After you choose your POS partner, it’s time to decide which POS equipment is the best fit for your restaurant.

POS Equipment Buyer's Guide

Choosing the right point of sale (POS) system for your restaurant can be a strenuous task.

From hardware to software and all of the possible integrations, it can be hard to know where to start. So, let’s review some of the key POS equipment to keep in mind depending on your restaurant type.

But first, let’s cover some of the basics.

What is POS equipment?

Some restaurant point of sale systems have different POS hardware solutions to choose from. This often includes different terminal sizes, tablet types, and more. When your restaurant has so many moving parts, it’s important to make the right choice on POS equipment before you sign the quote so that you can start off on the right foot, regardless of if you’re opening a new restaurant or simply upgrading your current restaurant technology.

POS software, on the other hand, is the technology that runs the hardware. This decision can be just as important, if not more, than the hardware you choose as this will impact things like processing fees, reporting, and other key aspects of running your business.

Every restaurant type will require a cash drawer (unless you operate a cashless business) and a router to run the wifi connection. But how do you choose the specific POS equipment that is both commercial-grade and appropriate for your restaurant type?

Here’s a quick guide on the necessary POS equipment to consider for each restaurant type.

1. Full-service fine dining restaurant

A full-service restaurant is likely the most involved setup, with a hostess station, dining room, kitchen, and sometimes bar. Here are our recommendations for POS equipment for this restaurant concept.

Touchscreen terminal

A touchscreen terminal is a must. Choosing touchscreen hardware that includes table management capabilities will help your hosts seat guests effectively and your servers send food to the kitchen quickly. 

Mobile POS tablets

Handheld tablets empower servers to fire orders instantly to the kitchen and allow for tableside payments. They deliver a great guest experience and have been found to improve table turn times. With a mobile POS tablet, the table’s drink order is sent to the bar before the server even walks away. 

Kitchen display system (KDS)

A KDS allows you to route orders to specific screens, report on kitchen efficiency, track ticket times, and completely customize your kitchen layout with a wall-mounted kitchen display screen. Plus, you can highlight modifiers so they easily stand out, ensuring no mixups when it comes to dietary restrictions or special requests.

2. Quick-service fast casual restaurant

Fast casual restaurants require POS equipment that is, well, fast! The slower the terminal, the more time — and money — is wasted at the counter. Here are a few creative options for POS equipment that help improve your throughput.

Touchscreen terminal with a guest-facing display 

The touchscreen terminal is your first line of defense at the counter. There should be a maximum of three taps to send an order, keeping lines short and guests happy. A guest-facing screen allows the customer to see their order in real time to confirm accuracy. 

Mobile POS Tablets

Handheld POS devices are a lifesaver when your fast casual line is out the door. These devices make line busting a breeze. Simply send a cashier to the end of the line with a tablet and have them fire orders directly to the kitchen from there, ensuring that everyone is served quickly. Plus, more guests are likely to approach your restaurant if there isn’t an intimidating line. 

Restaurant kiosks

With restaurant kiosks, guests don’t even have to speak to anyone to place their order. Using a touchscreen kiosk, a guest can select every modifier their heart desires without the pressure of standing at the counter. Some kiosks allow you to incorporate add-ons and upsell prompts as guests order to increase check size potential as well. If the labor shortage is impacting your restaurant, kiosks are a great way to free up your staff to take care of other duties. 

3. Pizzeria or pizza shop

Similar to fast casual restaurants, pizzerias require POS equipment that is speedy and easy to use. Here are our recommendations.

Touchscreen terminal with software integrations

Much like fast casual restaurants, pizzerias require touchscreen terminals to be able to fire orders quickly, in as few taps as possible. A great software feature for pizzerias is having a direct integration with your third-party ordering systems, such as Doordash, Grubhub, and Uber Eats. Choosing POS hardware and software that helps streamline your off-prem and on-prem orders will make a huge difference for your pizza shop.

Kitchen display system (KDS)

Kitchen display screens that integrate with your online ordering system are extremely helpful for pizzerias. You can track ticket times and focus on the pizzas that need to be in the brick oven now. Gone are the days of fumbling with printed chits, a KDS keeps your cooks’ hands on the food rather than paper tickets.

