This article is part of a larger series on POS Systems.
Quick service restaurants (QSRs) need point-of-sale (POS) systems that move at the speed of their business. The best QSR POS systems combine affordable software with flexible hardware that allows restaurants to meet customers where they are: in-house, online, curbside, or in the drive-thru.
Beyond processing orders and sales, a QSR POS should offer robust reporting, inventory management, employee scheduling, and excellent offline functionality. You shouldn’t have to spend a lot to get one; the QSR POS options on this list range from $0 to $99 per month.
Based on our evaluations, the best QSR POS systems are:
- Toast: Best overall POS for QSRs of any size
- Revel Systems: Best for inventory management and dynamic label printing
- Lightspeed Restaurant: Best for small QSRs that want third-party delivery tools
- TouchBistro: Best for cafes, coffee shops, and small QSRs that want integrated menu displays
- Square for Restaurants: Best for QSRs that need free online ordering tools
- Clover: Best QSR POS for third-party integrations
Top Quick Service POS Compared
Minimum Monthly Fee
Available Hardware Peripherals
Starting from $0
Customer-facing display, Self-service kiosk, KDS, Handheld ordering device
Customer-facing display, Self-ordering kiosk, KDS, Digital menu boards
Built-in or third-party
Bring your own iPad; other hardware custom-quoted
Customer-facing display, Tableside order and pay tablet, KDS
Built-in or third-party
Yes, 14-day free trial
Bring your own iPad; other hardware custom-quoted
Customer-facing display, Tableside ordering tablet, KDS, Self-ordering kiosk, Digital menu boards
Built-in or third-party
Bring your own iPad; other hardware starting from $169
Customer-facing display, Handheld payment terminal, Self-ordering kiosk
Yes, 30-day free trial
Starting from $299
Customer-facing display, Handheld terminal, KDS, Self-ordering kiosk
Built-in or third-party
*Historic pricing, confirmed by sales quote; not publicly listed
How We Evaluated QSR POS
We compared nearly a dozen of the most popular POS systems based on what’s essential to QSR restaurant owners, including price, general point-of-sale functionality, niche quick service functions, and ease of use. We also considered our retail and restaurant experts’ personal evaluations of each software.
Using the above criteria, Toast emerged as the best QSR POS. This system received the highest overall score according to our grading system for QSR software (4.30 out of 5). Based on our personal experience testing different POS software and working in and with independent restaurants that use POS systems every day, Toast is also one of the top software that we personally recommend.
Click through the box below for our full evaluation criteria:
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First, we looked at whether or not each software offers a free plan, free trial, or baseline subscription under $75 per month. We also scored each system for its hardware costs and available payment processors, giving the highest scores to systems that allow QSRs to shop for the best processing rates.
20% of Overall Score
25% of Overall Score
20% of Overall Score
We determined ease of use based on each system’s customer service hours and whether they support online knowledge bases for training. We also scored offline mode functionality and awarded points to systems that include a mobile reporting app that you don’t need to log in to via a web browser.
20% of Overall Score
Toast: Best Overall POS for QSRs
Toast is a tablet POS exclusively built for the restaurant industry. This user-friendly POS frequently tops our rankings or performs well in best restaurant POS systems and best overall POS systems for small businesses. Yes, Toast users are locked into Toast Payments for payment processing, and yes, Toast only operates on Toast hardware. But Toast has spent 2021 finding ways to make its POS system accessible for small, independent restaurants, offering a free baseline software subscription and pay-as-you-go options for hardware purchases.
These changes have made Toast one of the most affordable restaurant POS systems available. That’s great news for independent restaurants that need an all-in-one POS that combines online ordering, marketing, detailed reporting, and inventory and workforce management tools. The affordable cost-plus comprehensive features make Toast a highly customizable system that can fit any size QSR.
Toast earned a 4.3 out of 5 on our QSR POS ranking, receiving high marks for its general POS functions and niche QSR tools, including integrated handheld POS terminals and sticky label printing. Toast earned a perfect score for its QSR functions and from our experts. Toast could have scored higher is if it offered a mobile reporting app (as Lightspeed, Revel Systems, and TouchBistro do), supported additional payment processors (like Revel Systems and TouchBistro), or included online ordering and loyalty tools in its baseline POS (like Square for Restaurants and Clover).
Toast Standout Features
Toast operates on pre-configured ELO touch-screen tablets and handhelds, so you’ll have to buy hardware directly from Toast. But you don’t have to break the bank purchasing hardware. In 2021, Toast rolled out Pay-as-You-Go pricing for its POS terminals. Users can get the Starter Kit terminal bundle, including a Toast terminal, router, and Toast Tap payment devices for $0 upfront. Pay-as-You-Go users are locked into a slightly higher payment processing rate to cover the costs of their terminal. If you choose to purchase the same hardware upfront, it costs $799.
