Cafes and coffee shops fill a unique niche within the larger hospitality industry—they’re a little bit restaurant and a little bit retail. The best cafe point-of-sale (POS) system should have cash management functions like dual cash drawer tills and volume-supporting features like drive-thru management. Considering most cafes’ low price points, the best cafe POS system should also be affordable.
Best Overall Cafe POS System
Best Overall Cafe POS System
Based on our evaluation of over a dozen software, the best cafe POS and coffee shop POS systems are:
- Toast: Best overall cafe POS system
- Square for Restaurants: Best for small cafes that need a free POS with affordable hardware
- Lightspeed Restaurant: Best for inventory management
- KORONA: Best for flexible payment processing
- Loyverse: Best for customer loyalty features
Top Cafe POS Systems Compared
Minimum Monthly Software Fees
In-person Processing Fees
Free Trial for Paid Plan
From 2.49% + 15 cents
2.6% + 10 cents
Varies by processor,
Lightspeed Payments: 2.6% + 10 cents
Varies by processor
Unlimited (for up to 30 transactions/day)
Varies by processor
Which Cafe POS System Is Right for You?
Toast: Best Overall Cafe POS System
Toast is an industry leader in point of sale for restaurants and cafes—and for good reason. Its hardware is top-of-the-line, and the system starts at $0 per month for up to two terminals. Toast also recently updated its speed ordering screens to make this user-friendly system even more useful for quick service businesses like cafes and coffee shops.
Toast’s baseline POS system has built-in features like menu management, real-time data and reporting, and employee management. The pay-as-you-go Starter subscription option allows single-location cafes to access Toast software and hardware without any monthly cost.
Toast earned a 4.13 out of 5 on our cafe POS scoring system, with strong marks for its free Starter POS with pay-as-you-go hardware options. It also scored well for its general POS functions and niche tools like drive-thru management and dual cash drawer tills. But, Toast locks you into its payment processor and requires a two-year service contract.
If you prefer to shop for the best processing rates, check out KORONA. If you need a short-term month-to-month contract, try Square. Be aware that most of those systems operate on iPads, though, so you will be losing some durability.
Hardware Starter Kit
Handheld Terminal Starter Kit
Toast Flex terminal, Toast Tap payment device, PCI-Compliant router
Toast Go 2 Handheld, Mobile Access Point, PCI-Compliant router
Customer-facing display for Toast Flex terminal
Toast’s standout features include:
- Drive-thru Management
Almost 50% of coffee purchases are made through a drive-thru. Toast’s POS comes with a drive-thru workflow to organize drive-thru orders on your POS and kitchen display system (KDS).
- Advanced Employee Management
Toast can be a simple time clock to lock employee hours or support full-scale digital onboarding for your employees. Digital onboarding makes it a breeze to get new employees in your payroll and training systems. Optional built-in scheduling controls your labor budget and sends schedules to employee smartphones. And lastly, Toast has an HR On-Demand feature for HR guidance and suggestions from the pros.
- Robust Features Built for Growth
Toast has every tool that a cafe or coffee shop could need, from ingredient-level inventory with vendor management to online ordering, payroll management, and tip-pooling tools. If you are hoping to grow your two-terminal coffee shop to a multi-location chain, Toast has you covered.
- Online Ordering & Delivery
For an additional custom-quoted fee, Toast users can add integrated online ordering to their POS. Essentials subscribers automatically receive three months of free online ordering; after that, the fees are around $75 per month. Driver management features are included if you want to manage a team of in-house drivers. Alternatively, you can hail third-party delivery drivers on-demand using Toast Delivery Services. You’ll pay a flat rate per-delivery fee that varies based on the distance and the driver service. But, you can pass these fees on to customers as a service charge.
- Advanced Invoicing
This Toast tool allows you to create future orders in your POS and generate an invoice to use as an estimate and final bill. You can email the invoice directly from your POS screen and send reminders if payment lags. Customers can pay the invoice in person or by credit card over the internet.
Hungry to learn more about Toast? Read our full Toast review, which includes a video walk-through of Toast’s software.
Square for Restaurants: Best for Cafes on a Budget
There’s a reason you see Square POS hardware in so many independent coffee shops and cafes. Square for Restaurant’s baseline POS subscription is completely free. The free level does not include table or course management, but that shouldn’t be a limiting factor for cafes that mostly serve coffee and grab-and-go food. If you need additional features, the Plus package includes table and course management and additional reporting for $60 per month.
