This article is part of a larger series on POS Systems.
Square for Restaurants is a cloud-based point-of-sale (POS) system that runs on iPads. This iPad POS offers built-in tools for full-service, delivery, and counter-service restaurants. Its entry-level POS has no monthly subscription fee, and higher-level subscriptions are competitively priced. Square for Restaurants includes built-in payment processing and a 30-day free trial, making it a solid choice for small and midsize restaurant businesses.
What We Recommend Square for Restaurants For
Square has been processing payments for over a decade, but its restaurant POS, Square for Restaurants, only debuted in 2018. In just a few years, however, this incredibly affordable cloud POS has become a popular choice for small, independent restaurants and other food businesses. It regularly appears on our list of the best restaurant POS systems.
In particular, we recommend Square for Restaurants for:
- Food trucks: Square for Restaurants’ basic POS is free and iPad-based, making it an excellent fit for micro-operations. It is our top-recommended food truck POS.
- Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs): Its built-in KDS makes this affordable system work well for quick service restaurants.
- Restaurants on a budget: Square for Restaurants tends to make its way onto most rankings of restaurant POS systems—cafes, pizzerias, bakeries—simply because it is an incredibly affordable option. There are few free POS systems on the market, especially for restaurants, so if you are on a budget, Square is for you.
When Square for Restaurants Would Not Be a Good Fit
- High-volume restaurants: Square for Restaurants comes with built-in payment processing. Square’s rates fall in the middle of the market, but high-volume restaurants can likely find better rates elsewhere. Lightspeed, TouchBistro, and Revel Systems all offer more flexible payment options.
- Busy Bars that need pre-authorized tabs: Square for Restaurants does not currently support credit card pre-authorization. Busy bars that run tabs will definitely feel this pinch in their operations, so explore our guide on the best bar POS systems for other options.
- Restaurants that want vendor management: Square for Restaurants’ inventory module is not ingredient-level and does not support automated vendor orders like some competitors. Both Upserve by Lightspeed and Revel Systems offer great inventory management for restaurants.
Square for Restaurants Video Review
Square for Restaurants Pricing
Square for Restaurants offers three pricing 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.
Square for Restaurants Subscription Tier
Monthly Software Fee
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 available
In addition to these tools, you can purchase gift cards through Square. Digital gift cards are free, but if you want physical gift cards (which some customers prefer for gift-giving), Square also sells those at reasonable prices.
Square Gift Cards
Digital Gift cards
Square-designed gift cards
$40 for 20
Branded cards using Square templates
$0.95 each (minimum 75 card order)
$0.80 each (minimum 75 card order)
Square for Restaurants Payments
- Built-in: Square for Restaurants POS comes pre-packaged with Square payments.
- Transparent pricing: Square lists processing rates clearly on its website.
- EMV and PCI Compliant: Payments are encrypted and secure to protect your customer data and reduce chargebacks.
- Online payments: Accept online payments for orders placed through your Square Online store.
- Mobile wallet support: Accept payments from Apple Pay, Square Pay, and Google Wallet.
- Custom pricing available: High-volume restaurants can obtain a custom quoted processing rate.
Square for Restaurants comes with Square Payments as the in-built payment processor and publicly lists its flat-rate pricing on the Square website. In a sea of custom-quoting payment processors, it is refreshing to see published fees. Square is so transparent, in fact, that it includes a fee calculator on its website so that you can estimate your costs.
Square’s Processing Fee*
In-person tapped, swiped, or dipped
2.6% + 10 cents
2.9% + 30 cents
3.5% + 15 cents
*Rates as of the time of this writing; may change at any time at Square’s discretion
Some restaurants prefer to shop around for the best processing rates. If you are a high-volume restaurant, you will likely find lower processing rates elsewhere. But if your restaurant brings in more than $250,000 in annual sales, you can request a custom quote for processing fees.
Square for Restaurants Hardware
- iPad-based: You can bring your own hardware or purchase through Square.
- Multifunctional: iPads are the foundation for both the POS and KDS.
- Tableside options: iPad minis can take tableside orders and payments, and Square Terminals can process tableside payments.
- Peripheral options: iPad stands, cash drawers, receipt printers, kitchen printers, barcode scanners, and handheld payment devices are all available through Square.
Square for Restaurants has different options for complete hardware packages, which include an iPad stand, cash drawer, credit card chip reader, a receipt printer, and a kitchen printer. These kits cost around $1,400 with an iPad or around $1,000 without an iPad. You can also purchase items individually or bring your own compatible hardware.
Like the underlying POS, the KDS operates on iPads. You can use the full POS app on iPad minis or accept tableside payments only with Square’s handheld Square Terminal. Square publishes full installation and networking instructions on its customer support site to walk you through your hardware set up. Interested customers can request an in-person visit from a Square technician to assist with set up; pricing for this service starts at $600.
