This article is part of a larger series on POS Systems.
A good bar point-of-sale (POS) system streamlines your operation by accepting popular payment types, automatically applying happy hour pricing, and tracking your liquor inventory in real time. The best bar POS systems include speed screens for quick ordering and digital menu boards alongside handheld ordering and payment devices for table service. You don’t need to invest a lot to get a good POS system; the tools on this list range from $0 to $119 per month, and many include options for free hardware.
Based on our evaluations, the best bar POS systems are:
- Toast: Best overall bar POS
- Upserve by Lightspeed: Best for craft cocktail bars and flexible hardware
- Revel Systems: Best for nightclubs and event venues and payment processing options
- Lightspeed Restaurant: Best for hotel bars and bars on a budget
- NCR Aloha: Best for high-volumes and industry-grade hardware
- Square for Restaurants: Best for short-term contracts and using existing hardware
- TouchBistro: Best for breweries, wine bars, small pubs, and ease of use
- Harbortouch: Best for free hardware
Top Bar POS Systems Compared
Minimum monthly fee
One-time installation fee
Supports pre-authorized bar tabs
Industry-grade Toast Go 2 handhelds
$59 + $60 per terminal
Upserve Tableside handheld
iPads or Orderman handhelds
*Can use existing hardware
iPads or Square Terminals
Terminal hardware included for free; handheld prices are custom-quoted
Industry-grade touch-screen tablets
If you’re not sure which bar POS would best suit your needs, continue reading below for a more in-depth review of each system that we recommend.
Toast: Best Overall Bar POS
Toast is a cloud-based POS system designed specifically for the bar and restaurant industry. This POS powerhouse frequently tops our list of best restaurant POS systems. Pricing for Toast’s entry-level Pay-as-You-Go plan starts at $0 per month for up to two terminals, making this system as affordable as competitor Square for Restaurants. Toast, however, offers more robust features for the price, like flexible tab management with payment pre-authorization settings and in-app team messaging. Toast also offers user-friendly inventory with vendor management and industry-grade handheld Toast Go 2 tablets to process tableside orders and payments.
Toast earned a score of 4.42 on our bar POS ranking. It earned a perfect 5 out of 5 for niche bar features like credit card pre-authorization, cash management, and bar-supporting software integrations (as did second-place Upserve). Toast also earned a perfect score for ease of use (as did most systems on this list; only Square for Restaurants and TouchBistro lost points in this category).
This system lost some points for its lack of payment processing options, two-year contract requirement, and inability to bring your own hardware. If those things are priorities to you, you might be happier with Revel’s processing options and Square for Restaurants’ short-term contracts and ability to use existing hardware.
Toast Standout Features
Toast offers its POS software at three subscription tiers: Starter, Essentials, and Growth. Pricing for the Starter package starts at $0 per month for up to two terminals. Essentials, which includes online ordering tools, is $165. The Growth package, which adds marketing and loyalty software, is $272 per month. Entry-level software pricing makes toast competitive with the free version of Square for Restaurants. The higher-level subscription tiers are priced in line with competitors like Upserve and Revel.
Toast POS operates on Toast’s IP54 spill-proof rated Toast Flex tablets and mobile devices. Toast is a deeply networked system, with terminals communicating through a local network that is backed up by the cloud, giving the system robust offline functionality. Most users can install the Starter Kit hardware using Toast’s simple instructions, but systems with multiple terminals may require on-site installation assistance, which can cost from $250–$499+. If your venue is large, this can make Toast a higher upfront investment than Square or Lightspeed. But Toast offers in-house financing to spread the payments over the length of your service contract.
Toast’s standout features include:
- Free Pay-as-You-Go POS: Pay-as-You-Go subscribers can get up to two hardware Starter Kits consisting of a Toast Flex terminal, cash drawer, card reader, and receipt printer for $0 upfront. The fees for the hardware are rolled into a slightly higher payment processing rate of 2.99% + 15 cents per in-person transaction. Starter subscribers who prefer to pay for hardware upfront can get the Starter Kit hardware for $799. Though bars that want a system that includes all the terminals for free will want to check out Harbortouch.