Square for Restaurants earned a 4.01 out of 5 on our scoring system. It scored well for its free baseline software price and for supporting software for an unlimited number of POS devices. The free, integrated online store also earned high marks. It lost some points for its lack of niche features like ingredient-level inventory, drive-thru management, and dual cash drawer tills. If your cafe needs these, you’ll be better served by Toast. But, if your operation is small and does not need drive-thru support, Square has everything you need. There’s a reason you see a Square terminal in virtually every small coffee shop around.
Swivel-enabled iPad stand with built-in tap and chip card reader
Square-built touch-screen terminal with built-in swipe, tap, and dip card reader and customer-facing display
Handheld order and payment terminal
Here are some the standout features we found from Square:
- Easy Management & Pay Software
On the customer end, Square’s iconic touch to pay and phone magstripe payment processors are very approachable and easy to understand in-store and online. It has an integrated online store with loyalty program capabilities and basic employee management software that includes punching in and out of work.
- Flexible Hardware
It is not necessary to purchase any new equipment to run Square. This POS will run on any iPad. You can bulk up your existing hardware with iPad stands, various types of card readers, cash drawers, barcode scanners, and KDS screens as needed. This makes Square one of the most versatile POSes on our list.
- No Long-term Contracts
Square is not only easy to join but easy to leave. There are no long-term contracts with Square. This makes it one of the most flexible POSes on our list.
- Compatible With Square Small Business Tools
In addition to free POS software, Square offers many other free tools that all work together, including Square Online store and Online Checkout for pickup and delivery orders, customer feedback tools, and reporting dashboards.
- Modular Add-ons
Square offers plenty of paid add-ons in addition to the ecosystem of free tools, including payroll and team management, loyalty programs, marketing, gift cards, and customer management tools. Businesses can add and remove any of these features at any time.
Lightspeed Restaurant: Best for Inventory Management
Lightspeed Restaurant is a browser-based cloud POS that operates on iPads. It is the Goldilocks of cafe POS systems, striking just the right balance by providing the features you need without overwhelming you with features you don’t. It is affordable, easy to self-install, and has built-in features like Order Ahead (which is great for curbside pickup), multiple payment processors, and dual cash drawer capability. It also includes the most user-friendly inventory tools of any system on this list.
Also regularly appearing on our list of best POS for restaurants, Lightspeed Restaurant earned a 3.95 out of 5 in our cafe POS scoring system. With all its features, Lightspeed ticked nearly every box we asked a cafe POS to check. It only falls short when it comes to drive-thru management tools (it offers none at this time); if you need drive-thru management, Toast is an option. And, while the iPad POS is cost-effective, it is not the most durable in a high-volume setting.
iPad POS Hardware Kit
BBPOS Chipper 2X Card Reader
Socket 7Ci Barcode Scanner
iPad stand, cash drawer, receipt printer, kitchen printer
Lightning connected tap, dip, and swipe card reader
Bluetooth-enabled barcode scanner
The name of the game with Lightspeed is flexibility. Users can choose their payment processor, use existing hardware, and add a multitude of customizations through third-party integrations. Lightspeed Restaurant pricing starts at $69 per month for a single terminal, which may be all a cafe needs.
Here are some of Lightspeed’s standout features:
- High-caliber Inventory Management
Lightspeed’s inventory tool includes low-stock alerts and automated suggested orders. It is more automated than TouchBistro, more user-friendly than Revel, and—unlike Toast—built directly into the POS. This service is only available at the “Pro” tier ($399/mo) but is the most user-friendly inventory available in a cloud POS on the market.
- Easy Self-installation
Lightspeed is quick to set up and easy to install yourself. You can purchase iPads from Lightspeed or bring your own and use Lightspeed cases and stands. You can download the POS software directly from the Apple App Store and get started taking orders in a single afternoon.
- Order Ahead
Contactless service is popular with customers. Lightspeed’s built-in Order Ahead feature allows customers to place pickup orders from any web-enabled device. It is perfect for curbside pickup. While this is notably not the same as a drive-thru feature, it still allows for on-the-go customers to place orders and pay without going indoors.
- Supports Multiple Payment Processors
Lightspeed allows owners to shop around for the best payment processors for their needs while still offering the convenience of built-in payments. Other cafe POS systems on this list (Square and Toast only support built-in processing).
- Dual Cash Drawer Tills
High-volume counter service businesses know the headache of trying to keep a cash till balanced among multiple people, across breaks, and between multiple shifts. It is nearly impossible. The dual cash drawer feature allows both managers and staff to keep track of individual cash drawers easily regardless of meal and shift breaks. In a fast-paced cafe, this is vital.
