Toast and Square stand out as two of the most popular restaurant POS systems available in the market.
But how do you choose the right one for your needs?
In this guide, I will provide you with a comprehensive breakdown of the key differences between these two all-in-one restaurant management and commerce platforms.
This is what you will get:
- An overview of each system: Toast and Square for Restaurants
- A detailed comparison of their features
- My overall impression and insights on the differences between these two platforms.
By the end of this guide, you will have a clear understanding of which system aligns best with your requirements. Let’s get started!
Toast POS: The Restaurant-Centric Powerhouse
The most innovative POS system on the market
Best for food service businesses that want advanced online ordering, take-out, and delivery features.
- Rapid development of new features
- Toast Takeout system
- Rugged mobile hardware devices
- Android only
- Locked into Toast payment processing
In recent years, Toast has emerged as a major player in the restaurant technology industry. With rapid growth and a series of high-profile acquisitions, Toast has positioned itself as a one-stop shop for restaurant owners and operators, aiming to become a total restaurant operating system.
Toast has been recognized as one of the most innovative companies of 2023 by Fast Company. It offers one of the most feature-rich platforms on the market, providing payment processing, inventory and menu management, marketing and customer loyalty programs, employee management, labor and food cost control, business reporting, and much more.
Despite its extensive features, Toast keeps its pricing reasonable, making it one of my favorite restaurant POS systems available today.
Who is Toast for?
Toast is a POS that can work for a wide variety of food and hospitality businesses including full-service restaurants, quick-service restaurants, cafes, bars, food trucks, and more.
Toast is also highly scalable, making it a good fit for businesses of all sizes – from small businesses to large enterprises. The system can scale up as your business grows over time.
Noteworthy Features of Toast
- Integrated Reservation and Waitlist Management: Toast Tables is your one-stop-shop for reservations and waitlists, fully integrated with your POS and Kitchen Display Systems.
- Real-Time Table Updates: Keep tabs on table statuses, from guest orders to payments, all in real-time.
- Marketing and Loyalty Program Integration: Guests can check out your menu and even sign up for your loyalty program before they arrive. It’s a win-win for customer retention.
Toast Online Ordering and Delivery
- Streamlined Management: Manage online orders and deliveries in real-time, reducing errors and improving customer satisfaction.
- Order with Google Integration: A smooth ordering experience right from Google search, without the need for customers to visit your website.
Toast Mobile Order & Pay
- Convenience at Its Best: Guests can scan a QR code, browse your menu, place an order, and pay, all from their mobile device.
- Boost in Revenue: Restaurants typically see a 10-12% increase in processing volume with this feature.
Toast Contactless Payments
- Safety First: In the post-pandemic world, contactless payments are not just convenient; they’re a necessity.
- Multiple Options: From Apple Pay to Google Pay, offer your guests a variety of contactless payment methods.
Toast Tableside Ordering and Payments
- Efficiency and Accuracy: Take orders directly at the table for faster service and fewer errors.
- Enhanced Guest Experience: Let your guests split the check, add tips, and make payments right from their table.
- Open API: Integrate with popular platforms like Grubhub and Uber Eats or even create custom integrations to suit your specific needs.
Toast is not just a POS system; it’s a comprehensive solution that understands the unique challenges of the restaurant industry. From reservations to payments, it’s designed to make your life easier and your business more profitable.
More information on Toast:
My detailed Toast Review provides an even more in-depth look into this restaurant POS system.
Compare Toast vs. top restaurant POS alternatives
And finally, to try Toast out, head over to pos.toasttab.com
Square: The Versatile All-Rounder
Best for small restaurants and coffee shops
A small business POS for eateries that need a subscription-free plan, smooth transactions and easy-to-operate retail features.
- Subscription free plan
- No long term contracts
- Integrates with the Square ecosystem
- Lacks some advanced features
- No on-site support
While Square started as a general POS system, it’s adapted well to the unique needs of restaurants with the introduction of Square for Restaurants. It is a sleek, user-friendly POS system that’s suitable for a variety of food service businesses. What sets it apart? It’s intuitive, offers a free plan, and comes with robust marketing features.
Who is Square for?
Square is a good choice for:
- Smaller Restaurants: From fast food to fine dining.
- Cafes: Ideal for places that serve coffee, tea, and light snacks.
- Food Trucks: A mobile-friendly solution for businesses on the go.
- Fast-Casual Restaurants: Quick service without compromising on quality.
- Bars and Breweries: Manage customizable drink menus and age verification.
- Ghost Kitchens: Perfect for delivery-only businesses without a physical dining space.
However, if you’re a high-volume establishment or a full-service restaurant with complex operations, you might find Square lacking in some areas.
Noteworthy Features of Square for Restaurants
- Versatility: Accept payments through Apple Pay, Android Pay, and all major credit cards.
- Offline Mode: Process payments even without an internet connection.
- Compliance: Meets Payment Card Industry standards.
