The Complete Guide to Restaurant POS Systems

From features to consider to the top apps on the market, here’s everything you need to know to level up your POS


Cash registers are so last century. These days, everyone from independent retailers to international enterprises is using modern point-of-sale systems with advanced features, and the restaurant industry is no exception. Diners have come to expect intuitive features when it comes to restaurant payments, so if your current POS isn’t making the grade, you might be turning away business.

Whether you’re just starting out or ready to make some upgrades, it helps to be aware of the current landscape for restaurant POS systems. Here’s everything you need to know, from the basics to advanced features to recommendations for the best restaurant POS apps on the market.

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What is a restaurant POS system?

A restaurant POS system is hardware, software, or a combination of both. Restaurant POS hardware refers to the physical machines on which your POS software runs. This has historically meant desktop terminals, but many restaurants now use handheld devices as well, allowing servers to process guest payments at their tables. Smartphones and tablets might also be part of your POS hardware stack, as many payment processing programs now run on these devices.

You’re likely already aware of the core functions of POS hardware, but in 2023, restaurant payment solutions go far beyond the basics of processing the check. That’s where software comes in — and where things get a bit more complicated.

Here are some factors to consider when it comes to finding the right restaurant POS software:

  • Intuitive interface: For your POS software to be successful, it needs to be easy to understand. Overly complicated software can lead to errors in orders, potentially leading to wasted product and unhappy customers.
  • Automatic inventory management: POS software that has inventory tracking functionality can automate one of your most tedious tasks while making it easier to know what to reorder or if a menu item isn’t moving.
  • Labor reporting: By monitoring your staff’s schedule and finding areas for improvement — like not having a full team on the floor during dead times — POS software can help you run your eatery more efficiently.
  • Mobile payment processing: There were an estimated 4.4 billion contactless payment transactions in 2022 — and that’s just in the United States. Mobile and contactless payments allow customers to pay without needing to hand a credit card back and forth, something that’s becoming the standard in a post-COVID world.
  • Easy integration with existing systems: If you already have some programs that are working well for you, there’s no need to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Instead, find a POS solution that easily integrates with your existing hardware and software.

For more on the basics of POS hardware and software, read the full blog post: What Is a POS System for Restaurants?

Modern innovations for restaurant POS systems

Comprehensive data capabilities

Going beyond basics, one of the most useful modern innovations of restaurant POS systems is thorough data and analytics reporting. This kind of insight used to require painstaking manual tracking, but that’s no longer the case with the right tech stack. By automating the collection and analysis of data, you’ll gain more visibility into peak times, the popularity of individual menu items, and other trends that inform business decisions.

This strategy has paid off for restaurant and bar owners; 95% say that technology improves business efficiency, and 78% of those restauranteurs check their metrics daily to see how they’re progressing. If you’re considering upgrading your restaurant POS, this is one feature you don’t want to miss out on.

For more modern innovations to restaurant POS systems and how they can make your life easier, check out our blog: The 3 Biggest Innovations to Restaurant POS Systems.

Speedy checkout

When scheduled efficiently, your servers are always moving and there’s very little wasted time. Meanwhile, most guests are unwilling to wait more than five minutes for service, so speed is of the essence. This includes the checkout process, which is why mobile and contactless are useful for speeding up these transactions.

Your team will thank you when the question “Can we split the check?” no longer makes their blood run cold, and not having to wait for ancient hardware or software to read a credit card and finish the transaction is another bonus. Speedy POS payment systems also provide options for tips; the easier you make it for customers to add in a gratuity, the more likely they are to show their server some love.

Want to know more? Read How Modern Restaurant POS Software Speeds Up Guest Payments.

Clearer communication

As amusing as it is to hear the front and back of house shouting at each other in diner speak, it’s not exactly the most efficient method of communication. Your POS upgrade should include features that make it easier for your servers to convey orders to the kitchen team, particularly when it comes to substitutions, allergy considerations, and other dietary restrictions. This makes for speedier service all around, as well as fewer mistakes due to poor communication.

Discover more about how restaurant POS features make life easier for restaurant and bar owners in our blog: What to Look for in a Restaurant POS app.

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Top restaurant payment apps

By now, you should have a pretty clear idea of what to look for in a restaurant POS system. The next step is choosing the payment app that best suits your needs. Start by checking out the top payment apps in the restaurant industry, which we’ve rounded up below.


We may be biased, but hear us out! The CityCheers app has extensive features beyond payment processing — though, it makes that easy as well. Using CityCheers, restauranteurs can create a free listing and seamlessly communicate menu changes and specials to potential customers. Additionally, those customers can view their checks, add tips, and pay with ease without needing a credit card to change hands. This app also integrates well with many of the leading POS solutions on the market, so you don’t need to get a whole new suite of hardware to enjoy the modern benefits of restaurant POS systems.

Ready to learn more about how it all works? Book a demo today!


This robust POS solution integrates key features like inventory management, ordering, and customer service in one simple app. By eliminating the need for paper menus and checks, Toast makes service as seamless as possible, making it appropriate for restaurants, bars, and even nightclubs.


Square is one of the most recognizable POS solutions on the market. You’ve no doubt seen the Square logo at locally owned shops, food trucks, conventions, and countless other industries, so it’s only natural that restaurant owners are turning to this app as well. Square uses QR codes that allow customers to order, open tabs, and pay, streamlining the entire customer journey. However, Square still requires physical checks delivered by wait staff, which is its major drawback.


When patrons are ready to check out, they expect to be able to do so immediately. Ready speeds up this process by allowing customers to view menus and pay their restaurant bills through the app — there’s even a pre-payment function for takeout orders. While not as comprehensive as some other restaurant POS systems, Ready does make it easier for your servers to turn over tables, increasing both revenue and tips.


This unified platform is designed to get the front-of-house and back-of-house staff on the same page. On top of that, Posist can help you create more profitable menus by identifying the top-selling meals and combinations at your restaurant. Its QR code-driven pay-at-table functionality handles payment processing, making it useful for a number of day-to-day functions (though it doesn’t offer the marketing assistance of some other POS apps).

For additional resources on the top POS apps, check out The 9 Best Restaurant Payment Apps on the Market.

Finding the right restaurant POS partner

The perfect POS for you might be an all-encompassing solution or a combination of hardware and software designed to meet your eatery’s specific needs. Whichever direction you choose, CityCheers can help. Our platform offers easy-to-use marketing tools to get customers in the door, and once they’re there, the CityCheers app can handle everything from menus to payments. Want to know more? Get in touch!