Toast vs Square
Are Toast and Square POS systems on your radar?
They're both highly popular in the point-of-sale market, but which is the best choice for you?
Come with us as we take a closer look at the features of each system, indicating exactly what each product delivers so that you can make your decision in confidence.
Continue below to confidently make your choice between Toast vs Square.
2.99% + $0.15
2.6% + $0.10
Ordering and Payments
Inventory and Menu
Marketing and Customer Relationships
Multi-channel or Larger Restaurants
Simple, quick-service businesses
Toast vs Square: Our Review
A Toast POS system is specifically designed for restaurants and other food and beverage businesses. Conversely, Square offers POS solutions for a range of markets, including retail stores and professional services as well as the restaurant industry, primarily aimed at small businesses (although they do also have an enterprise-level package).
While both POS systems have a lot of general and restaurant-specific features in common, there are definitely pros and cons to each.
For Small businesses
Toast offers a Starter Package with a free hardware terminal and software usage, priced solely on transactions (2.99% + $0.15)
Square's equivalent Free package (with reduced software features) costs 2.6% + $0.10.
For Larger Restaurants
The Essentials package from Toast starts at $165/month and covers both in house and online ordering services.
Square's Plus (full-featured) software costs $60/month plus $40/month per extra terminal if using more than one.
For Multi-Location and Enterprise
Growth, Toast's biggest package, starts at $272/month and includes the full marketing suite.
Prices for Square's equivalent Premium system are available by quotation only.
Both cloud-based software packages are built around a core system with options for add-ons and integrations. Unlike the iPad-based Square, Toast POS runs on an Android platform but apart from that the essential operation is similar.
Both systems also offer an offline mode so business operations are not interrupted in case of disrupted connectivity. Meanwhile, regular cloud-based updates help keep you up to speed with current product releases
Any good restaurant POS system should offer a range of ways to take and process orders. Food trucks and quick-service restaurants tend to use a static counter-based system, and both the Android-powered Toast Flex and Square Stand for iPad are robust, stylish, and user-friendly. Toast Flex also has an option for a separate customer screen, whereas Square Stand is designed to swivel so customers can view the main screen.
With Toast Order&Pay, customers can order their meals or drinks directly from a mobile device at their table using a free app. Square supports online orders, primarily for delivery or takeaway (as does Toast) but this system can be used in a similar way although not as well-tailored to restaurant dining as the Toast POS solution.
Both Toast and Square give restaurant owners the option of using Kitchen Display Systems, instead of kitchen printers. This allows the kitchen team to view orders onscreen as they come in.
Both Toast and Square POS systems use their own in-house payment processing services. This means if you are a Toast or Square for Restaurants customer, you have to use their service. Both are competitively priced and many restaurants have no issues with this, although there have been some who call for allowing customers a greater choice for payment processing.
The main hardware devices for transactions are both handheld, allowing customers to pay by swipe, chip, contactless, or even mobile payments. The Square Terminal has a built-in receipt printer, while the Toast Go2 is more lightweight and has longer battery life.
Inventory control is key for any restaurant business and both POS software providers have key features to help track inventory, inform purchase orders, and reduce waste in all types of restaurants. Inventory items are tracked with price values and the availability of dishes can be tracked so servers don't end up taking orders for unavailable items.
The Toast POS also links inventory directly to the menu so, where dishes share the same ingredients, the availability can be tracked based on those specific components.
One key difference, however, is that Toast's inventory management is inbuilt, whereas Square's comes via the third-party provider SimpleOrder.
Excellent customer relationship management (CRM) and loyalty programs are available via paid add-ons with both the Toast and Square point-of-sale packages. Both allow the storage of customer data and the creation of custom rewards to target specific categories of customers, improving rates of repeat business and growing your brand.
Many advanced functions are included in the Toast core packages, especially in inventory management and optimization. Some back-office and analytics features are also included, along with check splitting and tipping at the point of payment. For some of these features, Square customers rely on add-ons and paid third-party integrations (such as OpenOrder for inventory).
Overall, the capabilities of the two systems are quite similar but for the purpose of Toast vs. Square comparison, having more included as standard is a winner. Some Square users complained that once restaurants outgrow Square's core system, the cost of expansion via add-ons can get quite prohibitive.
Range of Hardware
Although hardware kits such as the Square register and Square Terminal are of very high quality, Toast point-of-sale customers get some hardware options their competitor is lacking. The most notable of these is the fully integrated Self Service Kiosks.
Using these kiosks, guests can place their own orders via touch screen display, including any available menu modifiers, and have those orders transmitted directly to the Kitchen Display System. This gives quick-service restaurant businesses extra options for contactless ordering, freeing up servers to cover more guests.
Being Android-based, the cost of central hardware tends to also be lower with Toast POS than an iOS system such as Square for Restaurants.
Toast customers have said learning to use the basic features is simple for staff and that they've been able to set up and train quickly (initial setup in 2 hours or less for a single-terminal operation). Toast does also offer their own setup service for more complex installations, at $499.
The user interface for the POS system is intuitive and has a workflow showing Toast's knowledge of the restaurant industry. That experience really shows when you compare Toast to some other restaurant POS systems, which can be clunky and involve extra steps.
Toast shines in this regard, with the Toast Partner Ecosystem offering a host of food and beverage integrations. Whether you're looking for advanced guest insights from OpenTable or Punchh, a branded takeaway and delivery website by TakeOut Technologies, or food costing and profitability analysis with xtraCHEF, you'll find the Toast system almost infinitely expandable.
In addition, The Open API service opens up even more possibilities for development.
Cost of Basic POS Package
It might initially appear Toast was the cheaper option for small restaurant owners who still want to use the advanced features, since they have a Starter package available, including basic hardware, with no upfront or monthly cost.
However, the payment processing rate at 2.99% + $0.15 per transaction is sufficiently higher than Square's %2.6 + $0.10 that your restaurant doesn't need to be doing a huge amount of business before the $60 a month for Square's more equivalent "Plus" package is covered.
Although employee management and payroll features are an add-on, as opposed to being included with Toast POS, the Square point-of-sale version offers more features.
For example, assigning checks and transactions to individual staff members (unlike Toast), allows Square for Restaurants clients to monitor the efficiency of (and burden on) key staff during service, providing support where needed.
Accounting and Management Integrations
Although Square may have fewer restaurant industry-specific integrations than Toast, one area where it does win is that it integrates directly with several well-known accounting packages. QuickBooks, Xero, and DAVO are all supported by Square, whereas the Toast POS only offers integration for the latter of the three, except via another third-party service, Shogo.
Equally, on the management side, Square has integrations with several useful pieces of software including When I Work, Fresh KDS, and TapMango.
Final Verdict: Toast vs Square
On paper it looks like the Toast restaurant point-of-sale system is a clear winner, having more restaurant-specific features than Square POS. However, it's not quite that simple.
Yes, if you are running full-service restaurants and especially high-end dining establishments, the extra functionality of Toast is of great value to your business. This is also true if you have a more complex business model e.g. managing deliveries for online ordering alongside table service.
However, for smaller restaurants, quick-service restaurants, food trucks, or other simple operations that may not need as complex a system, the simplicity and pricing of the basic Square POS package may save you training time as well as money.