KORONA: Best for Flexible Payment Processing
KORONA’S cafe POS system is a strong choice due to the flexible payment options it offers. The ability to shop around for different pricing on payment processing is what makes this system a great option for those with cost-saving in mind. You can test the software with an unlimited free trial; use KORONA for up to 30 transactions a day for absolutely no charge for as long as you like. The free trial version includes all of KORONA’s baseline features except for integrated payments.
For cafes, KORONA offers a great coffee shop loyalty program to keep customers coming back for more. The speed in checkouts makes it ideal for long morning lines. KORONA also offers advanced cash and sales tracking to manage any mistakes or theft that could occur during operations.
KORONA received a 3.74 out of 5 in our evaluation due to its payment processing flexibility and good inventory management. It includes integrations to support online sales and the flexible pricing structure ensures small cafes and coffee shops don’t pay for tools they won’t use. KORONA lost some points because it lacks some higher-level food service functions like drive-thru management and its workforce management tools are less robust than competitors like Toast.
Mobile POS Tablet
Countertop POS with PIN-reader
Countertop POS with handheld scanner
Handheld, Wi-Fi enabled mobile POS tablet
Countertop POS with touch-screen terminal, cash drawer, receipt printer, and PIN-enabled card reader
Countertop POS with touch-screen terminal, handheld barcode scanner, and receipt printer
- Flexible Pricing
KORONA POS users choose a baseline POS subscription—KORONA POS Core or KORONA POS Retail—for $59 to $69 per month. The main difference between the two subscriptions is that the Retail POS ($69 per month) includes inventory tracking and customer management tools. Then, you can add various modules at a la carte prices (from $10 to $45 per month).
- KORONA Food
KORONA offers food-business-supporting tools like item modifiers and check splitting as an a la carte add-on to the baseline POS subscription for $10 per terminal per month. The Food functions include table and course management as well if your cafe operates with table service.
- KORONA Plus
KORONA’s Plus add-on extends your KORONA POS reporting and multi-location management functions. With Plus you can centralize multi-location reporting, rank stores, and get advanced stock management like product movement reports. These tools are great for growing coffee shops and cafes that have more than one location.
- Flexible Processing
KORONA integrates with every major credit card processor. Users can shop for the best processing rates and use whichever processor they like. You can also change processors down the line if you find a better rate after a couple of years in business. For busy cafes with check averages below $10, this feature can have a huge impact on the bottom line.
- Month-to-Month Contracts
Users can cancel their service at any time without penalties. So, it is easy to update your POS plan as your business grows or your needs change. This is unusual for POS systems in general, though on this list, Square for Restaurants and Loyverse also require no long-term commitment.
- 24/7 Customer Service
One perk we enjoy with this service is the free 24/7 support in case your system ever goes down. Having that access is key for bakeries, where most work is done outside of the normal 9–5 workday.
Check out our full KORONA review to get a deeper dive into its tools and features.
Loyverse: Best for Customer Loyalty Features
Loyverse is a free-to-use POS software system that has a large focus on customer loyalty. With some effective add-ons, Loyverse is a great option for those on a budget who want to build their customer base. Loyverse focuses heavily on customer visits, a points rewards program, loyalty cards, and detailed customer profiles to set up a database that helps you understand who is buying what at your cafe.
Loyverse earned a 3.66 out of 5 in our evaluation. While it is free-to-use and has great customer loyalty features, it lacks some cafe features others in this guide have such as dual cash drawer tills and drive-thru management features. Inventory is rudimentary at best and the add-on services cause you to spend more to access a better product.
Loyverse does not sell hardware itself. The system works on iPads and Android tablets designed by Bematech, Sunmi, and iMin. Loyverse includes a list of recommended Loyverse POS hardware on its website. You’ll need to purchase your preferred hardware from a third-party, so you can shop for the best prices.
Loyverse was developed to give small businesses cost-effective tools. Like KORONA, Loyverse doesn’t specialize in food businesses, but it includes a lot of great cafe-supporting features, especially loyalty.
- Robust Loyalty
This is where Loyverse gets its name (an abbreviation of Loyalty Universe) and where it stands out. The customer relationship and loyalty program included in the free POS has a customer database for keeping information like contact information, purchase history, and customer notes. The built-in program also offers scannable loyalty cards to reward customers. Square charges extra for its loyalty program.
