The iPad has proven itself a reliable platform for web-based point of sale (POS) systems. What’s more, it looks smart and offers great battery life.
Compared to old POS systems, an iPad till system is a simple and economical way to start managing a business of any size, whether you’re at the till counter or checking sales at the end of the day from your computer. That said, you want a service that resolves software bugs quickly and offers prompt support so you can run the business swiftly without interruptions.
There are many providers out there, and we are not convinced they will all survive the competition in the next five years. We’ve listed what we consider the five best 2019 front-runners in the UK for small businesses.
TouchBistro for Restaurants
Best for: User-friendliness
Suitable for: Restaurants, quick-service, pubs, night clubs, breweries, food trucks, other food-and-drink businesses
TouchBistro is the restaurant EPOS that comes out most favourably in our tests of iPad POS. It is highly user-friendly with lots of genuinely helpful features designed to make your day-to-day sales and management easier.
TouchBistro is perhaps the most user-friendly restaurant POS for iPad. Photo: TouchBistro
If using more than one iPad, or if offline capabilities are important, it is necessary to set up a local computer network with an iMac or Mac server to keep them synced at all times. The system only runs on Apple devices, although it is possible to connect receipt printers, cash drawer and other hardware needed at your point of sale.
Although more than plenty of settings and features are included in the TouchBistro app, it is possible to integrate with certain partner apps. For example, you can get advanced customer loyalty features through a third-party integration, but this comes at an additional monthly cost.
Payment integration: iZettle Reader, Square Reader, PayPal Here
Vend for Retail
Best for: Inventory management
Suitable for: Retailers of all sizes
Vend is one of the leading EPOS software providers for retail shops in the UK. It’s a powerful system that caters to all store sizes, from independent small shops to big high street chains.
Vend can be run from an iPad – pictured with the Windfall stand – but also a Windows PC or Mac. Photo: Vend
Vend’s comprehensive features include everything you need for inventory management, a detailed product library, customised reports and the ability to take payments offline. The analytics let you dig deep into sales and employee performance data and track how individual products are performing.
Vend works on iPad, Mac and PC but not smartphones, so selling on the go will require an iPad or laptop. There is a ‘Scanner by Vend’ app for smartphones, which can be used to scan the barcodes of products for inventory counts.
If you’re looking for the most advanced retail POS solution, Vend is certainly considered one of the leading contenders.
Payment integration: iZettle Reader, PayPal Here, SumUp Air, Square Reader, Paymentsense, Payment Express
Lightspeed for Restaurants & Retail
Best for: Advanced functions
Suitable for: Retail, restaurants, quick-service, pubs, night clubs, breweries, food trucks, hotels, other food-and-drink businesses
Lightspeed is an adaptable EPOS solution with Retail and Restaurant packages to suit small and medium-sized businesses. It can handle multiple store locations, and integrates online and face-to-face sales so you can run your business from one account.
Lightspeed is particularly suited for full-service restaurants, bars, quick-service businesses and cafés.
Lightspeed Restaurant has a neat table management overview that can be customised, along with many other food- and drink-specific features that help you run the kitchen, bar, waiting and table areas seamlessly. It also has the option to create self-service menus that customers can use to place food orders.
Lightspeed Retail gives you advanced store-related functions such as detailed inventory management functions and customer loyalty profiles so you can anticipate what to offer regular customers. If a customer can’t pick up a product, the system allows you to create and print delivery documents so you can ship it to them directly and avoid losing their business.
The ability to integrate with an online store makes this a good solution for businesses aiming to sell through as many channels as possible. The ecommerce options even include tools to increase online exposure.
Payment integration: iZettle Reader, certain PCI-compliant card machines
iZettle for Hospitality, Retail & Services
Best for: Budget-conscious merchants
Suitable for: Hospitality, cafés, bars, pubs, full-service restaurants, other food-and-drink, retail shops, beauty salons, services
iZettle is the most popular POS system with mobile card reader for small businesses in the UK. Signing up gives you free access to the iZettle Go app and backend dashboard where you can create reports, manage employees, send invoices, and more. The free app can be used on most newer mobile devices and works as a standalone system for a wide variety of small businesses.
Barista using iZettle in a café. Photo: iZettle
On the iZettle Go Plus plan for £29 a month, you get iZettle’s very own ecommerce platform that is automatically integrated with face-to-face sales. However, the POS app on this plan is the same as the free iZettle Go app, so the extra cost is for the ecommerce features.
Then there is the iZettle Pro system, which is more comprehensive than the Go app, but its features are exclusively adapted for food-and-drink businesses. For instance, the table plan allows you to attach food orders to customers in a restaurant.
Both the free Go app and paid Pro app are easy to use, friendly-looking and integrate seamlessly with iZettle Reader payments. With Pro, you only pay 1.25% for iZettle Reader payments, while the free app charges 1.75% per card transaction. Various equipment bundles are on offer with e.g. receipt printer, barcode scanner and cash drawer.
Payment integration: iZettle Reader
Square Point of Sale for Cafés, Retail & Services
Best for: Free features
Suitable for: Small shops, cafés, other small food-and-drink businesses, professional services, beauty salons
Square Point of Sale is a comprehensive POS system – considering it’s entirely free to use. The catch is you need to use it with Square Reader and not other card machines.
Product menu in the Square Point of Sale app. Photo: Square
Square Point of Sale is geared towards “all businesses”, but its hospitality-related features and product library make it particularly good for food-and-drink as well as small shops.
Among other things, you can add various product features and prices, track stock levels, send invoices and add staff accounts with limited access.
If you log into your Square account through a browser, you can use a virtual terminal also included in the system.
For more advanced tools and systems, you can integrate the Square account with a long list of partner software such as Vend and Xero (which you pay for separately).
Payment integration: Square Reader