Square for Restaurants is a cloud-based restaurant point-of-sale (POS) system that runs on iPads with built-in tools for full-service, delivery, and counter service restaurants. Square for Restaurants entry-level POS has no monthly subscription fee and higher-level subscriptions are competitively priced. This POS includes payment processing, making it a good choice for many small-medium sized food and beverage businesses.
The baseline Square for Restaurants offers basic restaurant functions, including delivery options, for no monthly fee. The Plus and Premium packages offer more robust functionality and start at $60/month. 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.
How Square for Restaurants Works
Square for Restaurants is a cloud-based POS System with restaurant-specific features that operates on iPads. Square for Restaurants offers three different subscription tiers; Free, Plus, and Premium. The tier you choose will depend on the POS setup your restaurant requires. All three plans come with baseline functions like menu management, table management, auto-Gratuity, order entry, time clock functions, and a basic Square Online Store.
All three subscription tiers feature these essential functions:
- Conversational Modifiers: This feature essentially organizes modifier screens to pop up when they are most relevant in the order-entering process, which allows servers and cashiers to make adjustments as customers are speaking. This feature is most useful if you put in the administrative time to create detailed modifier options.
- Menu Management: You can create menus for different days of the week, time of day, or special events. Restaurants can also set up special discounts such as happy hours, to automatically apply during certain hours.
- Table Management: You can set up custom floor layouts in the POS with a simple drag and drop interface.
- Customer Management: The system’s built-in customer directory automatically creates a profile when you process a credit or debit card transaction. Restaurants can use the directory to build out complete profiles with names, contact information, and save payment methods.
- Cash Management: Accept cash payments, and track when cash is paid into or out of your cash drawers.
- Online Order Integration: Square owns an online ordering and delivery platform, Caviar. This allows Square for Restaurants users to turn on online ordering and delivery functions with the click of a button.
- Basic Reporting: All three Square for Restaurants subscription tiers include basic reporting that covers in-app Sales Report, Item Sales, and Category Sales. 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.
- Customer Support: The Free Tier includes live customer support from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pacific time, Monday through Friday. Plus and Premium memberships include 24/7 live customer support.
Membership Tier Differences
Where these membership tiers differ is in their expanded functions. For example, all of Square for Restaurant’s subscription tiers allow you to automatically include gratuity. The Free tier, however, will not allow you to set party size parameters for this feature; you can either add auto-gratuity to all checks or none. Plus and Premium subscribers can set a party size limit for auto-gratuities to auto-populate on the customer check.
Upgrading from the Free plan to Plus plan allows restaurants to set item countdowns to auto-86 low-inventory menu items, view live sales reports, and print shift and close of day reports. Plus also comes with the higher-level functions of Square’s workforce management module, Square Team Plus, and 24/7 customer support. Premium subscribers get everything in the Plus subscription as well as custom pricing for additional tools like Square Payroll, Square Marketing, Square Loyalty, and Square Online Store.
Reopen closed checks
Auto 86ing and item counts
Close of day reports
Live sales Reporting
Revenue Center Sales reports
The Free membership does not allow for coursing orders, adding seat numbers to orders, or re-opening closed checks. Once a check is closed in the Free Square for Restaurants, you cannot reopen it. Any refunds or corrections to tip amounts will have to be processed as new transactions. This might sound limiting for full service restaurants. If you own a coffee shop or counter service deli, however, the Square for Restaurants Free version is a perfect fit.
Who Square for Restaurants Is Right For
The Square for Restaurants subscription tiers create, essentially, two distinctly different POS platforms. The Square for Restaurants Free subscription’s functions are really designed to support very small operations. Which is great, because there are not a lot of POS systems that help streamline small operations. Most POS companies are going after the enterprise-level, multi-location spots, leaving small restaurants paying for a lot of functionality that they never use.
The multiple membership tiers Square for Restaurants offers make the system a good fit for a variety of food and beverage businesses. Since they are hosted on the same platform, and Square operates by month-to-month subscriptions, it is easy to upgrade to higher tiers of service as your business grows.
Square for Restaurants pricing tiers mean that no matter your restaurant’s size you won’t pay for functions you don’t need. This makes it a great fit for a variety of restaurants. Unlike many other restaurant POS providers, Square’s pricing structure is completely transparent. This is a refreshing quality at a time when finding a restaurant POS can mean sitting through hours of product demos just to get a quote. With Square, you decide what features to include, not a sales rep.
Square for Restaurant Costs
When you look at any POS, there are costs to consider beyond the cost of the software itself. With Square for Restaurants, you will want to consider the costs of hardware, payment processing, and optional set up fees. Depending on your restaurant type, you may also want to budget for additional in-built Square services or third-party integrations to customize your POS solution.
- Hardware: Square for Restaurants has different options for complete hardware packages that include an iPad stand, cash drawer, credit card chip reader, a receipt printer, and kitchen printer. These kits cost around $1,400 with an iPad included, or around $1,000 without an iPad.
