When it comes to point of sale (POS) systems, it pays to choose one that’s made for food-and-drink when you run a café. General POS systems may not have the specialised features essential for coffee shops, but hospitality EPOS will.

That said, a small café does not always require all the larger-scale operations required in a big restaurant, so the complexity of the software also matters. For some, a simpler POS system can be more efficient since there’s less to deal with, but one POS system to manage all daily operations including staff management and ingredient tracking can really save you time and money in the long run.

We have sifted through the UK options and give you our take on the six best POS systems for cafés.

Café POS systemCost per tillBest for
1. TouchBistro£49+/moUser-friendliness and all-round value
2. Nobly£39+/moBusy coffee shops on a budget
3. Kounta£33+/moPC, Android and Mac tills
4. Lightspeed Restaurant£79+/moBreadth of POS and operational features
5. iZettle Pro£39+/moSmall cafés with a single till
6. Square Point of SaleFreeCafés wanting to start cheap without commitment
Café POSBest for
1. TouchBistroUser-friendliness and all-round value
2. NoblyBusy coffee shops on a budget
3. KountaPC, Android and Mac tills
4. Lightspeed RestaurantBreadth of POS and operational features
5. iZettle ProSmall cafés with a single till
6. Square Point of SaleCafés wanting to start free without contract

TouchBistro – easiest for beginners

Best for: User-friendliness

Pricing: £49+/mo per till

Compatibility: iPad only

Pros: Intuitive app, affordable, lots of features

Cons: Doesn’t work on Android, customer loyalty features cost extra, 12 months’ commitment

Primarily built for restaurants, TouchBistro is an EPOS that also works perfectly for cafés. The interface is easy to grasp upon first use, and it has lots of features to manage any type of food-and-drink business. It only works on iPad, not Android devices or computers. You can pay for the software annually, biannually, quarterly or monthly, but you have to commit to 12 months as a minimum.

TouchBistro iPad on a restaurant counter

You can use TouchBistro either in landscape or portrait mode on the iPad. Photo: TouchBistro

The features are wide-ranging, including functions to help you sell more. It also has essentials like table plans, customer tabs, advanced split bills, food menus with modifiers, tipping and staff accounts with custom permissions. You can save customer details in a library and accept gift cards, but customer loyalty features don’t go much beyond this unless you subscribe to a loyalty plan through TouchBistro (price depending on how advanced you want it).

Friendly 24/7 customer support is included in the price, either though telephone, emailing or directly through the app. The ease of use in the app is excellent, as it shows explanations next to settings so you understand what every little function does without having to look it up online.

TouchBistro is a hybrid EPOS system, meaning it can run both via your local server and in the cloud. With just one iPad till, it will work if the internet is down, then upload sales and changes in the cloud when WiFi is back. A café with multiple iPad tills will need a server to keep iPads synced up, which TouchBistro can provide. With the internet working, the software will run smoothly regardless of how many tills you have.

TouchBistro costs
iPad licence, 1st£49 + VAT/month
iPad licence, 2nd-3rd£45 + VAT/month each
iPad licence, 4th-9th£40 + VAT/month each
iPad licence, 10+Custom quote
Loyalty featuresFrom £29 + VAT/month
TouchBistro
costs
iPad licence, 1st£49 + VAT/mo
iPad licence, 2nd-3rd£45 + VAT/mo each
iPad licence, 4th-9th£40 + VAT/mo each
iPad licence, 10+Custom quote
Loyalty featuresFrom £29 + VAT/mo

As for card terminals, TouchBistro can integrate with iZettle, PayPal Here or Square. These are all mobile card readers, so if you’re looking for a solution with a traditional card machine by Verifone or Ingenico, you will have to use the terminals independently.

Payment integration: iZettle, Square, PayPal Here

Can you try before you buy? Yes, TouchBistro offer a 7-day free trial without registration, and a further 21 days’ continuation of the free trial if you create an account.

