Boston-based brand Toast is an all-in-one POS system with a focus on catering to the needs of restaurants and other businesses in the food service industry.
The company was founded by three former Endeca employees after Oracle acquired the software firm in 2011. Toast’s founders initially set out to create a consumer app centered on mobile payments, customer loyalty and promotions that could integrate with restaurants’ existing POS systems.
However, they quickly realized that restaurants have far greater needs than just being able to accept mobile payments. The team pivoted from a consumer-focused app to a full restaurant technology platform that includes POS capabilities as well as online ordering, gift cards, analytics and more.
Toast POS sets itself apart from iOS-based competitors by instead choosing to run its platform on Android, which makes it both cheaper and more versatile.
But the question remains, is Toast’s point of sale system right for your business? We explore the answer and break down how this POS offering sets itself apart from the competition.
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Choosing a POS system is no easy feat, and your first consideration is likely to be price. Unlike other POS systems (such as Square) that provide the hardware to businesses for free, Toast POS’ most popular hardware starts at $899. For this price, businesses receive one 10-inch terminal, a flip stand and a magnetic card reader.
Toast is also there to help during the installation process by offering comprehensive implementation services. Customers can choose to have their devices installed remotely starting at $499, and onsite installation is also available.
Software brings an additional fee of $79 per month per terminal, though the company does offer volume and annual discounts to help ease the burden on businesses.
This added cost may be too much for smaller businesses that are just starting out, but established restaurants switching to Toast from another POS system will likely be able to afford the extra fee.
Businesses that wish to expand Toast’s feature set can do so through a number of add-ons that cost extra. Loyalty programs can be added for $25 a month, as well as physical and digital gift cards for $50 a month. Adding the ability to take online orders costs extra, too, and for this feature businesses will have to pay an additional $50 a month.
Toast POS charges a flat fee for processing, but you will have to contact the company directly to find out more details on that.
While some POS systems take a plug-and-play approach, Toast’s powerful solution is best installed by the company itself or with help from its representatives.
There is a self install guide available online, but in the hardware unboxing section, the company goes as far as to recommend that you “refrain from unboxing the contents until you are on the phone with one of the Toast implementers to install it”.
If the unboxing process alone requires help from Toast itself, the setup process is certainly not for inexperienced users. The self install guide suggests that it will take approximately two hours to complete the procedures therein, but we’ll do our best to give you an idea of what the process entails.
After unboxing Toast’s hardware, customers must first set up either a Cisco Meraki Z1 or MX64 router. The device needs to be connected directly to your cable modem with all Toast hardware connected to it.
The 10-inch ELO or Teamsable terminals should be installed next and you will need a screwdriver on hand to complete the installation. Both the Epson TM-T20 or Epson TM-U220 printers are compatible with Toast, and after your printer is set up, you need to connect it and your terminal to your business network.
This is just the beginning of the setup process, to give you a rough idea of how complicated it is. There is a good reason Toast provides installation services and businesses with the cash to spare should certainly consider taking this route, rather than a DIY approach.
Toast’s POS system has an impressive list of features aimed at making things easier for both restaurant staff and management.
Orders can be taken by restaurant staff either using the company’s handheld tablets or via its countertop terminals that can swivel to face customers. While other POS systems limit their tablets or tablet apps to just orders and payments, Toast’s handheld tablets can access the whole application including reports. For instance, waiting staff can take orders, send orders to the kitchen, and manage their customers’ bills and payment options from anywhere in the restaurant.
For environmentally savvy businesses and restaurants, Toast supports digital receipts via text or email. The service stores customer phone numbers and emails, as well as their food and drink order information, which could be useful in running targeted marketing campaigns or cultivating better relationships with regular customers.
Tips are handled right within Toast and business owners have the option to set customized tip percentage options in addition to the default 10%, 15% and 20% used by businesses. The company’s POS system can also help restaurants save time with the option to automatically calculate and distribute tips.
Toast even offers time tracking functionality and businesses can assign each employee a unique four digit pin number to clock in and clock out on its tablets or countertop POS systems. Managers can use the service to get a quick overview of which employees are currently clocked in or clocked out, to better manage their staff during rush periods throughout the day.
Inventory management is also built into Toast POS as part of a new feature that includes:
✔ Inventory control
✔ Inventory reporting
✔ Recipe cost tool
✔ Food cost calculator
…and a menu engineering chart that provides information on a business’ best-selling and most profitable menu items: all to help you manage your stock and customer data.
Toast: The competition
Toast POS provides users with a highly specialized POS system intended for use in the food service industry. For this reason, instead of highlighting other more generalized POS systems, let’s take a look at some other companies offering similar products designed for restaurants.
TouchBistro is a POS system for restaurants that is designed to run on Apple’s iPad and other iOS devices. The service beats Toast in terms of pricing, as a subscription for one register is just $69 per month.
TouchBistro even offers pricing discounts for customers who have more than one register, with two registers costing $129 a month, three to five registers is charged at $249 a month, and there is even a subscription fee of $399 a month for unlimited registers. The service also integrates better with third-party software and has an open API which lets business owners develop their own integrations.
Lavu POS is another food service-focused POS system that runs on iOS devices, as opposed to Android which Toast uses. The company’s pricing starts at $69 per month per terminal with additional terminals costing an extra $20 per month. Lavu sets itself apart from competitors by being the first restaurant POS system to be available on the iPad, and the Lavu Pilot app allows business owners to check reports on the road.
Toast provides restaurants and other businesses in the food service industry with a specialized POS system designed to meet their needs completely. While setup could be easier, the company goes above and beyond when it comes to helping new customers become acquainted with its systems, and the option to pay for installation will certainly be welcomed by restaurant owners looking to quickly set up new locations.
If you’re an iOS user or are moving from an iPad-based POS system, Toast POS might not be for you.
However, if you appreciate the cost savings that come from using less expensive Android tablets, and are okay with the fact that the company handles all credit card processing, this POS system is more than equipped to handle the needs of any food-related business.