2023 Square for Restaurants Review: Best Free Restaurant POS
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 earned a 3.88 out of 5. It’s a great system for small restaurants, new restaurants, and especially for operations that are both small and new, like food trucks or coffee shops. 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.
- Free baseline POS subscription
- 30-day free trial for higher subscription tiers
- No long-term contracts
- Affordable hardware
- Free subscriptions have limited or difficult-to-reach customer service
- Single payment processor option; can’t shop around for lower rates
Who Should Use Square for Restaurants:
- Pizza shops, food trucks, coffee shops
- Full or quick service restaurants
- Restaurants on a budget
Who Should Use an Alternative:
- Businesses that need detailed inventory management
- Bars that need pre-authorized tabs
- High-volume restaurants
Supported Business Types
All types of food and beverage businesses
Full- and quick-service restaurants, food trucks, coffee shops, bars, pizzerias
Monthly Software Fees
Setup and Installation Fees
$0; system is self-installable
Payment Processing Options
Payment Processing Fees
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
$0 down payment; pay-as-you-go option
Midsize restaurants that need more flexible payment processing
Multilocation restaurants with multiple revenue streams
Not what you’re looking for? Find more options in our rundown of the leading restaurant POS systems and top-recommended POS systems for small businesses.
Square for Restaurants is an ideal POS system for small, new food and beverage businesses that need robust tools but are on a budget. It is our top recommendation for a food truck POS, and is among our leading pizza POS systems and quick service restaurant POS systems. Square for Restaurants 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.
This POS is not the best choice if you need detailed inventory. Instead, check out our guide to restaurant inventory management software for POS-built and freestanding options. Though, you can bolster your Square for Restaurants inventory tools with third-party integrations like MarketMan.
If you need pre-authorized bar tabs, you can currently find better options in our ranking of bar POS systems (Toast and Revel are good choices). Though, as of this writing, Square is actively beta-testing pre-authorized tabs, so stay tuned for that feature to go live sometime in 2023.
Finally, high-volume shops can get lower processing rates with systems like Lightspeed, TouchBistro, or Revel, which integrate with multiple payment processors.
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 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 earned a fairly high score for pricing in our evaluation. Its inclusion of a free plan is, as always, a huge plus point. 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. We deducted a few points because of the lack of other payment processing options besides Square itself, which prevents merchants from hunting for the best processing rates available.
Square for Restaurants Pricing Plans
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 for the Plus plan.
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.
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.
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.
Here are some hardware devices Square offers:
$149 (or $14/month for 12 months)
$799 (or $39/month with financing)
$299 (or $27/month with financing
Add $39 to get the Hub for Square Terminal (allows connection to the internet via Ethernet and adds USB accessories)
Bluetooth/Ethernet/USB Receipt Printer
Bluetooth Barcode Scanner
* Not compatible with Square Register, Square Terminal, or Android devices
Restaurant Mobile POS Kit
* Requires a Square for Restaurants Plus subscription
Square Stand Restaurant Station with Square Terminal
Add $329 for iPad
At the moment, Square for Restaurants Plus features are only compatible with iPads. If you’re using the free POS subscription, the features within that version are available on both iPad and Square Register. Be sure to align your software subscription with your hardware so you don’t end up having paid for features that you can’t use.
The Square for Restaurants POS has all the features a small restaurant needs, from cash and 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. We awarded Square for Restaurants a fairly high score here; while it contains all the general POS features you’d expect or need, some features either require additional fees or aren’t as advanced as they could have been.
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.
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. The same goes if you want reports for close-of-day, section sales, and menu performance.
Reporting is where the Free tier differs most from the paid subscriptions. For example, Free users cannot print individual shift sales reports per 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.
Square for Restaurants has also recently improved its shift reports function. Managers can now declare cash tips without clocking out, which encourages accountability among managers and staff, not to mention providing accurate accounting at any time of day—not just when someone’s shift ends.
