The iPad has proven itself a perfect platform for web-based point of sale (POS) systems. It’s smart-looking, reliable and offers great battery life.
Web-based POS systems enable simple and economical shop management and payment handling for businesses of all sizes, with minimal need for any upfront investment. No doubt the future of POS is cloud-based. That said, you want a service that resolves software bugs quickly and offers prompt support to allow you to run your business swiftly without interruptions.
There are many providers out there, and we are not convinced they will all survive the intense competition in the next five years. We’ve listed what we consider to be the five best 2019 front-runners in the UK for small businesses.
iZettle for Retail, Services and Hospitality
Suitable for: Retail, hospitality, food-and-drink (e.g. cafés, bars, pubs, full-service restaurants), service sector
iZettle is the most popular POS system with mobile card reader for small businesses in the UK. Upon signing up, you have 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 is more than good enough to be used as a standalone system for a wide variety of small businesses.
On the paid iZettle Go Plus plan, you can use iZettle’s very own, complete ecommerce platform that is automatically integrated with your face-to-face sales through iZettle Reader. Then there is the iZettle Pro system, which is made for the hospitality industry. It is more comprehensive than the Go and Go Plus apps, but its features are exclusively adapted to food-and-drink businesses – for instance, the table plan allows you to attach food orders to customers in a restaurant.
The platform is really easy to us, friendly-looking and integrates seamlessly with iZettle Reader payments. There are also various equipment bundles on offer with e.g. receipt printer, barcode scanner and cash drawer.
Barista using an iZettle POS system for a café. Photo: iZettle
Payment integration: iZettle Reader, 1.75% transaction fee with the Go and Go Plus app. When used with iZettle Pro, you only pay a 1.25% transaction fee regardless of card type. Other card terminals can be integrated as well.
Software cost: Free for iZettle Go, £29/month for iZettle Go Plus, £39/month per iPad with iZettle Pro.
Vend for Retail
Suitable for: Retailers of all sizes
Vend is one of the leading EPOS software providers for retailers in the UK. It’s a powerful system that caters to all store sizes from independent small shops to big high street chains.
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 functions let you go deep into your sales and employee performance data and track how individual products are performing in a detailed way.
Vend works on iPad, Mac and PC but not smartphones, so businesses who need to sell on the go will need an iPad or laptop. However, there is a ‘Scanner by Vend’ app for smartphones, which you can use to scan barcodes of your products for inventory counts.
If you’re looking for the most advanced retail POS solution, Vend is certainly regarded as one of the leading contenders.
Vend can be run from an iPad – pictured with the Windfall stand – but also a Windows PC or Mac. Photo: Vend
Payment integration: iZettle Reader, PayPal Here, SumUp Air, Square Reader, Paymentsense and Payment Express.
Software cost: From £39 a month.
TouchBistro for Restaurants
Suitable for: Restaurants, quick-service places, pubs, night clubs, breweries, food trucks and other food-and-drink businesses
TouchBistro is the restaurant EPOS that comes out most favourably in our own tests of iPad POS. It is highly user-friendly, with lots of genuinely helpful features specifically created to make your day-to-day sales and management easier.
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 selected partner apps. For example, you can get advanced customer loyalty features through a third-party integration, but this comes at an additional monthly cost.
TouchBistro is perhaps the most user-friendly restaurant POS for iPad. Photo: TouchBistro
Payment integration: iZettle Reader, Square Reader and PayPal Here.
Software cost: First iPad licence is £49 a month, then it’s £45 for each 2nd and 3rd iPad, then it’s £40 for each of the 4-9th one, after which you can get a custom quote. All prices are exclusive VAT. Customer loyalty features cost extra.
Lightspeed for Restaurant or Retail
Suitable for: Retail, restaurants and hotels
Lightspeed is an omnichannel EPOS solution with Retail and Restaurant EPOS 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 Restaurant boasts 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 who want to sell through as many channels as possible. The ecommerce options are so comprehensive that you also get tools to increase online exposure.
Lightspeed is particularly suited for full-service restaurants, bars, quick-service businesses and cafés.
Payment integration: iZettle Reader and any standard PCI-compliant card machine.
Software cost: Lightspeed Restaurant from £79 a month per iPad, Lightspeed Retail from £69 a month per iPad.
Square Point of Sale
Suitable for: Retail and small food-and-drink businesses
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.
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).
Square Point of Sale app with the Square Reader. Photo: Square
Payment integration: Square Reader – 1.75% transaction fee for card reader payments, 2.5% transaction fee for virtual terminal, keyed entry and invoice payments.
Software cost: No monthly fees, only the above transaction fees.