The Best POS System for Small Restaurants: 7 Must-Have Features

Small Restaurant Hero

Your restaurant may be small but, with the right technology, you can see big success. Here’s what to consider when choosing a POS system for small restaurants.

Running a restaurant is not for the faint of heart. Breaking into a space as competitive as the food and hospitality industry can be tough, but more than anything the challenge lies in continuously keeping up with changes once your doors are open.

And while the courteousness of your staff, the efficiency of your back-of-house procedures, and your — of course — your drool-worthy menu all play a huge role in delivering a great guest experience, there’s one huge piece of the puzzle that can make or break your restaurant’s success: the point of sale or POS platform you’re operating on.

So whether you’re a brand new restaurant owner looking for your first POS platform or a seasoned vet looking to make a switch, it’s important to find a POS platform that can help grow your small restaurant business with all the tools you need.

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And to help you evaluate along the way, you can download the Restaurant POS Comparison Tool and check out the Toast vs competitors compare guide.

Toast for small restaurants

Toast's Starter Kit package is the ideal POS system for small restaurants that need one or two terminals to get up and running. You can choose between a countertop kit or a handheld kit, both of which come with free setup and installation support, a point of sale software subscription, and a router.

With Toast, you can serve up food and drinks fast with easy and efficient tools, all at your fingertips. From 24/7 reliability to flexible options for every budget, here's to finally getting that me time back.

But don’t just take it from us. Here’s what others have to say about Toast:

Quick to learn, and even easier to use: Toast's restaurant-first platform is built with you in mind. Interested in learning more? Request a demo with a Toast specialist.

The best POS systems for small restaurants in 2023

Toast ranks #1 in the restaurant POS system category based on consumer reviews. G2 examines over 15 data points to determine market presence, using a combination of proprietary and third-party data, and exclusively uses consumer reviews to determine satisfaction. All of their scoring methodologies are explained in more detail on the G2 website, but we’ll provide a bit more information below.

How the G2 Grid Restaurant Review Scoring System Works

G2’s scoring system is based on thousands of customer reviews and a unique algorithm that helps to process the data and find meaningful patterns and results in real time. Here’s a breakdown of the different elements in the grid and scoring system.

  • X-Axis: Satisfaction, based on user reviews and feedback
  • Y-Axis: Market presence, based on proprietary usage data, third-party data, and customer reviews
  • Top right quadrant — Leaders: The restaurant POS systems that have both strong customer satisfaction ratings and a strong market presence 
  • Ex. Toast, Square, Lightspeed
  • Top left quadrant — Contenders: POS systems with weak satisfaction scores and a strong market presence 
  • Ex. NCR Aloha POS
  • Bottom right quadrant — High performers: POS platforms with strong satisfaction scores, but a weak market presence
  • Ex. Upserve, CAKE
  • Bottom left quadrant — Niche: These platforms have weak satisfaction scores and a weak market presence
  • Ex. POSitouch, Payfacto

The G2 scoring methodology and grid system incorporate several attributes to surface the most helpful reviews for prospective technology customers. Some of the factors in satisfaction rates include customer satisfaction with product features, popularity, quality of reviews, age of reviews, net promoter scores (NPS), and more.

The top 7 features of a POS system for small restaurants

1. Easy-to-use touchscreen point of sale (POS) terminals

Modern point of sale (POS) technologies, like touchscreen terminals, exist to increase efficiency. They should be able to withstand the rigors of the restaurant with durable hardware, and they should be able to ensure that you and your team are always operating at the pace customers expect from your establishment.

Many POS systems today feature guest-facing screens which allow guests to follow along as they order, quickly pay, and tip on the screen. This improves order accuracy and speed so your team can keep the line moving.

Best-in-class POS terminals can also take credit card and mobile payments via a reader directly integrated with the POS. Whichever payment processing device you go with, make sure it supports contactless Near Field Communication (NFC) — like Apple Pay and digital wallets — Europay Mastercard and Visa (EMV), and Magnetic Stripe Card (MSR).

The POS terminal is basically the heart of your restaurant technology. When choosing which POS platform to use for your small restaurant, make sure to keep speed, reliability, durability, and the ability to grow with your restaurant in mind. You may be small now, but that doesn’t mean you’ll stay that way forever!

Toast Point of Sale
Learn how a better point of sale system can help you run your restaurant.

2. Integrated payroll solutions and employee scheduling

When you’re running a small restaurant, having your basic operational tools integrated into one system can be a game changer. 

Choosing a POS system that will help speed up employee onboarding, simplify payroll, and ensure your team is paid on time can seriously relieve your stress as a restaurant owner. Then, add in the ability to schedule employees and communicate with your team, too?!  

With Toast Payroll & Team Management and Sling by Toast, restaurateurs can do all of that and more. Save time, reduce miscommunication, and streamline vital HR processes with an integrated POS platform like Toast.

Payroll & Team Management
Learn how a better payroll system can save you time and make your staff happy.