Mobile POS Tablets

If your pizza shop offers table service, a handheld POS device will help your servers send orders to the kitchen with ease. Rather than writing down an order and walking it to a terminal, orders are fired right from the palm of the server’s hand. Plus, some POS tablets even allow for payments to be made right at the table. 

4. Bar or nightclub

While the entire operation is centered around the bar, some bars and nightclubs have kitchens as well. In order to optimize for bar service, table service, and even bottle service, here are a few recommendations for POS equipment.

Touchscreen terminal

A POS system that can be customized to your bar is key. When choosing a touch screen terminal, make sure you can quickly edit which beers are on tap, what color they appear as, and where they appear on the screen for fast ordering. Some POS software even allows you to add recipes to items, a key differentiator when it comes to training new bartenders. 

Mobile POS tablets

Encouraging bottle service? Want a less crowded bar? Empower your servers with handheld tablets so they can approach people at a table, order their drinks for them, and then pick them up at the bar quickly and easily.

Kitchen display system (KDS)

Many bars often serve food as well, but don’t think as much about their kitchen layout. Eliminate bottlenecks by connecting your front-of-house (FOH) and back-of-house (BOH). A KDS allows your servers to automatically route orders to the right station and can send notifications to the handheld POS device when the food is ready.

5. Cafe or bakery

A cafe or bakery is the restaurant type that most closely resembles retail. However, POS equipment for cafes and bakeries can be a little more specialized. Here are our recommendations.

Touchscreen terminal with guest-facing display

Not only do cafe terminals need to be fast, but they also need to be durable. In an environment where coffee is being served at speed, spills are inevitable. It’s important to find POS hardware that is durable and restaurant-grade. Oftentimes, Android terminals are more durable, reliable, and cost-effective than iPads, so keep that in mind when researching POS equipment. A guest-facing screen also allows guests to see their orders in real time, which can cut down on waste and unhappy customers — especially when it comes to those detailed lattes! 

Integrated loyalty programs

If your cafe or coffee shop has a lot of repeat guests, an integrated loyalty program will help you take advantage of that customer data while delivering a great experience for return visitors. Being able to offer incentives for repeat purchases or total spend can reward customers while helping you identify who your top guests are.

Contactless ordering

Most cafes and bakeries are counter-service only. But one great way to complement your POS technology is to introduce contactless ordering via QR code at the table. These QR codes are directly connected to your online ordering menu and allow guests to place a full order, or just an additional item at the end of a meal, without having to come to the counter.  

6. Food truck

Food trucks tend to have the most challenging setup for POS equipment. Space is limited, but with a proper wifi connection, a few point of sale hardware pieces can go a long way.

Touchscreen terminal

With a food truck, it’s important to look for a small terminal (some come in 10″, 15″, and 22″ sizes) that is bundled with a built-in card reader, receipt printer, 4/5 port switch, and cash drawer, so everything you need to take orders and payments is in one place. There’s no room for servers on a food truck, so be sure to go with a POS platform that is cloud-based! 

Mobile POS tablets

Want to ditch the terminal altogether? Go with handheld POS devices instead. Food trucks can be notorious for long lines. What if you could use one handheld device on the truck while a cashier walked through the line with a mobile POS tablet to take orders as well? Plus, mobile POS tablets are tiny and perfect for a food truck environment.

Kitchen display system (KDS)

You may be thinking, “I don’t have room on my truck for a screen,” but a KDS can be a game changer if you’re operating in a warm climate where you often have the windows down. Why? Well, printed tickets and wind don’t exactly mix! A KDS helps you go paperless on the truck and you’ll never have to worry about losing an order. 

Regardless of your restaurant type, it’s important to choose a POS platform that can grow with your business

Now that you know which POS equipment to look for, it’s time to start the search for a POS provider. 

While it’s important to find a POS system that offers each of these hardware and software options, it’s vital to go with a platform that is built for your restaurant. For example, some retail-based POS providers aren’t built with restaurants in mind. Be sure to compare POS platforms to find the best fit for your business.

Ashley Perssico

Ashley is a Sr. Associate of Content at Toast. She worked in a quick-serve pizza and sub shop in college and now she’s excited to slice up and serve technology articles for folks in the restaurant industry.