Square Team Management & Payroll
- Staff Management: Handle scheduling, time-off requests, and access customization.
- Integrated Payroll: Seamlessly integrated with Square Payroll for automatic payroll processing.
Square Online for Restaurants
- Commission-Free: Create your own mobile-friendly website for online ordering without any commission costs.
- Delivery Options: Choose from curbside pickup, staff delivery, or courier delivery.
Square Marketing & Loyalty Overview
- Customer Engagement: Use personalized email/text campaigns and social media integration.
- Repeat Business: Retain customers with automated campaigns and a loyalty program.
Square Kitchen Display System (KDS)
- Real-Time Sync: Keep the front and back of the house in sync with real-time order updates.
- Customizable Alerts: Set up timers and alerts to manage your kitchen efficiently.
“Square is not just for retailers; it’s now a solid option for restaurants too.”
More information on Square:
My detailed Square for Restaurants Review provides an even more in-depth look into this restaurant POS system.
Compare Square vs. top restaurant POS alternatives
And finally, to try Square out, head over to squareup.com
Feature Comparison: Toast vs. Square
Ease of Use
- Toast POS: Intuitive navigation makes it easy to find what you need.
- Square: Modern and familiar user interface design simplifies learning and operation. The system is easy to set up and doesn’t require much training.
- Toast POS: In-house credit card processing only. No third-party processors are allowed, offering a seamless but less flexible solution.
- Square: Accepts payments via Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay, and Google Wallet, as well as all major credit and debit cards. Square requires you to use its platform for payment processing.
- Toast POS: Highly customizable with options for seasonal or rotating menus.
- Square: Decent basic menu management system, enables you to handle menu items, inventory, and pricing. You can create distinct menus for various times of day, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- Toast POS: Real-time tracking with analytics and reporting to help you manage your stock efficiently.
- Square: Allows you to track essential information such as stock levels, cost of goods sold, and item variances. This helps maintain an accurate record of the inventory.
- Toast POS: Comprehensive features include scheduling and labor cost control, helping you manage your team efficiently.
- Square: Handles scheduling, managing, and paying employees from your Square POS. Integrated with Square Payroll, which automates tip and commission calculations.
Online Ordering & Delivery
- Toast POS: Robust features including real-time tracking and third-party integrations.
- Square: Offers a free add-on that allows businesses to build and design their own mobile-optimized websites for online ordering. Supports multiple delivery options including on-demand DoorDash or Uber couriers.
Table Management & Reservations
- Toast POS: Offers “Toast Tables” for reservations and waitlist management, even integrating with Google Business Profile.
- Square: A new feature for 2023 is the OpenTable and Square for Restaurants integration. Now, you can improve turn times and seat more guests with real-time table status alerts.
Customer Loyalty Programs
- Toast POS: Integrated loyalty programs with customization options to keep your customers coming back.
- Square: Use the Square Loyalty add-on to offer rewards or gift cards for repeat visits. Enroll customers in the program at the checkout by having them enter their phone numbers.
Reporting & Analytics
- Toast POS: Real-time data tracking with customizable dashboards and deep insights.
- Square: Provides insights into the best-selling dishes and menu items, tracks sales trends over time, and assesses the performance of individual employees.
- Toast POS: Multiple hardware options are available, including handheld devices, kiosks, and terminals.
- Square: Offers a variety of hardware options including Square Stand Restaurant Station, Restaurant Mobile POS Kit, Square Reader for Contactless and Chip, Square Terminal, and Square Register.
- Toast POS: Open API allows for custom integrations to extend functionality.
- Square: Part of a larger ecosystem of Square products, which means it can integrate with other Square services like Square Payroll and Team Management.
- Flexibility vs. Ecosystem: Toast POS offers more flexibility in terms of features and customizations, while Square offers an integrated ecosystem that can be beneficial for small to medium-sized restaurants.
- Payment Processing: Square offers more options for payment processing, but you’re locked into their ecosystem. Toast, on the other hand, offers in-house processing only.
- Pricing Transparency: Square offers transparent pricing, making it easier for restaurant owners to understand costs upfront, while Toast requires you to contact them for a custom quote.
- Ease of Use: Both systems offer user-friendly interfaces, but Toast POS provides more intuitive navigation, making it easier for staff to adapt.
- Comprehensive Features: Toast POS offers a more comprehensive set of features, especially in inventory management, employee management, and customer loyalty programs.
- Third-Party Integrations: Toast POS has the edge here with an open API, allowing for a wider range of third-party integrations.
Payment and Credit Card Processing
- Flat Rate: Offers a flat rate for payment processing, making it easier to predict costs.
- Integrated System: Toast’s payment processing is fully integrated with its POS software.
- Offline Payments: Toast allows you to accept payments even when your internet connection is down.
- Variable Rates: Square offers variable rates based on the type of transaction—swipe, chip, or online.
- Third-Party Integration: Square can integrate with other payment processors if you’re not willing to switch entirely.
- Instant Transfers: Square offers instant transfers to your bank account for a small fee.