- Pay-as-You-Go hardware: While systems like Square for Restaurants allow users to bring their own hardware, Toast is the only provider on this list that offers its POS hardware at no upfront cost. This can be a game-changer for small QSRs that need to expand their operations. Though currently this offer only extends to up to two terminals.
- Flexible hardware: Standard terminals with flip screens, customer-facing displays, tableside/mobile ordering, kitchen display screens, and self-order kiosks are all available on this system. In fact, Toast’s self-service kiosk and KDS are some of our top recommendations for these restaurant tools.
- Purpose-built handheld terminal: Toast also supports a fully-featured handheld terminal, the Toast Go 2, to support line busting and curbside or tableside orders and payments. Every system on this list supports some kind of a handheld terminal. But because QSRs can be busy and shifts can be long, we gave the highest points to systems that include ergonomic, purpose-built handhelds over those that use heavier, larger iPads for handheld devices. The Toast Go 2, which fits in an apron pocket and can be operated with one hand, is best-in-class.
- Text integrations: Toast’s KDS screens integrate with SMS text messaging to alert takeout customers when their orders are ready. It is the only system on this list with automated text functionality.
- Combo-building: Toast’s combo builder operates a little differently than the others on this list. Rather than relying on nested modifiers, Toast combos operate as a discount type. You tell your Toast system which menu items are possible combo items, and a discount automatically applies when they are added to a check.
- Drive-thru support: Toast offers a detailed, built-in drive-thru order stream. You can find configuration instructions on Toast Central, Toast’s online knowledge database. Once configured, your drive-thru tickets will be color-coded on your KDS screens.
- Delivery management: It offers some of our favorite built-in POS delivery tools. With Toast, you can manage a team of in-house drivers with GPS mapping integrations, or you can opt to send your in-house orders to local third-party drivers for a flat, per-delivery fee.
Revel Systems: Best for Inventory Management & Dynamic Label Printing
Revel Systems POS is a nearly infinitely customizable iPad POS. The customizability makes Revel Systems an excellent fit for high-volume or multilocation QSR concepts. Revel corrals combo order options to a single screen, which can save time if your menu is extensive or consists of often modified dishes like pizza and sandwiches. Its system also includes many inventory management tools that typically require a third-party integration. Service timers and outdoor customer-facing displays also help drive-thru QSRs keep orders speedy and accurate.
As a QSR POS, Revel Systems comes in second place with an overall rating of 4.25 out of 5. Revel is comparable to Toast for its sheer number of included features and flexible hardware. So if you like Toast, but wish you could run it on an iPad and pick your payment processor, Revel could be a great fit. You should note where this system lost points, though; it is the highest-priced option on this list and requires a three-year service contract. And while it operates on iPads like Lightspeed Restaurant, TouchBistro, and Square for Restaurants, Revel users must purchase their iPads pre-configured from Revel. You cannot bring your own.
Revel Systems Standout Features
- Drive-thru tools: Via integration with Delphi Digital Displays, Revel Systems supports outdoor customer order confirmation screens. Combined with Revel’s built-in tools for service timers and digital menu boards, this system provides the strongest drive-thru management functions on this list.
- Dynamic label printing: With Revel, you can print paper receipts at a terminal or kiosk, as well as link a Bluetooth printer to a handheld tablet to print paper receipts on the move. If you want sticky labels for individual item orders or to seal to-go bags, Revel has you covered. If you prepare or sell RTE and RTD items, you can print scannable barcode labels too.
- Combo Building: Revel’s combo building function is incredibly detailed. It displays all your combo options on a single screen for fast ordering and easy adjustments if customers change their minds.
- Delivery management: Revel System’s Delivery module is the most robust available in a hybrid POS. You can dispatch drivers with GPS directions and track their transactions and shift performance just like you do for cashiers.
- Automated inventory with vendor management: All of the systems on this list include some inventory management tools with real-time ingredient tracking and low stock alerts. Revel Systems, however, includes many inventory management tools that typically require a third-party integration, like PO creation and order receiving directly in the POS. An attached smartphone app for performing physical counts lets your team scan barcodes to count items and employee permissions let you spread inventory counting tasks across your team without giving counting employees access to the entire inventory module. If comprehensive built-in inventory tracking is a priority for your QSR, Revel is your best bet.
- Customizable Hardware: Digital menu boards, kitchen display screens, iPad-based registers, self-service kiosks, mobile ordering tablets, chip, swipe, and contactless card readers, Bluetooth, and ethernet-connected printers are all available on Revel. So, you can create a custom configuration to match your restaurant operation, no matter how complex.