Nobly – smooth system for busy tills

Best for: Busy cafés on a budget

Pricing: £39+/mo per till

Compatibility: iPad only

Pros: Offline mode, ease of use, 24/7 UK support

Cons: Not the most feature-rich table orders, support can be slow

Nobly is another very user-friendly EPOS system for coffee shops. The software is built for iPad and is speedy and intuitive to navigate. Although cloud-based, it also works offline, making it a reliable system for busy cafés where the internet may be temperamental. You can pay monthly or annually per iPad used, the latter costing £20 less per month. There is no contract or minimum subscription required.

Nobly POS table menu iPad

Tableside orders are managed via a simple table plan in the app. Photo: Nobly

The Nobly app doesn’t have as many features as, say, TouchBistro, so it may not suit a big restaurant, but for most cafés, it fits the bill perfectly. For example, you get inventory and ingredient tracking, detailed analytics and customer loyalty features (which often costs extra in other software). Tableside order functions are a bit limited compared to pricier EPOS systems, but the simpler layout is an advantage for busy tills that need to process orders quickly.

The London-based customer support is available round the clock so you can phone or email any time for help. Some users have reported slow responses in some cases and lack of help during setup, but overall, the service is friendly and helpful. Given the simple interface, it takes very little time to train new staff on the till.

Nobly costs
iPad licence, annual billing£468 + VAT paid upfront (~£39 + VAT/month) per iPad
iPad licence, monthly billing£59 + VAT/month each
Per extra iPad licence£25 + VAT/month each
Nobly costs
iPad licence, annual billing£468 + VAT paid upfront (~£39 + VAT/mo) per iPad
iPad licence, monthly billing£59 + VAT/mo each
Per extra iPad licence£25 + VAT/mo each

The system can be integrated with iZettle Reader and SumUp Air as well as card machines by Paymentsense and Barclaycard.

Payment integration: iZettle, SumUp, Paymentsense, Barclaycard, Verifone

Can you try before you buy? Yes, you can get a 14-day free trial without commitment, or book a free 15-minute demo of the software.

Kounta – best for Android, PC and Mac users

Best for: Those preferring an Android or computer POS

Pricing: £33+/mo per till

Compatibility: iPad, Android tablets, Windows PC, Mac

Pros: User-friendly, good 24/7 customer support, works on computers

Cons: Add-on costs can stack up, core-plan reporting limited

The Australian EPOS Kounta is the most advanced system on this list that also works on Windows computers, Macs and Android tablets. Many of the best cloud-based POS systems only work on iOS, but Kounta works on all major operating systems. The software is intuitive, scalable, with options to adapt the system as your business grows.

Kounta POS menu

The Kounta interface is easy on the eye, with intuitive navigation. Image: Kounta

The tiered subscriptions are not the easiest to get your head around. For a start, the prices are in Australian Dollars even for UK users, but do not be put off by it – the plans start at quite affordable rates.

The cheapest paid plan, called Sell, is recommended for espresso bars and pop-ups. This includes separate staff accounts, product variants and modifiers, offline mode, tipping, some inventory features and other features you’d need to manage a simple checkout. The next plan up, Manage, is recommended for cafés. It has additional features to manage staff, tables, orders, time sheets and price lists. The higher plan, Extend, is mostly just useful for full-service restaurants.

As for analytics and reporting, these come at an extra cost. If you just want to view sales trends and export reports to Excel or PDF, the cheapest Kounta Insights plan called View is sufficient. If you want to create recurring stock orders and perform other advanced inventory functions, you also pay for the Purchase Basic module, but most coffee shops can probably do with the free Purchase Lite. The system can integrate with many additional tools including accounting and other reporting platforms.

Customer support is available 24/7, and many businesses report that the support team is helpful and efficient.

