Toast vs. Square: Which Is Right for Your Business?

When it comes to restaurant merchant services, you’re not starved for choice. In recent years, there have been many high-tech newcomers to the restaurant point of sale (POS) space that promise to make your restaurant’s day-to-day operations more efficient. 

Two such examples are Toast POS, which launched in 2012, and Square for Restaurants, which debuted in 2018. Both boast thousands of restaurant clients across the U.S.—from food trucks to quick-service restaurants to high-end dining establishments. 

But if you’re stuck between these two options, we’re here to help. In this guide, we’re going to compare Toast vs. Square to see which restaurant POS system is best for your restaurant. With the information we provide, you should be able to confidently select the system that fits your needs.

Let’s get started with our Toast vs. Square comparison by going over the basics of each system.

Toast POS: An Overview

When we say Toast is a POS system, we mean Toast provides restaurateurs the hardware and software they need to service customers and manage operations. This includes hosting transactions, processing payments, and overseeing employees and fostering stronger customer relationships.

toast vs squareToast.com

POS Software

Let’s start by exploring the features that come loaded in Toast’s POS software. Here’s what you can do via the Toast POS app:

  • Menu management
    • Upload a digital version of your menu, with images, and update it in real-time
    • Create subgroups for dinner, lunch, dessert, appetizers, etc.
    • Automate menu updates and pricing changes based on time of day
    • Track menu metrics including most popular items and food cost percentage 
  • Ordering
    • Order via tablet or self-service kiosks
    • Split checks
    • Perform voids and discounts
    • Substitute items
    • Add special instructions to an order
    • Send server a notification when dishes are ready to be served
    • Accept payment tableside
  • Online ordering (sold separately)
    • Link existing website to POS system for online ordering
    • Digital payments via Toast’s payment processor [1]
    • Throttle online orders when kitchen is busy
    • Update online menu via POS
    • Adjust pickup and delivery times
  • Employee management
    • User-based permissions
    • Assign servers to different tables
    • Create employee schedules and track time
    • Clock-in, clock-out function
    • Shift breakdown reports
    • Payroll processing
  • Tipping
    • Built-in tip request during payment
    • Tip reconciliation
  • Receipts
    • Send receipts via email or text
    • Print paper receipts
  • Customer relationship management
    • Save customer contact and order information
    • Send customized marketing messages and promotions
    • Caller ID
    • Order and distribute branded gift cards (sold separately)
  • Inventory management
    • Real-time inventory updates
    • Plate cost and inventory variance
    • Place purchase orders
  • Delivery (sold separately)
    • Set delivery zones and standardize delivery fees
    • Assign deliveries to specific drivers
    • Track delivery progress
  • Loyalty program (sold separately)
    • Allow customers to earn points when they spend money at your restaurant that can be redeemed for discounts at checkout
  • Reporting
    • Net sales reports
    • Gratuity reports
    • Table turn time reports
    • Payment method reports
    • Customized reports designed to track specific metrics
  • Integrations
    • Toast integrates with over 50 different third-party apps
  • Customer service
    • 24/7 phone support
    • On-site installation and training (sold separately)

POS Hardware

Of course, for Toast to be able to perform these functions, it needs to work in conjunction with POS hardware. Toast is mostly a reseller of third-party POS hardware, all of which can be bought directly on the Toast website. Toast software can also run on certain other POS hardware not offered through the Toast website. However, Toast’s software is only compatible with Android systems, so you won’t be able to use the Toast app on an iPhone or iPad. 

Through Toast, you can purchase a POS terminal, the Elo Touch i-Series 2l.0 AiO. Toast’s one piece of proprietary hardware is the ToastGo, a fully integrated handheld POS system. Other hardware available for purchase through Toast includes user-facing kiosks, a customer-facing display, kitchen display systems, receipt printers, barcode scanners, cash drawers, scales, and credit card readers.

Payment Processing

When you use Toast as your POS, you also have to use Toast payment processing. Toast doesn’t list what their credit card processing fees are—only that they “offer fair and competitive rates with no hidden fees.” In other words, your payment processing rate is quote-based. 

When you sign up, Toast says their team of payment experts will create a rate for you based on your unique card mix. Note that Toast payment processing allows you to accept all major credit cards, plus cash, check, and gift cards. They also offer credit card readers that can accept magstripe, chip card, and contactless payment methods.