- Toast Go 2 Handheld Terminals: Toast’s handheld POS terminal, the Toast Go 2, is a spill-proof and drop-tested device that can fit into a bartender’s or cocktail server’s apron pocket. This streamlined device is lighter and more robust than an iPad in a handheld case. Busy sports bars and cocktail lounges that offer table service can use the Toast Go 2 to process orders and card or mobile wallet payments.
- Inventory tracking with xtraChef: In June 2021, Toast purchased the restaurant inventory app xtraChef. Toast already offered very sturdy ingredient-level inventory management software, but this new partnership makes Toast’s inventory the strongest available in a cloud POS. Users can scan invoices on their smartphones, then use automated tools to store the data and apply general ledger codes. The system applies price changes in real time, so your cost of goods sold (COGS) is always accurate. Your team can also quickly perform physical counts from iOS or Android smartphone apps.
- Employee management: Toast’s integrated Payroll and Team Management function (available at a custom-quoted price) allows you to complete new hire paperwork digitally, create schedules based on staff availability, and ensure compliance with local labor laws. The system also simplifies payroll and end-of-year tax reporting and includes robust labor cost reporting and budgeting tools.
- Manager alert messaging: This unique feature allows you to create custom message alerts that your team can use in the Toast POS app. If, for example, a bartender needs manager assistance to get through a business rush or handle a customer complaint, they can send an alert through the POS. This sends a detailed text to the manager’s cellphone. You can create custom alerts for common issues or use templated alerts from the Toast app.
- Marketing tools: Like Square, Revel, and Upserve, Toast automatically generates customer profiles from credit card payments. The system also collects email addresses to send digital receipts, which you can use to send email promotions directly from the Toast management dashboard. If you regularly host live music, theme nights, or drink specials, this comes in handy.
- Beverage integrations: Toast features a host of third-party integrations so you can customize the POS to meet your needs. If you want more beverage-centric inventory, you can add Bevspot. Breweries can track keg usage with BrewLogix and offer self-serve pours via Pour My Beer. For added security, bars can add the Solink integration that syncs security cameras with your POS data to easily identify customer issues or employee theft.
Read our full Toast review for more.
Upserve by Lightspeed: Best for Craft Cocktail Bars & Flexible Hardware
Upserve by Lightspeed is a hybrid POS that, like Toast, is designed to operate exclusively in bar and restaurant businesses. The system is streamlined, with an elegant user interface and slim handheld tableside mobile terminals that wouldn’t look out of place in even the swankiest cocktail lounge. Some POS screens can look bright and cartoonish; Upserve’s dark mode screens and tabbed navigation bars are discreet in low-light environments. Upserve also supports iOS and Android terminals so that you can choose your preferred hardware.
On our rating system, Upserve by Lightspeed earned a 4.18 out of 5. This POS earned high marks for its ease of use and outscored the competition for general POS features (the inclusion of a mobile reporting smartphone app edged it above top-ranked Toast). Upserve by Lightspeed lost quite a few points on price, though. The combination software-plus-per-terminal monthly fees made this system the most expensive baseline subscription on the list. If price is your top concern, you’ll be happier with Square for Restaurants or Toast.
Upserve by Lightspeed Standout Features
Upserve has three software subscription tiers: Core, Pro, and Pro Plus. Upserve’s entry-level Core package starts at $59 per month plus $60 for each terminal or $119 per month for software for a single terminal. This is $20 more per month higher than the closest competitor Revel Systems.
For that price, however, Upserve by Lightspeed includes functions that other systems, like Toast and Square for Restaurants, charge more for. Core subscriptions include marketing tools, reputation management, and workforce management. But beverage operations that need automated inventory management, loyalty, and bartender performance insights will need the Pro package at $199 plus $50 for each terminal per month.
Upserve by Lightspeed’s standout features include:
- Flexible hardware: Upserve includes both Android and iPad terminal options. So you can choose your preferred user interface. Like Toast, Upserve also supports an industry-grade, pocket-sized handheld order and payment device for tableside service. However, Upserve users cannot bring their own hardware. If you are concerned about hardware costs, you may prefer Toast or Harbortouch (which include free hardware), or Square and Lightspeed (which support hardware you already own).
