Toast POS almost made it onto our top list of The Best Restaurant POS Software. Unfortunately, certain major pitfalls kept it out of the final rankings. Still, we cannot completely write off Toast POS, which deserves a dedicated review.
Comparing Toast POS to the Best Restaurant POS Software
Toast POS has many strong suits and beats its competitors on multiple fronts. Unfortunately, the software tool struggles due to its less accessible operating system, opaque pricing, complicated setup, and inflexible payment processing. Nonetheless, specific demographics may quickly overlook these flaws given Toast POS’s many strong points.
Toast POS is a powerful and robust point of sale system. It is exceptionally well suited for established restaurants, fast-casual dining venues, coffee shops, and bars with the budget to invest in an all-in-one POS system. The software supports everything, from ordering, payment processing, loyalty programs, menu creation, inventory, cash handling, and more.
We dedicated a lot of time and effort to testing and reviewing the best restaurant POS software on the market. You can see all of our top picks here. We even highlight the best use cases for each restaurant-specific POS in our review, just in case you’re looking for a reliable alternative to Toast POS.
The Good and the Bad
Perfect software doesn’t exist. Like any tool, Toast POS has advantages and disadvantages, which we’ll highlight in this section.
Spill-Proof Hardware – Toast POS presents a perfect opportunity to upgrade your equipment to restaurant-grade hardware. The hardware choices include Toast Tap for payments, terminals, hand-held tablets, guest-facing displays, kitchen display screens, and kiosks. The hardware is good quality, easy to use, and functional.
Plentiful Add-ons – Toast POS offers excellent add-ons to help you deliver an exceptional customer experience. These add-ons include delivery services, online ordering, email marketing, in-depth reports, loyalty programs, and physical gift cards. In addition, the platform makes it easy to differentiate your establishment from others using the same POS provider.
Solid Training Materials – POS systems have a relatively steep learning curve. Toast makes things more manageable with its training materials, including video tutorials and demos. The platform also has an extensive knowledge base for easy troubleshooting and other system information.
Flexible Payments – The good news is you don’t have to purchase your POS hardware upfront. Toast POS offers the option of higher monthly processing fees instead of upfront hardware purchases. Alternatively, you can buy the hardware upfront in favor of lower monthly processing fees.
Multiple Ordering Options – Toast POS offers guests multiple options besides ordering directly from servers. Customers can also order using on-premise self-serve kiosks or from the Toast TakeOut & Delivery app, comparable to DoorDash and Grubhub. Additionally, you can link an online page directly to your POS to receive online orders. Finally, dine-in customers can order and pay from their devices via Toast Order & Pay.
Robust Hand-Held POS – Toast’s handheld POS is known as the Toast Go 2. The device is robust, allowing servers to access the entire POS ecosystem. Here, servers can take orders, receive payments, and notify when orders are ready. In addition, the hardware is restaurant-grade, offers fast processing, and lasts up to 24 hours on a full charge.
Some things about Toast POS could be improved.
Android Operating System – Android is a flexible, intuitive, and easy-to-use software. However, most restaurants use iOS-based systems. This scenario means you need to replace your entire hardware to use Toast POS.
It doesn’t matter if your current provider is android-based. You’ll also need to replace your equipment with Toast POS custom hardware.
Inflexible Payment Processing – Most point-of-sale providers also double as your payment processor. However, it’s common practice for POS providers to support third-party payment processors. It’s an ideal solution for restaurants that prefer to price-shop or have strong relationships with their current payment processor.
You can only use Toast Payment with this provider. Additionally, the company can increase its processing fee anytime during your contract. Toast POS only needs to provide a thirty-day written notice to increase its prices.
Long-Term Contract – The shortest contract term for Toast POS is two years. There’s also a hefty fee for terminating your contract early. If you choose to jump ship, you’re still required to clear the software fees for the remaining contract term.
The contract terms are too rigid for a new restaurant that may need to try different POS systems before finding the best one. It also makes it difficult to switch providers if you’re unhappy with Toast. Finally, the long-term contract may be a death kiss for small restaurants operating in a highly volatile market.
Complex Setup – Toast POS offers phone support for DIY setup. However, the installation is complex and can take up to two hours, even with guidance and extensive documentation. You’ll most likely want on-site installation from Toast technicians, which costs extra.
