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TouchBistro has enjoyed a fast rise in the restaurant POS world. Since launching in 2010, the point of sale (POS) provider has grown to power over 16,000 restaurants in more than 100 different countries, while processing over $8.5 billion in payments, according to their website.
While that’s all fine and good, we’re giving TouchBistro an independent evaluation to determine if it lives up to the hype. We’ll also evaluate its viability for a very specific audience: small business restaurateurs. By the time we’re finished you should have a good idea of whether TouchBistro is a viable option for your restaurant, plus some alternatives to compare it to.
TouchBistro is a POS system for restaurants, meaning it provides both the hardware and software restaurants need to run transactions. When we say restaurants, we really mean any kind of business with a menu. On their website, TouchBistro advertises solutions for full-service restaurants, quick-service restaurants, cafes, bars, nightclubs, and even food trucks.
The POS software is designed to run specifically on the iPad and iPad Mini. It is locally installed, meaning it can run directly from your device and does not require hosting. If you are operating more than one register, you must download TouchBistro’s Pro Server application, which allows all iPads running TouchBistro to synchronize with each other. Note that you will need an internet connection to process payments, as TouchBistro does not offer in-house payment processing.
When you sign up for TouchBistro, the customer support team will provide you with in-person, one-on-one support to help you set up your hardware, account, menu, and payment processing.
Once you everything is good to go, here is what you can expect from your system:
TouchBistro was made by people with restaurant-industry experience, meaning they have tried to add features that are manager and server-friendly. Here are all the services TouchBistro POS provides:
TouchBistro requires you to integrate with a third party payment service provider in order to accept debit and credit card payments. Among the most popular payment service providers TouchBistro works with are Square, PayPal, Worldpay, and Chase Merchant Services. Your payment processing fees will depend on which provider you choose to work with.
Regardless which option you go with, you’ll be able to accept all major credit cards and payment methods (swipe, dip, contactless). TouchBistro also provides functionality for splitting bills, taking multiple forms of tender for a single bill (cash, credit, gift card, etc.), and setting taxes and gratuity to automatically calculate at checkout. Other perks include the ability to punch in “card not present” transactions and the option to start bar tabs with the swipe of a card.
TouchBistro offers a really nice selection of hardware to accommodate a lot of different types of businesses. Here are the options that are compatible with the TouchBistro app:
TouchBistro also sells a variety of routers, keyboards, monitors, and ethernet ports. Your credit card terminal is something you will have to acquire through your payment processor. TouchBistro will provide you with a hardware bundle that makes sense for your business, but the price is directly tied to how many registers (i.e. iPads) you plan to run the TouchBistro app on. The more registers you use, the more expensive your hardware bundle. We’ll talk more about pricing later. There’s one other hardware piece offered by TouchBistro that we should also mention.
TouchBistro offers a simple interface for tableside ordering. Using the POS, servers can browse the menu and punch in items and modifiers, and then send the entire ticket to the kitchen when the order is complete. Tickets can be organized by table, name, date, or amount, and orders can be voided in a matter of two taps. The POS can also arrange to have receipts printed, or shared with the patrons via text or email.
Through TouchBistro’s floor plan and table management interface, you can lay out your entire restaurant floor plan, assign staff to sections, and view availability in your dining room with ease. The interface also shows you how many people are sitting at a table, how long they have been sitting at the table, and the amount they owe. If someone calls to ask for a reservation, you can associate a specific table at a specific time slot with that reservation.
TouchBistro’s CRM database allows you to create customer profiles for those who patronize your restaurant on a regular basis and track their order preferences. With the customer’s permission you can also store payment information, making it possible to settle future bills without a card.
The TouchBistro POS features a clock-in/clock-out function that allows you to track employee hours worked. You can also assign custom titles to different employees and adjust their permissions in accordance with their role. Communication can be streamlined between staff through an in-app messaging system. The POS can even calculate staff wages based on hours worked and evaluate cost of labor. TouchBistro also provides scheduling solutions via an integration with 7Shifts.
Building and adjusting your menu can be done directly through the POS. Menus can be customized with photos and include ingredients, descriptions, and cooking instructions to help your new staff learn the menu faster. You can also create multiple menus and menu categories and adjust their availability based on the time of day, set discounts on specific menu items, and assign specific cooking instructions or modifiers to dishes to satisfy customer requests.
Through the POS you can create and track ingredients and receive costing and unit measure information, which can be used to determine ingredient-level food costs. The POS can also determine menu item profit margins so you can make the call whether a menu item stays or goes. When inventory is running low on a specific dish, the POS can notify staff so that they can withdraw it from the menu.
