This article is part of a larger series on POS Systems.
A point-of-sale (POS) system is a combination of software and hardware that centralizes sales, payment processing, and customer relationship management (CRM). The best POS systems for small businesses also include robust tools for inventory tracking, vendor management, employee management, and customer loyalty. Many small business POS systems are free, though others cost as much as $200 per month for a single terminal.
Based on our research the best POS systems are:
- Square: Best overall POS system for small businesses
- Shopify: Best for multichannel retailers
- Lightspeed: Best for retailers with complex inventory
- Toast: Best for growing restaurants
- Vend by Lightspeed: Best for growing brick-and-mortar retailers
- TouchBistro: Best for small food and beverage businesses
- IT Retail: Best for high-volume independent grocers
- Lavu: Best for restaurants switching from a cash-only model
- KORONA: Best for vape shops, liquor stores, and other high-risk retailers
- Revel Systems: Best for small grocers and high-volume restaurants
Best POS Systems Compared
Supported business types
Monthly subscription fees
Average hardware cost
In-person payment processing fees
Professional services, retail, restaurants
2.6% + 10 cents
Month-to-month or annual
Retail, restaurants, golf courses
Requires custom quote
Lightspeed Payments 2.6% + 10 cents; other processors vary
2.49% + 15 cents
Lightspeed Payments 2.6% + 10 cents; other processors vary
Restaurants and related food and beverage businesses
Requires custom quote
Varies based on processor; TB Payments is custom-quoted
Grocery and markets
Requires custom quote
Varies based on processor
Varies based on processor; Lavu Pay is custom quoted
Retail, High-risk merchants, and ticketed businesses
Requires custom quote
Varies based on processor
Retail and restaurants
Requires custom quote
Varies based on processor; Revel Advantage is custom-quoted
We prioritized cloud-based systems for their lower entry-level cost and ease of set up. We also looked for strong offline functionality and systems that support multiple business types.
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Square: Best Overall Small Business POS System
Square is the best POS system for most small businesses because of its affordable price point and easy-to-use software. This self-installable system has POS options designed specifically for general purpose, retail, restaurants, and appointment-based businesses. Each option has a free plan that includes unlimited sales and products and an integrated online store, alongside a $50–$60 monthly plan with additional features. This makes Square our top-scoring all-around POS system.
It earned a 4.48 out of 5 on our scoring criteria for POS systems. This user-friendly platform earned the highest marks on this list for the price and from our retail and restaurant experts. The free baseline POS without long-term contracts set Square above the competition, and it only stumbled a bit because of limitations to its inventory tools and the availability of live customer support.
The free baseline POS systems do not have 24/7 support, and higher-tier subscribers may have trouble getting live phone support; most Square support is via chat, email, and its online knowledgebase. And while built-in Square processing leads to fast account setup, some businesses prefer to shop for the lowest possible processing rates.
If complex inventory is a must for your business, you’ll prefer Lightspeed. If one-on-one support is what you need, check out Lightspeed and Revel Systems. And if you want to shop for the best rates from multiple processors, consider KORONA, Vend, Lightspeed, Revel, TouchBistro, IT Retail, and Lavu.
You don’t need to purchase much hardware to run the Square POS system. Many small businesses can run the POS on iPads they already own with an attached Square card reader. Square will send your first card reader to you for free. If you need a more elaborate setup, Square sells a variety of stands, printers, card readers, and cash drawers to complete your system.
Square Contactless and Chip Reader
@Rest stand for iPad mini kit
Square Stand Kit
($1,055 with iPad Mini)
($1,607 with iPad)
($39/month with financing)
Wireless card reader that accepts in-person payments
Low-profile iPad mini stand with Bluetooth mobile receipt printer and two card readers
iPad stand with card readers, receipt printer, and cash drawer
All-in-one terminal with integrated card reader and customer-facing display
Square Standout Features
Depending on your needs and business type, you can operate Square’s POS functions on a desktop, smartphone, iPad, or Square Register. This makes Square the most versatile POS in this guide when it comes to hardware.
Setting up your Square system is an easy, do-it-yourself-affair, following Square’s guided setup instructions. Once you attach a bank account and card reader (Square sends your first one free), you can start processing sales and payments. In most cases, full POS setup takes less than a day. This is one of the fastest installation windows of any system on the market.
Square’s standout features include:
- Speedy payments: Square does not require a lengthy application to submit before you can start accepting payments. Once your bank account is verified, you can start accepting payments the same day you open your Square account. Processing fees are a low flat rate, and many businesses qualify for next-day deposits (though two-day deposits are more standard).
- Square Appointments: This Square supported app is much more than a simple scheduler. For appointment-based businesses like salons, it may be all the POS you need. You can manage multiple appointment calendars, set up online booking, allow customers to book and manage appointments with an online portal, send automatic SMS and email reminders, and require credit cards upon booking for no-show and cancellation fees.