- Flexible Payment Processing
Like KORONA, Loyverse lets you choose your payment provider, though Loyverse’s integrated payment processors are more limited than KORONA’s. Loyverse works with SumUp, Zettle, Worldpay, CardConnect, Tyro, Smartpay, Yoco, STORES Payment, PAYGATE, SB payments, KICC, and NICE. Many of these are only available for iOS, and some are limited to specific countries.
- Cloud-based With Offline Mode
Loyverse boasts its features through a cloud-based program. They also have an offline mode designed for poor Wi-Fi signals, sharing that information will be restored once an internet connection is reestablished. This feature makes for a genuine feeling of ease knowing that your data is backed up.
Learn more about its loyalty and other features with our full Loyverse review.
How We Evaluated Cafe POS Systems
Our evaluation of leading cafe POS systems used a scoring system that highlighted cafe-specific functionalities—like sticky label printing, dual cash drawer tills, and drive-thru management. We considered basic POS functions like inventory management, online ordering, and customized reporting. We also looked at the durability of the hardware to make sure it can withstand coffee spills and espresso steam. And, as always, we looked at pricing, user reviews, overall functionality, and customer support.
Based on the above criteria, Toast emerged as the best cafe POS. The software received the highest overall score according to our grading system (4.13 out of 5).
30% of Overall Score
Because small cafes are usually on a budget, we looked at whether or not each software offers a free plan and a plan option under $75 monthly. Then, we made sure those plans include unlimited user logins, product listings, and transactions. Finally, we gave points to systems with integrated payment processing because we find it’s more user-friendly and gave bonus points to systems that support more than one integrated processor so you can shop for the best rates.
10% of Overall Score
Every small business needs to track inventory, sell and accept gift card payments, and easily access reporting tools, like daily sales totals, from anywhere. Because of how businesses are currently operating—and the innate on-the-go style of cafes—we also prioritized contactless payments options, online ordering, and order-ahead features.
20% of Overall Score
20% of Overall Score
20% of Overall Score
How to Choose a Cafe POS System
The POS system that is right for your cafe or coffee shop will depend on your service style, budget, and menu size. Cafe and coffee shop POS systems have a lot of features to support your business.
These are the most common cafe and coffee shop POS features to look for:
- Speed ordering screens: Cafes and coffee shops are fast service businesses, you don’t want to waste time navigating to separate screens. Speed screens reduce button presses to process sales faster.
- Forced and unforced modifiers: Coffee beverages and other common cafe fare (like smoothies) are commonly modified items, so you need a POS that can swiftly handle modifications like “no foam” and “extra shot.”
- Dual cash drawer tills: Most cafes and coffee shops still do some cash sales. Tracking cash means assigning individual tills to each cashier. I’ve run coffee shops both ways—with single drawer and dual drawer tills—and dual drawer is so much more efficient.
- Drive-thru management: Many coffee shops do a brisk drive-thru business. A dedicated drive-thru order flow streamlines your business and reduces errors.
- Loyalty: A strong loyalty program is an absolute must-have for coffee shops and cafes that rely on regular customers to return day after day.
- Marketing: Built-in text and email marketing tools save you time and help convert first-time visitors into loyal customers.
- Reporting: The sheer amount of data that a POS tracks gives you deep insight into your cafe’s health and helps you plan for the future.
- Online ordering: Blame it on Starbucks, but customers now expect to order their morning coffee from their smartphones. A POS with online ordering helps you provide what customers want.
- Inventory management: A POS can track individual items or even ingredients as you sell throughout the day, alerting you to low stock. Some systems will even generate a suggested vendor order so you never run out of supplies.
- Workforce management: These tools can be everything from basic time tracking and schedule-building all the way to tip pool management and completely digital employee onboarding.
The POS features you need will vary mostly based on your shop’s service style. So the first question you should ask when choosing a cafe or coffee shop POS is:
As mentioned above, a cafe POS can have a wide range of features. But the only features that matter are the ones you will use. If you are a small shop with two full-time employees, you probably don’t need tip pool management and drive-thru functions. Make a list of all the functions you’ll actually use. Then look for coffee shop or cafe POS systems that have those tools built into them.
How Much Can You Afford to Spend?
Coffee shop and cafe POS systems have three main costs: the one-time, upfront price of hardware and installation (from $0 to $1,000+), ongoing monthly software fees (from $0 to $300+), and ongoing payment processing fees (usually around 3% to 5% of credit card sales).
As with most things, the more tools you need, the pricier your cafe or coffee shop POS will be. So you need to balance the system you want with the budget you have. Take a look at your monthly sales (actual sales if your shop is open, projected sales if you aren’t open yet). How much of your profit can you afford to spend on a POS system?
