Running a restaurant is a complicated, hectic business. Aside from serving delicious food and providing great customer service, there are numerous daily functions required for continued operation: taking orders, processing payments, managing labor, creating menus, sending deliveries, and printing receipts.
Enter Toast Point of Sale (POS)—a POS system designed to apply technology to simplify some of the most complex aspects of restaurant management.
Since launching in Boston in 2012, Toast has built up their offerings to become an extremely wide-ranging and versatile POS. Let’s take a look at what Toast POS provides and whether or not it can work for your business.
But first, let’s learn a little bit more about what POS systems do.
At the risk of sounding redundant, a point of sale is, well, where sales are made. The concept can be tricky to grasp because the location of the sale could be physical (like a cash register) or digital (like an ecommerce store).
On the surface, a POS system refers to the combination of hardware and software used to run a transaction. However, to say that is all POS systems do would be reductive. POS’s have evolved over the years to be able to perform a variety of essential business functions. Although every POS is different, most are expected to do the following:
Being an industry-specific POS, Toast can perform all the aforementioned functions, plus a whole lot more. Let’s take a look at what Toast POS brings to the table.
The following are all the functions the Toast POS is capable of performing. Note that some of these features are not available at certain price points (more on prices later):
When you contract with Toast, the Toast team will upload a digital version of your menu into the software, complete with subgroups for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, appetizers, main courses, and alcohol. You can also add, edit, or remove items from your digital menu by logging into your account via your Toast POS hardware. Other functions include the ability to select the days and times when certain menus become available, add images and descriptions, and adjust pricing situationally (i.e. Happy Hour deals).
Toast’s reporting features allow you to see which menu items perform the best, as well as other insights like the food cost percentage of each dish.
Toast makes it so you can take orders via tablet or through swiveling kiosks that let customers punch in their order via a touch screen. Using the tablets, servers can split checks and menu items when taking orders and send special instructions to the kitchen. The tablet will also send the server a notification when a dish for one of their tables is ready. When it comes time to pay, the tablet can accept credit card payments, saving the server a trip back to the register.
For an added monthly fee, Toast will help you create a webpage where you can sell your products or link your existing website to your POS system. Once the link is established, all changes you make to your menu will be reflected on your website. From your POS, you can also adjust which items will be available for purchase online, throttle online orders if your kitchen is overwhelmed, and adjust pickup and delivery times, plus track your online ordering performance with Toast’s reporting features.
Toast’s POS software allows you to have control over everything your employees have access to, such as sales reports. You may also adjust permissions so that only certain roles have the ability to perform specific functions, such as voids and discounts. Via the POS, you can create your restaurant’s service area and assign servers to different tables.
Toast POS also comes with a time tracking function. All employees are provided a four-digit PIN that they can use to clock-in and clock-out. At the end of a shift, Toast provides a full overview of the shift with a breakdown of all activity by each individual employee. There is also a Close Out Day function, which apprises the manager of everything that needs to be done before a shift can close (i.e. unpaid checks).
Furthermore, Toast produces reports on employee productivity and labor cost percentage, allowing you to glean day-to-day insights on the performance of your workforce.
Tipping is a cinch via the terminal. When a guest is ready to pay, the terminal will give them the option of selecting a tip percentage. At the end of a shift, Toast POS will add up all the tips and distribute them among the servers.
Toast POS gives customers the option to receive a paper receipt or have a customized digital receipt sent to their phone or email. If customers opt for a digital receipt, Toast POS will also save their contact information to your database, along with their order history.
With the contact information and order history that Toast POS collects, it creates customer profiles and stores them in a database. Looking through the database, you can see which customers visit your restaurant most often, their average check size, and favorite dishes.
Once you understand your customers’ preferences and have their contact information, you can arrange for the Toast POS to send them customized marketing messages and promotions. You can also identify customers who haven’t visited your restaurant in awhile, and send them promotions to encourage them to return.
Another nifty function is Toast caller ID, which integrates with the CRM software to identify callers and provide their name, number, and order history.
As previously mentioned, Toast POS compiles robust analytics on all aspects of your business, including net sales, gratuity, tips, total guests, table turn time, and a breakdown of all service types and payment methods. All reports are also updated in real time.
Toast POS tracks your inventory in real time so you can see how your food and supply stock is impacted by each order. Toast’s reporting features also capture recipe and plate costs and inventory variance to help you engineer your most profitable menu. You can also order new supplies directly from your Toast account.
For an added monthly fee, Toast POS will allow you to sell both physical and digital gift cards. The physical gift cards are provided by Toast, and can be customized to match the branding of the restaurant. Digital gift cards can be ordered from your terminal, and texted or emailed directly to the recipient, along with a custom message. Toast POS will also provide reporting on your gift card program.
Another paid add-on that fosters engagement between customers and your restaurant is Toast’s loyalty program. At checkout, customers can choose whether or not to opt into the loyalty program. Those who opt in will receive an account where they can track the points they earn for spending money at your restaurant. All points can be redeemed at checkout.
With Toast POS you can customize your rewards program, offering a dollars-to-points exchange, points milestones, or making only certain menu items redeemable with points. In addition, you can set up birthday rewards and signup bonuses.
For another additional fee, Toast POS allows you to customize your delivery system, setting different delivery zones and the fees you will charge for delivering to each zone. Delivery orders can also be routed directly to the kitchen, and the POS can assign drivers to specific orders and track the order’s progress from when they’re submitted to when they’re delivered.
