The best restaurant management software programs help businesses with scheduling, payment processing and inventory management so that the kitchen never runs out of its top dish. We examined dozens of restaurant software systems and narrowed down our top six choices in terms of price and features to determine the best overall restaurant management system.
Top 6 Restaurant Software for 2018
|(Overall Best) Toast is best for restaurants that want advanced options for a lower cost|
|Lavu||Restaurants that offer online ordering and delivery with built-in employee scheduling|
|Square for Restaurants||Cafes and new restaurants that want a low-cost restaurant management software|
|TouchBistro||Restaurants that want reservation and at-a-glance table management|
|Lightspeed Restaurant||Chain restaurants that want to consolidate and manage all operations under one dashboard|
|Breadcrumb||Full-service restaurants that want comprehensive guest management features|
How We Evaluated Each Restaurant Software System
Restaurants need a software system that can synchronize all major areas of their business including payments, orders, inventory, staff scheduling, menu management and reporting in one digital hub. We looked at programs that offer all of these features plus the necessary hardware at an affordable rate. We also considered other variables like tech support, ease of use and the ability to integrate with other platforms.
We compared restaurant software systems using the following criteria:
- Pricing: We looked at software costs, hardware costs and any applicable transaction fees
- Payment processing: We only considered restaurant management software that is able to take orders and process payments securely
- Restaurant inventory management: We looked at systems that tracked stock levels of ingredients and allow for quick reordering
- Guest management: We looked at guest management features like online reservations, check splitting features, loyalty programs and gift card options
- Table management: We looked at software that lets hosts and hostesses drag-and-drop table configurations, assign tables and calculate wait times
- Menu management: We looked at programs that offer real-time menu updating and unlimited customization options
- Order and delivery management: We examined whether the software can handle online and in-person orders as well as delivery tracking
- Staff management & scheduling: We looked at programs that have employee logins, shift scheduling, sales tracking and different permission levels
- Reporting & analytics: We looked at software programs that can provide data on top-selling menu items, optimize staffing and track traffic
- Kitchen display system: We looked at software that simplifies communication between the front of house and back of house and organizes orders in the kitchen
- Integrations: We looked at restaurant programs that can integrate with other tools like accounting software and restaurant websites for reservations and menus
- Ease of use: We looked at restaurant management tools that require minimal setup and training for new employees
- Technical support: We looked at software tools that provide fast and reliable support for their programs
Based on the above criteria, Toast is our top choice for restaurant management software because of all of its available features, positive user reviews and affordable price. Toast has software options designed for quick service, full service, pizzeria and bar restaurants, so there is an option to fit just about any restaurant. Toast also has great features like inventory management, online ordering, loyalty programs and gift cards built in.
Best Overall Restaurant Management Software for Small Businesses: Toast
Toast is a customizable cloud-based point of sale (POS) and management system that runs on the Android operating system. Toast has advanced back-end features like inventory management as well as front-of-house tools like built-in customer profiles and a broad range of order modifiers. Overall, Toast is pricier than some of the other software on our list but comes with more options like menu-costing, customer profiles and a broad range of modifiers.
Toast is pricier than other options with pricing starting at $79 per month per terminal but comes with extra features like menu costing. Upfront costs start at $899 for hardware and $499 for installation with 0 percent interest and 36-month financing available. Toast has a flat-rate payment processing fee.
Toast has POS systems dedicated to full service, quick service, pizzeria and bar restaurants that each come with features designed for that type of business. Other software systems like Square for Restaurants and Lightspeed Restaurant only have one solution. Overall, Toast has a large array of built-in features like menu costing, a broad range of order modifiers and inventory management that set it apart from other programs.
Toast has its own built-in payment processing service for a flat fee that is based on your business type. Toast payments are end-to-end encrypted and Payment Card Industry (PCI) certified. Toast management software can accept payments offline like Lavu and Square.
Like most of the other restaurant management software programs we compared, Toast runs on tablets so that servers can enter orders tableside or behind a counter. Toast also has a kiosk option for guests to enter in their own orders. Orders are sent to the kitchen automatically, and servers are updated when items are ready.
Customer Relationship Management
When it’s time for checkout, Toast lets servers split checks by dragging and dropping menu items on the screen across any number of guests. Guests can also choose to sign up for loyalty programs at checkout, although its loyalty program does not integrate with gift card options like TouchBistro does. However, Toast stores order histories under each guest profile, so servers can see how frequently each customer visits and what they have ordered before.
