5 Best Cafe and Coffee Shop POS Systems for 2020

Updated on January 30, 2020
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There’s nothing quite like the neighborhood coffee shop. It’s the perfect place to sip a hot beverage while you read your book, do some work, people watch, or reconnect with an old friend. The goal of a coffee shop business owner is to make this experience possible by serving delicious drinks, cultivating an inviting atmosphere, and providing excellent customer service.

Using a great coffee shop POS system can help accomplish all these goals by allowing you to efficiently manage the counter, track inventory, and have an overview of your coffee shop’s general performance.

The coffee shop industry is hot right now (excuse the pun), with a market valuation of over $45 billion and an expected annual growth rate of nearly 3% over the next few years. Contributing factors to this growth include “hyper-professionalism” and “operational excellence”—both of which can be bolstered by a coffee shop POS.

Who knows—maybe you’ll even steal away a few patrons from the local Starbucks.

In this guide, we are going to provide you with our top five coffee shop POS systems that will help your business capitalize on America’s coffee craze. But before we do that, let’s learn a bit more about just what a good coffee shop POS system looks like.

What to Look for in a Coffee Shop POS

Running a coffee shop is different than other food service businesses in terms of what you’ll need from your POS systems. Generally speaking, the ideal coffee shop POS system is one that prioritizes speed and simplicity. After all, you want to be able to service as many customers as possible so you can maximize your profits. With that in mind, here is what you need to look for in your coffee shop POS system:

Ease of Use

Having an easy to use POS system means merchants can find what they need easily and process payments quickly. Therefore your POS system should have a sleek and modern interface. It also helps to have popular items (like coffee!) available on the home screen for one-tap checkout, and pop-up notifications when inventory is running low or an order is ready to be served. 

Payment Processing

Sixty-four percent of Americans drink at least one cup of coffee every day. That means there is no one specific type of coffee shop customer. And when you have a business that appeals to a broad spectrum of clientele, you need to offer as much variety as possible—especially when it comes to payment options. Therefore, it’s important your POS system accepts all different methods of credit card payment—including magstripe, EMV (chip card), and digital wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay. 

Inventory Management

Coffee shops typically have fairly small menus—and that means inventory can run low in a hurry. To combat this issue, make sure your POS system has tools in place to track your inventory levels and alert you when any one item is running low. It’s an added bonus if you can place purchase orders directly from your POS.

Customer Relationship Management

If you’re trying to create the “friendly neighborhood coffee shop,” it helps to have tools to manage customer relationships. Your POS should be able to store the names and contact information of your customers in its database. It should also offer you the option to create a loyalty program or offer gift cards to reward customers who frequent your business. 

Reporting

The last piece of the coffee shop POS system puzzle is a POS system that offers robust reporting and analytics tools. Having reports that offer you a variety of insights into your business’s performance can help you make smarter decisions around inventory, staffing, and more. Ideally, your POS system will generate reports that are easy to read and understand, and that can be accessed from your POS or remotely from a mobile or desktop app.

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The 5 Best Coffee Shop POS Systems

Now that you know what to look for in a good cafe POS, here are our top recommendations. Each of these options will allow you to run your coffee shop efficiently and won’t sacrifice customer experience.

Best All-Around Coffee Shop POS: Square for Restaurants

Don’t let the name confuse you. Square for Restaurants can work just as well for coffee shops as it can for larger food service establishments. For starters, with Square you can accept all major credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover) and payment methods. Square will supply new users with a magstripe card reader for free, but Bluetooth EMV and NFC card readers can be purchased for $49.

In terms of other hardware, Square for Restaurants currently only runs on iPads. You can purchase your iPad and iPad stand (with built-in magstripe reader) directly from Square to complete your countertop POS. 

Once you’re up and running with Square for Restaurants, you’ll have access to a variety of intuitive features designed to make managing your coffee shop easier. Square for Restaurants features a drag-and-drop menu creator, easy to understand tickets, employee time tracking, and preset tip amounts. There’s also multi-location management tools, allowing you to manage all your locations from one account. What’s more, Square offers add-on features like a delivery system, loyalty program, and marketing tools. 

