Toast POS Review
So you're considering a Toast POS system. With so many restaurant POS companies vying for your business, how can you be sure that Toast POS is the right choice?
Our review includes the pros and cons - info that you won't find on their website.
This feature-rich, modern system has the majority of Toast customers hooked. However, some do have reservations that tend to relate to aspects of the companies practices, rather than the quality of the POS solutions themselves.
Before choosing Toast POS over the competition, check out my in-depth review so you can make a balanced, informed decision.
Toast POS Review
Compared to other POS systems, Toast's pricing structure is refreshingly transparent. There are several options depending on the size and nature of your business, the most basic being the Starter Kit:
This package is also available on a pay-as-you-go basis (no upfront cost) for credit card fees of 2.99% + $0.15 per transaction.
For restaurants wanting to offer takeaway or delivery services with online ordering, the Essentials software package costs $165/month, whilst larger businesses who want to offer customer loyalty programs and operate across multiple sites will want the Growth pack as $272/month. Custom hardware bundles can be put together for these systems and there are also add-on features available. Remember to discuss your specific requirements with Toast's sales team to get an accurate quotation.
Features and Benefits
Choosing a Toast POS means having access to excellent core POS features, alongside a wide array of optional extras depending on your niche within the foodservice industry. From online ordering to enterprise menu management, here are some of the areas in which Toast POS systems excel.
Orders and Payment Processing
A Toast POS provides plenty of flexibility in taking orders. Orders can be taken at a counter POS, by the server on one of Toast's handheld tablets, or placed directly by the customer either on a self-service kiosk or via their mobile device. The Toast system also supports online ordering through your eCommerce website using a laptop or smart-phone. This allows clients to easily take orders for takeaway or delivery using their own delivery drivers, Toast delivery services, or a third-party delivery partner via the Toast delivery app (available on the Google Play store).
Orders are transmitted directly to the kitchen or bar, using a Kitchen Display System (KDS) and/or kitchen printer.
Payment processing via Toast's payment gateway facilitates paying by cash, debit or credit card, or mobile phone. The Toast Tap device also allows makes card and mobile payments contactless. On the billing side, bill splitting and customized tip percentage options are supported, along with settings for how the servers split tips.
Inventory and Menu Management
The Toast inventory and recipe features are designed to optimize the profitability of your dishes. Stock purchased is added to recipes and the food cost calculator lets you know exactly how much each dish costs to produce. You can even use a graphical layout to map inventory to physical shelf locations.
Once your menu is live, the Toast POS menu engineering chart shows how each item is performing, allowing you to drop, promote, or adjust the less successful dishes.
Meanwhile, the availability of each dish is linked to inventory and updated via sales, so you can see whenever one ingredient is limiting sales of a popular item.
If you're running multiple outlets, enterprise menu management features allow you to specify whether changes are automatically implemented across the entire company or only for specific locations.
Marketing and Customer Relationship Management
Turning walk-ins into loyal customers is one of Toast's biggest strengths. With a credit card-linked loyalty program, your diners earn points with every transaction and can put those toward customizable rewards. There are also options for either physical or digital gift cards, the latter can be bought online by customers or sent out by email/text as part of your loyalty program.
The Toast software CRM module stores information provided by the customer, including form data from online gift card purchases or signing up to the loyalty program. Whenever the customer then uses their credit card for online ordering or to pay a restaurant/bar bill, their purchase history is updated with the bill details.
The huge benefit of this is being able to see patterns of when certain customers are visiting, what sort of dishes they prefer to order, etc. right on your restaurant POS. The data can be used to provide them with customized marketing and promotional materials, special gift card offers, etc. giving customers exactly the offers most likely to keep them coming back.
Back Office and Analytics
If all the great inventory and recipe features, easy menu programming, gift card and credit card processing, online ordering options, etc. aren't enough, the Toast POS also takes care of many back-office and management operations. Payroll, shift scheduling, and even recruitment features free up your HR personnel to directly support the rest of the staff. Multi-location management also means you can either standardize or customize operations between all of your outlets.
Because the Toast POS system supports so many aspects of your operation, data from every aspect is available for inspection in the Toast POS Reporting and Analysis suite. Live data or summaries can be viewed right from your tablet, laptop, or smart-phone; from net sales to inventory management, payroll, and menu management insights, all the information you need is right at your fingertips.