If all of the aforementioned functionality wasn’t enough for you, Toast POS integrates with 50 additional third-party apps and plugins that can extend the system’s functionality. Some of the notable extensions include:
Toast also offers an API, which allows you to integrate with other software.
Now that we’ve covered everything Toast POS can do, let’s talk about the hardware you need in order for it to work. 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 (comes with 10-inch terminal, card reader, receipt printer, cash drawer, and tablet). Non-bundled hardware is sold via quote-based pricing. Routers and kitchen printers are sold separately from bundles. All hardware comes with 0% financing for 36 months, and a two-year warranty.
It’s also worth noting that all Toast hardware is Android based (as opposed to iOS), and the software runs on Android systems. While you can use your own compatible hardware with Toast POS, the company strongly advises using their hardware to prevent a disruption in service.
The types of hardware Toast sells includes terminals, handheld terminals (tablets), kiosks, receipt printers, routers, barcode scanners, cash drawers, scales, kitchen display screens, and credit card readers.
Visit Toast’s hardware page for more information.
Toast POS requires users use Toast as their payment processor as well. However, Toast doesn’t list what their credit card processing fees are—only that they “offer fair and competitive rates with no hidden fees.” This is obviously a drawback for business owners who are shopping around and would like to compare fees from different providers upfront. When you sign up for Toast, the company says it will work with you to build a custom credit card processing rate that makes sense for your business.
With Toast payment processing, you can accept all major credit cards, plus cash, check, and gift cards. In addition, credit card processing works offline.
When you contract with Toast, you can arrange to have your POS system configured for your restaurant and installed by a Toast team member. Installation prices start at $499. Once your system is installed, a Toast employee will give you 1:1 on-site training to help you learn how to use your new POS. You’ll also receive new software features and updates each month.
Outside of learning how to use your platform, Toast support staff are available 24/7 by phone to help with any issues that may arise. You can also file bugs through your Toast account. Finally, Toast has compiled an impressive amount of documentation on how to use your POS, including training manuals, a knowledge base, and blog.
Outside of the cost for your hardware, installation, and payment processing, Toast will charge a monthly fee for continued use of its software. Subscription prices start at $79 per month for one terminal. Additional terminals are each $50 more per month. For more than six terminals in a single restaurant, Toast offers quote-based enterprise pricing.
The subscription will provide you with most of the aforementioned POS features, as well as 24/7 support and unlimited software updates. The loyalty program will add an additional $25 to your monthly fee. The gift card and online ordering programs will cost an additional $50 per month, each.
Now that we’ve gone over everything Toast POS can do, let’s determine how it all can benefit your business.
Toast POS can offer a solution for a variety of different restaurant types. On their website, Toast advertises POS bundles for full-service restaurants, fast-casual eateries, franchises, bars, nightclubs, and pizzerias. It appears the company is trying to be as flexible as possible to accommodate all different types of dining options.
Restaurant POS’s have to be highly functional to capture all the different workflows that take place in a restaurant. However, Toast POS really goes above and beyond with software for delivery management, loyalty programs, online ordering, and gift cards. Those are functions you don’t find everyday in a POS.
Here is how Toast POS scores on the major review sites:
Among the positive reviews, users say they find Toast’s customer service to be extremely helpful, the technology is intuitive and easy for their staff to use, and there are an abundance of features—with more being added all the time.
Here are areas where we think Toast POS comes up short.
For all of the flexibility Toast provides, it remains pretty inflexible when it comes to payment processing. You have to use Toast’s payment processing if you want to use its POS. This may be a sticking point for those who are happy with their current payment processor.
Toast’s prices aren’t outrageous, but relative to some competitors, they look pretty steep. Especially when you consider that you could pay nothing for your POS software with a provider like Square.
Criticisms of Toast on the major review sites refer to difficulty in learning how to use the system (given how multifaceted it is) and bugs and malfunctions with the software. There are also complaints about hardware breaking down and annoyance with having to use the Android operating system.
If you want to shop around for a few more restaurant POS options, we recommend the following:
Clover POS offers a cheaper and more flexible option in terms of your software and hardware combos. With Clover POS, there are four different hardware plans ranging in price from $49 to $1,349. You can pair your hardware with two different software plans: The Lite plan costs $14 per month and the Register plans costs $29 per month. You can expect most of the typical restaurant POS functions with both plans: payment processing, digital receipts, reporting, and inventory and employee management.
If you want to work with an industry leader in the POS and payment processing space, consider Square POS. With Square POS, you’ll get the Square Register, which is one of the most efficient, high-powered POS hardware systems on the market. It also comes with a free magstripe reader, and a free version of its POS software, which allows you to do things like manage inventory and employees, send digital receipts, and split tabs.
Given everything that Toast POS can do, we’d be hard-pressed to find a restaurant that couldn’t work with Toast. It offers a varied POS designed to handle all restaurant workflows. Furthermore, most customers who have signed up seem to be happy with the service they are receiving.
Although newer restaurants might benefit from using a cheaper and more simplified POS like Square or Clover, experienced restaurant owners who want their business to run more efficiently can benefit from Toast POS.
Now that you’ve decided on a POS, learn about financing options for your restaurant.
Matthew Speiser 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. Prior to Fundera, Matthew was an editorial lead at Google and an intern reporter at Business Insider. Matthew was also a co-author for Startup Guide—a series of guidebooks designed to assist entrepreneurs in different cities around the world.