Square for Restaurants POS Features
Square for Restaurants has all of the functions that a restaurant POS needs, though the free restaurant POS varies quite a bit from the paid packages. The Free membership does not allow you to course orders, add seat numbers to items, and reopen closed checks. It won’t print individual shift reports, either. This might sound limiting for full-service restaurants, but if you own a coffee shop or counter service deli, then Square for Restaurants’ free version is a perfect fit.
You should note what functions are not included, though, since it will have an impact on your restaurant operation.
Reopen closed checks
Auto 86ing and item counts
Close of day reports
Live sales Reporting
Revenue Center Sales reports
Since our last update:
Previous Free versions of Square for Restaurants excluded custom floorplans and table management. Currently, all Square for Restaurants subscriptions include this feature.
Table & Menu Management
- Multiple menu support: Create time-locked menus for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, and happy hour.
- Timed menu promotions: Set discounts to apply for limited times like happy hours or special events.
- Color-coded table status: See which tables are likely to leave soon with intuitive green, yellow, and red alerts.
- QR Code ordering: Let customers order from their smartphones without waiting for a server.
With Square for Restaurants, you can create menus for different days of the week, times of day, and special events. Restaurants can also set up special discounts such as happy hours to automatically apply during certain times. If you have many items to add or update, you can bulk import information from a spreadsheet file. To keep your staff on the same page, Plus and Premium subscriptions enable individual item counts and auto-86ing.
The POS allows you to create as many custom floor layouts as you need with a simple drag-and-drop interface. You can name tables by their location—like “patio 1”—or use simple table numbers. Plus and Premium subscribers get table timers with their software subscription. This simple color-coding shows you how long customers have been seated with simple green, yellow, and red alerts.
- Intuitive check opening: Start checks with two clicks, by opening a tab or a table.
- QR codes: Use customer smartphones as self-service kiosks by using QR codes to receive orders.
- Transfer checks: Move checks from one area of the restaurant to another, or re-assign to a different server or bartender.
- Split checks: Split checks by item or accept multiple payments on a single check.
- Flexible payments: Accept payments tableside, via QR code scan, or at the POS terminal.
- Offline payments: Offline mode spools credit card payments when you lose internet access.
- Add notes: Add internal check names or notes that only print on kitchen tickets.
Starting a check with Square for Restaurants only takes a couple of clicks. While you cannot start bar tabs with a credit card pre-authorization, there is a workaround. 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. If you need pre-authorized bar tabs, consider a system like Toast, Revel Systems, or TouchBistro.
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. Customers can scan a QR code on their smartphones to place orders or pay for their meals without waiting for a server. 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.
Since our last update:
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, but you must adjust the default settings in your management dashboard.
One last drawback 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.
- 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. But you can also add custom notes about their dining preferences and food allergies.
Square Loyalty is a digital rewards program. Customers enroll at check out 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. Above 501 visits puts you in the $75 bracket, and loyalty visit 1,501 in a month bumps you up to $105. Like most Square tools, you can test drive the Loyalty program free for 30 days.
- 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.
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. Unlike the marketing features of other popular systems, Square’s text message marketing only requires you to pay per text sent; there are no automatically recurring fees. There are no-long term contracts, either, so you can cancel anytime.
Number of Included Texts
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.
Square for Restaurants Reporting
- 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 the area 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, Free users won’t be able to separate their activity from one another. 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 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. You can also craft automated text or email messages to let customers know that their order has been accepted and then alert them of expected delivery or pick-up times.
You have two main options for in-house delivery: using on-demand drivers or dispatching your own staff. You must choose one or the other, however.
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. You can also set a delivery zone in the POS so that your team doesn’t have to travel too far away.
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.
Ease of Use
- App Store access: Download POS software directly from App Store.
- Intuitive navigation: If you can navigate a smartphone, you can navigate Square for Restaurants’ order screens and back office.
- 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).
- 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 floorplans, 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 from 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 Alternatives
If you’re considering Square for your restaurant, you’re likely also looking at popular systems like Toast and Clover. We have found that Square for Restaurants offers stronger ecommerce tools than either Toast or Clover, and a better price point than 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.
Best for: Growing restaurants that require industry-grade hardware
Best for: Midsize restaurants that need more flexible payment processing
Best for: High-volume restaurants with multiple revenue streams
Monthly fee from: $0
Monthly fee from: $39
Monthly fee from: $99
Toast is probably Square for Restaurants’ biggest competition. Both offer a free entry-level subscription and built-in payment processing. However, Toast offers more robust reporting and inventory management tools and relies on industry-grade hardware (which can withstand high volume use better than iPads). The two systems regularly appear on our annual rankings of the best restaurant POS systems.
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: 4.3 out of 5 based on ~30 reviews
- App Store: 4.4 out of 5 stars based on ~2,100 ratings
- G2: 4.3 out of 5 based on ~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 we noticed when reading through Square for Restaurants reviews:
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 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
Square for Restaurants is an 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.