This article is part of a larger series on POS Systems.
Square for Restaurants is a cloud-based restaurant point-of-sale (POS) system built on the popular Square small business platform. On our annual ranking of the best restaurant POS systems, Square for Restaurants came in eighth overall and earned a 3.45 out of 5. This user-friendly tablet POS is easy to self-install, can operate on hardware you already own, and comes with built-in, instantaneous digital payment processing from Square.
Square for Restaurants is great POS software for small restaurants, new restaurants, and especially for operations that are both small and new, like a food truck or a coffee shop. It also works for larger operations wanting an easy-to-install POS that will work on iPads, but we recommend this system frequently for smaller restaurants because most POS brands overlook them.
It is not the best if you need pre-authorized bar tabs or detailed inventory. You can bolster your Square for Restaurants inventory tools with third-party integrations like MarketMan. But if you need pre-authorized bar tabs, you’ll be better off with a system like Toast or Revel.
If you want to test drive the system, you can do so risk-free. The baseline POS is free to use, and the higher-level Plus subscription offers a 30-day free trial. Most of Square’s affiliated small business tools for team management, invoicing, and online sales also offer free baseline options. So, you can try the whole Square ecosystem before committing to a Square POS.
Looking for something different?
Square also offers tailored POS solutions Square for Retail (for independent retail shops), Square Appointments (for service-based businesses), and Square POS (for solopreneurs and general small businesses).
Square for Restaurants Video Review
Square for Restaurants Deciding Factors
Supported Business Types
Full- and quick-service restaurants, food trucks, coffee shops, bars, pizzerias, all types of food and beverage businesses
Monthly Software Fees
Setup and Installation Fees
$0; system is self-installable
Payment Processing Options
Payment Processing Fees
Square for Restaurants Fee Calculator
Square Fee Calculator
Enter your current in-store and/or online sales volumes and average order values for an estimate on the monthly fees you would pay using Square.
Square for Restaurants Alternatives
If you’re considering Square for your restaurant, you’re likely also looking at popular systems like Toast and Clover. You can see how Square stacks up against those systems by reading our comparisons of Clover vs Square and Toast vs Square for Restaurants.
Depending on your needs, these are some other systems that might better support different restaurant types:
Monthly software from
Average contract length
Growing restaurants that require industry-grade hardware
Midsize restaurants that need more flexible payment processing
High-volume restaurants with multiple revenue streams
You can get started with Square for Restaurants for free, either by signing up for the free baseline subscription or by trying the 30-day free trial of the Plus-level features.
Square for Restaurants is offered at three subscription tiers: Free, Plus, and Premium. Free is available with no monthly software subscription fee, and Plus pricing starts at $60 per month for a single terminal and $40 for each additional terminal. Meanwhile, Premium subscriptions are custom-quoted.
Counter service and quick-service restaurants
High-volume or multilocation restaurants
Reopen closed checks
Auto-86ing and item counts
Close of day reports
Restaurants can also elect to add extra features like payroll processing, marketing, and loyalty programs for additional fees. If you want to check out the software, Square for Restaurants offers a 30-day free trial. The multiple membership tiers Square for Restaurants offers make the system a good fit for various food and beverage businesses. Since they are hosted on the same platform—and because Square operates by month-to-month subscriptions—it is easy to upgrade to higher packages as your business grows.
Square Team Management
$35 per month + $5 per employee
*30-day free trial
Square for Restaurants Hardware
We also consider hardware cost when ranking POS systems. Square earned high marks here; you can operate the system on iPads you already own, or purchase specialty hardware from Square. Most Square-designed hardware has an easy monthly payment option to help offset the upfront cost. You can purchase card-reader-enabled iPad stands, full touch-screen registers, or Square Terminal handheld order and payment devices.
$149 (or $14/month for 24 months)
$799 (or $39/month for 24 months)
$299 (or $27/month for 24 months)
Card reader-enabled iPad case
Square-designed touch-screen terminal with customer-facing display and built-in card reader
Square-designed handheld order and payment terminal
Since our last update:
Previous versions of the Square for Restaurants POS did not support full tableside ordering. However, Square rolled out an update to the Square Terminal in May 2022, with full-scale tableside ordering capabilities.