3. A kitchen display system (KDS)

A kitchen display system, also known as a KDS, helps to seamlessly connect your front-of-house and kitchen staff so they can work more efficiently and deliver orders to happy guests. 

When choosing a KDS system for your small restaurant, be sure to look for restaurant-grade hardware that can handle the heat of a kitchen. You’re looking for something durable: an iPad screen probably won’t cut it. A KDS that directly integrates with your POS also ensures that orders will be fired quickly and correctly to the kitchen as soon as the guest orders. 

Toast KDS offers all of this and more:

  • Digital ordering and Toast Go® 2 integrations
  • All day display and production item counts
  • Multiple language support
  • Advance prep station routing 
  • Kitchen productivity reporting
  • SMS & in-app alerts for guests
  • Color-coded modifiers for allergens and guest-requested mods

Overall, a KDS that integrates with your POS will help level up your small restaurant’s service and help you deliver an experience that compares to the big chain restaurants. 

4. Suggested tip percentages and tip pooling

Whether your small restaurant is a quick service or full service concept, there’s a good chance that your staff is receiving tips. With a POS system that automatically suggests tip percentages and calculates tip pooling at the end of the night, you can increase the likelihood of guests tipping and reduce the time it takes at closing. A win-win! 

On the check, terminal screen, or a handheld POS device, you can suggest tip percentages to customers so they don't have to do the math. The most popular options for suggested tip percentages are 15%, 18%, and 20%.

Gone are the days of manually determining tips at the end of the night. With Toast, you can choose to pool tips and tip out on different criteria — for example, as a percentage of sales by sales category. And with Toast Tips Manager, you can save time by integrating pooled tips from Toast POS to Toast Payroll & Team Management to give employees peace of mind that daily tips are accurately transferred to their paychecks.

Finding a POS system for your small restaurant that does all of this automatically means happier staff and more time back in your day.

5. Integrated online ordering

There’s no denying the power of online ordering — it’s growing 300% faster than in-house dining — but how can you implement it for your small restaurant? 

When you’re operating a small business, it can feel like some technology and features are “too big” for you. Don’t let online ordering be one of them.

Online ordering systems drive more revenue for your restaurant, allowing guests to order wherever and whenever. And with no one in line behind them, guests have the opportunity to linger over a menu with no pressure, making them more inclined to get that extra menu item. Plus, allowing the guest to place their own order online leads to more accurate orders, which means happier customers and less wasted inventory.

When choosing whether to go with a third-party online ordering service, such as Grubhub or Uber Eats, or an in-house online ordering solution, be sure to weigh the costs and benefits. While third-party services may allow you to reach new customers who haven’t heard about your restaurant before, they also come with a price: commission fees and no ownership over your own customer data. An in-house online ordering solution helps you control your brand and keep money in your pocket.

But if you do decide to use third-party online ordering services in addition to your own online ordering platform, be sure to go with one that directly integrates to avoid extra tablets cluttering the counter or double entry by your staff.

Overall, your customers are looking for you online — make sure your restaurant has a presence. Otherwise, they might go with another restaurant nearby instead.

Toast Online Ordering
Learn how a better online ordering system can help you save time and grow revenue.

6. Detailed customer reporting and sales reporting

One of the biggest challenges for any restaurant type is determining when, and how, to pivot your offerings — especially in the face of historic inflation. But it becomes a lot easier with the right POS software.

Choosing a POS platform that offers integrated reporting and analytics lets you keep pace with performance in real time. Plus, cloud-based POS platforms like Toast allow you to access this data from anywhere, at any time. No more waiting days or weeks to review results. With Toast, you get automatic nightly business metrics straight to your inbox.

For a small restaurant, the devil is often in the details. Without a ton of wiggle room in regard to finances or mistakes, it’s important to be able to see how a new menu item is doing or evaluate if you need to reduce business hours. Reporting on a POS platform like Toast makes this easy.

Toast Reporting & Analytics
Learn how to get the data you need to power your restaurant's performance.

7. Integrations with all of your favorite restaurant tools

When looking for a POS system for your restaurant, it’s important to choose a platform that offers integrations with the most widely used restaurant software. This way, you can easily connect your favorite tools, such as online ordering platforms, delivery services, reservation apps, team management software, digital signage, and more. 

Toast’s Partner Integrations can help you drive an efficient process in every area of your restaurant. Plus, Toast is the only POS platform with direct integrations with Doordash, Grubhub, Uber Eats, Caviar, and Postmates.

You can view all of our integrations here to help seamlessly integrate your current tools with Toast POS for your quick service restaurant.

Connect all your favorite tools
See how Toast’s all-in-one restaurant platform integrates with the tools you already use.

Your small restaurant deserves the best technology

Trusted by restaurants of all sizes, Toast is built for you.

Set your restaurant up for success by opting for a cloud-based POS system, like Toast, that will grow with you and allow you to drive great hospitality. 

At the end of the day, reliable POS hardware and software will both improve your business's bottom line and help your establishment become one of the hottest joints in town.

Related restaurant resources

DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.