- Square for Retail: If your business needs retail-supporting tools like inventory tracking and the ability to process refunds and exchanges, you’ll prefer Square for Retail. Like basic Square, Square for Retail offers a free baseline subscription with no long-term contracts. You’ll also get barcode printing tools, detailed sales reports, and easy purchase order and stock management.
- Square for Restaurants: Food and beverage businesses from food trucks to full-service restaurants will find restaurant specific tools in the Square for Restaurants POS. This system includes table and check management, check splitting, online ordering and delivery integrations, and tip tracking. The inventory tools are not ingredient-level, but you can expand them with a Marketman integration. And bar owners should note that the Square for Restaurants POS cannot pre-authorize bar tabs. If you need pre-auths try Toast, Lightspeed, or Revel.
- Free Square Online store: Every Square POS account comes with a free, integrated online store. If you don’t currently have a website, you can host your Square Online store for free on a Square-affiliated domain. In the age of ecommerce where customers want the ability to order all sorts of products and services online, this free site can be an incredible boost to your bottom line.
Shopify: Best for Multichannel Retail
Shopify POS is built on the incredibly powerful Shopify ecommerce platform, making this POS a powerhouse tool for brick-and-mortar retailers with active online shops. To access the POS features, you’ll first need to subscribe to the Shopify ecommerce platform.
Lite POS is included for free in any ecommerce subscription, whereas Pro POS includes unlimited staff and registers and custom permissions for $89 per month. With all Shopify plans, sales, inventory, and customer data are stored in one place, making Shopify the best POS for multichannel sellers.
It earned a 4.47 out of 5 on our ranking of the best POS systems, just behind Square and tied with Lightspeed Retail. This POS outscored the others on this list for its register features, where it earned a perfect 5 out 5—only Revel scored as high. The biggest drawback to Shopify POS is that an ecommerce subscription is required, so your costs can add up. Also, many of the best POS features (smart inventory management and advanced reporting) require you to upgrade to POS Pro for an additional $89 per month.
The Shopify POS works on iOS and Android tablets and, as with Square, you can use tablets you already own. You will need to attach a card reader, and you can purchase one alongside tablet stands, receipt printers, and cash drawers directly from Shopify. All purchases can be paid upfront or via a series of low monthly payments through Affirm.
Shopify Standout Features
Shopify has a lot to offer brick-and-mortar businesses needing a robust online presence. But if you’re not looking to sell online, a different retail POS that does not require an ecommerce subscription, like Vend, might be a better option. Shopify also advertises solutions for cafes and coffee shops, as it’s built with retailers in mind. However, these businesses might be better served by Square and Toast. If your restaurant needs an online ordering site, though, Shopify offers excellent ecommerce tools that integrate with several restaurant POS systems.
Shopify’s standout features include:
- Omnichannel sales: The seamless integration between the Shopify ecommerce site and POS enables retailers to offer a frictionless shopping experience. Your customers can buy online and request shipping or pick up and return in-store. They can also shop in-store and request shipping or even browse in-person and purchase their favorite products online using email carts and QR product codes.
- Online integrations: Shopify’s online store chat functions let your customers start a conversation with you from any page on your website. Shopify also integrates with Apple Business Chat, so iPhone users can send messages to you directly from their smartphones. A Facebook integration lets customers shop directly from Facebook and Instagram posts. You can also easily place “Buy” buttons on blog posts and other web content.
- Shipping integrations: Businesses that offer shipping will love that Shopify integrates with a slew of tools for shipping management. Popular platforms like ShipStation, Shippo, and ShipBob are all present, as are niche tools for dropshipping or Fulfillment by Amazon.
- Customer management: All Shopify plans include tools to generate customer profiles with contact information and shopping habits, add customer tags (such as VIP designations), track special requests, generate targeted promotions, create marketing content, and optimize social media campaigns.
Lightspeed: Best for Complex Retail Inventory
Lightspeed is a cloud-based POS that operates on iPads. Like Square, it has purpose-built POS options for retailers and restaurants. Both systems are strong, with excellent inventory management tools, but Lightspeed Retail’s POS in particular has some niche inventory tools that really set it apart. The ability to manage vendors and orders from the POS dashboard, store supplier catalogs, and discover new suppliers in the included supplier network allow retailers to manage their stock with incredible ease and efficiency.
The Lightspeed Restaurant POS also supports detailed ingredient level inventory, but it stops short of the full vendor management supported by the retail POS. If you need these restaurant tools, check out Toast and Revel. However, in 2021, Lightspeed purchased competing restaurant POS Upserve—which has the most automated restaurant inventory tools on the market—so we expect Lightspeed’s restaurant inventory tools to match its retail tools soon.
Lightspeed earned an overall score of 4.47 out of 5 on our ranking criteria, tying with Shopify POS. This cloud-based system earned high marks for its offline functionality and excellent retail management tools, though its higher prices cost it some points. In a world where systems like Square and Toast offer free baseline subscriptions, it can be hard to compete on cost alone. However, Lightspeed offers a 14-day free trial, so you can try before you buy.
