A bar POS system is a software program that processes transactions and provides sales reports. Bars specifically need a POS system that can pre-authorize credit cards, manage bar tabs, and keep track of cash transactions. The best bar POS systems are also user-friendly and track inventory based on drink sales.
Top 6 Bar POS Systems 2020
|Bar POS System||Best For|
(Best Overall) Bars wanting an affordable POS with detailed reporting & ability to preauthorize payments
Growing bars that want multiple registers with comprehensive management tools
New bars or small breweries needing a low-cost option
Bars offering food that want an iPad POS with robust menu management
High volume bars with a large staff, and bars attached to a full-service restaurant
Standalone bars wanting detailed inventory tracking and management
How We Evaluated Bar POS Systems
All POS systems have features to take customer orders, process payments, track sales, and review business analytics. Restaurant POS systems have added features like table mapping and the ability to process tips. What sets a good bar POS system apart is beverage service-specific features, such as the ability to run bar tabs, transfer tabs between servers and dining areas as needed, split checks, customize drink orders, track inventory at an ingredient level.
We evaluated bar POS software based on the following criteria:
- Price: We considered monthly fees, payment processing fees, and hardware costs.
- Ease of use: Bars need a POS that hourly employees can easily use without error in a fast-paced environment and that allows bar managers to pull detailed sales and cost reports.
- Tab and check management: We considered features like the ability to pre-authorize credit cards, run tabs, split payment methods, and transfer tabs between servers and dining areas.
- Payment processing: We looked at whether each system offers built-in payment processing or uses third-party integrations, and what the processing rates are.
- Menu and inventory management: We considered features like ingredient-level tracking, storing and managing drink recipes, and the ability to keep real-time stock counts.
- Tip tracking: Bars need a system that accepts credit card tips, tracks tips by employee, and permits tip payouts in cash at the end of each shift or on paychecks.
- Staff management: We considered features like employee logins, the ability to set different permission levels, and employee sales tracking.
- Customer relationship management: We considered any built-in CRM features like storing customer data, email marketing, or loyalty programs.
- Reporting and analytics: We looked at what kind of reporting tools each POS system has on sales, inventory, employees, and customers.
Based on our criteria, Toast is the best overall bar POS system for small businesses. It’s affordable, easy to use, and provides the best reporting data for bars out of all the systems we evaluated under $100 per month. Toast has a reputation for constant innovation and unrivaled customer support.
Toast: Best Overall Bar POS System for Small Businesses
Toast is a cloud-based POS system designed for the foodservice industry. Toast costs $79 per month, per register, which falls in the middle of the pack for small business POS. However, for that price Toast offers flexible tab management with payment preauthorization settings, automated happy hour pricing, and mobile POS options. Toast consistently develops cutting-edge POS functions, and they have a stellar reputation for customer support.
On its website, Toast lists software pricing at $79 per month per register. When contacting Toast for a quote tailored to your business, they may have lower rates available. Many of the bar POS systems on our list run on iPads, but Toast operates on proprietary hardware. Toast hardware bundles start at $899 with a one-time installation fee that starts at $499. Toast offers 0% financing for hardware in some markets.
Toast has built-in flat-rate payment processing. Specific payment processing rates are determined when you sign up, though we were recently quoted rates of 2.49% + 15 cents per swiped or dipped transactions and 3.5% + 15 cents for manually keyed transactions.
Toast has separate POS systems designed for specific types of restaurants and foodservice businesses, including bars and nightclubs. Since Toast is customizable to different businesses, it’s a better fit for bars than POS systems that have a one-size-fits-all software. Toast’s reporting, sales, kitchen, and menu management features are included in the $79 per month price. Advanced inventory, gift card, payroll, and labor management are available as add-ons with prices ranging from $25 to $50 each per month.
Toast Tab & Check Management
Toast has excellent tab and check management features for bars. Employees can pre-authorize payment cards so no cards are left at the bar. You can set the Toast system to allow any employee the ability to add items to an open tab from any register; checks can be split via multiple payment methods, and Toast has a mobile POS solution so employees can take orders or close out tabs even when they’re not behind the bar.