The Square for Restaurants POS has all the features a small restaurant needs, from check management to item-level inventory tracking and basic reporting in a user-friendly package. The Free membership is limited, though; it doesn’t allow you to course orders, add seat numbers, reopen closed checks, or print individual shift reports. This isn’t enough functionality for full-service restaurants, but it is the perfect speed for a coffee shop or food truck. Unlike most restaurant POS systems, Square also provides a free online ordering site in all subscriptions.
Table & Menu Management
With Square, you can start checks from a table on the floor plan or by opening a customer tab. The only function the system is missing is pre-authorizations for bar tabs. If this function is something your restaurant needs, you’ll prefer one of the Square alternatives we listed above.
Square does have a workaround for bar tabs. You can create a customer profile in your Square POS, save the credit card information to that profile, and attach it to the tab—though closing out tabs with a “card-on-file” like this will incur a card-not-present transaction fee.
Once a check is open, you can transfer it to a new table or assign it to a new server, and you can also indicate dining categories on checks—like dine-in, pick-up, or delivery—to keep your staff on the same page. You can even add internal names and notes to checks that only print in your kitchen so that you can alert your team of allergies or special occasions without presenting a check to a customer that reads “PEANUT ALLERGY – BIRTHDAY” across the top.
The system provides QR code ordering functions without any additional monthly fees. The QR code ordering and payment tools accept mobile wallet payments like Apple Pay, in addition to credit and debit cards. Payments processed through the QR code ordering feature are charged at the higher online transaction rates, not card-present rates.
Square for Restaurants accepts credit and debit card payments in offline mode. If you lose internet connectivity, you can swipe cards, and the system will retain the payment information for 72 hours. When you regain internet access, these spooled payments will automatically run.
Like many restaurant POS systems, Square for Restaurants supports auto-gratuity functions. Free users can apply a gratuity to all checks, whereas Plus and Premium users can set automatic gratuity based on party size. When it is time to pay, you can split checks by item and accept multiple payments on a single check.
The platform currently does not have an option to split checks by seat or split individual items across multiple checks. Another major drawback is that Square defaults to automatically refunded payments and deletes authorizations anytime you reopen a closed check.
To bypass this, you’ll need to adjust a setting in your administrative dashboard to “Reopen and Keep Payment Method.” This will enable you to keep the payment method on a reopened check and make adjustments until you finalize your credit card batch at the end of the day.
Previous versions of Square for Restaurants did not support keeping the payment method on a reopened check. However, it now allows restaurants to do this—default settings just need to be adjusted in the management dashboard.
One last detail that is relevant to full-service restaurants: Square for Restaurants’ current coursing feature does not support true order holds. So, if your server rings in a coursed order and places the entrees and desserts on hold, Square for Restaurants will still print the whole order in the kitchen. Using order fire buttons will only send a “fire course 2” and “fire course 3” ticket to the kitchen. Most other restaurant POS systems can hold items without printing kitchen tickets until you fire them.
Square for Restaurants has all the basics covered. You can add advanced features like ingredient-level inventory tracking and payroll management by using third-party integrations or adding additional Square modules like Square Marketing, Square Invoices, and Square Teams. This customization keeps small operations from paying for tools they won’t use. But, it kept Square from scoring higher on our restaurant POS scoring system; so many functions require extra fees, which can add up.
For a deeper look at Square for Restaurant’s standout functions, look at the expandable sections below.
- Customer directory: Log customer contact and preference information directly from the POS screen.
- Instant profiles: You can automatically generate profiles from customer payment data.
- Stored payments: Store payments on customer profiles.
- Customer notes: Profiles can include detailed notes like food allergies, table preferences, or partner’s name.
- Loyalty: Add Square Loyalty to track points and reward loyal customers.
Square for Restaurants’ built-in customer directory automatically creates a profile when you process a credit or debit card transaction. Restaurants can use the directory to build complete profiles with names, contact information, and saved payment methods.
You can add customers to your directory when they make a purchase, or bulk upload existing customer lists via CSV files. Your customer profiles will track basic data like the customer’s number of visits, most frequent purchases, and existing rewards points. It also lets you add custom notes about their dining preferences and food allergies.