Learn to make the most of Lightspeed Retail’s excellent inventory tools in our guide to Lightspeed inventory management.
For Lightspeed Retail, your monthly software subscription fees vary based on when you pay (monthly or annually) and if you are enrolled in Lightspeed Payments for payment processing. Like several other systems in this guide (KORONA, Revel, IT Retail, etc.), Lightspeed integrates with other processors, so you can shop for lower processing rates—though you’ll save on your monthly software fees if you enroll in Lightspeed Payments.
Lightspeed Retail Monthly Fees
Enrolled in Lightspeed Payments
Fees paid annually
Fees paid monthly
Not enrolled in Lightspeed Payments
Fees paid annually
Fees paid monthly
The costs for Lightspeed Restaurant users are more straightforward. You choose between three subscription tiers: Essentials, Plus, and Pro. These prices include enrollment in Lightspeed Payments; your rates may be higher if you choose a different processor.
Lightspeed Restaurant Monthly Fees
Monthly software fee
Since our last update
Lightspeed has revamped the pricing structure for both its retail and restaurant POS systems. The new pricing is slightly less expensive than the previous and builds in a discount for enrolling in Lightspeed Payments.
Like many of the systems on this list, Lightspeed’s POS system is built on iPads. You can bring your own if they are compatible or purchase through Lightspeed. Tablet stands, cash drawers, receipt and kitchen printers, and card readers are all also available from Lightspeed at custom-quoted prices.
Lightspeed iPad Stand by Vault
Lightspeed iPad Stand by Studio Proper
Onsite server that backs up your POS terminals to boost offline functionality
Sturdy iPad stand that can withstand high-volume use
Sleek iPad stand that complements modern retail spaces
Lightspeed Standout Features
Like Square and Shopify, Lightspeed offers a powerful POS for managing in-store and online sales. With the way retail and restaurants have been impacted since 2020, it’s no wonder that the top three POS systems on this list include equally robust on-site and online selling features. Where Lightspeed has the other two systems beat, however, is in inventory management tools, especially for retailers.
Lightspeed’s standout features include:
- Inventory management: Retailers can bulk upload up to 10,000 SKUs at once, manage variants, create bundles, and track unit costs, layaways, and special orders. Built-in product catalogs streamline orders, and low-stock alerts let you know when to place them. Lightspeed has the most sophisticated integrated product ordering on this list, largely because of the built-in supplier network. The restaurant inventory is not quite at the same level yet, but with Lightspeed’s acquisition of Upserve, it should be there soon.
- Supplier network: Retailers can discover products, submit purchase orders, and track stock shipments from within Lightspeed POS. The only other system on this list that comes close to matching this tool is KORONA.
- Reporting and analytics: Lightspeed includes over 40 built-in reports and allows retailers to build custom reports that show data in easy-to-scan charts and graphs. Restaurant users can access basic reporting with the Essentials POS package and gain advanced reporting capabilities at the higher level subscription tiers. While this may cramp some operations, it also ensures that small operations don’t pay for features they don’t use.
- Ecommerce: Lightspeed ecommerce syncs with POS data, offers over 50 professional themes, and includes full shipping and order management tools, marketing, CRM, and SEO features. Restaurant ecommerce functions are equally robust, including options for online ordering and reservation functions.
- Marketing: Lightspeed has a built-in loyalty program included in higher-level subscription tiers. You can create a tiered rewards system for both in-store and online purchases, send one-time deals for birthdays or to VIP customers, and design emails with templates or a drag-and-drop builder. If you need marketing tools in your baseline POS, consider Revel.
Toast: Best for Growing Restaurants
Toast is a powerhouse, cloud-based POS built specifically for the restaurant industry. It’s no surprise that this massively functional POS is the top-ranking restaurant-only POS on this list; it also consistently ranks at the top of our guide to the best restaurant POS systems.
With a free Starter POS and pay-as-you-go options for hardware, small restaurants can start with Toast for no upfront cost and increase their POS footprint as their businesses grow. Meanwhile, enterprise-level restaurants will also feel supported by Toast’s integrated online ordering, delivery management, inventory, marketing, and employee management tools. This is why we love Toast for growing restaurants.
In our rubric, the platform earned a 4.46 out of 5—pretty good for a system that only supports restaurants. Toast scored points for its price and the sheer scope of available POS tools from employee scheduling to purchase order management.
It took hits because many of those tools are only available with higher-priced subscriptions or higher processing fees. The required hardware purchases and standard two-year contract also add to the costs. If you need a more affordable restaurant POS system, consider Square, TouchBistro, and Lavu instead.
Toast operates only on Toast-designed POS terminals. This can increase costs, but these terminals also have added benefits. They are designed to withstand high-volume use and function in restaurant environments that have to contend with heat, steam, spills, and drops. Toast hardware can operate at higher and lower temperatures than iPads, and Toast frequently tops our ranking of the best kitchen display systems.
