So you’ve decided you need a POS system for your businesses and now you’re faced with the daunting task of choosing the right provider. Every company promises to offer the best POS system, but they can’t all be telling the truth – so what’s a business owner to do?

The first thing to understand is that not all POS systems are created equal. Some providers specialise in solutions for small businesses while others aim to cater for larger enterprises – and then you have the POS systems designed for specific industries.

Choosing the right POS for your business starts with knowing what you need from your system and then understanding which provider can fulfil them. In this guide, we’re going to look at the best POS systems for every type of UK businesses so you can narrow down your list of options and make the right choice for you.

What makes a good POS system?

As obvious as it sounds, a good point of sale (POS) system should make it easy for you to accept and track payments from your customers in-store. Whether you need to accept these payments at a fixed till or have a portable POS system for taking payments anywhere on your premises depends entirely on the nature of your business.

Due to the differences in business types, one POS system may be great for one business but cause users to pull their hair out in other businesses.  This is the whole point of this article – looking at the best POS systems based on:

  1. The business size (e.g. the number of staff you employ and how many of them need to take payments)
  2. The size and diversity of the stock you need to manage and sell
  3. The type of business (e.g. retail, hospitality etc)
  4. Your budget
  5. Hardware preferences

We’ll also be explaining what makes each of these POS systems unique, running through their pros and cons – as well as suggesting what kind of businesses they’re most suitable for. 

 SquareiZettleTouch BistroLightspeedpointOneVend
Company HQSan Francisco, USStockholm, SwedenNew York, USMontreal, CanadaNewport, UKAuckland, New Zealand
Founded200920102010200520062010
Unique Selling PointsFree POS, excellent UI, card readerExcellent POS app, card reader, reduced transaction feesRestaurant POS, specialist features for front-house and kitchenDedicated systems for retailers, high-end POS features, eCommerce platformHospitality POS, features for niche businesses (eg: nightclubs)Retail POS, unlimited locations, excellent UI
Business SizeStart-ups, sole traders and very small businessesStart-ups, sole traders and small businessesSmall-to-mediumSmall-to-mediumAll sizesAll sizes
Best ForRetail, cafes, bars, services, mobile businessesRetail, hospitality and mobile businessesRestaurants, pubs and other food/drinks businessesRetail stores, retailers selling online/offlineRestaurants, pubs, bars, hotels, theatres, venues, nightclubsRetailers, retailers selling online/offline, retailers with multiple locations
Typical Monthly CostsFree£39/month per iPadFrom £59/moFrom £69/moPriced on applicationFrom £69/mo
Hardware CostsCard reader: £29+VAT, Square Stand: £129+VATiZettle Store Kit (till setup): £569, iZettle Retail Store Kit (till setup, plus barcode scanner): £729, iZettle Store Kit – Mobile: £259Price on applicationPrice on applicationNo hardware listedVend Desktop Bundle: £186.30, Vend MPOS Bundle: £240.03, third-party options also available
Free TrialNo14-day free trialFree trial and live demos available14-day free trialNoConsultation only
eCommerce IntegrationYesYesNoExtensiveOnline booking availableExtensive
Customer SupportUK-based customer support via telephone, email and social mediaUK-based customer support, mostly online but telephone support is also availableUK support online and over the phoneUK support online and over the phone, plus online community forumUK phone and email support24/7 UK phone and email support
Pros
  • Free POS
  • Comprehensive features
  • Excellent user interface
  • Easy to set up
  • Ideal for one-person enterprises or companies with very few employees
Cons
  • Limited to Square payments (which may not be suitable for every business)

The Best POS System For Solo Enterprises 

Square is an innovative US payment company that recently expanded into the UK, offering small businesses flexible mobile payment options.

What Makes Square POS Unique?

The biggest thing that makes Square’s POS system unique is that it’s free. That means no setup charges, no monthly costs and absolutely no hidden fees further down the line and it’s almost too good to be true that a mobile POS of this quality can cost you nothing at all.

There is one catch, though: You can only process card payments using the Square mobile card reader.

While you can accept cash payments using Square’s POS application, you can’t process card payments using any other company’s card reader. So, before deciding Square is the POS provider for you, you need to make sure its payment processing and mobile card reader meet your needs, first.