- Robust Core subscription: Upserve by Lightspeed’s Core subscription tier includes marketing tools, campaign management, and comprehensive employee scheduling tools. You can generate customer profiles from payment information and collect emails to create targeted email campaigns. When you promote a special or an event on social media, the Campaigns tool tracks related restaurant reviews/social media activity, total and average sales, total guest visits, and new vs repeat guests, so you know which promotions and events are working.
- Cost-saving workforce management: Upserve by Lightspeed’s Workforce Management tools include a user-friendly staff schedule builder. After creating a schedule in the Upserve management dashboard, you can send the schedule to staff via email or text message. The system will block staff from clocking in early and require a manager to override if a staff member tries to clock in off schedule. So you’ll never be surprised by last-minute shift swaps or higher labor costs from early clock-ins.
- Staff performance reports: Upserve by Lightspeed’s productivity reports let you drill down to see sales patterns and turn averages for servers and bartenders. Managers and owners can identify top performers and training opportunities. This performance report is only included in Pro and Pro Plus subscriptions; Core subscribers do not have access.
- Recipe lookup: Upserve users can enter cocktail recipes into the POS, enabling bartenders to look up cocktails with the push of a button. This is especially useful in craft cocktail operations where customers expect bartenders to make any obscure drink they request. You can add your entire cocktail catalog to your POS to ensure that your bartenders are never stumped.
- Strong inventory tools: Like competitors Revel and Toast, Upserve’s built-in inventory tracking is comprehensive, including physical count and vendor management tools. Like Revel Systems, Upserve’s inventory module includes a free smartphone app to speed physical counting. But Upserve’s inventory tool is more user-friendly than those of Toast and Revel Systems. Your Upserve system generates a suggested order based on your real-time low stock counts. You can then send these suggested orders to multiple vendors by clicking a single button.
- Mobile reporting app: Like competitors TouchBistro and Revel systems, Upserve by Lightspeed includes a mobile reporting app that allows owners and managers to access key performance data in real time from a smartphone. There’s no need to remember your password to log in to a browser; you can see sales, labor, and stock information with the click of a button.
Read our full Upserve review to learn more
Revel Systems: Best for Nightclubs, Event Venues & Payment Processing
Revel Systems is a hybrid iPad POS that operates via a local area network with the cloud as a backup, similar to Toast and Upserve. This configuration gives Revel excellent offline functionality. Unlike those two systems, Revel also supports retail businesses, not just restaurants. So event venues that want to sell tickets and merchandise alongside beverages and food will find all the tools they need. And unlike Toast, Square, Upserve, and Harbortouch, Revel users can choose from eight different payment processors to ensure they get the lowest processing rates available.
Revel Systems offers dual till cash registers and allows you to set high cash alerts when tills hit a percent amount. Like top-ranked Toast, Revel Systems also integrates with security software like Solink and Envysion that allow high-volume operations to identify theft or customer issues. Revel users can also manage digital menu boards from the Revel dashboard to easily showcase upcoming events and drink specials.
Revel Systems earned a score of 4.14 out of 5 on our rating system. This POS earned a lot of points for offering multiple payment processing options and its comprehensive training materials. But Revel lost some points for its cost (it is the second-highest price option on this list) and three-year contract length. Plus, unlike Toast and Upserve, Revel Systems lacks a purpose-built order and payment device. Instead, Revel relies on iPads in handheld cases. This works fine for tableside service, but iPads tend to be heavier and less portable than the handhelds from Toast and Upserve.
Revel Systems Standout Features
Revel Systems’ pricing starts at $99 per month, per register, which is a higher base cost than every system on this list besides Upserve. However, Revel includes inventory management that is functionally comparable to Toast’s and Upserve’s offerings at no extra charge for baseline subscribers.