Learn more in our guide to POS system costs.
What kind of hardware do you need?
Many coffee shop and cafe POS systems run on iPads and consumer-grade tablets. This makes them easy to replace if they are lost or damaged. But in a high-volume cafe, you might want something more robust that can withstand spills and steam. If you need industry-grade hardware, you’ll immediately narrow your field of choices.
Find the best options in our article on POS hardware.
Making your POS Decision
Once you have answered your questions, it’s time to schedule some POS demonstrations. Contact the sales teams of your top contenders. Prepare a list of questions to ask the sales representative. You should know exactly what functions you need your cafe POS to perform, so make sure you know if each system can do what you need.
Most POS sales reps follow a specific script and workflow. They’ll typically show you how the system rings in an order, then show you some back-end reporting. If you don’t ask specific questions, you’ll only see the surface-level functions of each system. So ask your questions as you go through the demo. Don’t be afraid to interrupt the sales rep’s pitch, if you must, to get the information you need.
Even better is to let the rep know before your demo what functions you are interested in seeing. This will give them time to check with technicians or product designers to ensure they have the most up-to-date information. Allow for at least one hour for each demo so you have time to see everything you need. Take notes during each demo, then compare your notes to see which system best provides the functions you need at a price you can afford.
Cafe POS System Benefits
A cafe POS system offers a lot of benefits for small cafes and coffee shops. They drive sales, generate detailed reports, and let you accept the digital payment types that customers prefer. Beyond those baseline benefits, there are others you’ll want to consider before deciding if a POS is the right solution for your cafe or coffee shop.
Loyalty is more important to coffee shops and cafes than just about any type of business. A cloud POS designed for cafes and coffee shops makes running a loyalty and rewards program impossibly easy. You can track loyalty accounts by customer name, phone number, or sometimes even their payment type.
Your POS can track rewards by points or dollars spent and offer individual items as rewards or accept points as payment. There are no cards to track and no spreadsheets to log; you just turn on the loyalty functions and create a campaign.
With a POS, your coffee shop or cafe can leverage detailed customer data to create targeted email and SMS text marketing campaigns. Most have sharp, modern message templates to give your shop a polished, professional look. You can filter customers by their purchases, visit frequency, birth date, or other factors. The typical POS allows you to create multiple email and text marketing campaigns that you can manage easily from your back office dashboard; driving sales while saving time.
Reduced Order Errors
Switching to a POS rather than relying on handwritten or voice-called orders reduces errors and ensures that every order actually gets rung in (and paid for). You’ll save money on errors, remakes, and unofficial comps.
A POS can track all of your sales, your products, tips, and staff hours. Centralizing all of this data gives you an incredible amount of information to build reports and forecasts. And unlike searching your paper reports for the information you need, you can pull any information you need at any time. With a cloud POS, you can pull reports from any internet-connected device whether it’s in your back office or your couch. The ability to customize reports makes it easy for you to generate forecasts to control future costs and build future sales.
Cafe POS Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
These are some of the most common questions we get about cafe POS systems. Expand the sections below to learn more.
After reviewing these products, we determined Toast to be the best overall POS for cafes. Its many built-in functions like menu management, customer loyalty, real-time data and reporting, and employee management make it ideal. Toast also has top-of-the-line hardware and an easy-to-use interface.
The price range of a POS system for a cafe can vary based on your needs, number of locations, and volume of business, often costing between $0–$99 per month for software fees. You may also have one-time upfront costs for hardware (from $0 to $1,000+), and you’ll need to budget for ongoing payment processing fees of 3% to 5% of your credit and debit card sales.
A cafe POS helps solve several pain points that cafes and coffee shops experience. Cafes are typically high-volume businesses that sell to a highly engaged customer base. They also experience high staff turnover. Cafe POS systems track your product as it sells and alert you to low stock, so you never run out of oat milk. A coffee shop POS can help you offer a detailed loyalty program to convert first-time visitors into long-time customers. A cafe or coffee shop POS also streamlines your ordering and payment process to reduce human errors that are common when you have a constant flow of new employees.
There are many coffee shop and cafe POS systems on the market nowadays—the one that is best for your business will vary based on your budget and the functionality you need. Based on our rigorous comparison of several cafe POS systems, we found that Toast is the best overall cafe POS system for its affordable price, industry-grade hardware, and extreme number of built-in tools for everything from online ordering to employee management. Visit Toast to learn more and get started for free.