Toast Flex + Tap Terminal
Toast Go 2 Terminal
Toast Kitchen Display Screen
$599 + $45 per month
$389 + $50 per month
$499 + $25 per month
14” POS screen on flip stand with Bluetooth-enabled tap, dip, and swipe card reader
Handheld order and payment terminal
14” HD LCD touch-screen kitchen display terminal
Toast Standout Features
Toast has every tool a restaurant owner could dream of. You get essential restaurant functions like QR code ordering and payments, online ordering and delivery management, ingredient-level inventory, and employee scheduling. However, Toast also supports niche tools like pocket-sized, handheld order and payment terminals, tip pool management, and in-POS messaging to alert managers when there is an issue or alert customers when their orders are ready.
Toast’s standout features include:
- Pay-as-you-go options: New Toast Starter subscribers can get started with no upfront costs. With the pay-as-you-go option, all Starter subscribers pay are processing fees (similar to Square’s Free POS). Toast’s processing fees are higher for pay-as-you-go users, but they include software and hardware for up to two terminals. You can add online ordering, loyalty, email marketing, and gift cards for an additional 0.4% in processing fees.
- Front-of-house features: Toast includes table, course, and seat management; easy check splitting; and credit card pre-authorizations for bar tabs. You’ll also get table management, order management, and even direct messaging from the POS screen, so your team can hail a manager directly from the POS when needed.
- Reporting and back office: Toast includes comprehensive, customizable reports for everything from staff management to menu assessments. You can track inventory in real time at the ingredient level, receive low stock alerts, and generate purchase orders from the back office.
- Workforce management: Like Square, Toast includes optional workforce management tools to draft and communicate employee schedules and streamline timekeeping and payroll. Toast goes a big step further, including tip-pool management and access to restaurant-tailored HR documents like handbook templates and alerts for new, local regulations.
- Online ordering and delivery: With Toast, you can create an integrated online ordering site to receive online orders or integrate with third-party platforms like Uber Eats and DoorDash. Toast also includes full, maps-based driver dispatch if you want to support a team of in-house delivery drivers. Or you can use Toast Delivery Services to hail on-demand third-party drivers to deliver orders for a flat, per-order fee with no commissions.
Find more features to love by reading our full Toast review.
Vend by Lightspeed: Best for Growing Brick-and-Mortar Retail
Vend by Lightspeed is a POS designed strictly for brick-and-mortar retailers. This browser-based system operates on any web-enabled computer or tablet, so small retailers can get started with hardware they already own. Like Toast, Vend by Lightspeed includes several subscription levels that scale as your business grows, so it is an ideal system for retailers that start small and plan to grow big.
It comes with built-in store credit, layaway tools, offline processing, and easy product catalog management. Vend integrates with many different payment processors, so businesses can shop around for the lowest rates. However, you’ll get the lowest software fees if you enroll in Lightspeed Payments.
Vend by Lightspeed earned a 4.43 out of a possible 5 on our best POS system ranking. This accessible POS earned points for its 24/7 customer support, ease of use, and payment flexibility. Its biggest drawback is that it lacks native ecommerce functions. You can manage an online store via an Ecwid, Shopify, or BigCommerce integration. But if you’re using Shopify for ecommerce, it makes sense to use the connected Shopify POS instead.
Vend by Lightspeed Pricing
Since Lightspeed purchased Vend in 2021, it’s not surprising that Vend’s pricing structure is similar to sister POS Lightspeed Retail. The prices themselves are slightly different, but Vend’s pricing follows the same format as Lightspeed’s, offering lower prices to users that enroll in Lightspeed Payments and pay their fees annually.
Lightspeed Retail Monthly Fees
Enrolled in Lightspeed Payments
Not enrolled in Lightspeed Payments
Vend by Lightspeed Hardware
Vend is browser-based, so it runs on any internet-enabled iOS, Android, and Windows-based computer or tablet. Vend is also compatible with a slew of popular receipt printers, cash drawers, and barcode scanners. So, as with Square, Vend lets you use hardware you already own. Though if you want a sleek POS terminal, Vend has you covered with options to pay upfront or in low monthly installments.
All-in-one mPOP with Scanner
PRO Hardware Kit
(or $21.51 per month)
(or $30.32 per month)
(or $49.60 per month)
iOS, Android, and Windows compatible tablet stand with combination cash drawer and receipt printer
iOS, Android, and Windows compatible tablet stand with combination cash drawer and receipt printer and Bluetooth-enabled barcode scanner
Kit containing iPad stand, cash drawer, barcode scanner, and receipt printer
*Prices do not include iPads
Vend by Lightspeed Standout Features
Vend’s retail management tools are designed to be scalable, with options for small operations like gift shops up to multilocation boutiques. It is a user-friendly cloud system with offline processing, staff logins, flexible configurations including layaway and on-account sales, store credit, gift cards, and partial payment. You can scan new shipments to add them to your inventory and print custom barcode labels to quickly get the new products onto the sales floor.