Revel Systems’ standout features include:
- Flexible payment processing: Revel Systems has a built-in payment processing solution called Revel Advantage. Payment processing rates are not disclosed on the Revel website; quotes are customized based on your sales volume and card mix. Users can also get rate quotes from compatible processors First Data, Heartland, TSYS, TriPOS, Worldpay, Chase Paymentech, and Elavon. If your venue does a high volume of business, those fees can add up, so shopping for the lowest possible rates can significantly impact your bottom line.
- Employee management: Like Upserve, Revel Systems includes employee scheduling in the entry-level POS. Revel’s schedule builder is easy to use but is slightly less robust than Upserve’s; it doesn’t include time clock enforcement, and you can’t text schedules to staff (only email and print the schedule). If you want clock enforcement and text-enabled schedules, you can rely on Revel’s integrations with Homebase, 7shifts, or HotSchedules.
- High till alerts: Revel supports dual cash drawer tills, so two bartenders operate from the same POS terminal. In addition, Revel users can set a maximum dollar amount for each cash drawer. The system will alert you when the cash drawers are over the limit so your staff can drop excess cash in the safe. This feature helps busy locations that process a high volume of cash secure their profits and reduces the temptation (or possibility) of theft.
- Robust Inventory: Revel has detailed inventory tools. Like Toast and Upserve, Revel will alert you to low stock and allow you to generate purchase orders from the management dashboard. Revel also includes an integrated Stock Take smartphone app to speed physical counts, and allows you to choose whether stock taking employees can see the “expected” count for inventory items or can only blind count. This setting is excellent for preventing employee theft.
- Digital menu boards: Revel allows you to create and manage digital menu boards directly from your management dashboard. This feature is great for event venues that need to update graphics and menus for different events or performances.
- Insights by Revel App: Many bar owners want to keep their finger on the pulse of business when away from the office. Like Upserve and TouchBistro, Revel Systems offers a smartphone app—Insights by Revel—that allows you to view your bar’s performance in real time without logging in to a browser.
- Security integrations: Like top-ranked Toast, Revel Systems integrates with security tools Solink and Envysion to sync your POS data with your security cameras. This allows you to quickly search security footage for movement at unexpected times, and pull up video of questionable transactions as they were processed. This can save hours when investigating missing inventory or suspicious cash transactions.
Read our full Revel Systems review to learn more
Lightspeed Restaurant: Best for Hotel Bars & Bars on a Budget
Lightspeed Restaurant is a cloud POS for the food and beverage industry. With pricing starting at $59 per month, this system is priced in the middle of the pack of competitors on this list; less expensive than Revel Systems, Upserve By Lightspeed, and TouchBistro, but pricier than Square for Restaurants, and Toast’s Starter system. However, its moderate monthly fees along with one-year contract and ability to use some existing hardware make Lightspeed a strong option for bars on a budget.
Lightspeed Restaurant includes built-in tools for employee management, inventory, loyalty, in-depth reporting for additional monthly fees of $12 to $39. Unlike the others on this list, Lightspeed Restaurant integrates with hotel management software and quickly processes room charges as payment. Unlike the other systems on this list, Lightspeed also offers a 14-day free trial so you can test the system before committing.
Lightspeed Restaurant earned an overall score of 4.13 out of 5 on our system ranking, putting it right behind Revel Systems. Lightspeed, in fact, earned the highest score for its overall price on our ranking system— 4.25 out of 5— for its combination of affordable monthly fees, ability to use some existing hardware, one-year service contract, multiple payment processors, and a free trial. The system would have scored higher if it had a mobile reporting app (like Upserve, Revel Systems, and TouchBistro), more robust inventory (like Toast, Upserve by Lightspeed, and Revel systems), and a purpose-built handheld order and payment device (like Toast and Upserve by Lightspeed).
Lightspeed Restaurant Standout Features
The Lightspeed Restaurant POS has all the features a small operation needs to manage a team of bartenders, track inventory, and process orders and payments. Full-service bars and restaurants will find restaurant features like table mapping, kitchen display systems, menu management, and online ordering. Higher-volume operations will enjoy the lower software price for additional terminals, and multiple third-party integrations. All users will appreciate Lightspeed’s easy-to-read reporting and analytics dashboard.