Square Loyalty is a digital rewards program. Customers enroll at checkout and are tracked by their cellphone numbers, so there are no rewards numbers to remember, cards to hand out, or apps to download. Restaurants can reward customers based on visits, spend, or purchasing specific items.
Loyalty data automatically syncs with your other sales reports. Like the text messaging tools, Square Loyalty’s total price is based on use. Pricing starts at $45 per month for up to 500 loyalty visits. Like most Square tools, you can test drive the Loyalty program free for 30 days.
Square Loyalty Fees
Number of Loyalty Visits
Up to 500
- Campaign management: Create custom email campaigns and track their effectiveness.
- Automated messaging: Create messages to automatically send birthday or special event emails.
- Templated Designs: Update various pre-built templates with your restaurant logo and messaging to generate social media promotions.
- Text message marketing: Send confirmation messages and marketing emails to customer phones. Automate messages or customize campaigns.
Square Marketing is an email marketing tool that lets you compose custom messages directly from your Square dashboard and send them to your customers. You can set up automated messages, such as birthday emails, or send coupon and discount codes within the emails. The Square Marketing add-on starts at $15 per month.
Square Email Marketing Fees
Number of Email Subscribers
Up to 500
Greater than 75,000
Text message marketing features are available as an add-on. The texting tools are built directly into the POS, so you don’t need to download another app or use an integration. Square charges a monthly subscription fee of $10 to add text marketing. You’ll then pay an additional fee based on the number of texts you send. As with all other Square tools, there are no long-term contracts, either, so you can cancel anytime.
Number of Included Texts
Monthly $10 Fee, plus:
You can track your marketing campaigns in your Square dashboard and see how much money you spent versus how much sales each campaign brought in, so you never have to guess if a campaign was worth it. These marketing tools are some of the most detailed you will find in any restaurant POS. Only Toast comes close with its email marketing tools, but text marketing requires an integration.
- Multiple reporting tiers: Free subscriptions offer basic reporting; Plus and Premium subscriptions support advanced reporting.
- Live sales reporting: Plus and Premium users can see active sales performance in real time.
- Time tracking: Log employee hours for easy payroll reporting.
- Close of day: This report won’t run until all checks are closed and all employees clocked out, ensuring your credit card batches and timekeeping records stay accurate.
All three Square for Restaurants tiers include basic reporting, which covers in-app Sales Reporting and Item Sales. All subscriptions track employee hours to help you create accurate payroll reports. However, if you want more detailed reports for sales by hour, sales by employee, discount codes, and labor costs, you’ll need to upgrade to a Plus or Premium membership.
Reporting is where the Free tier differs most from the paid subscriptions. For example, Free users cannot print individual shift sales reports by employee. So, if you have four servers, each ringing orders in and accepting payments, you won’t be able to separate their activity from one another under the Free subscription. This won’t limit a counter-service operation or a ghost kitchen with few cash transactions, but full-service spots should upgrade to at least a Plus subscription to avoid this pinch.
You can view real-time sales reporting in the POS app or generate end-of-shift and end-of-day reports from your Square dashboard. Any additional modules you add—e.g., marketing and team management—come with their own reporting solutions.
So, you’ll be able to access sales, labor, and marketing reports all from your Square management dashboard. Square’s reporting is pretty comprehensive, but reports tend to have a single focus like sales, taxes, etc. If your daily manager log requires sales, comps, voids, discounts, and sales information, you’ll need to pull multiple reports.
Online Ordering & Delivery Management
- Integrated website: Use Square Online to create a payment-enabled online ordering site for free.
- Third-party optimized: Route orders from multiple third-party platforms directly to your POS.
- Integrated kitchen display system (KDS): Accepted online orders route directly to your KDS screens, tagged with the delivery provider.
- Drivers on-demand: Send in-house delivery orders to third-party drivers for a flat fee.
- In-house option: Manage your own drivers for 50 cents per order.
- Stackable solution: Combine in-house strategies with third-party platforms to maximize delivery operations.
- Social selling: You can place online ordering links in your Google listing, and on Facebook and Instagram.
Square for Restaurants offers four options for digital ordering and delivery management:
- Direct online ordering via your Square Online website
- Third-party platform integration
- Delivery via on-demand third-party drivers
- Delivery via an in-house driver team
The first two options can be combined to create a customized online ordering and delivery solution that best fits your restaurant.