When it comes to hardware, both Toast and Square have a variety of options tailored to different restaurant needs. Let’s see what each offers.
- Proprietary hardware required.
- Integrates well with Toast Go handhelds.
- Compatible with iPads and most Android devices.
- Can use existing hardware to some extent.
When it comes to hardware, both Toast and Square have a variety of options tailored to different restaurant needs. Let’s dive into what each offers.
- Toast Flex: This handheld device is perfect for fast-paced environments where tableside service is essential. It’s spill-resistant and supports various payment types like swipe, dip, or tap.
- Toast Go: Designed for smaller establishments like coffee shops, this all-in-one portable device allows you to take orders, process payments, and print receipts without switching between different gadgets.
- Toast Kiosk: If you’re running a quick-service restaurant and want to reduce wait times, the Toast Kiosk offers a self-ordering experience through a large, interactive touchscreen display.
- Toast Terminal: This is a comprehensive countertop setup ideal for full-service restaurants. It includes a touchscreen display, card reader, cash drawer, and receipt printer, all ready to go.
- Toast Display: This customer-facing setup helps you manage restaurant orders in real-time and handle your inventory, enhancing the overall customer experience.
- Square Stand Restaurant Station: This is a full setup that includes a cash drawer, receipt printer, and kitchen printer, making it a good fit for full-service restaurants.
- Restaurant Mobile POS Kit: This kit is designed for mobile or pop-up setups. It includes a Square Reader for contactless and chip payments, a phone case, and a Samsung Galaxy A32.
- Square Reader: This device is versatile and can be used in all types of restaurants. It has improved Bluetooth connectivity, enhanced security, and longer battery life.
- Square Terminal: Priced at $299, this terminal can read all types of cards and provides full access to the Square POS system. It’s a versatile option that covers everything from taking payments to printing receipts.
- Square Register: For those looking for an all-in-one solution, the Square Register is priced at $799 and includes a touchscreen card terminal facing the customer and a built-in card reader. All you need is WiFi.
- Toast POS: 24/7 customer support, including live chat.
- Square: 24/7 support, but live chat is limited to business hours.
Toast is available in the US, Canada, UK, and Ireland.
Square is available worldwide. Card payment acceptance is available in the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, France and Spain.
Pros and Cons
- Complete and Scalable: End-to-end platform for smooth operations, suitable for all restaurant sizes.
- Rapid Feature Development: Constantly updated to adapt to industry trends.
- Industry-Specific: Designed with features for various types of restaurants.
- Omnichannel Service: Seamless operation across mobile, online, and in-person channels.
- Locked Payment Processing: Must use Toast’s in-house credit card processing.
- Expensive Add-ons: Additional features come at extra costs.
- Opaque Pricing: Lack of transparent pricing information on the website.
- Geographical Limitations: Available only in select English-speaking countries.
- Ease of Use: Intuitive design, easy setup, and minimal training required.
- Affordable Pricing: Free and Plus plans available with transparent processing rates.
- No Long-Term Contracts: Flexibility to change or terminate plans.
- Comprehensive CRM: Includes customer profiles, order history, and loyalty program integration.
- Square Online: Free add-on for online ordering and e-commerce capabilities.
- Square Ecosystem: Integrates with other Square services like Payroll and Team Management.
- Limited Advanced Features: Lacks in-depth inventory management and comprehensive reporting.
- Complex Reporting: Detailed reports are hard to navigate and reconcile.
- No On-Site Support: Lack of in-person assistance.
- Limited Menu Flexibility: Not ideal for restaurants with complex or frequently changing menus.
Key Takeaways and Conclusion
Some key differences:
- Toast has advanced inventory management, reporting, and staff management features that Square lacks. Toast makes it easy to track ingredient usage, monitor costs, and adjust menu pricing accordingly.
- Toast offers the ability to create different permission levels for servers, bartenders, managers, etc. Square’s employee management capabilities are more basic.
- Toast provides enhanced order management through features like scheduled ordering and delivery dispatching. Square focuses more on point-of-sale functions.
- Toast offers full-service customer support and onboarding. Square expects merchants to be more self-sufficient.
- Toast integrates with a wide array of 3rd party restaurant tech providers. Square’s app ecosystem is smaller.
- Toast has monthly software fees while Square charges only per transaction. Toast may make more sense for higher-volume restaurants.
In summary, Toast is ideal for full-service restaurants that want powerful reporting and back-office features. Square suits cafes, food trucks, and quick-service shops with simpler needs.
Choosing between Toast POS and Square ultimately depends on your restaurant’s specific needs. If you’re a full-service restaurant with complex table arrangements, Toast is likely the better fit. If you’re a smaller establishment looking for a free plan, versatility and a user-friendly interface, Square could be your go-to.
So, what’s it going to be? The restaurant-centric powerhouse, Toast, or the versatile all-rounder, Square? Either way, you’re making a choice that will help your operations and improve the dining experience for your customers.