Price

Outside of payment processing fees, Toast charges a monthly software subscription fee that starts at $79 and increases by $50 for each additional POS terminal in use. For more than six terminals in a single restaurant, Toast offers quote-based enterprise pricing. The loyalty program costs an additional $25 monthly fee, and the gift card and online ordering programs will each cost an additional $50 per month.

Toast sells their POS hardware in bundles or individually. 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.

You can use Toast month-to-month and cancel your service at any time.

Square for Restaurants: An Overview

Next, let’s look at Square for Restaurants and what it can provide business owners. Like Toast POS, Square sells both the hardware and software restaurateurs need to manage their business. Let’s start by looking at Square’s POS software:

toast vs squareSquare.com

POS Software

The Square for Restaurants app comes with the following:

  • Menu management
    • Upload a digital version of your menu and make changes in real-time
    • Change menus based on time of day
    • Add pictures and descriptions to each menu item
  • Front of house management
    • Table mapping
    • Assign servers to specific tables
    • Assign orders to specific seats
    • View available tables
  • Ordering
    • Unlimited order modifications
    • Order coursing (informs kitchen of meal sequence)
    • Real-time updates on meal preparation status
    • Tableside payment
    • Apply discounts, comps, and voids to bills
  • Tipping
    • Built-in tip requests
    • Tip reconciliation
  • Receipts
    • Send text and email receipts
    • Print paper receipts
  • Inventory management
    • Inventory updates in real-time
    • Automatic menu updates based on inventory levels
  • Employee management
    • User-based permissions
    • Time tracking
    • Assign sales to specific employees
  • Customer relationship management
    • Save customer contact and order information
  • Delivery via free Caviar integration
    • Set delivery and pickup times
    • Track delivery progress
  • Payroll (sold separately)
    • Integrates with employee time clock to calculate payroll
    • Distribute payroll via check or direct deposit 
    • Handle tax administration
  • Loyalty (sold separately)
    • Allow customers to collect redeemable points on purchases
  • Marketing (sold separately)
    • Save customer information and send custom marketing messages
  • Reporting
    • Time-based sales reports
    • Employee performance reports
    • Discount reports
    • Labor cost analyses
    • Customized reports designed to track specific metrics
  • Integrations
    • Integrate with dozens of third-party software systems via the Square App Marketplace [2]
  • Customer service
    • 24/7 customer support via phone, email, and live chat

POS Hardware

While Toast only operates on Android devices, Square for Restaurants can only work on devices that use the iOS operating system. Square sells their own proprietary POS hardware. For restaurateurs, there are three specific hardware kits available for purchase:

  • Square Stand Station: This kit comes with a Square Stand to mount your iPad on; a card reader that accepts swipe, dip, and contactless payments; a cash drawer; and receipt and kitchen printers.
  • Windfall Stand Station: This kit comes with a Windfall Stand instead of a Square Stand for your iPad. You also get a card reader that can accept swipe, dip, and contactless payments; a cash drawer; and receipt and kitchen printers. 
  • Square Stand Station with Square Terminal: This kit includes everything in the Square Stand Station kit plus a Square Terminal—a portable card reader that can be used for tableside ordering.

Keep in mind, iPads are sold separately from bundles—although you can order one through Square for an additional $329. Financing is available for those who don’t want to purchase all of their hardware in one go. If you already own some of your own hardware, you can buy individual hardware items from Square to pair with your existing tools.

Payment Processing

Similar to Toast, you have to use Square as your payment processor when you use their software. Square offers an upfront payment processing fee of 2.6% + $0.10 for in-person orders and 2.9% + $0.30 for online orders. With Square, you can accept all major credit cards and funds are typically deposited into your business bank account within 24 to 48 hours. 

What’s more, Square can provide your business with a virtual terminal, allowing you to take payments over the phone for an increased processing fee of 3.5% + $0.15 per transaction.

Price

To use the Square for Restaurants software, you’ll pay a $0, $60, or $299+ per month depending on the plan you choose. The Square Stand Station hardware bundle costs $1,074. The Windfall Stand Station costs $1,082, and the Square Stand Station with the Square Terminal costs $1,373. 

Square Loyalty costs an additional $45 per month, Square Payroll costs $34 per month, and Square Marketing costs $15 per month.

Like Toast, Square offers month-to-month contracts.

Toast vs. Square: Similarities

As you can probably tell, there is quite a bit of overlap between these two products. Both provide small business owners with the hardware, software, and payment processing tools they need to run their restaurant. Both are also cloud-hosted, meaning your information is stored on a server and transferred to your device via the cloud.

