants: a free version and a paid version. Although 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:
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 offers this as an add-on feature. But Restaurant Plus has a robust list of features that will work for many — including the ability to create floor plans, open closed checks, manage courses and assign orders to specific seats rather than just tables — and its pricing is straightforward and competitive.
Square for Restaurants is best for businesses that:
Aren’t looking to sign a long-term contract. Unlike some other purpose-built restaurant POS systems, Square doesn’t require a contract, so no surprise termination fees here.
Don’t mind app integrations to round out their system. While Square for Restaurants is a rather robust POS (especially given its cost) and has continued to grow in capability, some restaurants will need to rely on third-party app integrations to build the complete system their business needs.
Also have an online presence. Both Square’s free and paid restaurant POS plan comes with access to Square Online, which enables you to build a custom online-ordering site for your restaurant that real-time syncs all your in-person and online orders.
Payment processing model
Payment processing fees
2.6% plus 10 cents for in-person transactions.
2.9% plus 30 cents for online transactions.
3.5% plus 15 cents for manually keyed transactions.
$0 for Square POS, Restaurant, Retail and Appointments Free plans.
$29 for Square Appointments Plus plan.
$60 for Square Restaurant and Retail Plus plans.
$69 for Square Appointments Premium plan.
$0 for Square magstripe-only card reader ($10 for each additional) or if using Tap to Pay for iPhone (iPhone not included).
$49 for Square Reader contactless and chip card reader.
$149 for Square Stand iPad POS or Square Stand Mount (iPad not included).
$299 for Square Terminal mobile card reader with built-in printer.
$799 for Square Register two-screen system.
$659-$1,479 for various bundles of stands, cash drawers, printers and card readers.
No contract. Upgrade, downgrade or cancel at any time without penalty.
Phone support 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pacific time, Monday to Friday, for the free version. 24/7 support for premium subscribers.
Where Square for Restaurants stands out
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 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.
In addition to core POS features, Square’s entire ecosystem of products can support other common business functions:
Flexible 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.
Kitchen display system solution
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 customize the layout of your ticket 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.
Competitive payment processing rates
Every time you process a card transaction with Square, you’ll pay a percentage plus a flat fee. Square’s flat-rate processing fees are some of the most competitively priced ones in this space.
Try our calculator below to see how Square’s processing fees will impact your revenue for in-person, online, and manually keyed-in transactions.
Where Square for Restaurants falls short
Lacking in front-of-house features
Some full-service restaurants might benefit from certain features Square doesn’t have, like Lightspeed Restaurant’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 Lightspeed Restaurant POS. If you don’t mind third-party services, Square does integrate with third-party inventory-management services like MarketMan and Peachworks.
Alternatives to Square for Restaurants
Payment processing fees:
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.
$627 for Handheld Starter Kit (but $0 if you agree to a higher processing fee).
$875 for Countertop Starter Kit (but $0 if you agree to a higher processing fee).
$1,009 for Guest Self-Service Starter Kit (but $0 if you agree to a higher processing fee).
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. Read our full Toast POS review.
$69 for base plan.
$25 for gift cards feature.
$50 for online ordering feature.
$99 for loyalty features or marketing features.
$229 for reservations feature.
Payment processing fees: Quote-based if you use TouchBistro Payments; can also choose from third-party payment processors.
Hardware: Not disclosed. An iPad is necessary to run TouchBistro software. IPads, cash drawers, routers, printers, mini servers, keyboards and other accessories are available by quote only. You may also have the option to use your existing equipment.
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. Read our full TouchBistro review.
Compare POS providers
To compare POS options, check out NerdWallet’s list of point-of-sale systems that are best for small-business owners. Our recommendations are based on the provider’s pricing and transparency, software and hardware options, system functionality, customer support, software integrations and contract requirements.