While Square for Restaurants already has a fairly comprehensive set of features (especially if you upgrade from the Free plan), you can add to your toolkit with numerous available integrations for workforce management, loyalty, delivery services, accounting, and more. Note that some of these integrations are available for free, while others have fixed monthly costs or custom pricing.
This is particularly helpful for ingredient-level inventory management, as this is one area where Square for Restaurants falls slightly short. Fortunately, you can integrate with strong, popular tools like MarketMan and Yellow Dog to get higher-level inventory management.
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. On one hand, this customization keeps small operations from paying for tools they won’t use; on the other hand, so many functions require extra fees, which can add up. This kept Square for Restaurants from scoring higher for niche POS functions.
For a deeper look at Square for Restaurant’s standout functions, look at the expandable sections below.
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. At the time of publication, Square was beta-testing pre-authorized bar tabs; we expect this feature to be available to new customers sometime in 2023.
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 also choose to add or remove gratuity, and apply this to all or only some checks based on seating. When it is time to pay, you can split checks by item and accept multiple payments on a single check.
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 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.
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.
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 per location.
Square Email Marketing Fees
Number of Subscribed Customers
Up to 500
Text message marketing features are also 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, so you can cancel anytime.
Square Text Message Marketing Fees
Number of Included Text Messages
You can track your marketing campaigns in your Square dashboard and see how much money you spent versus how many sales each campaign brought in, so you never have to guess if a campaign was worth its expense.
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.
Square Loyalty is a digital rewards program. Customers enroll at checkout and are tracked by their cell phone 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 per location 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
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 its own 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.
Square for Restaurants has recently added new online ordering templates that allow you to optimize menu layouts. The Modifier Images function also lets you add photos into menu modifiers, making things more appealing for customers and encouraging them to purchase more items. Along the same vein, merchants can now enjoy Photo Studio support for food photography, further driving up sales via online menus.
Finally, you can use Facebook Food Ordering to let your customers order online via your restaurant’s Facebook and Instagram business pages. More avenues for your customers to easily order online equals more robust overall sales performance.
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.
If 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. For example, DoorDash charges a fixed fee of $8.50 per delivery, for up to a 5-kilometer delivery distance. You have the option to cover these fees, pass the cost on to your customers, or absorb the fee for delivery for orders over a certain amount. Fortunately, Square for Restaurants lets you add and adjust manual or variable service charges, reducing the burden of any delivery or service fees your business otherwise might need to account for.
For each order routed to your own 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 delivery fee based on distance. Also, you can set a delivery zone in the POS so your team doesn’t have to travel too far away. Finally, you can message customers directly from your Square POS or Square Dashboard if you have questions about their orders.
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 may be higher.
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. You can also speed up your menu setup and updates by bulk importing new information via spreadsheet files. Finally, this POS system accepts card payments even when offline, allowing your business to proceed with many transactions even if internet connection becomes spotty.
For these reasons, we awarded Square for Restaurants a 4.06 out of 5 for ease of use. The only points on which this POS could have improved in this category were if it had a hybrid installation type, and if it offered more comprehensive or consistent customer support to all users regardless of subscription.
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. If you’re subscribed to the Free plan, live customer service is only available for you from Monday to Friday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pacific time.
Square for Restaurants is an all-around great system that is user-friendly and constantly improving. The low subscription cost, lack of long-term contracts, and affordable hardware make this POS a natural fit for small restaurants. The system’s modular nature is particularly attractive for small businesses, as users can easily connect additional Square modules for invoicing, online ordering, payroll, team management, and more. This flexibility makes Square for Restaurants a compelling choice for any restaurant that needs to streamline operations.
Despite Square for Restaurant’s numerous advantages, there are a couple of granular details to watch out for. Most of the system’s training and support materials are online; it can be difficult to get a live customer support rep on the phone if you need assistance (especially given the more limited support hours for Free plan users).
Ingredient-level inventory tracking requires a third-party integration, and the system currently cannot pre-authorize bar tabs (though this feature is now in beta-testing mode). 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 Say in Square for Restaurants Reviews
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. If you want even more features and functionality, upgrading to the Plus subscription will cost you an affordable $60 per month.