Toast provides real-time inventory updates and advanced reports like menu costing, restaurant food cost calculators, inventory variance and menu engineering. Menu costing is a valuable advanced feature that Square for Restaurants and Lavu don’t offer. Overall, Toast has the most advanced inventory management features out of all the software programs on our list.
Toast has built-in employee management features like user-based permissions for each employee, time clocks, productivity reports and end-of-shift review. Being able to customize roles and permissions by individual employees is something that other software programs like Lavu don’t offer.
Toast integrates with popular reservation programs like OpenTable and bar management tools like BevSpot. Toast has an online ordering integration that adds a restaurant’s menu to its website and allows for real-time menu updating from anywhere. The online menu can be synced with the in-store menu or separate. Toast partners with a few delivery integrations, including a GrubHub partnership that is coming soon.
What Toast Is Missing
Toast does not integrate with QuickBooks or other mainstream accounting platforms. Toast also does not offer any employee scheduling directly in the platform. Restaurants looking for that specific option should consider Lavu.
What User’s Think About Toast
Toast has a dedicated customer success team that offers free support 24/7/365 via phone, chat and email. In several reviews, users mentioned that they feel like part of a community with Toast. Toast’s interface is user-friendly for servers and gives managers deep insights into business profitability. Visit our Toast POS User Review Page for more information.
Where to Find Toast
Toast provides a custom quote for each restaurant which helps ensure that restaurant owners are only paying for the features they intend to use. The Toast website is also full of articles and additional resources to help restaurant owners maximize Toasts benefits as well as a dedicated support team. Visit the Toast website to request a demo.
Best Restaurant Management Software for Online Orders and Delivery: Lavu
Lavu is a cloud-based iPad POS system specifically designed for restaurants. Lavu offers standard features like menu customization, easy order taking and employee management. What sets Lavu apart are the ToGo, Delivery and Routing integrations. These features coordinate online orders, pickup orders and delivery within the same POS platform which is why Lavu is our top choice for restaurants that offer online ordering and delivery.
Lavu starts at $69 per month per terminal, which is moderately priced compared to similar products in the market. Lavu hardware kits start at $399 for the iPad stand and magstripe card reader. iPads are an additional $399 each. Lavu has its own payment processing system, but restaurants can also integrate other payment processing solutions.
Lavu has industry standard features like menu and table layout customization, the ability to split checks and process payments and inventory monitoring. More advanced options like online ordering and digital menu boards are available as add-ons. These add-ons make Lavu a more flexible option compared to other programs because restaurants can pick and choose which features they want while still having everything run under one program.
Lavu offers Lavu Pay, which is Lavu’s own payment processing solution. However, unlike Toast and Square for Restaurants, Lavu does not force restaurants to use this service. Lavu POS is also compatible with Square and other third-party payment processing services so restaurant owners can shop around for the best rate.
Lavu has required and optional modifier options that can be applied to any menu item, so customers preferences are never left out or forgotten. Lavu also has a few unique features including happy hour where restaurants can set percentage or dollar-off discounts for a specific time period. Users can alternate between table, bar tab or quick-serve layouts when taking orders, which is a handy feature that is unique to Lavu.
Customer Relationship Management
Lavu gives users the ability to build guest databases and track order histories through integration with third-party customer relationship management (CRM) programs, however, it does not offer this as a built-in feature. If this is an important feature for your business, you may want to consider other software programs like Square for Restaurants, which have customer directories built in.
Lavu has real-time ingredient-level inventory tracking. Restaurants can manually add inventory or automatically receive stock via purchase orders. Like Toast, Lavu can connect inventory items with menu items to keep track of ingredients as they are used.
Managers can schedule shifts directly through Lavu. Employees can also clock in and out and trade shifts. Most restaurant software programs let employees sign in and out of shifts, however, Lavu is the only software system on our list that offers a robust scheduling solution.
Lavu has many of their own integration solutions, including accounting, payments, loyalty, gift cards, customer management, delivery, online ordering, digital menu boards, kitchen display systems and more. However, Lavu also partners with third-party providers like Square and Chowly. Plus, Lavu has an open application programming interface (API), so business owners can create their own integrations.
What Lavu Is Missing
Lavu has plenty of extra features available, though its biggest downside is many of them are not included in the base price. Lavu also does not have some features that Toast or TouchBistro have that might be required for full-service restaurants such as reservation management or sophisticated floor plan options.
What Users Think About Lavu
Lavu is a small company and, although it offers free and responsive customer support, some reviewers note they are not happy with the level of service they receive. Visit our Lavu POS Review Page for more information.