Kounta costs
Lite (very basic plan)Free
Sell (basic plan), monthly billingAU$60 (~£33) + VAT per till/month
Manage (medium plan), monthly billingAU$120 (~£65) + VAT per till/month
Extend (advanced plan), monthly billingAU$180 (~£98) + VAT per till/month
Per additional tillAU$40 (~£22) + VAT each/month
Purchase Lite (basic inventory)Free
Purchase Basic (advanced inventory)AU$40 (~£22) + VAT per site/month
Insights View (standard reporting & analytics)AU$40 (~£22) + VAT per site/month
Insights Share (reporting & analytics with sharing options)AU$80 (~£44) + VAT per site/month
Insights Custom (custom reporting & analytics)AU$120 (~£65) + VAT per site/month
Kounta costs
Lite (very basic plan)Free
Sell (basic plan), monthly billingAU$60 (~£33) + VAT per till/mo
Manage (medium plan), monthly billingAU$120 (~£65) + VAT per till/mo
Extend (advanced plan), monthly billingAU$180 (~£98) + VAT per till/mo
Per additional tillAU$40 (~£22) + VAT each/mo
Purchase Lite (basic inventory)Free
Purchase Basic (advanced inventory)AU$40 (~£22) + VAT per site/mo
Insights View (standard reporting & analytics)AU$40 (~£22) + VAT per site/mo
Insights Share (reporting & analytics with sharing options)AU$80 (~£44) + VAT per site/mo
Insights Custom (custom reporting & analytics)AU$120 (~£65) + VAT per site/mo

Kounta can be integrated with card readers by PayPal Here and SumUp. Low-volume coffee shops would benefit with the SumUp Air integration, since it has a low transaction fee compared with similar terminals.

Payment integration: SumUp, PayPal Here

Can you try before you buy? Yes, the Lite plan, which allows up to 10 transactions a day, is free to use for as long as you need it.

Lightspeed Restaurant – many features for the price

Best for: Staff and order management features

Pricing: £79+/mo per till

Compatibility: iPad only

Pros: Good customer support, breadth of features, customisation options

Cons: Offline mode only with Liteserver, costs can rack up, some features most relevant for restaurants

Lightspeed Restaurant is a full-fledged restaurant POS system, but the breadth of features make it very good for cafés wanting all shop floor and management operations covered by one system. It is relatively user-friendly, but setting up the products and staff permissions can take longer than other POS systems because there are more settings and fewer in-app explanations for what each function refers to exactly. However, once you get the hang of it, the system will prove easy – clearly built for fast-paced businesses at any scale.

Lightspeed POS counter view

Lightspeed Restaurant is not just for restaurants – it looks very professional in a café/bar.

The features go way beyond just the basics. For instance, the table plan with open orders have the more amount of settings and functions we’ve seen in a hospitality app, and the list of all the different type of staff permissions is long. Enter recipes ingredients in any units, track inventory levels, split bills in any way you need, customise the product menu in lots of different ways and set timed promotions. It also allows you to send orders to the kitchen or bar, accept takeaways, delivery orders and table reservations.

Lightspeed Restaurant can work offline, but only if you purchase Lightspeed’s own Liteserver, which we have seen can cost around £500. If the internet is poor at your location, it will be crucial to have this, as the system would struggle without it offline.

Customer service is included in the plans 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You get free onboarding to help you set up the software and get your questions answered. There is no minimum contract, and you can choose to pay the subscription monthly, although annual plans are available for a lower price. The final pricing depends to on your needs, as Lightspeed will be offering you add-ons such as extra loyalty features and hardware packages.

Lightspeed Restaurant costs
Licence per iPad, annual billing£79 + VAT/month
Liteserver for offline modeAround £500
Various additional add-onsCustom pricing
Lightspeed
Restaurant
costs
Licence per iPad, annual billing£79 + VAT/mo
Liteserver for offline modeAround £500
Various additional add-onsCustom pricing

The Lightspeed Restaurant EPOS integrates with Verifone VX680 and VX820 terminals as well as iZettle Reader for card payments.