Square for Restaurants supports free direct integrations with third-party ordering and delivery platform Postmates. Other third-party platforms (Uber Eats, Grubhub, and DoorDash) connect to the POS via aggregating apps Chowly, Deliverect, Ritual, and others.
While Square does not charge a fee for these integrations, the apps typically have their own subscription and commission fees. Orders placed via these integrated platforms will go directly to your POS and KDS or kitchen printers; you won’t need a tablet or smartphone to manage individual platform orders.
Square for Restaurants’ delivery management is not entirely centralized yet. You can accept orders from third-party platforms directly in your POS and KDS, but 86-ed items don’t automatically disappear from your online menus. You must update online menus individually on each platform if you run out of an item. You can, however, manage deliveries for multiple locations from a single Square dashboard.
You can also set up a free online ordering website via Square Online, which allows you to create time-limited menus and accept online payments. These orders can be accepted for pick-up only, or you can offer delivery. It also lets you craft automated text or email messages to notify customers that their order has been accepted, along with their expected delivery or pick-up times.
You have two main options for in-house delivery: using on-demand drivers or dispatching your own staff—however, you must choose one or the other.
Once you opt for on-demand drivers, Square will automatically generate a driver request from a local courier as soon as you accept the order. Square charges a flat rate of $1.50 per delivery for on-demand couriers, though the courier service may have additional delivery fees (usually $4–$7 per delivery). You have the option to cover the fee, pass the cost on to your customers, or absorb the fee for delivery for orders over a certain amount.
For each order routed to your in-house team of drivers, Square charges a flat per-order fee of 50 cents. You can pass this fee onto your customers or charge an additional custom, distance-based delivery fee. Also, you can set a delivery zone in the POS so that your team doesn’t have to travel too far away. Finally, it lets you message customers directly from your Square POS or Square Dashboard if you have questions about their order.
This setup is a little complex, but it allows for a lot of flexibility. Since Square does not require any long-term commitments, you can shift your delivery strategy at any time. Keep in mind, though, that the fees listed are Square’s fees. Third-party platforms have their own fee schedules and contract lengths, so if you use third-party tools, your costs will be higher.
- App Store access: Download POS software directly from App Store.
- High-contrast display: Dynamic menu, table, and KDS screens use contrasting colors so that you can read them at a glance.
- Bulk import: Speed your menu set up and updates by importing new information via spreadsheet files.
- Customer service: Available via chat, phone, or email; 24/7 for Plus and Premium users (6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pacific time, Monday through Friday for Free users).
- Training database: A comprehensive online database of tutorials walks you through various managerial functions and tool setups.
- Robust user forums: Answer any question you have and connect with like-minded restaurant owners.
Square for Restaurants is one of the most straightforward POS systems to set up and run. You create a Square account, download Square for Restaurants from the Apple App Store onto an iPad, and you’re good to go. Square sends your first card reader to you for free, but if you don’t want to wait for shipping, you can pick up a Square card reader at a local office supply store. You can easily add third-party integrations or additional Square modules with a few clicks in your Square dashboard.
The minimalist Square interface is familiar to staff and customers alike. The POS and KDS modules’ vivid color choices make it easy to see what tables or orders are lagging. Setting up multiple floor plans, menus, and discounts only takes a few clicks.
Square offers 24/7 customer service by phone and email to Plus and Premium users, but you might get faster answers by searching Square’s online help database and user forums. The sources are incredibly detailed, and in most cases, provide enough information that you don’t need personal support. If one-on-one interactions are important to you, Square does have live customer service representatives, but some users note that they are hard to reach.
Square for Restaurants is a user-friendly system that is constantly improving. The low subscription cost, lack of long-term contracts, and affordable hardware make this system a natural fit for small restaurants. The ease with which small businesses can connect additional Square modules for invoicing, payroll and team management, and online ordering makes Square for Restaurants a compelling choice for any restaurant that needs to streamline operations.
Square for Restaurants is just an all-around great system. However, there are a couple of granular details to watch out for. Most of Square for Restaurants’ training and support materials are online; it can be difficult to get a live customer support rep on the phone if you need assistance.