Where to Find Lavu
Overall, Lavu is our top pick for restaurants with online ordering and delivery. However, Lavu may not be the best option for a full-service or fine dining restaurant. Visit the Lavu website for a 14-day free trial.
Best Low-cost Software Option for Cafes and New Restaurants: Square for Restaurants
Square offers Square for Restaurants, a low-cost, cloud-based restaurant management software that runs on iPads. Square for Restaurants is intuitive and easy to use with basic features like inventory management and check-splitting and is part of the Square POS payment processing platform. Therefore, it is a terrific option for new restaurants just getting started or smaller restaurants that don’t need the more robust features of a higher-cost system.
Square for Restaurants Pricing
Square for Restaurants starts at $60 per month for software per POS system. Additional systems are $40 per month. Square has a built-in payment processing service that is 2.6 percent plus 10 cents per transaction, which is slightly above industry average. Hardware kits start at $1,044. Individual stands with payment processors can be purchased for between $169 and $329.
Square for Restaurants Features
Square for Restaurants takes the user-friendly interface of Square and pumps it full of features like menu building and table management to help organize all areas of a restaurant business. Square for Restaurants is very intuitive and requires minimum training. It also has the lowest monthly fee out of all the restaurant management software programs on our list and is also the only program on our list to offer free sample catering contracts.
Square for Restaurants uses Square’s proprietary payment processor. The fee is 2.6 percent plus 10 cents per transaction. Square can accept payments in offline mode, and all transactions are PCI-compliant. Square for Restaurants also offers up to $250 month in chargeback disputes for eligible transactions, which appears to be a unique feature among the other programs on our list.
Square for Restaurants runs on an iPad like most of our software choices so that this program can be used tableside or behind a counter, but unlike Toast, it is not designed to handle menus with lots of order modifiers like “no onions.” Square for Restaurants offers simple check splitting, refunds and automatic tipping. Employees can reprint order tickets and repeat food and beverage orders, making it a terrific option for dining options like food trucks with limited menus.
Customer Relationship Management
Similar to the free version of Square, Square for Restaurants automatically creates customer profiles based on payment cards. While this feature is not as robust as the loyalty feature found with products like Toast, Restaurants can add additional customer information, view order histories, store credit cards on file and identify and reward repeat customers.
Square doesn’t have advanced inventory management features or menu costing. Reports show how much of each item was sold, but there is no connectivity between what products are sold and inventory stock levels like Toast, Lavu and TouchBistro offer.
Square for Restaurants has the capability to assign different team member roles, permission levels and passcodes. Managers can also view sales reports based on employee, similar to the employee management features of Toast, Lightspeed Restaurant and TouchBistro. However, Square for Restaurants doesn’t offer employee scheduling like Lavu.
Square for Restaurants integrates seamlessly with Caviar, an online order and delivery platform. Square also has other proprietary add-on features like payroll management, loyalty programs and gift cards. Overall, the Square platform has many integration options.
What Square for Restaurants Is Missing
The biggest flaw of Square for Restaurants is that it doesn’t have inventory management features designed specifically for the restaurant industry like those found in Toast or Lightspeed. So, this system would be best for a smaller restaurant that does not need inventory management built into their POS system.
What Users Think About Square for Restaurants
Square for Restaurants has good reviews because of the advanced front-end features and overall ease of use. For $60 per month and minimal hardware costs, Square for Restaurants is a terrific value for cafes, new businesses and smaller restaurants.
Where to Find Square for Restaurants
Square for Restaurants offers a free 30-day trial. Once you sign up for a plan, it’s on a month-to-month basis. Visit the Square for Restaurants website to give this restaurant management software a try commitment-free.
Best Restaurant Management Software for Reservation Management: TouchBistro
TouchBistro is an iPad POS restaurant management software comes with more than 200 features built-in including reservation management. TouchBistro has a hybrid approach to the cloud, so menu edits, orders, payments and reports can all be viewed offline. Advanced front-end capabilities at a comparatively lower monthly fee make TouchBistro is the best option for restaurants that want reservation management at a low price.
TouchBistro starts at $69 per month for one software license, which is on par with industry standards. TouchBistro is compatible with most iPad models which can be purchased for less than $400. Restaurants who want more than one POS will also need to invest in setting up a local network and server with Apple products.
Hundreds of front-end features and a local area connection means managing orders and processing payments on TouchBistro is fast and customizable. On the back end, TouchBistro also offers more than 50 different reports and customizable templates. Robust front and back-end features tailored to full-service restaurants make TouchBistro a superb pick for fine dining establishments.