Lightspeed Restaurant’s standout features include:
- Flexible payments: Like Revel Systems and TouchBistro, Lightspeed offers built-in payment processing and integrates with a few other payment processors, so users can shop around for rates. In Lightspeed’s case, the system integrates with Dejavoo by Worldpay, Cayan, and Bridgepay.
- Flexible hardware: Lightspeed Restaurant is browser- and cloud-based and runs on compatible iPads that operate with iOS 12.2 or higher. Like Square for Restaurants, Lightspeed sells compatible hardware, or you can bring your own iPad and purchase peripherals like printers and cash drawers from Lightspeed.
- Hotel software integration: Lightspeed Restaurant POS integrates with hotel property management software (PMS) systems to process room payments.
- Bar integrations: You can expand your Lightspeed Restaurant POS system’s functions with various third-party integrations. This system syncs with accounting apps like QuickBooks and Xero and popular scheduling apps like HomeBase. For bar operations, it has integrations like BeerSAVER for draft beer monitoring and RapidBar for expanded beverage inventory tools. Like Toast and Revel systems, Lightspeed Restaurant also integrates with the security app Solink.
- Ecommerce tools: Lightspeed Restaurant supports an easy-to-use, integrated online ordering site for selling bottled beverages for pick up or delivery, if your local liquor laws permit. Competitor Square for Restaurants also offers this option for free. For Lightspeed users, the ecommerce site comes at an additional $12 per month.
Read our full Lightspeed Restaurant review
NCR Aloha: Best for High-volume Bars & Industry-grade Hardware
NCR’s Aloha POS is a locally installed, cloud-enabled POS designed specifically for the food and beverage industry. This custom-quoted system does not list pricing publicly. Depending on your business type, it may be pricier than others on this list; you’ll need an estimate from Aloha to be sure.
Regardless of the price, this user-friendly system offers excellent offline functionality to keep your bar running in an internet outage, and accepts orders and payments with the fewest number of button presses, keeping your service and cash outs speedy. Dual cash drawer tills allow multiple bartenders to work from a single terminal, and industry-grade handheld order and payment devices support rapid tableside service.
Aloha earned a 4.08 out of 5 on our scoring system. It doesn’t stand out for price, but it scored well for ease of use. Aloha also scored well for niche bar features like dual cash drawer tills and handheld order and payment devices. The system could have scored higher if it supported more bar-specific integrations. Most integrations are for accounting (QuickBooks), payroll (ADP) and inventory (Yellow Dog and Bev Spot). If you plan to customize through third-party integrations, you’ll be happier with Square for Restaurants or Lightspeed.
NCR Aloha Standout Features
Aloha is one of the longest-running restaurant point of sale systems, supporting more than 75,000 restaurants since 1992. Payment company NCR purchased it in 2011. This POS is Windows-based and incredibly intuitive. It includes all the functions you’d expect, including table and check management, pre-authorized bar tabs, and tip management. The system also includes built-in ingredient-label inventory and purchase order management, though users that want more robust inventory tools can rely on the Yellow Dog or Bev Spot integrations.
Aloha’s standout features include:
- Item Priority settings: Aloha’s Item Priority setting lets you rank your menu items by the order they should appear on order tickets. So no matter what order your servers ring in drinks, your bartenders will receive tickets with different beverage types grouped together. You can list cocktails that take a long time to prepare ahead of draft beers, bottled beers, and glasses of wine to ensure that a table’s full drink order comes up at the same time.
- Sales forecasting: In addition to the usual sales, inventory, and staff shift reports, Aloha includes tools for automated sales forecasting. These forecasting reports are based on your historic sales data, allowing you to get ahead of your costs and plan for the future.
- Workforce management: Like Upserve and Revel, Aloha includes employee scheduling tools in the baseline POS. The scheduling is very similar to that of Upserve, supporting an auto-scheduler, the ability to copy and paste schedules from week to week, and allowing you to print your schedule and share it with staff via email or text message.
- Cash and tip tracking: Like Revel and Toast, Aloha supports dual cash drawer tills. Aloha also allows you to input tip out percentages to print on the bottom of server reports to ensure transparency.