The short answer is this: Square is a great option for small businesses and ventures that only accept a small volume of card payments – otherwise its 1.75% per transaction fees can end up being more expensive than payment services designed for larger businesses.

If you’re happy with Square’s payment services and mobile card reader, then the best free POS app for iOS and Android is all yours to use. Here are the key features you can look forward to:

  • Payments: Accept cash, card and mobile payments anywhere with a mobile connection.
  • Inventory management: Keep track of your stock, differentiate items by different types (eg: colour), analyse your sales, receive alerts when stocks run low.
  • Employee management: Create user accounts for your employees with different access restrictions, store their hours and create timesheets.
  • Offline payments: Keep taking cash payments offline when you’re not connected and everything will be synced next time you’re online.
  • Refunds: Free refunds for entire bills, individual items or a custom amount.
  • Tips: Customers can choose to add a tip for card payments.
  • Accounting: Receive daily sales reports at the end of each day and export then to Excel or Xero.
  • Invoicing: Create and send invoices for free and send reminders to customers who haven’t paid.
  • Analytics: Sales data and reporting gives you insights into your business performance.
  • Loyalty schemes: Reward your most loyal customers with special offers.

That’s an incredible set of features packed into a free mobile POS system and the app’s design makes it an absolute breeze to use.

What Kind Of Businesses Should Use Square POS?

  • Business size: Very small (or only processing a low volume of card payments).
  • Inventory size: Small to medium.
  • Business type/industry: Hospitality, retail, sole traders, mobile businesses (food vans, delivery drivers, etc.).
  • Budget:
  • Hardware: Support for multiple card readers, physical tills and multiple locations.

While Square’s POS offers enough features for relatively large SMEs, you’re always going to be held back by the fixed transaction fees for card payments. If you’re not accepting a lot card payments, then this doesn’t matter but there comes a point where your monthly card fees are going to exceed the amount you will pay for a more advanced POS system.

For that reason, Square’s POS is only really going to cut it for small businesses or ventures that still predominantly take cash payments.

Verdict

If you’re a one-person or very small business that processes a low volume of card payments and needs a simple but effective POS system, then Square is a no-brainer.

Pros
  • Comprehensive features
  • Excellent user interface
  • Easy to set up
  • Low card transaction fees with iZettle Card Reader
  • Dedicated features for hospitality and retail businesses
Cons
  • Monthly fees charged per iPad

iZettle Pro: The Affordable POS For Small Hospitality Businesses

iZettle is one of the UK’s leading mobile payment processors for small businesses and it also offers an impressive POS application designed for bars, cafes and restaurants.

What Makes iZettle Pro Unique?

iZettle Pro is actually very similar to Square’s mobile POS in many ways but the obvious difference is you need to pay a monthly fee for iZettle Pro: £39/month per iPad. While there is a free version of iZettle’s POS app, it doesn’t offer the key features that could make iZettle Prio a better option for you than Square.

Much like Square, you’re limited to accepting card payments using the iZettle mobile card reader but you do get a reduced transaction fee of 1.25% by using iZettle Pro, which could be significant if you’re processing slightly higher volumes of card transactions.

You’ll still get better rates from a merchant account provider if you’re processing a lot of card payments but this 0.5% difference isn’t exactly small.

In terms of iZettle Pro, the POS is designed with bars, cafes and restaurants in mind – something you’ll see from some of its specialist features:

  • Payments: Accept cash, card and mobile payments anywhere with a mobile connection.
  • Table management: Create table layouts on-screen and keep track of orders for each table.
  • Split bill and open tab: Allow tables to pay separately by splitting the bill or keep tabs open for customers.
  • Mobile orders: Support for taking orders at customer tables with mobile devices.
  • Inventory management: Keep track of your stock, differentiate items by different types (eg: colour), analyse your sales, receive alerts when stocks run low.
  • Employee management: Create user accounts for your employees with different access restrictions, store their hours and create timesheets.
  • Offline payments: Keep taking cash payments offline when you’re not connected and everything will be synced next time you’re online.
  • Tips: Customers can choose to add a tip for card payments.
  • Accounting: iZettle Pro integrates with Xero fto make accounting easier.
  • Invoicing: Create and send invoices for free and send reminders to customers who haven’t paid.
  • Loyalty schemes: Reward your most loyal customers with special offers.