Toast POS Pricing and Options
Toast POS offers three pricing options. These include:
Starter – The starter package is free. Of course, this excludes the cost of hardware. The cloud-based POS provides a good selection of features in the free tier. These include 24/7 customer care, real-time fraud monitoring, order and table management, menu management, and reporting and analytics.
Essentials – The Essential plan costs $165 per month, excluding hardware. You unlock more features in this tier, including delivery services, digital ordering, and the Toast Takeout app.
Custom Price – Again, you can adopt more features in this plan for an extra fee. There are numerous add-ons, including payroll and team management, scheduling, tips, email marketing, and gift cards. The total price depends on the feature set you choose.
Toast POS also offers a plan targeting new restaurants. It’s known as the New Restaurant Basics. The plan costs $110 per month and an additional $4 per employee. You get most of the features included in the Essentials plan and more features well-suited for new businesses.
For instance, you get a lite version of scheduling, payroll, and team management features. In addition, this plan includes Toast PayCard, NEXT business insurance, and Vestwell 401K.
On the surface, Toast POS is competitively priced. However, the devil is in the details. We haven’t covered the price of the hardware. Prices start at $799 for a hardware bundle. The bundle includes routers, kiosks, terminals, card readers, handheld devices, printers, kitchen display systems, and guest-facing displays.
The main point of contention is the hardware pricing isn’t transparent. You’ll need to contact Toast POS to get the exact price. By comparison, Lavu displays hardware prices on its website.
Again, you’re required to use Toast POS custom hardware. You’ll need to replace all your equipment, so there’s no option for price-shopping. Also, remember that you’ll be locked into a contract for at least two years if you choose Toast POS to power your restaurant.
Finally, you’re also locked-into Toast as your main processor. You can’t choose a cheaper third-party processor or one that you prefer. These inflexible terms make Toast POS a hard sell, especially for new restaurants, small businesses, food trucks, and other small operations.
This is especially true considering most alternatives on our top list, including Lavu, offer flexible terms. Now we’ll take a look at what Toast POS has to offer. This section will create the context for determining whether the point-of-sale service provider is worth it.
Toast POS Hardware
Toast offers multiple hardware options covering kitchen staff, service staff, and customer self-service. You can also purchase the hardware upfront or pay higher monthly transaction fees to offset the initial cost. You can also purchase the hardware as a bundle to save costs or buy the individual hardware you need.
Toast POS hardware includes:
Toast Flex – This is the server’s main touchscreen to enter orders. It’s 14-inches and can swivel to face customers. It also has a handy card reader on the side to quickly accept payments.
The main touchscreen offers a large interface, making it easy to operate. In addition, the Android OS is intuitive and easy to use. The screen also comes with a convenient receipt printer.
Finally, there’s the option to add an 8-inch screen. The extra screen is customer-dedicated. It’s convenient for guests to confirm their orders and view their bills.
Toast Go 2 – This is the hand-held device your servers use to take orders. It offers more capabilities, including receiving customer payments. Servers can also split checks and perform other billing-related tasks on the device.
It also notifies servers when orders are ready, which is convenient. In addition, the battery lasts up to 24 hours on a full charge. And you can insert, tap, or swipe card payments.
Toast Flex for Kitchen– This kitchen display system integrates with the Toast Go 2. The kitchen staff receives orders in real-time as soon as servers key in the handheld device. It is durable enough to survive harsh kitchen environments, including high heat and spills.
Toast Kiosk – This equipment is a self-service kiosk for customers. Guest have a large display to view menu items and order from the touchscreen.
Overall, the hardware is restaurant-grade, modern, and stylish. It easily integrates with most restaurant decors and themes. The only complaint is we wish the hardware pricing were more transparent. You’ll need to contact the provider to get an accurate quote for your hardware purchase.
Toast POS Software
The Apple iOS platform is the defacto operating system for most restaurant POS systems. However, Toast takes a different approach by basing its design on the Android platform. This approach presents consumers with multiple benefits.
If nothing else, opting for the Android operating system gives Toast POS more freedom to partner with the best hardware vendor. IOS is Apple-specific, so companies that supply iOS-based systems have no choice but to partner with Apple for their hardware. Furthermore, Toast offers more options for the hardware type and size you need for your restaurant.
Android is also a fast and robust operating system, so you can hardly go wrong choosing it to power your restaurant. The only downside is that Toast POS is only compatible with its hardware. You don’t have the choice to integrate toast with existing hardware or purchase hardware from a different vendor.