When you run Toast software, you can also get access to a Restaurant Success Manager (RSM). Amongst other customer support person duties, the RSM can show you how to make the most of the insights available via the Toast POS. This can be of huge benefit, and some customers cite their Restaurant Success Manager as one of the best reasons for choosing Toast POS systems.
When it comes to POS hardware, you won't find a more modern system than those offered by Toast POS. Toast hardware is spill-resistant, stylish, and their POS tablets have excellent processing speeds.
The most basic unit is the Toast Go 2, a handheld POS terminal that can handle orders, contactless, chip, or swipe credit card processing, and take payments via mobile phone using Apple Pay/Google Pay/Samsung Pay. With a sleek portable design and 24-hour battery life, servers in full-service restaurants can use the Go 2 anywhere on the premises, all day long.
The Toast Flex stand-mounted point-of-sale tablet is the main backbone of most Toast hardware packages. Designed to run the full suite of Toast software at a counter (or wall-mounted station), it is compatible with a range of accessories including the Toast Tap credit card terminal, a secondary touch-screen guest display, cash drawers, and receipt printers. An adapted version forms the basis of the Self-Ordering kiosk system.
In the kitchen, the advanced Kitchen Display System receives and displays order information from your other POS hardware instantly. Restaurant rated (splash and heat-resistant) and available in several screen sizes, it's a great tool to maximize kitchen efficiency.
Limitations and Complaints
One of the more common complaints from Toast users is the lack of choice over payment processing. Toast have their own in-house payment processing service and don't support others, so unless you intend to handle payments via a separate system, rather than from your POS, you have to go with them. That said, their credit card processing fees are competitive, so this is generally only an issue for businesses choosing Toast POS but who didn't wish to switch from their previous credit card payment gateway.
Some Toast customers have reported Toast salespeople aggressively selling extra add-ons despite the client not thinking these would provide a huge benefit. Others reported this initially but stated it ceased once they made it clear they already knew exactly what POS software package they were looking for.
Customer Support Issues
Although there is apparently a great support system for initial implementation of and training on the Toast software, some users have reported less positive customer support experiences with the advice from Toast Central and/or the technical support team when issues arise later on. Complaints are mainly of two types, either having to go through several rounds of communication to get a direct response from a support person or receiving an unclear or generic solution from Toast Central that wasn't specific enough to the issue experienced.
Other customers have defended Toast, saying the technical support team is very good but can only operate based on the information they are provided. Reports are that when a problem is clearly explained, the customer support team is able to respond quickly and effectively.
Bugs have been reported in some Toast system add-ons, resulting in crashes or loss of data. The core POS system is reliable, however, and these issues have tended to arise in newer modules, being later resolved. This is not unusual in POS systems undergoing growth and development, so the advice from other Toast customers is to avoid installing brand new add-ons and give the team a few months to iron out the kinks first.
Square is an award-winning POS company that offers point-of-sale systems for retail and professional services clients as well as restaurant/hospitality.
They may be less specifically focused on food and beverage than Toast POS, but that doesn't make their relevant packages significantly less feature-rich.
The table, inventory, and menu management features are all effective and intuitive, while they have versatile hardware options and support both Android and iPad-based operations.
Like Toast, Square POS software doesn't support third-party credit card payment processors, although they will allow you to record payments if you are using a separate credit card processing system.
The main other complaint customers have had with Square is that fees rise quite steeply for larger businesses.
Upserve, formerly Breadcrumb before their acquisition by Lightspeed, is another restaurant-specific POS system provider.
The intuitive system allows easy menu programming, order taking, and inventory management.
Customers also like how flexible the system is, adapting easily to different types of hospitality businesses.
The main downside of Upserve is the system supports Apple technology only, with no options for Android or pc-based POS hardware.
There have also been some complaints that customer support has become less reliable since the takeover, primarily questioning the expertise of support team members, although reviews are mixed on this.
The decision to purchase Toast is unlikely to be one you'll regret. There may be a few question marks over specific add-on modules or the extended support service, but the majority of customers find the system sufficiently intuitive and feature-rich that these are minor concerns by comparison.
Although Square may have a slight edge in terms of platform versatility, and Upserve's restaurant POS software suite can be finely tailored to specific types of outlets, overall I would recommend choosing Toast POS as a good call for most food and beverage businesses.