Lightspeed Restaurant: Best for Small QSRs That Want Third-Party Delivery Tools
Lightspeed Restaurant is a top-performing iPad POS with transparent software pricing and comprehensive quick-service tools. While it doesn’t offer a free baseline subscription like competitors Toast and Square for Restaurants, Lightspeed Restaurant does allow users to bring their own compatible hardware, including iPads.
Another benefit of Lightspeed Restaurant is that users can choose from three payment processors. The system integrates with Lightspeed Payments, Vantiv/Worldpay, and TSYS so small restaurants can shop around for the best processing rates. It also consolidates your third-party delivery platforms into a single dashboard via a Deliverect integration.
On our QSR POS rating system, Lightspeed Restaurant earned a 3.98 out of 5. Lightspeed outscored the competition on price (its free trial and array of available processors put it over the top) and scored well for niche QSR functions. This accessible system could have scored higher if it supported a purpose-built handheld terminal (like Toast and Clover do) and offered a mobile reporting app (as Revel Systems, TouchBistro, and Clover do).
Lightspeed Restaurant Standout Features
- Quick service mode: Lightspeed Restaurant includes a quick service setting that reduces the number of button presses required to ring up a new order and process payment. Unfortunately, this mode does not support barcode scanning to add ready-to-eat (RTE) and ready-to-drink (RDT) items to orders.
- Consolidated third-party delivery: Via an integration with Deliverect, Lightspeed Restaurant consolidates all of your third-party delivery platforms into a single dashboard. You can configure online-only menus and manage each of your third-party platform subscriptions from a single place. Orders print to your kitchen or KDS screen seamlessly. Though if you prefer to manage your own team of in-house drivers, Lightspeed currently lacks those tools. You’ll be better served by Toast or Revel Systems.
- Flexible hardware: In addition to iPad-based terminals, Lightspeed Restaurant uses iPads for KDSes, customer-facing displays, and self-service kiosks, so you can customize your POS by pressing a few buttons in the manager dashboard. These screens all feature Lightspeed’s intuitive interface. In fact, Lightspeed Restaurant has our favorite QSR KDS configuration.
- Popular integrations: In addition to Lightspeed’s extensive add-on functions, this restaurant POS integrates with 80+ third-party software tools. You can find popular options for employee scheduling, inventory, website management, reservations, accounting, payroll, and third-party delivery platforms.
TouchBistro: Best for Cafes, Coffee Shops & Small QSRs That Want Integrated Menu Displays
TouchBistro is a hybrid iPad restaurant POS with more than 200 built-in features, including inventory, menu management, templatized reporting, and unlimited user logins. TouchBistro also has a wide array of options for KDS screens, customer-facing displays, and kiosks, as well as a long list of available third-party integrations to tailor the POS to your specific QSR needs. Technically, Revel Systems supports the same type of integrated displays, but TouchBistro is a cost-friendlier option for small QSRs.
In our evaluation, TouchBistro earned a rating of 3.86 out of 5. This put TouchBistro just out of the top-three range, mostly due to some limitations in niche QSR functions. While the system has an incredibly intuitive KDS, kiosk, and digital menu display, it lacks granular details like sticky label printers and dual cash-drawer tills that help support takeout and high-volume operations. High marks for price, an available free trial, and ease of use, however, bolstered TouchBistro’s rating.
TouchBistro Standout Features
- Fast Bar setting: TouchBistro’s Fast Bar setting is the equivalent of Lightspeed Restaurant’s quick service mode. Both settings arrange the primary order screen to reduce button presses and speed counter service. With menu navigation and payment buttons on a single screen, your cashiers can ring in orders and process payments faster.
- Combo building: You can configure TouchBistro’s modifier menus to ring in basic combos, like a burger and one side, or more complex orders, like a family meal kit, for pickup or delivery.
- Customizable add-on modules: TouchBistro offers built-in tools for reservations, employee management, loyalty, online ordering, and gift cards. You can also configure your TouchBistro hardware to operate as digital menu boards, self-service kiosks, or customer-facing displays. Many of these customizations come with additional monthly fees ranging from $20 to $229 per month. You can find most fees transparently listed on the TouchBistro website.
- Affordable, flexible hardware: Full iPad-based registers, Apple TV-projected digital menus, iPad stands, handheld iPad cases, and contactless payment terminals let you take orders at a counter or tableside. KDS screens and wireless and ethernet-connected printers ensure that you can print receipts and send orders to the kitchen from anywhere in your restaurant.
Square for Restaurants: Best for QSRs That Need Free Online Ordering Tools
Square for Restaurants is a cloud-based iPad POS with built-in payments from Square. The system is incredibly inexpensive, as the baseline subscription is free. That basic POS has some limitations, but the next level in the subscription tier is still incredibly affordable at $60 per month. Best of all, a Square for Restaurants POS communicates directly with the entire Square small business ecosystem, including the free Square Online Store.