- In-app help: Your Aloha dashboard has a help button that allows you to request help in-app 24/7. You can also get phone support, and (for a fee) request in-person technicians to troubleshoot any tech troubles.
- Mobile reporting app: Just because your Aloha system is locally networked on-site doesn’t mean you need to be in your bar to access reports. Like Revel, Upserve, and TouchBistro, Aloha includes a mobile reporting app so you can access your sales and performance data from anywhere. In addition to basic sales and labor reporting, Aloha Pulse alerts you to high dollar comps and voids and employee overtime as they happen.
Square for Restaurants: Best for Short-term Contracts & Using Existing Hardware
Square for Restaurants is a cloud-based bar and restaurant POS that operates on iPads. This system is simple to set up and requires no long-term contracts. This is perfect for bars that operate seasonally, or small operations that want to test drive a POS before committing. If you’ve spent time searching for a POS, you’ll appreciate that Square for Restaurants clearly lists all pricing on its website. Large operations can request a custom quote for payment processing and software. Small pubs switching from cash-only operations can pay as they go and make adjustments to their Square for Restaurants POS as business grows.
Square for Restaurants earned a score of 3.92 on our bar POS rating system. The system scored well on price and earned points for its lack of a long-term contract. Unlike the other systems on this list, though, Square doesn’t support credit card pre-authorization, which can be a real drawback for high-volume clubs and event venues. The system also lost some points for the limits of the free baseline POS, which offers limited customer service hours and only a single set of user access permissions. If you need more than a single set of user permissions, you’ll need to upgrade to the Square for Restaurants Plus tier at $60 per month. Though Toast’s less-expensive and higher-functioning Starter POS might be a better fit.
Square for Restaurants Standout Features
Square for Restaurants is available at three subscription levels: Free, Plus, and Premium. The Free subscription—as the name suggests—has no monthly, startup, or cancellation fees. It also does not require a long-term contract. This Free subscription supports a single set of user permissions and cannot print individual bartender shift reports though. If you want to track individual staff member sales and block some functions from your line-level team, you’ll need to upgrade to a Plus-level membership ($60 per month).
Square for Restaurants’ standout features include:
- Flexible hardware: Square for Restaurants users can run the system on iPads they already own. To customize your configuration you can purchase hardware peripherals like cash drawers, receipt and kitchen printers, card readers, and iPad stands from Square.
- Square Terminal: Square for Restaurants supports the handheld Square Terminal for processing tableside payments. This device is small and easy to transport, but its ordering functions are much more limited than the other handhelds on this list. The Terminal may have enough order buttons for pubs that mostly serve beer. But for larger food and beverage operations, you’ll need to use an iPad for tableside service.
- Attaching payments to bar tabs: Square doesn’t support credit card pre-authorization to start bar tabs. Bar operators can get around this by using the customer profile function to create a customer profile, store payment information on the profile, then attach the profile to the bar tab. This requires a few extra steps, but for a free POS—and a lower-volume bar—it can be worth it. High-volume bars, however, will be better off with Revel Systems, NCR Aloha, or another system on this list.
- Inventory management: Square allows you to create menu items and track sales by item. Unlike Toast, Square doesn’t store recipes or track ingredient-level inventory. For this reason, Square’s built-in inventory works better for bars that mainly serve individually bottled drinks like beer or wine, which don’t need as detailed tracking as complicated cocktails. Though you can add ingredient-level inventory via Square’s integration with MarketMan.
- Bar integrations: Square users can customize their POS with integrations like Bevspot for bar-focused inventory and recipe-costing tools and DigitalPour for keg management.
- Ecommerce: If your local liquor laws permit online alcohol sales, you can add an online ordering site for free using Square Online Store.
- Square business suite: Square offers additional modules such as Square Loyalty, Square Marketing, Square Payroll, Square Appointments, and Square Online Store that all communicate seamlessly with the Square POS. Pricing for each module varies from free to $35+ per month; pricing is transparently listed on its website.