Here are the scores that users on various sites gave to Square for Restaurants:
- Capterra: 4.3 out of 5 based on more than 40 reviews, with more than 72% of users recommending the system to others.
- App Store: 4.3 out of 5 stars based on over 2,900 ratings
- G2: 4.1 out of 5 based on nearly 10 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:
|Users Like||Users Don’t Like|
|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 bar tabs*|
|Wealth of online software tutorials||No options for payment processing; you’re locked into Square’s rates|
|No long-term contracts|
* Square is currently beta-testing this feature with plans to add it to the POS in the near future
Methodology: How We Evaluated Square for Restaurants
We rated Square for Restaurants across more than 20 criteria that are important to restaurant owners, taking into account pricing, ease of use, and general POS functions and niche POS features. Finally, we considered 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 consider whether a POS 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 give high marks to a POS system that supports multiple payment processing options. We also consider hardware costs and subscription length; systems that allow restaurants to bring their own hardware or avoid long-term service contracts earn the highest marks.
Square for Restaurants did quite well in this category, earning points for its free plan, 30-day free-trial for the Plus subscription, and overall affordable rates. The POS lost some points for not having payment processing options beyond Square itself.
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 check whether a system has 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.
Square for Restaurants scored fairly well due to its wealth of available third-party integrations, and good workforce management functions. It could have scored higher with built-in or more detailed inventory management and reporting features, especially for the Free plan.
30% of Overall Score
When evaluating a restaurant POS system, we examine the number and quality of industry-specific functions that are relevant to various restaurant types. Since many restaurants operate with some type of bar, we look for functions like cash management and credit card pre-authorization. We also reward a POS system if it has integrated online ordering, restaurant-specific tools such as Kitchen Display Systems, and dynamic loyalty and marketing features.
Square for Restaurants does allow for solid tipping management (if you pay an added fee) and provides several options for online ordering; but it falls somewhat short on cash management and bar features (particularly its lack of card pre-authorization for bar tabs).
15% of Overall Score
Because various restaurants operate in early mornings, in late nights, and on weekends, we give high marks to a restaurant POS system that offers 24/7 customer support. We also award points to a system with hybrid installation or an offline mode, so it is still operational if your internet connection 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.
Square for Restaurants scores well for its comprehensive installation wizard and offline mode. It missed out on a few points because of inconsistent customer service (users on the Free plan experience more limited support).
15% of Overall Score
Lastly, we evaluate any standout features that an individual system may have. We also consider whether the system offers good overall value for its price, and judge its popularity among restaurant businesses. Then, we award points based on our personal experience interacting with the software and the company’s customer support representatives.
Square for Restaurants did well in this category: users consider most of its features to be helpful for their restaurants, and it offers great usability and value for money overall.
Square for Restaurants Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Square for Restaurants has three subscription tiers:
- Free: $0 per month
- Plus: $60 per month
- Premium: Custom pricing
The Free plan alone includes many features such as menu, table, and order management; basic reporting; cash management; and more.
Upgrading to the Plus plan gets you seat and course management; the ability to reopen closed checks; more detailed reporting; a Kitchen Display System; and other features.
The bespoke Premium plan offers similar features as Plus, and also has discounts on optional Square add-ons. Note that the Premium plan is only available for businesses that process more than $250,000 per year.
This POS system includes more than 30 integrations for staff scheduling, loyalty and marketing, detailed inventory management, delivery and order services, accounting and more. Some of these integrations are free, while others require a monthly fee or offer free trials.
Though the system is generally well-regarded, users do have a few complaints.
Detailed or granular inventory management is not built into the POS, which is a considerable drawback for a system designed for restaurants. Credit card pre-authorization for bar tabs is also not available at the moment, limiting the system’s use for bars. Though at the time of this writing, Square is beta-testing this feature and we expect it to be available sometime in 2023.
Lastly, while Square does offer transparent and reasonable processing fees, users have no choice but to accept these, as Square does not offer any external payment processing options. Though users that process more than $250,000 annually can request a custom processing rate.
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.