As you can see, there are a number of features that make iZettle Pro a strong contender for businesses in the food and drinks businesses – especially if you’re regularly welcoming groups through the door.

What Kind Of Businesses Should Use iZettle Pro?

  • Business size: Small food and drinks businesses processing low volumes of card payments.
  • Inventory size: Small to medium.
  • Business type/industry: Bars, cafes, restaurants, B&Bs, etc.
  • Budget:
  • Hardware: Support for multiple card readers, iPads and hardware for multiple physical tills.

iZettle Pro clearly differentiates itself as a POS application for bars, cafes and restaurants – although, it will be perfectly capable for other hospitality business types such as independent hotels and B&Bs. The slightly lower card transaction fees give you a little more room for processing card payments before merchant accounts become the more affordable option but there’s a limit to how far this will take you.

If the card payment fees work for you, then iZettle works out as a highly affordable POS system but there’s one caveat. The monthly £35 fees are charged per iPad, which means the cost can quickly stack up and this limits the practicality of iZettle Pro to businesses using one or two of the devices.

Verdict

If you’re in the food and drinks business, there’s a lot to like about iZettle Pro and it makes a compelling offer if you’re processing a low volume of card transactions and accepting payments at one or two locations.

Pros
  • Award-winning restaurant POS system
  • Dedicated features for different restaurant types
  • Solid interface design
  • Relatively easy to set up
Cons
  • Large menus can be tricky to manage
  • May be too expensive for small budgets

TouchBistro: The #1 iPad EPOS For Restaurants

Designed for the hectic New York restaurant scene, TouchBistro aims to be the best POS system for small but serious restaurants.

What Makes Square TouchBistro Unique?

Well, we’ve already ruined the surprise. Unlike most POS providers that aim to cater for multiple business types, TouchBistro wants to be the solution for restaurants and little else. It must be doing something right, too, because it’s won the Best POS System for Restaurants award for the past three years (2015, 2016 and 2017), among a bunch of other awards, including customer service.

Let’s look at some features.

 

  • Payments: Accept cash, card and mobile payments at tills or customer tables (integration with Square, iZettle and PayPal).
  • Tableside ordering: Fast, accurate ordering from your customers’ tablesides.
  • Customer facing display: Customers can see their orders as they pay, reducing errors and increasing confidence.
  • Kitchen display system: Orders instantly create tickets for kitchen staff so nothing is missed.
  • Self-ordering: Allow customers to order themselves from a visual menu and simple checkout system.
  • Table management: Create table layouts on-screen and keep track of orders for each table.
  • Menu management: Create and manage your menus with images and categories.
  • Inventory management: Keep track of your stock so you never run out of ingredients.
  • Employee management: Create user accounts for your employees with different access restrictions, store their hours and create timesheets.
  • Analytics: Sales data and reporting gives you insights into your business performance.
  • CRM: A built-in customer relationship management system helps you turn customers into regulars.
  • Loyalty schemes: Reward your most loyal customers with special offers.

 

TouchBistro is all about making the order and payment process easier for you and your customers. You simply won’t find many of these features with other POS systems although we have to give credit to iZettle Pro for offering a competitive alternative, even if it can’t match some of the more advanced features available with TouchBistro.

 

What Kind Of Businesses Should Use TouchBistro?

 

  • Business size: Small to medium.
  • Inventory size: Smaller menus.
  • Business type/industry: Restaurants, cafes, bars.
  • Budget: Small to medium.
  • Hardware: Third party support for card readers and various types of till setups.

 

Of course, restaurants and other food/drinks businesses are the target with TouchBistro but this POS is still better suited to certain types of restaurants. The first thing we need to mention is the fact that you can process card payments through PayPal means you can get significantly lower transaction rates than Square or iZettle, if you’re processing large volumes of card payments.

With PayPal Here, you’re looking at transaction fees of 2.75%-1.0% depending on how many card payments you process per month. Square and iZettle are still cheaper for low transaction volumes but the PayPal option means TouchBistro is a genuine option for larger restaurants as well.