Vend by Lightspeed’s standout features include:
- Detailed inventory tools: Vend allows retailers to easily track variants and bundles, and create, import, and print barcodes from the POS dashboard. You can also build a centralized product catalog, set custom low-stock alerts, and manage multiple tax rates.
- Mobile barcode scanning app: Vend has a free iOS app for scanning barcodes to perform quick inventory counts, receive shipments, or look up product details from the sales floor. Any changes made in the app can sync to Vend’s reporting data, so you can update your inventory without spending hours in the back office.
- Add-ons and growth tools: As your business grows, Vend has the tools to expand your operation. The platform comes with a native loyalty program and integrates with third-party tools for ecommerce, accounting, employee scheduling, and multichannel inventory management. If you prefer a system with ecommerce built in rather than integrated, you’ll want to check out Square, Shopify, and Lightspeed.
- High-risk tools: Vend has built-in age verification tools that prompt your cashiers to scan and verify customer age. This is a great fit for shops that sell tobacco or alcohol products. With Vend’s flexible payment processing, you can get an account with a high-risk processor to support riskier businesses like vape shops. Though keep in mind, you’ll pay higher monthly fees for the privilege. If you need high-risk tools without extra fees, KORONA may be a better choice.
TouchBistro: Best for Small Food & Beverage Businesses
TouchBistro is an iPad POS that, like competing system Toast, is designed specifically for food and beverage businesses. Unlike Toast, however, it operates on iPads and is easy to self-install. Its user interface more closely resembles the standard iOS than any other option on this list. So if you (or your staff) have ever used an iPhone, you’ll pick up TouchBistro immediately.
The ease of use, affordable price, and ability to shop for the lowest processing rates make TouchBistro the best fit for small food and beverage businesses like food trucks and coffee shops.
In our evaluation, it scored a 4.16 out of 5. This POS earned points for its ease of use, affordability, and responsive customer service. Its main drawback is that loyalty and online ordering require extra fees, which is why we don’t recommend it for restaurants that want online ordering. For a restaurant POS with free integrated online ordering, your best bet is Square.
And while TouchBistro includes ingredient-level inventory in its baseline POS, the inventory does not automatically update as you receive new orders (like Toast and Revel). This means you’ll need to manually update stock levels, which can eat up administrative time.
TouchBistro is compatible with iPads, iPad Airs, and iPad minis that run iOS 12 or later. Depending on your payment processor, you’ll need to be careful that your iPads have headphone jacks, as some card readers require them. You’ll also need to pay attention to whether your preferred receipt printers use USB-C or lightning port connections and ensure that your chosen iPads have the connections you need. You can bring your own compatible hardware or purchase directly from TouchBistro at custom-quoted prices.
Small Venue POS Setup
Large Venue POS Setup
iPad stand with connected cash drawer and Bluetooth-enabled card reader and receipt printer
iPad POS terminal, card reader, iPad tableside terminal, back-office computer, and Amplifi router
TouchBistro Standout Features
The biggest ace up TouchBistro’s sleeve is how easy the system is to install and use. Like Square and Lightspeed, users can quickly self-install it following its detailed instructions. Though, like Toast, TouchBistro also offers one-on-one installation assistance for a fee if users want it.
TouchBistro’s standout features include:
- Flexible hardware: Like several systems on this list, TouchBistro operates on iPads. With TouchBistro, these iPads can be configured as POS terminals, KDS screens, or self-service kiosks. There are some additional fees for KDS screen and kiosk software; you’ll need to contact TouchBistro for a custom quote.
- Support and training: TouchBistro maintains a detailed knowledge base with training videos. You can also request one-on-one or in-person training with a TouchBistro representative for custom-quoted fees.
- Straightforward pricing: Where other systems have multiple subscription tiers, TouchBistro has a single per-terminal price. You pay additional monthly software fees to add features like integrated online ordering ($50/month), gift cards ($25/month), loyalty ($99/month), or reservations ($229/month). While this can make your costs add up, small cafes, coffee shops, and breweries won’t pay for tools they don’t use.
- Flexible payment processing: TouchBistro offers the best of both worlds when it comes to payment processing. Like competitors Lightspeed, Revel Systems, and Lavu, TouchBistro offers users the choice between a built-in processor or a third-party payment processor. Unlike those other systems, however, TouchBistro users do not pay higher software fees for using a compatible third-party processor.
Learn more about this system by reading our full TouchBistro review.
IT Retail: Best for High-volume Independent Grocers
IT Retail is a robust POS designed by grocers to support independent markets. So, it makes sense that IT Retail includes hard-to-find features like scale integration for selling goods by weight, bottle deposit management, automated rewards, and self-checkout options.
The POS comes packaged with the rugged hardware necessary in a grocery environment and includes ecommerce integrations to cater to online orders and connect with a network of delivery drivers. It also supports the widest variety of self-checkout hardware on this list, including a contactless mobile self-checkout system through FutureProof.