Toast Menu & Inventory Management
Toast has tools to create custom menus for different times of day and features to set automated happy hour prices during specific time periods. Toast tracks wholesale and retail prices of individual ingredients, so bars can track costs and profit margins for different cocktail recipes. It also offers the ability to attach a photo and recipe to your cocktails so bartenders have a ready reference for new cocktails or specials.
Toast Employee Management
In the baseline POS, however, employees have individual logins and permission levels. This allows bars to see which employees enter specific orders or ring out checks.
Toast also offers a Payroll and Team Management tool that manages employee hiring, onboarding, scheduling, and includes features to manage payroll administration. The tool connects with the POS to automatically track tips and overtime as well as break and hour compliance in markets like New York and California that have elaborate regulations. Pricing for this feature varies based on the number of employees your bar is managing; you need to reach out to the Toast for a tailored quote.
Toast Customer Relationship Management
When it’s time for checkout, Toast lets bartenders split checks by dragging and dropping menu items on the screen across any number of guests; it also allows for individual items to be split multiple ways. Guests can also choose to sign up for loyalty programs at checkout. Toast stores order histories under each guest profile, so bartenders can see how frequently each customer visits and what they have previously ordered.
Toast Reporting and Analytics
Toast has excellent reporting features for bars. You can manage individual recipes along with their wholesale costs and profit margins and track ingredient-inventory in real time. Toast also has reports for employee data, including sales information, tips, and more. All of these real-time analytics can be viewed and managed on Toast Back Office, which can be accessed from any browser or smartphone.
Toast Ease of Use
Like all of the solutions on our list, Toast is a user-friendly touch-screen POS. Toast’s interface, however, is a user favorite because of its intuitive functionality. Buttons and menus swipe to reveal additional information. Check splitting and item splitting functions are intuitive and responsive. On the back-end, reports are clean and easy to navigate.
What Toast is Missing
When you factor in the proprietary hardware costs and installation fees, Toast is far from the most affordable option on our list. Bars that choose Toast will likely be paying more upfront than they would for other bar POS systems like Square, TouchBistro, or ShopKeep.
Toast user reviews are generally really positive. The system is very user-friendly and provides a lot of reporting data. Many reviewers also say that Toast’s customer service is extremely helpful and responsive. Some reviewers are not happy with the hardware installation process or fees.
Revel Systems: Best POS Software for Growing Bars
Revel Systems is a hybrid iPad POS for restaurants, bars, and quick-service businesses. Hybrid systems operate via a local area network with the cloud as a backup. This enables the system to operate even in the case of an internet outage. Revel Systems has features like precise alcohol inventory tracking and credit card pre-authorization for bar tabs. Starting at $99 per month, Revel Systems is a great option for growing bars that want to keep a close eye on inventory and operations.
Revel Systems Pricing
Revel Systems’ pricing starts at $99 per month per register, which is a higher base cost than most of the other systems on our list. However, Revel includes customer relationship management and employee management features in the base model, where many POS systems charge extra monthly fees. It also operates on a local network, which increases operation speed and provides flexibility if your bar loses internet access.
Revel Systems operates on iPads, which can be purchased through Revel Systems along with accessories like iPad stands, cash drawers, receipt printers, and more. Revel Systems has a proprietary payment processing solution called Revel Advantage Payment Processing. While payment processing rates are not disclosed on the website, there is an option for businesses to negotiate to keep their existing payment processor when switching to Revel.
Revel Systems Features
Revel Systems is a full-featured POS with tools for payment processing, inventory tracking, reporting, customer relationship management, employee management, and more. Plus, Revel has industry-specific features like the ability to open and toggle between multiple bar tabs, design menus, and pre-authorize payment methods for open tabs.
Revel Systems Tab & Check Management
Revel lets users easily pre-authorize credit cards, open tabs, and split bills as needed. Credit card pre-authorization is an important feature for bars because it allows customers to keep their payment cards (so nothing is lost or left at the bar) while also ensuring customers don’t accidentally walk out on a tab.
Revel Systems Menu & Inventory Management
With Revel Systems, businesses can create multiple menus including timed promotions and pricing for happy hour specials. Servers can modify and customize orders for each guest. The only feature Revel is missing is the ability to store drink recipes.
Revel Systems Employee Management
Revel Systems has standard features to create employee login and permission levels. Additionally, it has built-in scheduling tools that use POS data to forecast how busy your bar will be. Schedules can then be emailed to employees or exported.