The system also cannot pre-authorize bar tabs, and ingredient-level inventory tracking requires a third-party integration. If you don’t need those functions and are comfortable self-troubleshooting technical issues, then you’re unlikely to find a better POS than Square for Restaurants.
What Users Think of Square for Restaurants POS
Square for Restaurants earns high marks from users and experts alike for its price. It is impossible to top “free” and tough to find a POS that supports micro food and beverage operations—and Square for Restaurants really fits that bill.
- Capterra: 4.2 out of 5 based on more than 30 reviews, with more than 72% of users recommending the system to others.
- App Store: 4.4 out of 5 stars based on over 2,500 ratings
- G2: 4.2 out of 5 based on around 5 reviews
Square for Restaurants reviews indicate that users love how easy this POS is to use and how quickly you can add new features. The online store integration has been a lifesaver for many small restaurants that want to offer online ordering.
Most negative reviews mention a lack of functionality in the Free POS. It is essential to note that the Free POS is truly best suited to small operations like slice shops and cloud kitchens; full-service restaurants and busy QSRs should opt for at least the Plus tier.
These are some of the trends you’ll notice when reading through Square for Restaurants reviews:
|30-day free trial and free baseline POS||Limited functionality of the Free POS|
|Easy to customize with integrations and add-on modules||No credit card pre-authorizations to start tabs|
|Wealth of online software tutorials||No options for payment processing; you’re locked into Square’s rates|
|No long-term contracts||Does not support a true “order hold” feature|
Methodology – How We Evaluated
We rate restaurant POS systems across more than 20 criteria that are important to restaurant owners. Next, we consider price and ease of use, as well as general POS functions and niche POS features. Finally, we consider the opinions of actual users alongside our restaurant expert’s personal experience using the software.
Click through the slides below for a detailed explanation of our criteria:
10% of Overall Score
Independent restaurants operate with tight budgets. We first considered whether each system offers a free plan, free trial, and entry-level software subscription under $75 per month. To help ensure restaurants can get the lowest possible prices, we gave high marks to POS systems that support multiple payment processing options. Finally, we considered hardware costs and subscription length. Systems that allow restaurants to bring their own hardware or avoid long-term service contracts earned the highest marks.
30% of Overall Score
Every restaurant needs to track employee hours, process contactless payments and gift cards, and quickly access sales and labor reports. Because many restaurants process tips for employees, we looked for systems that have robust tip-tracking functions. We also considered advanced workforce management features like built-in employee scheduling and enforced clock-ins to keep costs in line.
30% of Overall Score
To determine the best overall restaurant POS, we compared the number of restaurant-specific functions that are relevant to various restaurant types. Since many restaurants operate with some type of bar, we looked for functions like cash management and credit card preauthorization. We also rewarded POS systems with customizable reports, ingredient-level inventory tracking with physical counting tools, integrated online ordering, and dynamic loyalty and marketing tools.
15% of Overall Score
Because various restaurants operate in early mornings, in late nights, and on weekends, we prioritized restaurant POS systems that offer 24/7 customer support. We also awarded points to POS systems with hybrid installation or an offline mode, so it is still operational if your internet goes out. We also considered how much installation support each system offers and whether it is cloud-based, enabling mobile access to management and reporting dashboards.
15% of Overall Score
Lastly, we evaluated any standout features that individual systems may have. We also considered whether the system offers good overall value for its price and judged each system’s popularity among restaurant businesses. Then, we awarded points based on our personal experience interacting with the software and the company’s customer support representatives.
Square for Restaurants is a wildly affordable, easy-to-use POS with solid front-end features like multiple menus, item modifiers, table management, and a customer directory. If you have a counter-service, quick-service, or delivery-only restaurant, Square for Restaurants’ Free plan is an excellent fit for your business. And at $60 per month, a Plus subscription provides a ton of features at a competitive price for full-service restaurants with dining rooms.
POS subscriptions run on a month-to-month basis, so you can change your plan at any time. For a fee, you can have a Square expert come to your business, set up the system with all the customizations you need, and train your staff. You can visit the Square for Restaurants website to learn more or sign up for the free 30-day trial to test drive the software yourself.