Square for Restaurants is well-suited for QSRs and earned an overall score of 3.82 out of 5 in this evaluation. The system scored well on price and value for money. And while it could have scored higher if it offered more niche functions, like drive-thru support and more robust combo-building, Square for Restaurants has a lot to offer QSRs—especially those on a budget.
Square for Restaurants Standout Features
Square for Restaurants offers QSRs incredible value for money. The free POS subscription tier makes POS tools accessible for new and small restaurants, in particular. Square’s pricing is refreshingly transparent, so you always know what functions you have and what additional functions will cost. Square for Restaurants also does not require a long-term contract, so small operations can start with the Free Square for Restaurants POS, then easily upgrade to a Plus or Premium membership as their businesses grow.
- Free basic POS: Square for Restaurants’ entry-level POS subscription is available for no monthly fees. If you have a compatible iPad, there are no costs to getting started with Square for Restaurants. The Free Square for Restaurants POS has a few limitations, though. You can’t reopen closed checks or use seat numbers and meal courses. And while you can use the free POS on unlimited terminals, you can’t assign custom user permissions for various levels of access.
- Free online ordering site: Via the integrated Square Online Store, Square for Restaurants users can add an online ordering site for free. If your restaurant does not have a website, no problem; you can host your online ordering page on a Square web address for no additional cost. Clover offers similar online ordering features, but Square’s free POS operates on equipment you already have, which gives it the edge in free online ordering.
- Delivery options: Like Revel Systems and Toast, Square integrates with aggregating software like Chowly to directly feed third-party platform orders into your POS order stream.
- No long-term contracts: Square for Restaurants does not require a long-term service contract to use. You can use the POS for a month or a year and leave at any time. You can also easily shift to a different subscription tier as your business grows or your needs change.
- Sticky labels: Like Toast, Revel Systems, and Lightspeed Restaurant, Square for Restaurants supports label printing. It integrates with the StarMicronics TSP654SK printer to print thermal labels for individual items. This makes the system excellent for QSRs like coffee or sandwich shops that print labels for individual menu items. Sticky labels are also a nice feature if you like to print order labels for delivery or takeout orders.
- Integrated KDS: Square for Restaurants recently added an integrated KDS (it formerly relied on FreshKDS). This new function is a great option for QSRs that need a cost-effective solution. Like the rest of the Square for Restaurants system, the Square KDS operates on iPads. You can download the software for the KDS from the Apple App Store.
Clover: Best for Third-Party Integrations
Clover is a cloud-based POS that, like Toast, operates on custom-built hardware. This highly customizable system supports integrations with more than 300 third-party software tools that you can easily add from the Clover App Marketplace. You’ll find multiple options for employee scheduling, payroll integrations, marketing, and inventory. The downside is that you may need to add several integrations to build the POS you want.
Clover earned a score of 3.66 out of 5 on our QSR POS ranking. This flexible system scored well for its niche QSR functions like combo building, integrated hardware peripherals, and sticky label printing. But it lost some points for not supporting a mobile reporting app (like TouchBistro and Revel Systems do) and for a bit of clunky business with where you purchase your Clover system. You can get a Clover system via several merchant services providers that operate on the Fiserv network. But processing rates and contract terms will vary wildly, so you’ll need to take care to find the best terms.
Clover Standout Features
- Payment processing options: Clover is owned by the payment gateway Fiserv. The system comes pre-loaded with your payment processor’s payment integrations. But you can purchase your Clover system through hundreds of different merchant services providers that operate on the Fiserv network. Rates and contract terms vary depending on where you purchase your system. While you can purchase a system directly through Clover, you’ll likely get better rates going through Payment Depot or Dharma Merchant Services.
- Customizable features: Clover touts a staggering 300+ third-party integrations. It has all the operational bases covered, from inventory management to employee scheduling and even donation-at-checkout tools. The only drawback is that some functions, like ingredient level inventory or KDS screens, require a third-party integration, so your costs can add up quickly.
- Loyalty features: Unlike the other systems on this list, Clover does not charge extra for basic loyalty features. You can run a points-based loyalty program with a baseline software subscription. Higher-level features like targeted email and text messaging campaigns come at an additional cost, from 10 cents per customer.
- Online ordering: Like Square for Restaurants, Clover offers users a free online ordering site. You can build your site yourself using Clover’s guided setup guide or have Clover build your site for you.
Quick service POS systems need to be full-featured and cost-effective. Toast combines those two qualities seamlessly. With a free baseline POS subscription, pay-as-you-go hardware pricing, and features for everything from combo building to drive-thru management, Toast can support QSRs of any size. Self-ordering kiosks, handheld terminals, customer-facing displays, and KDS screens streamline your operation, and the hybrid installation ensures optimal offline functionality. To see if Toast is a fit for your QSR, contact Toast for a full demo.