Revel Systems Customer Relationship Management
Revel Systems has standard CRM features like the ability to create customer profiles and collect information. Revel Systems stands out from other POS systems because it has a basic loyalty program built into the base price and tools to send out email marketing. Most POS systems only offer these features with an additional monthly fee.
Revel Systems Reporting and Analytics
Revel offers in-depth sales reporting to see daily totals and popular menu items. Businesses can also run reports on labor costs and employee performance. Revel has detailed inventory reporting to show which menu items are most profitable, learn where you can reduce waste in your business, view costs versus profits, and more. This data is available online and on smartphones with the Insights by Revel app. Businesses can also set up custom alerts or push notifications for late employee clock-ins, unapproved overtime, low-stock inventory, and more.
Revel Systems Ease of Use
Revel Systems is a fairly straightforward iPad POS system that is easy to use. It is a highly customizable system. To get the most out of Revel Systems’ POS, owners and managers need to set aside administrative time to input their bar’s information, inventory, and recipes. It can also take managers and owners a bit of time to get up to speed on all of Revel Systems’ features.
What Revel Systems is Missing
Revel Systems POS offers a load of functionality. The system is not missing much, though there are aspects that could work better. The biggest missing puzzle piece with Revel Systems is the user reviews citing software bugs and glitches.
Revel Systems Reviews
Revel Systems user reviews are generally positive. Users like the detailed reporting tools and 24/7 customer service. The most common complaint is unexpected downtime from software glitches, bugs, and database errors. Some critical reviews also mention feeling passed between several Revel specialists when they call Revel’s support team.
Square: Best Low-Cost Bar POS Software
Square is a free POS system that runs on Apple and Android tablets and smartphones. Square offers a set of inventory, sales, ticket management, and payment tools for free, making it a low-cost bar POS option for new bars with a low budget and operations like breweries that don’t need detailed ingredient tracking.
Square is a free POS system. That means there are no monthly, startup, or cancellation fees to access and use the POS software on your smartphone, tablet or computer. So, if you already have an iPad or smartphone, you can quite literally run your bar using Square POS on your existing device and have no initial costs at all.
The only fees you pay to Square are payment processing fees when a customer pays with a credit card. Square’s low flat-rate card processing fees and straightforward and hold no surprises. You pay a small percentage of each sale, usually 2.75% on typical tabs, and that’s it. No hidden transaction fees, batch fees, or other charges at the end of the month.
Considering Square’s free price tag, the features it includes offers great value, especially for businesses that don’t need complex inventory management. With Square, you can create customer profiles, track sales, manage staff, and run reports. Square has plenty of features you can add-on as needed, such as loyalty programs, email marketing, or payroll management.
Square Tab & Check Management
With Square, you can keep tabs open and toggle between them as needed. When it’s time to cash out, checks can be split multiple ways and with multiple payment methods. Square doesn’t have the features to pre-authorize a credit card. Some bar operators get around this by using the customer profile function to store payment information. This requires a few extra steps, but for a free POS, it can be worth it.
Square Menu & Inventory Management
With Square, you can create menu items and track sales by item. Unlike Toast, Square does not have the tools to store recipes or track ingredient-level inventory. For this reason, Square is best for bars that mainly serve beer or wine, which don’t need as detailed tracking as complicated cocktails.
Square Employee Management
The free Square POS has tools to create employee logins and run reports by employee. Features like payroll processing and time tracking can be added on for an extra monthly fee of $29 plus $5 for each employee. Businesses can also pay $35 per month for Square’s Team Management feature, which lets you set permission levels for each employee, access clock-in and clock-out times, and view insights such as sales per labor hour.
Square Customer Relationship Management
One of the biggest benefits of using Square is the free customer relationship management (CRM) feature. You can add customer information one by one as needed, or upload customer information in bulk with CSV files. Square also automatically adds customer information after purchases. You can collect contact information, including to send digital receipts, and add notes to each customer profile.
Square Reporting and Analytics
Square’s free reporting tools are somewhat limited, mainly because you can’t track items at the ingredient level. However, Square does show daily sales totals, sales per category and item, as well as information on discounts and refunds. Plus, Square provides valuable customer insights such as who is spending the most and who your most frequent customers are. If you upgrade Square’s Team Management features for $35 per month, you will also be able to run detailed reports on employee performance and attendance.