In our evaluation, IT Retail scored 3.95 out of 5. It earned points for supporting multiple payment processors and for its robust inventory tools but lost some ground when it came to price. The industry-grade hardware is great for high-volume markets, but it requires a custom quote. IT Retail estimates that hardware for a single lane can run from $2,000 to $5,000, depending on your selections. If your independent grocery needs more accessibly priced iPad-based hardware, consider Revel Systems instead.
IT Retail Hardware
IT Retail’s hardware is built to survive in a busy market environment. The provider offers tools for inventory scanning and self-checkout alongside the traditional touch-screen terminals. The hardware your store needs will vary based on your market size and checkout style, so you’ll need to contact IT Retail for a custom quote.
CypherLab Inventory Scanner
IT Retail Countertop Terminal
IT Retail Self-Checkout Lane
Handheld barcode scanner for inventory receiving and counting
Countertop POS Terminal with integrated customer-facing display
Self-checkout stand with combination scale/scanner, touch-screen terminal, card reader, and bagging area
IT Retail Standout Features
IT Retail has all the tools an independent grocery or specialty market needs. From checkout lanes enabled with scanners and scales, to smart inventory management and ecommerce tools. This incredibly flexible system can support markets with only a few checkout lanes, but it really excels with markets that have several lanes, including self-checkout stands.
IT Retail’s standout features include:
- Flexible checkout: Integrated scales make it easy to sell produce and bulk goods and goods by weight. You can accept all major credit and debit cards, EBT food and cash payments, gift cards, eWIC, and contactless payments such as Apple Pay. IT Retail also offers a slew of self-checkout options—including digitized, mobile in-person check out via FutureProof, allowing customers to check-out via their smartphones.
- Inventory management: You can generate purchase orders from your IT Retail back office and track products by case, six-pack, or bottle. When supplies arrive, you can receive and count stock using a mobile app and generate new shelf tags as needed. These seemingly small functions can save you labor hours when it comes to receiving and restocking. As with other systems on this list, your IT Retail POS will alert you to low stock, so you never forget to reorder.
- CRM tools: You can create a custom loyalty program and issue scannable loyalty cards—giving your small market the same feel as a larger brand. Your IT Retail POS automatically tracks available rewards at checkout and prompts your cashiers to ask customers if they would like to redeem accrued rewards.
- Ecommerce integration: Market owners can enable online ordering and delivery, including specialty and fresh items, with several ecommerce integrations—such as Local Express, Mercato, Freshop, My Cloud Grocer, and Instacart. So, you can find the best solution for your market.
- Age verification: Like Vend by Lightspeed, IT Retail includes built-in tools for scanning IDs for age-restricted purchases. This is a great fit for markets that sell alcohol and tobacco products.
Explore more of the platform’s grocery-supporting features by reading our full IT Retail review.
Lavu: Best for Restaurants Switching From Cash-only
Lavu is a cloud-based iPad POS designed for food and beverage businesses. It is the only system in this guide that offers a cash discount setting, which allows you to offer a discount for cash payments that will offset your credit card processing fees. This feature helps small restaurants that are switching from a cash-only operation to accept digital payments without incurring additional costs.
You’ll still be out of pocket for processing fees on credit card tips. However, the overall savings can help small businesses afford to upgrade from a cash register to full POS system.
Lavu earned a 3.91 out of 5 in our evaluation. It scored well for its register features and ease of use; like TouchBistro and Square, Lavu is easy to self-install. However, it does not offer a free trial or free baseline subscription, so it stumbled a bit on price. It also lost some ground in our expert score because Lavu’s customer reviews are lower than the other systems on this list. If you want a system with higher customer ratings, try Toast, Lightspeed, and TouchBistro.
Lavu uses iPads and iPod touch devices as the base for its POS system. You can purchase a wide variety of POS hardware—including iPads—directly from the Lavu website. For the most part, its hardware options are incredibly affordable compared to competitors’ prices, and it offers discounts on hardware to users that sign up for a three-year service agreement.
*Prices do not include iPads
Lavu Standout Features
Lavu is a highly customizable iPad POS, with several cost-saving features. Like Lightspeed, TouchBistro, and Revel, Lavu supports both built-in payment processing and integrated third-party processors, so users can shop for the lowest processing rates. Though with Lavu, you will need to pay an additional $25 per month to use a third-party processor.
Lavu’s standout features include:
- Cash discount: Cash discounting allows you to charge one price for card payments and a different, lower price for cash payments. So, you build the price of processing into the price you charge for your products, then apply a discount—say 4%—to checks that are paid in cash. This way, Lavu’s cash discounting tool helps small food businesses avoid the cost of credit card processing fees. This is especially attractive if the cost of processing has kept you from growing your business beyond cash-only sales.
- Transparent pricing: Like most of the systems on this list, Lavu has several software subscription tiers. Like TouchBistro, Lavu clearly lists the monthly fees for additional features from loyalty ($50/month) to KDS software ($30/month). Small restaurants can choose which tools are important to them and only pay for what they need.