In terms of cost, Square for Restaurants runs $60 per month. Square will also charge a flat-rate of 2.75% for processing credit card transactions. This combination of price and performance make it a solid option for any type of coffee shop. For more, Square has a dedicated page on their website detailing their solutions for coffee shops and cafes. 

Best Coffee Shop POS for High Volume Shops: ShopKeep

Next up we have ShopKeep, whose POS systems are designed for merchants in the food service industry. Like Square, you can process all different types of payment with ShopKeep, and ShopKeep also offers a full range of payment features, including partial payments, open tabs, split payments, tip recommendations, refunds, discounts, and the ability to print, text, or email receipts. 

In order to run ShopKeep’s POS software, you’ll need to use either an iPad or Clover POS Terminal. ShopKeep sells POS hardware kits tailored to your business’s needs. For coffee shop owners, the two kits that would most suit your needs are the restaurant kit (cash drawer, iPad enclosure, kitchen printer, receipt printer, EMV and NFC-capable credit card reader, and ethernet cable) and the quick-service kit (cash drawer, iPad enclosure, receipt printer, and EMV and NFC-capable credit card reader).

On their website, ShopKeep promises that their POS system will allow you to turn over orders fast and help you make the most profitable menu by identifying your top-selling items. ShopKeep also has an analytics app that allows you to monitor your business from a desktop or mobile device, as well as an integration with MailChimp that allows you to create email marketing campaigns. Some other notable tools include an employee time clock, scheduling interface, gift card program, and multi-store management functionality.

ShopKeep recently changed from being a fixed-rate service to a quote-based service, meaning the price you will pay for your ShopKeep system may vary from merchant to merchant. Lower risk merchants (high transaction volumes, longer time in business) will qualify for a lower subscription fee and interchange-plus pricing, while higher-risk merchants may have to settle for tiered pricing. Regardless of the price you’re quoted, ShopKeep offers month-to-month contracts to all customers.

Best Coffee Shop POS for Larger Shops: Toast

Toast is a leader in the food service POS space—and while it’s a bit more expensive than other POS systems, it’s a great option for growth-minded coffee shops. As with ShopKeep and Square, Toast is capable of accepting all forms of payments, and provides the hardware that will allow you to do so. 

When you sign up to use Toast, you can pay $499 to have a Toast representative come on-site and install your POS system, as well as upload a digital version of your menu into the software. They’ll then provide you and your staff with 1:1 training to help you learn how to use your new POS. After you’re all set up, Toast will provide your business with free software updates every month.

Speaking of software, Toast’s POS software comes with all the bells and whistles. You can select the days and times when certain menus become available, add images and descriptions, and adjust pricing situationally (i.e., early bird specials). Toast’s propriety touchscreen POS terminal (a branded Android Tablet) comes attached to a swiveling stand, allowing customers to punch-in orders themselves, thereby minimizing errors. Once an order is placed, Toast will surface a tipping prompt, and notify you when an order is ready. Receipts can be printed, emailed, or texted to the customer. If customers opt for a digital receipt, Toast POS will save their contact information to your database, along with their order history.

With customer information saved, you can arrange for Toast to send them customized marketing messages and promotions. On the employee management side, Toast offers user-based permissions, unique employee PIN numbers, a time clock, and shift overview reports. Other perks include real-time inventory updates, a gift card and loyalty program, and the ability to place purchase orders directly from the POS. 

Like ShopKeep, Toast offers quote-based pricing for your credit card processing rate. Your monthly subscription fee starts at $79 for one terminal, plus another $50 for every additional terminal in use. 

Toast hardware can be purchased individually or as part of a bundle. Bundles start at $450 for a handheld Tablet bundle to $1,350 for a terminal bundle (which comes with a 10-inch terminal, card reader, receipt printer, cash drawer, and tablet). Non-bundled hardware is sold via quote-based pricing. Additional hardware items sold by toast include user-facing kiosks and kitchen display systems.