Square Ease of Use
Square is one of the most user-friendly POS systems on the market. While Square lacks some restaurant and bar-specific features, it excels in convenience, which is important in fast-paced bar environments. Like Toast and many of the other systems on our list, Square has built-in payment processing which is convenient, and businesses have the option of adding or removing extra features as needed.
What Square is Missing
Many of the POS systems on our list have dedicated solutions for bars or restaurants. Square POS is a generic POS system so it is lacking some of the industry-specific features you may want such as ingredient-level tracking, card pre-authorizations, and timed promotions for happy hour. Square does have a restaurant POS system called Square for Restaurants which is $60 per month, but it does not include any of those features.
Square POS reviews are generally positive. Users love how the system is so intuitive and easy to use. Of course, people also like that the POS app is completely free to use. Some reviewers report having trouble contacting a live customer service rep, and are not satisfied with Square’s support hours.
TouchBistro: Best POS for Bars Offering a Full Food Menu
TouchBistro is a top-rated iPad restaurant POS system with tools to track food costs and measure profit margins for individual menu items. Starting at just $69 per month, TouchBistro is an affordably-priced option for bars with a full food menu that need restaurant-level inventory management.
TouchBistro starts at $69 per month for the software on a single terminal when billed annually. Hardware and software packages start at $105 per month. Like Revel Systems, Touchbistro is a hybrid POS that operates on a local network backed up by the cloud, so you will likely need to purchase an Apple Mac Mini to serve as the “brain” or server for your software system. Mac Minis cost around $800 and each iPad is under $400.
Unlike most of the solutions on our list, TouchBistro does not have built-in payment processing. So, you will need to open a merchant account with one of TouchBistro’s integrated payment processing partners.
TouchBistro has over 200 restaurant-specific features built-in, including tools for creating detailed ingredients and menu item reports. Bars can set up customizable inventory countdowns and low-stock alerts. Bars can also manage unlimited ingredients including wholesale costs, retail pricing, and unit measure for each.
TouchBistro Tab & Check Management
TouchBistro has a “fast-bar” register mode to take and close orders with just two taps. You can also create dozens of tabs, keep them open, and toggle between them. When it’s time to cash out, TouchBistro can split checks multiple ways. The system can pre-authorize credit cards, and will not permit bartenders to print their end of shift reports until all pre-authorized transactions are closed.
TouchBistro Menu & Inventory Management
TouchBistro has some of the most robust menu and inventory management features out of all the solutions on our list. Like Toast, Revel & Lavu, TouchBistro has tools to track inventory items down to an ingredient level included in the baseline POS. Bars can assign ingredients, descriptions, and instructions to each recipe item. TouchBistro also has features to set automated menus and pricing for certain times of the day or days of the week, such as happy hour pricing.
For bars that offer food, in addition to detailed instructions, ingredient list, and ingredient-level tracking, servers can add modifiers or specific cooking instructions to each item as they are ordered. Bar owners can also set specific pop-ups for menu items to remind servers about add-on items, combo deals, or to upsell items.
TouchBistro Employee Management
Most systems have tools to create employee logins and track general activity. TouchBistro also has tools to create specific settings for each employee login, manage payroll, calculate labor costs, and track staff performance. For $17 to $39 per month, bars can sync TouchBistro with 7Shifts for employee scheduling. Another unique feature of TouchBistro is the in-app messaging it provides. Employees can send messages to one another while on shift.
TouchBistro Customer Relationship Management
TouchBistro has built-in CRM features that let bars create customer profiles and store customer data for free, similar to Toast and Square. TouchBistro has a program called TouchBistro Loyalty, which starts at an additional $49 per month. TouchBistro Loyalty includes features like a loyalty program, gift cards, email and SMS marketing, VIP customer features, and order-ahead options.
TouchBistro Reporting and Analytics
TouchBistro’s reporting and analytics features can be accessed from the iPads in your bar, on a computer, or through a smartphone. TouchBistro has standard reports like daily sales totals and sales by item, plus the system has detailed reports like profit margin per menu item, staff performance, inventory tracking, and more. TouchBistro has over 50 reports built-in. Data can be exported via CSV, to QuickBooks, printed, or emailed. Businesses can also create and save custom reports or templates.