Read our full Square for Restaurants review to learn more
TouchBistro: Best for Breweries, Wine Bars, Pubs & Ease of Use
TouchBistro is a user-friendly, self-installable iPad POS system designed specifically for food and beverage businesses. The system has a small footprint, and, like Square for Restaurants, is easy to self-install. The baseline POS includes everything you need to run a small bar, from basic employee scheduling to speed screens and real-time inventory tracking. TouchBistro’s inventory is best for tracking individual items like bottles, cans, and glasses of wine, so breweries and wine bars will be well-supported. But tracking individual liquor pours can be tedious on TouchBistro; so cocktail programs should look at Toast, Revel, or Upserve instead.
At $69 per month for a single terminal, TouchBistro falls in the middle of the list price-wise. But TouchBistro supports more than one payment processor, so users may save money in the long run by negotiating lower processing fees. The affordable price also makes TouchBistro an attractive POS for breweries and wine bars, which tend to have a lower profit margin than cocktail bars.
TouchBistro earned a score of 3.83 out of 5 on our bar POS system ranking criteria. The system earned high marks for supporting multiple payment processors (like competitor Revel Systems), though it lost some points because it does not support credit card pre-authorizations. And while TouchBistro includes inventory tools in the baseline POS, the tools are best used to track whole ingredients like bottles of wine and beer. Bars that want detailed ingredient-level inventory tracking with physical counting tools and vendor management will be better supported by Toast, Upserve, or Revel.
TouchBistro Standout Features
TouchBistro POS is offered at $69 per month for a single terminal, which is less expensive than Revel and Upserve. Anything beyond a single terminal requires a custom quote. The baseline system is streamlined and user-friendly and includes inventory tracking, simple schedule building, timed menus, and access to third-party integrations. Advanced features like loyalty, gift cards, and online ordering come with additional monthly fees ranging from $25 to $99.
TouchBistro’s standout features include:
- Easy self-install: TouchBistro provides detailed installation instructions in its online user knowledge base. Most TouchBistro users find it only takes a couple of hours to get their TouchBistro system up and running. The company also offers setup support services at custom-quoted rates for bars that want individual attention in the installation process.
- Flexible payment processing: Like the others on this list, TouchBistro has a built-in payment option, TouchBistro Payments. The system integrates with a few other payment gateways like TSYS and Square, so users have the option to bring their own processor if they find a better rate.
- Flexible hardware: TouchBistro operates on all but the first generation of iPads. You can bring your own iPads or purchase them through TouchBistro. TouchBistro also sells top-rated thermal receipt and kitchen printers, customer display screens, self-service kiosks, cash drawers, and a wide array of other accessories at custom-quoted prices.
- Inventory options: TouchBistro supports two inventory systems, one of which is a basic countdown for individual items like bottles of wine, which may be all a wine bar or brewery needs. Cocktail bars and pubs that serve food may prefer the ingredient-level inventory. In our experience, however, TouchBistro’s ingredient-level inventory tools require a lot more administrative legwork to update than more automated systems like Toast, Revel, and Upserve.
- Reports To Go: Like Revel, Upserve, and Aloha, TouchBistro includes a smartphone reporting app that owners and managers can access on the go. TouchBistro calls its app “Reports To Go.” This app is available for iOS and Android phones and includes basic sales and labor reports along with void and discount tracking.
- Swipe open bar tabs: TouchBistro speeds your bar service by allowing bartenders to open new tabs by swiping a credit card. The bartender will need to hold on to the card to close the tab though; TouchBistro does not save the payment to the tab or pre-authorize the card.
Read our full TouchBistro review to learn more
Harbortouch: Best for Free Hardware
Harbortouch is a locally networked, cloud-backed hybrid POS system (like Toast and Revel systems). Like Toast and NCR Aloha, Harbortouch operates on proprietary hardware. Like Toast, Harbortouch provides hardware free to subscribers, though Harbortouch does not limit the free hardware to two terminals or charge higher processing rates for it. Monthly pricing starts at an affordable $39 per terminal, per month, and requires enrolling in the parent company’s payment processing—Shift4 Payments.