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Most Flexible Coffee Shop POS: Lightspeed for Restaurants

Our fourth coffee shop POS system recommendation is Lightspeed for Restaurants. You’re probably starting to pick up on the theme here: All our coffee shop POS system recommendations offer payment flexibility and features designed to turn orders fast. Well, Lightspeed for Restaurants is no different. If anything, Lightspeed takes things a step further by allowing you to pick from a wide range of payment processors to integrate with your system. 

Payment processors that currently work with Lightspeed include iZettle, Verifone, Yomani/Yoximo with Worldline, Dejavoo with Worldpay, Moneris, First Data, Bridgepay, and Cayan. 

Lightspeed for Restaurants is designed to run on an iPad. Like Square, ShopKeep, and Toast, Lightspeed offers a hardware bundle that comes with everything a coffee shop owner would need: an iPad stand, receipt printer, cash drawer, Liteserver, and kitchen printer. Pricing on bundles is quote-based. You can also purchase a kitchen display system and customer-facing display from Lightspeed for an additional fee. 

For ordering, Lightspeed boasts a self-ordering app, allowing customers to use your POS terminal to place their order and make payment without having to go through a server. When you download the Lightspeed Self-Order Menu app, your Lightspeed Restaurant menu will automatically populate. You can customize the interface with your business’s branding and pictures of menu items. 

Other features include real-time stock counts, a food cost tracker, custom permissions for managers and employees, a time clock, scheduling interface, shift reports, and a CRM where you can store customer payment information (with their permission) and track their payment history and favorite products.

Lightspeed Restaurant costs $69 per month for one register. Your payment processing rate is determined by your merchant acquirer. 

Best Low-Cost Coffee Shop POS: Loyverse

Lastly there’s Loyverse. Loyverse is definitely the most unique coffee shop POS system we’ve recommended, and that’s because it’s entirely free to use. Loyverse is a not-for-profit enterprise. On their website, they say, “We believe that by empowering small business, the bedrock of every country’s economy, we contribute to the welfare of humanity.” Loyverse’s benevolence can be a big help to coffee shop owners operating on a shoestring budget. 

Now, keep in mind that since Loyverse is free, you’re not going to get all the bells and whistles that you would with our other coffee shop POS system recommendations. However, Loyverse does have software designed specifically for coffee shops, and it can work on both iOS and Android devices. For payment processing, you’ll have to either use SumUp or Worldpay. SumUp will charge you a processing rate of 2.65%, while Wordplay’s rate can be as high as 2.9% + $0.30.

In terms of hardware, you can purchase a variety of compatible receipt printers, barcode scanners, terminal stands, cash drawers, and label printers through the Loyverse hardware marketplace. There is also a kitchen display system and customer display system on offer.

As we said earlier, Loyverse’s software features are limited, but merchants can still apply discounts, send text and email receipts, track stock counts, set employee permissions, and run sales reports. And, as the name might suggest, Loyverse gives merchants a free loyalty program that allows customers to earn redeemable points on purchases. 

Picking the Best Coffee Shop POS System

Now that you’re familiar with some of the top coffee shop POS systems on the market, all you need to do is make a choice. This is by no means an easy choice—a POS system is an important and (with the exception of Loyverse) expensive business decision. But take solace in the fact that you can’t really go wrong with any of these options. All represent viable solutions for running your coffee shop more efficiently, and making your job easier. The ball’s in your court.

You might also be interested in our guide to how to get a business loan for a coffee shop.

Matthew Speiser

Matthew is a former staff writer at Fundera. He has written extensively about ecommerce, marketing and sales, and payroll and HR solutions, but is particularly knowledgeable about merchant services. Matthew's writing has been published in Business Insider, The Fiscal Times, Best Company, and NJ.com, among others. Matthew was also a co-author for Startup Guide—a series of guidebooks designed to assist entrepreneurs in different cities around the world. He has a degree in journalism from the University of Delaware. Email: matthew.speiser@fundera.com.
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