TouchBistro Ease of Use
Like all of the systems on our list, TouchBistro is a user-friendly touch-screen POS system. It’s highly customizable with color-coding options and the ability to add pictures. The installation for TouchBistro may be more complicated than other systems, as you will need to set up a local server.
What TouchBistro is Missing
The base version of TouchBistro does not include more sophisticated CRM features like a loyalty program or marketing tools. These are only available with the purchase of TouchBistro Loyalty for an additional $49 per month. TouchBistro also does not have the ability to pre-authorize credit cards like Toast, Lavu, and Revel Systems can.
Overall, TouchBistro user reviews are fantastic. It’s incredibly easy to use and has reliable customer support. Users also say that the reporting features are highly detailed, and more sophisticated than reporting tools in other POS systems. Critical reviews say that TouchBistro is a little pricey.
Upserve: Best Bar POS for High Volume Bars
Upserve offers a unique, highly transparent pricing structure for various levels of business. Upserve’s entry-level Basic package starts at $59 per month for a single terminal and $60 for each additional terminal. Bars looking to unlock additional functions like automated inventory management, loyalty program, and bartender performance insights will need the Pro package at $199 per month for a single terminal and $50 per each additional terminal.
Upserve offers the same functions as other high-performing bar POS systems. The Basic package includes a mobile management app with real-time reporting, staff scheduling, and 24/7 US-based customer support. In addition to basic bar functions like tab management and check splitting, the Upserve system logs customer information and provides ingenious reporting functions.
Upserve Tab & Check Management
The Upserve system easily pre-authorizes cards and has flexible check management functions that allow for several forms of payment and easy check-splitting. Credit cards are processed by a built-in server with rates that are negotiated at sign up. We were recently quoted a rate of 2.49% + 15 cents for swiped and dipped transactions. Upserve will match lower rates offered by competitors, and is open to working other processors if your bar has a pre-existing relationship.Upserve Menu & Inventory Management.
Upserve’s inventory management module tracks ingredient-level inventory and can also automate purchasing. It also measures the costs and margins for every menu item as you create recipes, and suggests menu pricing based on your target beverage costs.
The inventory module further speeds up physical inventory counting by enabling counts on a smartphone app. The inventory module is standard at the PRO subscription level or can be added to the Basic package for an additional $100 per month.
Upserve Employee Management
Upserve allows bars to customize access levels for bartenders and managers. The Workforce function included in Upserve’s Basic POS package allows managers to create employee schedules in the POS and email or text the schedule to staff. The system creates easy to read close-of-shift reports. At the Pro level, Upserve offers a deep look at staff performance to help managers identify training opportunities.
Upserve Customer Relationship Management
Even without enabling the higher-level loyalty functions, Upserve logs a wealth of customer information that can be easily exported and used to inform customer service strategies. Maintaining authentic communication with your customers is only going to become more vital to bars and restaurants’ success. Upserve’s dynamic customer tracking allows bars to easily give loyal customers the VIP treatment, and create profitable marketing campaigns.
Upserve Reporting and Analytics
The depth of Upserve’s reporting is unrivaled. In addition to standard sales, labor, and product mix reports, Upserve generates sales and labor analysis to illustrate hourly staff performance. It also has a unique feature in the back office dashboard that allows bar owners to survey reviews from online review sites and compare them to reviews of competitors.
Upserve Ease of Use
Upserve was designed by former restaurant managers and it shows in the unique interface. The bar speed ordering menu, in particular, is streamlined and easy to read. Modifiers and menu item adjustments are intuitive and mistakes are easy to correct. The back office reporting dashboard is similarly easy on the eyes and the built-in manager log streamlines communication across the management team.
What Upserve is Missing
This system is not missing much. The biggest strike against it for many bars and restaurants is the price. Upserve is one of the pricier baseline options even before adding optional modules. If communicating directly with your customers is a priority for your bar, however, Upserve is worth the cost.
Upserve reviews are generally positive. Users like the intuitive interface and the all-in-one pricing structure. Some critical reviews note issues with the entirely cloud-based system falling offline, and some find the pricing to be a bit steep.