- API Access: Lavu supports an open application programming interface (API) that allows you to build custom software integrations with your POS. This feature costs an additional $30 per month, but if you want to connect your accounting program, delivery software, or other tools, it will be well worth it for the administrative time you can save.
- A/P Automation: Lavu also owns accounts payable automation software Sourcery. It allows you to generate a central database of your vendors to create, place, receive, and pay for orders through the app. These are similar to the tools supported by LightSpeed Retail’s top-rated inventory functions. Sourcery costs an additional $99 per month, putting it more in the budget range of high-volume or multi-location restaurants. But Lavu frequently offers deals with up to three months free if you want to try it.
See more Lavu features by reading our full Lavu POS review.
KORONA: Best for High-risk Retailers
KORONA is a cloud-based POS that excels at supporting specialty retail businesses like liquor stores and vape shops. Its high-risk business tools—like ID scanning and integration with high-risk payment processors—also make KORONA a fit for cannabis dispensaries. This affordable POS comes with excellent customer support and operates on a variety of desktop and mobile devices, so you likely can use some hardware you already own.
The platform earned a 3.83 out of 5 on our POS scoring criteria. It earned high marks for the sheer number of business types it supports, from small retail shops to high-risk businesses and ticketed venues. Its ability to integrate with virtually any payment processor, and an available 30-day free trial also earned it points.
It could have rated higher if it included a built-in ecommerce solution; using the integrated online store requires a WooCommerce account in addition to your KORONA subscription. Marketing tools also require integrations. If you prefer built-in marketing and ecommerce, you’ll prefer Square, Lightspeed, and Vend by Lightspeed.
KORONA operates on a variety of desktop and mobile devices that can be configured as POS terminals, mobile tablet POS, customer-facing displays, or inventory scanners. Common manufacturers include HP, Aures, Partner Tech, Hisense. You can use any compatible hardware that you already own or purchase hardware through KORONA at custom-quoted prices.
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
KORONA Standout Features
The KORONA POS is a Swiss army knife for small business of all types. This system specializes in providing detailed tools for niche businesses, from event venues that need ticketing functions to liquor stores and vape shops that require additional product controls and high risk processors.
KORONA’s standout features include:
- Payments agnostic: KORONA integrates with any major payment processor, making KORONA the most flexible POS on this list. You can bring virtually any processor you like, including high-risk processors or processors that include cash discounting tools. This one simple setting can save small businesses money in the long run, as you can shop around for the lowest available rates, and switch processors at any time.
- Flexible integrations: KORONA focuses on building integrations with niche applications that support specific business types. So while it lacks popular integrations with well-known tools like QuickBooks, it contains specific integrations for liquor stores (ecommerce tools Bottlecapps and City Hive), dispensaries (traceability apps Metrc, BioTrack, and Leak Data; ecommerce tools Dutchie, Leafly, Olla) wineries (bLoyal for wine club management), and more.
- Installation and training: Many systems on this list have $0 installation fees because you can self-install them. KORONA includes guided installation and training with every POS account. This is great if you don’t have the time or bandwidth to wade through tutorial videos and installation manuals.
- Inventory tools: KORONA’s inventory management tools allow you to break cases and set different prices for items—like beers sold by the bottle, six-pack, or case—that have the same UPC codes. You can scan new items with a barcode scanner to update inventory levels and print price labels from stock receipts, so your prices are always in line with your actual costs. You’ll also get low-stock alerts and shipment alerts, so you know exactly when to expect new items. KORONA is one of two systems on this list with shipment tracking; Lightspeed Retail is the other.
Explore more niche features by reading our full KORONA review.
Revel Systems: Best for Small Grocers & High-volume Restaurants
Revel Systems is a multichannel iPad POS system that supports both retail and restaurant businesses. It may seem counterintuitive that one POS system can support businesses as varied as a small grocery store and a high-volume restaurant, but Revel’s extreme customizability makes it possible. Alongside basic POS terminals, users can integrate scales, barcode scanners, and handheld inventory.
Using iPads as the foundation for POS terminals and handheld devices makes Revel hardware more affordable than a system like IT Retail. Its massively functional inventory and built-in delivery management tools also make Revel Systems a terrific fit for high-volume restaurants (and grocers) that want to offer local delivery with an in-house driver team.
In our evaluation, Revel scored a 3.74 out of 5. It earned a perfect 5 for register features (as did Shopify), and outscored the competition in the management tools category. But Revel’s excellent tools were weighed down by pricing issues.
With a baseline POS fee of $99 per terminal, per month, plus a mandatory installation fee of $674 and a required three-year contract, it simply could not compete on price with systems like Square and Toast, which offer a free baseline POS. Revel also doesn’t offer a free trial of any length, unlike Lightspeed, Shopify, and Vend. That can be a big hurdle when you’re asking customers to sign up for a three-year term.