On our scoring criteria, Harbortouch earned a 3.83 out of 5, tying with TouchBistro. The free hardware with included installation earned this system big points, as did its purpose-built handheld order and payment device, Skytab. Unlike every other POS on this list, however, Harbortouch does not integrate with many bar-supporting third-party apps, which cost it some points. Like Square for Restaurants, Harbortouch’s built-in inventory tracking tools are not robust; you need to add a third-party integration with Orca to get the same functionality as the inventory tools for Toast, Upserve by Lightspeed, and Revel Systems.
Harbortouch Standout Features
Harbortouch has every function that a full-service bar needs, from time-locked menus to pre-authorized bar tabs to real-time inventory tracking, contactless payments, customer loyalty, and staff scheduling tools. Though users should be aware that this system has lower customer ratings than the other systems on this list. While this could be due to inexperienced sales reps or understaffing during COVID-19, you’ll want to do your research before committing, and get any pricing, rate, or functionality information in writing.
Harbortouch’s standout features include:
- Free preconfigured hardware: Your free Harbortouch hardware will arrive preconfigured with order screens customized to your needs. The Harbortouch team will set up speed order screens, specialty cocktail menus, or order screens for various spirits, whatever makes the most sense for your operation. This can take a substantial administrative load off your shoulders.
- Industry-grade handheld terminals: Like Toast, Upserve, and Aloha, Harbortouch supports a purpose-built, industry-grade handheld order and payment terminal. The Skytab handheld hosts a larger screen than the others, but still fits more comfortably in a palm or a pocket than an iPad.
- Guided training and installation: Your Harbortouch POS comes with installation and 24/7 customer support at no additional cost. Staff and manager training is also included. The free installation really sets Harbortouch apart from competitors like Revel Systems, which charges $674 just for installation. Though of course, several systems on this list (Square, Lightspeed, TouchBistro) can be self-installed.
- Cash auditing tools: Harbortouch tracks your closing till counts directly in the POS, so you have a record of every coin and bill in your POS database. This saves paper each night and makes your cash counts more traceable if there are any discrepancies.
- Centralized social media management: Like Upserve, Harbortouch includes tools to track online reviews. Harbortouch goes one step further, though, integrating with your social media channels to schedule posts on Facebook and Twitter. This is an easy way for establishments that host live music or special events to plan marketing campaigns.
How We Evaluated Bar POS Systems
We compared a dozen of the most popular POS systems based on what’s important to beverage operations, including ease of use, niche bar functions, general POS functionality, and price. We also considered our retail and restaurant experts’ personal evaluations of each software.
Based on the above criteria, Toast is the overall best bar POS system. The software received the highest overall score according to our grading system for bar POS software (4.42 out of 5). Based on our personal experience testing different POS software, Toast is also one of the top software we would personally recommend to the bar owners we have worked with.
Click through the tabs below for our in-depth evaluation criteria:
15% of Overall Score
First, we looked at whether or not each software offers a free plan and a plan option under $75 monthly because bars need to save money wherever they can. Then, we made sure those plans include unlimited user logins and custom user roles. We considered whether the system runs on proprietary hardware or lets users bring compatible hardware they already own. Finally, we awarded bonus points to systems with shorter service contracts and multiple options for payment processing
15% of Overall Score
25% of Overall Score
25% of Overall Score
We looked for POS systems that hourly employees can easily use without error in a fast-paced environment. Because bars typically operate on late nights and weekends, we prioritized solutions that offer 24/7 customer support. We also awarded points to POS systems with hybrid installation or an offline mode, so business doesn’t come to a grinding halt during an internet outage. We also prioritized platforms that offer comprehensive training and online knowledge bases.
20% of Overall Score
Toast outscored the competition for best overall bar POS. This flexible system is available at three different pricing tiers to support beverage operations of any size, from draft houses to wine bars, pubs to cocktail lounges. With user-friendly inventory and employee and customer management tools, alongside dynamic tableside tablets and in-app staff communication, this massively functional system has every tool you need. If cost is a concern, small bars can start with Toast’s hardware and software for free and be confident that the system will grow with your business. See if Toast is a fit for your bar by scheduling a demo.