Lavu: Best Bar POS Software for Free-Standing Bars
Lavu is a feature-rich cloud-based POS. Lavu packs a lot of functionality into its baseline POS for an entry-level price of $79 per month for one terminal. The system is highly customizable. The system has a built-in payment processor, but also integrates with multiple payment gateways. Users can sign on for an annual contract, or opt for a month-to-month plan.
Lavu’s pricing is middle of the pack compared to other bar POS systems. The entry-level single terminal package is priced at $69 per terminal for the software when billed annually. It is possible to negotiate a month-by-month contract with Lavu at $79 per terminal for bars that want to test the system before committing to a longer contract.
Lavu operates on Apple smart devices, so bars can supplement their own equipment with Lavu accessories. Lavu’s terminal stands range from $45 to $190; peripherals like cash drawers from $50 to $270. A full terminal bundle including iPad, cash drawer, printer, and card processor is $899 and includes three months of software. Bars concerned about offline functionality can also add a preconfigured Lavu Local Server to create a hybrid system.
Lavu is the most flexible system on this list. It can allow you to run payments from an iPhone if your bar loses internet connectivity. It has a built-in credit card processor but is also compatible with Paypal, Square, and other providers. The basic system is packed with features like customer management and employee scheduling, while Lavu’s open API makes it a monster of integrations.
Lavu Tab & Check Management
Like the others in this category, Lavu easily pre-authorizes tabs, transfers and splits checks and allows for multiple forms of payment. Lavu has settings to automatically suggest different tip amounts. It can also be set to disable credit card tipping for bars that operate with a tip-free model. Lavu’s cash drawers can also be set to generate an alert when the till contains a high amount of cash so that managers can initiate a cash drop.
Lavu Menu & Inventory Management
Lavu’s inventory platform is included in the baseline POS. This system tracks ingredient level inventory in real time and includes recipe descriptions on screen for your staff when needed. It can also automate purchases from vendors. Getting the most out of this function does require an outlay of time to enter all of your vendor information. Lavu also has the ability to set time frames for menus to allow promotions like happy hours.
Lavu Employee Management
Lavu allows bars to create varying access levels for employees. It also includes scheduling functions in the baseline POS. In addition to tracking employees’ tips on checks, Lavu has a tip-sharing function that can be enabled to manage simple tip pools split evenly among the team, or split by hours worked.
Lavu Customer Relationship Management
Similar to Toast, Square, and TouchBistro, the basic Lavu system tracks customer order history and contact information. It allows bars to look up customers by name, email address or phone number. For an additional $25 per month, Lavu offers a points-based customer loyalty app that is built to reflect the feel of your restaurant’s website.
Lavu Reporting and Analytics
Lavu offers a free iPhone dashboard app called Lavu Pilot that allows managers to monitor basic POS data and real-time reports. For a full picture of your operation, Lavu tracks a massive amount of information that can be configured to show your restaurant’s performance from any angle, sales, cost of goods, labor costs, and more.
Lavu Ease of Use
Lavu’s interface is streamlined and responsive, but it is slightly less intuitive than other POS systems. It does offer guided set up and tutorials via its support website to help users to get up to speed quickly. Lavu is a highly customizable system. The more you customize it, the better it will fit your operation. Customizability can come at the cost of administrative time and manager attention, but bars that take that time will have a high-functioning system at a competitive price.
What Lavu is Missing
Leasing equipment from Lavu can be pricey, and set up can take some time. As with other lower-priced options like Square, there is a definite learning curve to figuring out how to leverage the system’s bells and whistles.
You can visit our Lavu review page to see what Lavu users have to say about the system. Favorable reviews note Lavu’s massive functionality and the flexibility of its iPad based system. Critical reviews mention issues with the offline mode and some glitches with the end of day credit card batching.
Bars need a POS system that covers basic features like payment processing and sales reporting. However, bar owners also want industry-specific features like running multiple open tabs, tracking liquor stock in real time, and pre-authorizing credit cards so that no tabs go unpaid at the end of the night.
Toast POS offers all of these features, and more, at a competitive price point. Toast has a POS solution that is specifically designed for bars, is easy to use, and provides the best reporting data for bars out of all the systems we evaluated. Visit Toast for a free demo.