Grocers and market owners should also know that Revel does not accept integrated EBT payments. You’ll need a satellite EBT reader from your payment processor to accept these payments, and your staff will need to know what products are approved for EBT purchases. If you need integrated EBT tools, try IT Retail or KORONA.
Revel Systems Hardware
Like Lightspeed and TouchBistro, Revel Systems uses iPads in innovative ways to create a variety of POS configurations—as touch-screen POS terminals, handheld order and payment devices (in card reader enabled cases), customer-facing displays, and self-order kiosks.
Revel also supports high-functioning peripherals like scales and scanners and digital menu displays that you can manage from your back office dashboard. However, it does not list any pricing publicly, so you’ll need to contact them for a price quote.
C-stand iPad stand
L-stand iPad stand
Low-profile countertop stand for basic iPad POS terminal
iPad stand with customer-facing display
Card reader-enabled iPad terminal with integrated, countersunk scale, barcode scanner, and receipt printer
Revel Systems Standout Features
When you look beyond the price, you’ll see that Revel includes a wealth of insightful POS features that many cloud-based systems lack. The reports are endlessly customizable, as are menu and order screens, and you can track every bit of sales and performance data imaginable.
Revel also includes a slew of free smartphone apps for reporting, inventory counting, and delivery drivers—extending the POS system’s functions. You can also commission a custom commerce app from Revel that allows your customers to shop your store directly from their iOS and Android devices.
Revel Systems’ standout features include:
- Grocery features: Revel’s POS screens are highly customizable, and the system integrates with scales and barcode scanners to support all types of markets. You’ll also find integrated customer relationship management, loyalty, gift card, and discount tools to encourage customer retention.
- Restaurant features: Detailed table mapping and management, menu-building tools, integrated kitchen display communication, and integrated online ordering form the foundation of Revel’s restaurant tools. Tip-tracking, pre-authorized bar tabs, and employee scheduling are also included.
- Inventory and vendor management: Revel’s inventory module is strong enough to compete with the best retail inventory tools and offers the strongest restaurant inventory tools on this list. In addition to real-time inventory updates with low stock alerts, users get vendor and purchase order management. You can also update your inventory and perform physical counts using Revel’s free inventory app for smartphones.
- Delivery management: If your restaurant or market wants to offer local delivery, Revel has you covered there too. You can manage a team of in-house drivers with maps-based driver dispatch. Your dispatch dashboard tracks driver locations in real time and includes a free driver app, so you can send drivers turn by turn directions and delivery information. If you prefer to use third-party drivers, you can hail them on-demand using Revel’s integration with DoorDash Drive.
- Flexible hardware: Revel’s iPad-based POS terminals tend to be less expensive than the custom-built hardware required by IT Retail. The setup is also more straightforward than KORONA, where the sheer number of hardware options might be daunting. Revel includes the barcode scanners and integrated scales that grocers need, alongside customer display systems, self-order kiosks, and mobile ordering for speedy and contactless service.
POS Systems Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is the difference between a POS and terminal?
Many people use the terms “POS” and “terminal” interchangeably. A POS (or “point-of-sale”) system is a combination of hardware and software that allow businesses to track inventory, enter sales, process payments, and log business performance data. A terminal is one part of a POS system; it is the hardware component where you enter sales and process payments.
What POS system do retailers use?
Retailers use a variety of POS systems depending on their business type. Multilocation national chain stores tend to design their own POS systems so that they can quickly respond to POS technology trends. Independent retailers tend to rely on commercially available cloud-based systems like Square (which has more than 2 million active sellers), Shopify, and NCR.
Which POS is the cheapest?
The cheapest POS systems tend to be those that offer their POS software for only the cost of payment processing. Popular systems that follow this model include Square and Toast—though you can also find systems that offer free POS software without any integrated payment processing, like Loyverse.
However, software and processing fees won’t be your only POS costs. You’ll also need to consider hardware like touch screens and card readers. If you’re on a budget, iPad-based POS systems like Lightspeed and TouchBistro are good options.
How We Evaluated POS Systems
We looked for systems that are affordable for independent business owners and included basic POS functions like check and order management, the ability to process multiple forms of payment, and inventory tracking. To find the best, we also looked for systems that support multiple business types or that dominate in the industry they serve.
Based on the above criteria and on our staff experts’ evaluations of dozens of POS systems, Square emerged as the best all-purpose POS system for most individuals and small businesses.
Click through the tabs below to see the full evaluation criteria.
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The most important feature we considered was inventory tracking. We also considered how sophisticated and user-friendly the reporting dashboard of each system is and what marketing and employee management tools are available.
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Square offers the most tools for the lowest price of any small business POS. Whether your business is mobile or brick and mortar—or retail, restaurant, or service-based—it has POS options for you. Beyond the affordable POS tools, the platform includes a wealth of small business tools to help you manage your staff and grow your business online and offline. With easy set up and quick account approval, small business owners can get started with Square in a single day—all you need to do is contact Square.