Payment integration: iZettle, Verifone

Can you try before you buy? Yes, there’s a free 14-day trial without obligation.

iZettle Pro – efficient with not too many features

Best for: Budget-conscious cafés

Pricing: £39+/mo per till

Compatibility: iPad only

Pros: Works offline, easy to use, low card rate with iZettle

Cons: Not for Android tablets, features a bit limited, customer support can be slow

iZettle Pro is an easy-to use EPOS system built for small hospitality businesses. It works on iPad only, although an accompanying phone app can track sales anywhere. You pay per iPad till and there’s no contract, so you can cancel any time. The features are not as extensive as, say, Lightspeed Restaurant, but it covers the essentials with a few extras that pricier POS systems don’t always have.

iZettle Pro hospitality POS

iZettle Pro with iZettle Reader at The Grapes, London. Photo: Mobile Transaction

For example, the app has a table plan with order tracking, ingredient and vendor management, and product variants and options to tailor the drinks and food menu. Of the “extra” things that other similarly priced POS systems don’t usually have, you have training mode for teaching staff to use the software, and advanced sales analytics and reports that can be customised. Loyalty features are included too, with an option to purchase loyalty key tags for customers.

iZettle integrates with Xero for accounting and Planday for advanced employee management tools.

The app works offline on individual iPads, but only syncs with other iPad tills when the internet is back on. For coffee shops with just one till, the offline capabilities makes it well worth the money compared to several other till apps that struggle to perform offline.

Customer support is included and can be reached by phone, email, chat and directly through the app 7 days a week, between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday and between 9am and 5pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

iZettle Pro costs
Licence per iPad£39 + VAT/month
iZettle Pro
costs
Licence per iPad£39 + VAT/mo

In terms of card machines, there’s not much choice – iZettle Pro only integrates with iZettle Reader. However, the transaction rate is lower for iZettle Pro users compared to regular iZettle users: only 1.25% per card payment through the terminal connected to iZettle Pro.

Payment integration: iZettle

Can you try before you buy? Yes, you can get a free 7-day trial without committing to anything.

Square Point of Sale – free, but expandable

Best for: Free features

Pricing: Free

Compatibility: iPad, iPhone, Android tablets and phones

Pros: Great all-round features, can integrate lots of tools, no subscription or contract

Cons: Square Reader only integrated terminal, no out-of-hours support, free features not that extensive

Square Point of Sale is a favourite place to start for many small businesses, because frankly, you don’t really get this many features for free in other POS apps (iZettle Go comes close, but it doesn’t cover as many bases as Square). After creating a Square account, you can use the Point of Sale app on iPad or Android without subscribing to anything, although card payments have to be accepted through Square Reader for 1.75% per transaction.

Square Point of Sale with Square Stand and card reader

Square POS interface with Square Stand and card reader. Photo: Square

Some of the features are tipping, open tickets, product library with variants, low stock alerts, a customer library and gift cards. However, Point of Sale does not have ingredient tracking or a table layout menu for orders. You can add extra employee permissions for an extra cost a month for each staff member.

More advanced features in almost any area can be added via the many platforms Square can be integrated, such as MarketMan for food inventory management and TapMango for advanced customer loyalty functions. Those who want to start with Square to save money and then upgrade to a more advanced system can integrate with Goodtill, TouchBistro and Lavu POS.

As you can expect from a free service, customer support is only available between 9am and 5pm on weekdays, so you’re on your own if you need urgent help early or late or over the weekend. However, the app is know to work smoothly with a good internet connection. If the WiFi or network connection goes, you can still accept cash payments and use certain features, as long as you’re logged into the app already (logging in requires a connection).

Square costs
Point of Sale appFree
Employee Management£3 + VAT per employee/month
Square costs
Point of Sale appFree
Employee Management£3 + VAT per employee/mo

As for card payments, Square Reader is a low-cost card reader with an attractive card rate. Transactions are automatically settled in your bank account the next working day, or within minutes for an extra 1% transaction fee.

Payment integration: Square

Can you try before you buy? You don’t pay for Square’s Point of Sale EPOS, so just register an account and you can use it for free indefinitely.