What’s more, Square and Toast are payment service providers, meaning payments they process from all their clients are deposited into one merchant account, as opposed to giving every client their own dedicated merchant account. The difference here is that aggregated merchant accounts come with a higher likelihood of account holds and terminations, given that the processor has to mitigate the risk of accepting payments from a large number of merchants.

Overall, Toast and Square are both capable of doing the essentials, from turning out orders to managing deliveries. Each service even offers its own loyalty program.

But the key difference when it comes to Toast vs. Square is how each product delivers its service, and what the experience of using each is like. Which is more user-friendly? Which has better hardware? We’ll answer these questions, and more, below.

Where Toast Shines

Being a POS system created for restaurateurs, by restaurateurs, Toast has some marked advantages over Square—which creates POS solutions for all different business types. Here are the areas where Toast beats Square.

Feature Set

When it comes to the “stuff” contained in the POS software, Toast simply has more than Square. Some things you can do with Toast that you can’t do with Square include managing online orders, sending purchase orders to vendors, and allowing customers to self-order via kiosks. Toast also comes with a variety of standard tools that you have to pay extra for with Square. This includes sending marketing messages and administering payroll. 

To help you learn how to use your complex POS system, Toast offers on-site installation and training. Square does not.

Ease of Use

Toast is also a more user-friendly POS system thanks in part to their kiosks and handheld ToastGo POS device. These tools allow restaurant businesses to serve customers in whatever way is easiest for them. Toast also provides minimalist interfaces, preparation instructions with every dish, time estimates on when dishes will be ready to be served, foreign language support, and numerous reports that will help you understand every aspect of your business.

Because Toast was created by people in the restaurant industry, they understand exactly what they need to run their business efficiently. 

Hardware

This is a bit of a close call. Square makes very good POS hardware. In fact, the Square Stand is one of the most ubiquitous pieces of POS hardware on the market today. But Toast takes the cake here because they sell more tools that restaurant owners need, including customer-facing displays, user-facing kiosks, and kitchen display systems. The ToastGo is also a great tool for taking and processing orders tableside. The Square Terminal can do some of what ToastGo does, but it’s not specifically designed for restaurants.

Where Square Shines

While Toast has thought of most things that restaurant owners need, Square for Restaurants is not to be overlooked. It may not do 100% of what Toast does, but it has one distinct advantage—it’s cheaper.

Price

Square will cost you $0, $60, or $299+ per month for use of their software, while Toast will cost you $79. What’s more, Square will only charge you an additional $40 per terminal per month, whereas Toast will cost you $50. Hardware prices are fairly comparable, although you can get a Toast POS terminal bundle ($1,350) for slightly less than what it costs for a Square terminal bundle ($1,373).

Overall, you need to look at what your restaurant needs are to determine which product is more cost-effective. If you can operate with only one POS terminal, the difference between Square and Toast is $19 per month, which is negligible. However, the more POS terminals you need, the bigger the price difference becomes.

Payment Processing

Square started as a payments company, and they’re pretty good at it. When you buy a Square POS bundle, you’ll get a Square credit card reader, which is one of the most reliable credit card readers on the market. You’ll also get a mobile credit card reader, which you can attach to an iPhone to accept magstripe payments tableside.

More importantly, Square offers a very generous credit card processing rate of 2.6% + $0.10. If you use a Square Register to process payments, that price drops to 2.5% + $0.10. Toast has quote-based pricing, so it’s hard to say what you’ll be charged. It could be as low as Square’s rate, or it could be much higher. We prefer a payment processor that is transparent about their price.

Which One Is Right for Your Business?

Now that you know the strengths and weaknesses of both Toast and Square, the only question that remains is which service is right for your business. We recommend Toast for more experienced restaurateurs who want a scalable solution for their business. For these types of business owners, Toast will provide everything they need.

For newer businesses, Square for Restaurants is a fantastic option. It has a lower price tag and all the basic features you need to get started. You can use it to get your business off the ground and upgrade in the future if you need it.

That’s everything you need to know about Toast vs. Square. Still can’t decide? We recommend starting a free trial via the Toast or Square website. 

Article Sources:

  1. ToastTab.com. “Payment and Credit Card Processing
  2. SquareUp.com. “Square App Marketplace

Matthew Speiser

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.

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