TouchBistro has the most payment processing options out of all the restaurant management programs on our list. Unlike Toast and Square, TouchBistro does not have a proprietary payment processor, so restaurants can choose between service providers to find the lowest rate. TouchBistro integrates with Square, Chase, Worldpay, PayPal, Cayan and more. You read our recommendations regarding payment processors in our article on the Best Small Business POS Systems.
With TouchBistro, servers can send whole orders in right away or separate items by course. Menu items can be searched and sorted by images, lists and colored tiles. Floor plans are also customizable. Servers can add and arrange tables, manage reservations and monitor slow-turning or high-spending tables at a glance. Being able to manage reservations and view table statistics at a glance sets TouchBistro apart from the other software options.
Customer Relationship Management
Similar to Square and Toast, TouchBistro lets restaurants create customer profiles and store information for future reference for free with the basic software. More advanced features like loyalty and gift cards, email and short message service (SMS) marketing and order-ahead options for VIP customers are available for an additional fee. Loyalty programs start at an extra $49 per month.
TouchBistro tracks inventory levels down to the ingredient based on sales. Similar to Toast, restaurants can also create recipes and run menu costing through this software. Lavu, Toast and TouchBistro all have automated inventory tracking at the ingredient level.
Restaurants can manage payroll details and personal accounts through TouchBistro. TouchBistro also has an in-app messaging tool that employees can use for increased communication. TouchBistro and Breadcrumb are the only restaurant software programs on our list that have built-in employee communication tools.
What TouchBistro Is Missing
TouchBistro does not have any built-in online ordering solutions, so this product is a better fit for sit down restaurants. TouchBistro is also light on customer relationship features compared to other systems like Breadcrumb and Square for Restaurants.
What User’s Think About TouchBistro
Overall, TouchBistro is great at managing the front end of a restaurant. However, since TouchBistro is locally installed in each iPad, not on the cloud, some reviewers wish the software was cloud-based and accessible from other devices. Read our full TouchBistro User Review Page for more information.
Where to Find TouchBistro
TouchBistro offers a free trial option. Restaurants can also book a live tour. The website has plenty of step-by-step user guides and resources for all restaurant team members. Visit the website to learn more and sign up.
Best Restaurant Management Software for Consolidated Operations: Lightspeed Restaurant
Lightspeed Restaurant is a cloud-based iPad POS system for the foodservice industry. It offers comprehensive front-end and back-end management features designed for multiple locations. Elements of each restaurant, such as inventory and peak hour planning can be managed from one dashboard, which is why Lightspeed is our top restaurant software choice for chain restaurants in need of a single platform to manage consolidated operations.
Lightspeed Restaurant Pricing
Lightspeed Restaurant software starts at $69 per month for one register, which is in line with similar products. Custom quotes are available for restaurants with multiple locations. Lightspeed runs on iPads with iOS 9.3 and later, which can be purchased for less than $400. Transactions are through third-party processors so that businesses can choose a competitive rate.
Lightspeed Restaurant Features
Lightspeed Restaurant overall has industry standard features. What sets this software system apart is the ability to manage multiple restaurants under a single platform. Restaurant owners can manage and transfer inventory between locations, have centralized customer and gift card databases and plan for peak hours across locations.
Lightspeed can integrate with third-party payment processors Vantiv and Cayan. Since Lightspeed Restaurant runs on iPads, payments can be processed tableside. Like all of the other software programs on our list, Lightspeed has an offline mode to accept payments when the internet goes out.
Lightspeed offers tableside ordering, online and delivery orders and a customer-facing feature where guests can place orders at their tables, similar to TouchBistro. When it comes to checkout, servers can split, transfer and group orders between seats automatically.
Customer Relationship Management
Like the rest of the restaurant software programs on our list, Lightspeed Restaurant can store customer data and offers extra features like gift cards and loyalty programs. Lightspeed has a timed promotion feature similar to Lavu for automatic happy hour discounts.
Lightspeed Restaurant has automatic and manual inventory tracking. If you have multiple restaurants, inventory can be transferred between locations. However, unlike Toast and Lavu, Lightspeed doesn’t appear to have automatic notifications for low stock levels.
Employees can clock in and out right on Lightspeed. Similar to Square and Toast, Lightspeed Restaurant employees can also have individual accounts with permission settings and sales reports. Scheduling integrations are available but not built-in.
What Lightspeed Restaurant Is Missing
Lightspeed Restaurant is lacking a few advanced features like menu costing and automated low stock notification features, which would be beneficial for larger restaurants. Toast and TouchBistro both have menu costing features, which are helpful for building margins.