- Payment Processing: Square for Restaurants has a built-in payment processing. Fees start at 2.6% + $.10 per transaction. Restaurants that bring in more than $250,000 in annual sales can request a custom quote for processing fees.
- Setup Fees: You can request a Square expert to come to your restaurant to help you set up the software and train your employees. Fees for this service start at $600.
Overall, Square for Restaurants is an affordable solution for a variety of restaurants. While transaction fees may be slightly higher than some other payment processing providers, the monthly software fee is lower than many competitors.
Square for Restaurants Add-Ons
The baseline Square POS is designed to streamline restaurant operations. Which is great for small food and beverage businesses where massive functions can get in the way. For multi-location restaurant groups or businesses that want a robust management dashboard to handle everything from payroll processing to employee scheduling, Square for Restaurants offers a full suite of optional add-on modules and third party integrations.
In-Built Square Add-Ons
Square Team Plus
$35 per month for Free subscribers (Included with Plus and Premium)
$29 + $5 per employee, per month
From $45 per location, per month
From $15 per location, per month
(Online Ordering and Delivery)
~28% per delivery order, ~12% per pick up order
Staff Team Management & Team Plus
Square for Restaurants includes basic team management in all three subscription tiers. Business owners can create a unique login for each employee to sign in and out of each shift and track their work hours. Plus and Premium tiers come with Team Plus functions that allow managers to set different permission settings for each employee. Team Plus also enables you to track sales by employee and print shift reports for individual employees.
The Free tier only supports a single set of “team” permission that gives all team members the same system access. The baseline Team Management features do not track sales transactions by employees either. But Free subscribers can add the Team Plus features for $35 per month, to unlock these functions.
Square Loyalty is a digital rewards program. Restaurants can reward customers based on visits, spend, or purchasing specific items. Customers receive a text or email notification when they earn points or rewards, so there is no need for them to download an app. Restaurants can customize rewards, and the data automatically syncs with your other sales reports. Square Loyalty starts at $45 per month.
Square Payroll is a payroll processing add-on that lets businesses pay employees and contractors directly through Square. You can run payroll at any time, and if your employees punch in and out of their shifts through Square, you don’t have to manually enter any data. Businesses can set up direct deposits and Square takes care of filing federal and state payroll tax.
Square Payroll also supports importing credit card tips for tipped employees. If you operate a simple tip pool where tips are split evenly by the number of hours worked, the system will pool and split the tips for you. You can also set the Square Payroll system to pay tips only to the employee that collected them. Square Payroll starts at $29/month + $5 for each employee.
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. Square Marketing add-on starts at $15/month.
Square for Restaurants comes with Square Payments as the in-built payment processor, which charges a 2.6% + $.10 fee for in-person swiped, dipped, or tapped transactions. Square Payments allows restaurants to split checks, send digital receipts, and automatically store customers in a directory.
Caviar is Square’s in-built takeout and delivery order management platform. Caviar acts as a third-party delivery operator, and comes with a stable of drivers who are independent contractors. Orders placed online via Caviar appear directly in your kitchen’s order stream.
Caviar charges a 28% commission on all delivery orders, and 12% on all online orders placed for pick up. Restaurants can update their online ordering menu in real time, or turn off online orders if the kitchen is too busy with dine-in guests.
Square for Restaurants Integrations
For functions like kitchen display systems (KDS), accounting, and employee scheduling, Square integrates with several popular restaurant service providers. You can also add third-party delivery platforms and aggregating apps to route online orders placed through several platforms directly into your Square POS.
Square for Restaurants integrates with many popular third-party apps, though there are a couple of notable gaps. Currently the system does not integrate with any reservation systems. It also only integrates with one waitlist and guest paging system. If you want to install a KDS, you’ll likewise only have one option.
Popular Supported Providers
Waitlist and Guest Paging
Kitchen Display System
How to Set Up Square for Restaurants for Your Business
Square for Restaurants is easy to set up. To get started, just create an account on the Square website. You’ll also want to have an iPad and a Square card reader handy. Swipe card readers are provided for free when you sign up with Square. Square for Restaurants also has a Support Center with walkthrough videos and articles to guide you through any hiccups that might arise in the setup process.
After creating your Square account, follow these steps to set up Square for Restaurants:
1. Download the Software
To start taking orders and processing payments, all you need is an iPad and a Square card reader. You’ll need to download the Square for Restaurants POS app on the iPad, then sign into the app using your Square account.
2. Purchase Additional Hardware
After testing the software for yourself, purchase any additional hardware that you may need. The minimum hardware requirement is an iPad and card reader. If you accept cash payments, however, you will need a cash register. You will also need printers or display screens to communicate orders to your kitchen team.
Square offers restaurant-specific hardware kits that include an iPad stand, cash drawer, a receipt printer, and a kitchen printer. These kits can be purchased with or without an iPad.