Toast Cloud-Based Point of Sale
The good news is you get all the point-of-sale features on every plan, including the Starter plan. These include order and table management, menu management, reporting, and analytics. The tableside service feature is particularly well developed.
Servers can quickly take orders tableside and notify when the order is ready. It’s also possible to collect guest feedback using a handheld device. It’s valuable for resolving customer issues before they leave the premises. The feature can also drastically reduce poor reviews on websites such as Yelp.
You also get in-depth analytics and reporting included in all plans. Here, you can see a unified view of labor costs and net sales for a single location or multiple restaurants. In addition, the feature offers a time-based sales summary and a product mix to experiment with your menu.
Toast POS Payment Processing
Again, Toast POS is your only payment processor. The platform charges a percentage fee for each transaction. The transaction fee varies depending on the payment method you choose. For example, the standard plan costs 2.49% + 15¢ per transaction. The pay-as-you-go plan will cost you $2.99 + 15¢ per transaction.
You’ll get the exact figure when you contact Toast. The transaction fee is competitive. However, Toast POS can increase this fee anytime during your contract, which isn’t attractive for most restaurants.
You’re also locked into a long-term contract. As a result, you may not be able to switch providers if Toast POS increases its fees arbitrarily. This has been a point of contention for many clients.
Toast POS Team Management
Toast POS offers multiple features to help you manage your team. However, these add-on features are only available with the custom plan. These features include tips, scheduling, payroll, and team management.
Lavu, on the other hand, offers team management features with its cheapest plan. Toast POS tableside service features are commendable. But the platform falls short with its team management features, particularly on the more affordable plans.
Additionally, most of these add-on features are crucial for running your business. For instance, scheduling staff and managing tips are integral to your daily workflow. Therefore, you’ll pay more since Toast POS offers these critical features as add-on services.
Toast POS Customer Relationship Management
Customer relationship management (CRM) is vital for retaining clients. Many restaurants also rely on word-of-mouth to get new customers. So everything you do to keep your customers happy counts to your advantage.
Toast POS offers basic CRM features. These include customer feedback, email marketing, custom loyalty programs, and gift cards. But, again, these are add-on features that will cost you extra. On the other hand, Sapaad has a complete CRM integrated into its POS system for as little as $53.99 per outlet.
Similarly, Lavu offers basic CRM features like a custom loyalty program, gift cards, and cash discount programs for as little as $59 per month. So again, Toast POS doesn’t offer very much value for the price of a standard subscription.
Toast POS Business Growth Features
Toast POS fares much better with its business growth features. These features are designed to open up more avenues for revenue. They include delivery services, digital ordering, and a takeout app.
Specifically, the Essentials plan offers the Toast Takeout app, digital ordering from your website, and delivery services. You can also integrate these features as add-ons in the custom plan. There isn’t much to complain about since the Essential plan offers multiple opportunities to expand your revenue stream.
Toast POS Customer Support
It’s hard to fault Toast POS for its customer support. You get managed installation and network configuration with all plans. Of course, you have to pay extra for the technicians, but it means you can get started quickly without any glitches.
Additionally, all plans come with automatic features and software updates. There’s also round-the-clock customer support for all plans.
How Toast POS Ranks
Toast POS has many happy customers. Its software and hardware are above reproach. Plus, the service is scalable and can grow with your business.
However, some glaring downsides make us reluctant to recommend Toast as the POS of choice for most restaurants. The service offers low value in mission-critical areas such as team and customer relationship management.
In short, Toast POS doesn’t hold much weight against seasoned veterans like Lavu. Be sure to check out the top list of the best restaurant POS software for more alternatives. Our Eggspert reviewed the top contenders and identified the best use case for each option.
Our top list of the best restaurant POS software includes:
- Lavu – Best restaurant POS software for most
- Sapaad – Best franchise restaurant POS software
- Loyverse – Best integrated CRM and loyalty program
- BIM POS – Best delivery and catering solution
- Poster – Best POS menu management
Toast POS has many redeeming features. It comes with industry-leading software and hardware and excellent support. The system is also reliable and easy to use. The main downside is the company’s value proposition.
Many critical features are offered as add-ons, bringing up your subscription cost. You’ll also have to replace your existing hardware and are stuck with Toast POS per-transaction fees. For these reasons, we’re much happier recommending an affordable alternative like Lavu, which provides robust functionality even with its cheapest plan.