What User’s Think About Lightspeed Restaurant
Overall, Lightspeed Restaurant has positive reviews. This system makes it easy to centralize data from multiple locations under one platform. The few negative reviews cite limited integration options. For more information, visit our Lightspeed Restaurant User Review Page.
Where to Find Lightspeed Restaurant
Lightspeed Restaurant is a terrific choice for chain restaurants. Lightspeed has responsive customer support and a range of educational whitepapers and webinars available. Visit the Lightspeed Restaurant website to start a 14-day free trial.
Best Full-service Restaurant Software for Guest Management: Breadcrumb
Breadcrumb by Upserve is a cloud-based restaurant POS system that runs on iPads and is specifically designed to improve guest experiences. Built by former waitstaff and restaurant owners, Breadcrumb has a heavy focus on front-of-house features like a guestbook to keep track of regular customers, a management communications tool and a sleek loyalty program. These features make Breadcrumb our top restaurant software choice for guest management.
Breadcrumb’s Core software program costs $99 per month. The Pro software costs $249 per month, making it more expensive than similar programs, and additional terminals are $50 each. Breadcrumb works with Upserve Payments, which has a flat rate plus 15 cents processing fee and can only be used on an iPad 8.0 or later.
Breadcrumb Tiered Features
|Inventory Management & Recipe Costing|
|Advanced Menu Management|
Breadcrumb has industry standard POS features with unique tools to increase staff communication and customer service. Breadcrumb has a Shift Prep feature that pulls together 20 different data points including reservations, historical numbers, weather and more to forecast how many guests will arrive that day. Restaurants can manage staff and predict what dishes will sell with more accuracy.
Like Toast and Square for Restaurants, Breadcrumb has a built-in payment processor with a flat fee. Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV) processing is included with Breadcrumb Pro. Like all the other options on our list, Breadcrumb has an option for offline payments if the internet goes down.
Breadcrumb builds in more than 25 data points for each check including menu items, server, payments, notes and more. Breadcrumb has a few unique features like the ability to pre-authorize tabs for bar guests and an automatic tip pooling option. With Breadcrumb, servers can split checks and process voids and refunds. Breadcrumb and Toast are the only two programs on our list that partner with Grubhub to provide online orders and delivery.
Customer Relationship Management
Breadcrumb has a unique guestbook tool that lets employees make notes and track regular customers. Breadcrumb also has a loyalty program that is similar to Square’s in that it tracks customers by their payment information. However, Breadcrumb has a text-to-join feature that allows restaurants to capture phone numbers and gives guests more control like the ability to attach multiple payment cards to their account.
Breadcrumb Pro has an inventory countdown feature that alerts servers when items are running low. Upserve, the payment software behind Breadcrumb, has a separate inventory feature with automatic tracking, menu costing, one-click ordering and vendor management.
Breadcrumb has tools for employee logins, shift notes and in-app staff communication. TouchBistro is the only other software on our list that offers staff notes or messaging directly through the POS. However, unlike Lavu, Breadcrumb does not offer any employee scheduling.
What Breadcrumb Is Missing
Breadcrumb’s biggest flaw is that back-of-house features like inventory management and menu costing are only available with the Pro version. Integrated online ordering and the built-in loyalty program are also only available with the Pro version. At $249 per month, the Pro version is the most expensive restaurant software on our list.
What User’s Think About Breadcrumb
A few years ago, Breadcrumb’s POS merged with Upserve restaurant management. Since then, the majority of user reviews have been extremely positive. Users like the unique and thorough front-of-house management features that Breadcrumb has to offer. The biggest complaint is the price. Read our full Breadcrumb POS User Review Page to learn more.
Where to Find Breadcrumb
Restaurants can schedule a free in-person demo of Breadcrumb. Restaurants that use Breadcrumb receive free on-site installation and a dedicated Success Manager. Visit the Upserve website to learn more about Breadcrumb POS.
The Bottom Line
Restaurant management software systems process payments, manage and customize orders, help the front-of-house provide great customer service and help managers keep track of staff and inventory. Restaurants that use effective management software are more likely to increase sales, improve customer service ratings and built higher profit margins.
When evaluating different restaurant management software, we weighed the cost of each system compared to the quality and depth of the features it provides. Overall, Toast is our top pick for restaurant software because it offers tons of front-of-house and back-of-house management features at a mid-range price point and can be customized to fit any restaurant. Visit the Toast website to request a free demo.