3. Customize Square for Your Business
After setting up hardware and downloading the Square for Restaurant software, you can customize the software for your specific restaurant. The software gives you the ability to create menus for different parts of the day—and you can create as many menus as you need, including pricing variations.
You can also create employee accounts so that each of your employees has their own login. All three subscription tiers allow you to track employee hours for payroll directly through the POS. With a Plus or Premium subscription, you can also set different permission levels for each person based on their role and run shift sales reports for each server, bartender, or cashier.
Square for Restaurants allows sit-down restaurants to enter their dining room layout in an easy drag and drop screen that can be updated at any time. Modifier screens can also be configured in whatever way makes the most sense for your business, so servers can enter items and modifiers when necessary.
4. Set Up Payment Processing
To receive credit card payments from Square, you’ll need to link your Square account to a checking account that allows for transfers and withdrawals. After you enter your bank information, Square will verify that they can communicate with the account by sending and then debiting a small amount to and from your account. Depending on your bank, the verification process can take a few hours or a few days.
You can accept credit and debit card payments while your bank verification is processing. Until your bank account is fully linked, any payments you accept will remain in your Square balance. Square will send all funds in your Square balance to your bank account within 36 hours of your bank verification going through.
With Square for Restaurants, most businesses pay 2.6% + $.10 for each transaction. Restaurants with more than $250,000 in annual sales, however, may get a customized rate from Square’s sales team. Square’s payment processing is PCI compliant, includes up to $250/month for dispute management, accepts offline payments, offers next-day deposits, and comes with a free magstripe reader.
Pros & Cons of Square for Restaurants
There are many positive features behind Square for Restaurants. However, there are different elements to consider before deciding if this system is the best fit for your restaurant. The system has a lot of strengths, like the way it syncs with several Square tools to create an end-to-end solution for your restaurant business. But there are a couple of notable missing pieces that some restaurants rely on—notably a lack of reservations integrations and an inability to pre-authorize credit cards to create bar tabs.
Pros of Square for Restaurants
- Cost-Effective: When it comes to cost, you cannot beat free. The Plus and Premium tiers also offer great value for restaurants that have the administrative bandwidth to customize the system.
- Lots of Integrations: Square for Restaurants is powered by Square, which offers an array of business solutions that all integrate with each other. By using Square for Restaurants, you have access to pick and choose from any of the other Square software integrations you want to use and operate them all from a single dashboard.
- Easy to Use: Square for Restaurants is essentially a plug-and-play software. After setting up your menus, you can start taking orders right away. Since the software is easy to use, there is a minimal learning curve for employees.
- No Annual Contracts: Since Square for Restaurants subscriptions are month-to-month, you can easily upgrade to a high tier of service as your restaurant grows, or migrate to a different system if your needs change.
Cons of Square for Restaurants
- iPad-Specific Software: Square for Restaurants can only be run on iPads. If you are switching from another software that used Android or Windows, you could have heftier upfront costs.
- Built-in Payment Processing: With Square for Restaurants, you can only accept payments through Square’s payment processing system, which may not offer the lowest transaction rate.
- Lackluster Inventory Management: Restaurants can’t set up vendor orders through Square for Restaurants. It also doesn’t yet have ingredient level inventory tracking; the system only tracks whole items like whole bottles of wine and complete meals.
- Cannot Pre-authorize Credit Cards: The inability to open tabs with a credit card swipe limits Square’s usefulness for bars. Currently, none of the subscription tiers support this function.
For a full list of positives and negatives, visit our official Square for Restaurants Review Page.
Alternatives to Square for Restaurants
There are dozens of restaurant POS software programs out there, including several options that are in the same price range as Square for Restaurants. The systems below are popular alternatives to the various subscription tiers of the Square for Restaurants POS.
Loyverse is a cloud-based POS that is similar to the Square for Restaurants Free POS. Like the Square for Restaurants Free subscription, Loyverse’s functionality is best suited for counter service and quick-service food and beverage businesses. The free Loyverse POS offers 24/7 customer support and allows subscribers to choose their own payment processor. Visit our Loyverse Review Page for more details.
TouchBistro is an iPad POS that comes with over 200 features built-in including reservation management. TouchBistro starts at $69/month for one software license. This software also operates on iPads, which are available for under $400. Visit our TouchBistro Review Page to learn more.
Toast is a cloud-based point-of-sale system that runs on the Android operating system. Toast has advanced inventory management, menu costing, customer profiles, and a broad range online ordering and delivery options. Toast starts at $79/month per terminal. Hardware starts at $899 with a $499 installation fee. Financing with 0% interest is available. Visit our Toast Review Page for a full breakdown.
Square for Restaurants is an easy-to-use restaurant POS that has 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 is a great fit for your business. At $60/month, Square for Restaurants Plus provides a ton of features at a very competitive price for full-service restaurants with dining rooms.
Square for Restaurants 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 Square for Restaurants 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 a free 30-day trial to test drive the software yourself.