TouchBistro comes preloaded with over 50 reports that can be run to help you gain valuable insight into your restaurant’s performance. Some of the areas you can access reporting on include sales, promotion performance, average tip amount, individual shift performance, void summaries, and end-of-day reports. All data is updated in real-time and can be exported via PDF or CSV file or emailed to your staff. Through a partnership with Shogo, TouchBistro users can export their reports directly to QuickBooks or Xero.
Along with the apps we’ve mentioned (Square, 7Shifts, Shogo, etc.), TouchBistro also integrates with a few other in-house applications that cater to specific business types.
TouchBistro’s Restaurant Success Team is available via phone and email to field customer inquiries 24/7, every day of the year—including holidays. TouchBistro also offers remote access, allowing a staff member to take control of your POS to diagnose issues. On the website you can find a Support Center complete with guides and webinars to help you run your restaurant. There is also TouchBistro’s VIP Community, an online network of fellow TouchBistro customers that can advise you on how to get the most out of your system.
TouchBistro lists pricing information on their website but defines it as more of a starting point depending on the software and hardware capabilities you are looking for. It’s important to note that these prices are billed annually and come with 24/7 customer service, onboarding help, software updates, reporting, and unlimited users.
For quick-service restaurants, TouchBistro recommends the Solo plan. This plan starts at $69 per month for the software or $105 per month for the software and hardware bundle (again, billed annually) and allows you to use the TouchBistro software on one terminal. For restaurants that want to operate at least two terminals, TouchBistro’s Dual plan will allow them to do that starting at $129 a month (software only), or $209 a month for the software and hardware bundle.
The Team plan is designed for restaurants that want to have three-five terminals in use. It starts at $249 per month for just the software or $359 for the hardware and software combo. Finally, the Unlimited plan allows for the operation of six or more terminals and starts at $399 per month for the software or $539 per month for the software and hardware.
Note that TouchBistro offers 0% interest financing on its software and hardware bundles for qualified customers.
On their website, TouchBistro boasts of having over 200 features in their system. Now that we’ve covered most of them, here is what we see as the benefits of all that versatility:
TouchBistro offers a lot of different options to satisfy a lot of different business types. Offering software additions like the self-serving kiosk and kitchen display menu is a nice touch. Plus, the software/hardware bundles are designed to help businesses of all shapes and sizes. We meant what we said earlier: If your business has a menu, TouchBistro has a solution for it.
It might seem like a lot of money at first, but the prices TouchBistro charges for software and hardware bundles are actually quite reasonable when you consider how much restaurant POS hardware costs by itself. With TouchBistro, instead of laying out one lump sum, you get to pay off your hardware over time. TouchBistro also provides financing to those who cannot afford the monthly fees.
There’s a lot to like about TouchBistro, but if we had to pick a few nits, these would be it:
It’s not the biggest deal, but having to go to a third-party payment processor can be an annoying extra step that some customers don’t want to take. It is more convenient to have your POS and payment processor with the same company (and many merchant services providers do), so this is a mark against TouchBistro.
Most POS providers offer cloud hosting, but TouchBistro asks that you download a server application in order to locally host your system (if you are using more than one terminal). Again, not the biggest issue, but cloud hosting is preferable.
Here are how customers rate TouchBistro on the major review websites:
In positive TouchBistro reviews, users tout TouchBistro’s ease of use, variety of reporting functions, and the ability to customize the hardware and software to match their business’s needs. In negative TouchBistro reviews, users complained that the POS was only available for iPads, locked you in to a one-year commitment, and had slow or unresponsive customer service representatives.
If you’re not sold on TouchBistro, here are some alternatives to consider:
Toast POS is another POS system designed specifically for restaurants. It receives very similar ratings on the major review sites. The two main differences are that Toast offers in-house payment processing and does not bundle hardware and software costs. That means it can be cheaper month-to-month to use Toast POS, but you’ll have to pay a lot upfront to get the hardware you need to get started.
A cheaper restaurant POS alternative is Square for Restaurants. The software costs only $60 per month and includes a good deal on payment processing (2.6% + $0.10). You’ll still have to splurge on your hardware, but Square’s kits are slightly cheaper than Toast’s, and well-reviewed across the board.
Sign Up for Square for Restaurants
TouchBistro is a very impressive POS that does indeed live up to the hype. In particular, the low monthly costs for hardware and software make it a very good option for very small restaurants that can’t afford to lay out for their hardware. Even better, TouchBistro is a scalable solution that can keep providing you with additional functionality as your business grows. You’d be hard-pressed to find a restaurant that can’t work with TouchBistro.