Then we have TouchBistro’s pricing, which still counts as affordable but doesn’t fit into the same budget section that iZettle Pro aims for. Essentially, you pay £59 per month for a single user and then an additional fee per user, which varies depending on how many users you need in total.

So this might rule out TouchBistro for some of the smallest businesses in this industry. That said, £59/month for a single user isn’t a massive difference compared to iZettle and, if you’re processing a lot of card payments, the PayPal option could even make this the cheaper option.

Verdict

Running a restaurant is demanding enough and TouchBistro offers the only POS system currently on the market that goes beyond payments and aims to make business management easier.

Pros
  • High-end POS for retailers
  • Extensive register functionality
  • Highly customizable interface
  • Specialist features for retail brands
Cons
  • Can be complex
  • 12-month contracts

Lightspeed Retail POS: An Exciting New Option for Retailers

Lightspeed chimes in with an existing POS system designed specifically for retails businesses.

What Makes Lightspeed Retail POS Unique?

Lightspeed actually offers two separate POS systems – one for restaurants and another for retail businesses – the second of which we’re focusing on here. This is the most feature-rich POS system we’ve looked at so far and you’ll need to have a good read of the Lightspeed website for a more comprehensive look at what’s on offer.

Here’s a quick summary:

 

  • Payments: Accept cash, card and mobile payments anywhere in your store.
  • Inventory management: Lightspeed Retail has some seriously advanced inventory management features.
  • eCommerce: Everything you need to sell products online, accept payments and manage stock.
  • Omnichannel retail: Seamless management across online and offline sales.
  • Marketing features: Dedicated marketing features to help you reach new customers and sell products online or bring them into your store.
  • Advanced reporting: Online and offline sales reports, business performance and marketing analytics.
  • CRM and loyalty: Create customer profiles, assign statuses and reward loyal customers.
  • Refunds: Assign refunds without asking your customers to present their card.
  • Accounting: Integration with QuickBooks and Planday.

Those are more like feature categories, each of which could have its own list of subsequent features. You really have to spend a little time navigating the Lightspeed site to appreciate just how much you can do with this POS system. In fact, Lightspeed doesn’t make this obvious enough with the navigation on its site.

You’re best off heading right to the footer of the website and clicking on the features link under each product you want to look at.

This will give you the most straightforward breakdown of all the features available with Lightspeed Retail and its other products.

What Kind Of Businesses Should Use Lightspeed Retail POS?

  • Business size: Small to medium
  • Inventory size: Small to medium.
  • Business type/industry:
  • Budget:
  • Hardware: Hardware kits available for iPad and iMac systems.

Lightspeed Retail POS is all about those extensive features and you may not be able to settle for anything less if you’ve got a relatively large or complex range of products. Likewise, if you need a fully integrated system for selling the same products both online and offline, Lightspeed is going to be one of the first POS systems you want to look at.

It’s not the cheapest POS system for retailers by any means but it’s hard to find a more comprehensive feature set at this price.

Retailers who are constantly managing their stock, changing product lines and trying to match online/offline performance are going to gain the most from Lightspeed Retail POS but any small-to-medium retailer that needs advanced sales and inventory management features need to check this out.

Verdict

If you’re a retailer with advanced inventory management or eCommerce needs, Lightspeed is designed with you in mind.

Pros
  • Extensive POS features for hospitality businesses
  • Dedicated support for hotels, nightclubs, theatres and venues
  • One of the few ePOS options for Android
  • Powerful business management and marketing features
Cons
  • Pricing not publicly disclosed

pointOne ePOS: The Trusted POS For Hospitality Brands Of All Sizes

pointOne is the hospitality all-rounder, offering an extensive POS toolkit for businesses of all types and sizes in this broad industry.

What Makes pointOne ePOS Unique?

The key selling point of pointOne is its extensive support for businesses in the hospitality industry. We’re not just talking about cafes and restaurants, either, but dedicated features for businesses of all types in the industry – many of which are forgotten by POS providers:

  • Restaurants
  • Pubs & bars
  • Theatres & venues
  • Nightclubs
  • Hotels

Each of these hospitality niches come with unique demands and pointOne is the only ePOS provider that offers highly-optimised features for these individual business types. For example, nightclubs often need to deal with long queues in a noisy environment and get orders processed as quickly as possible. With pointOne, you get fast transaction processing features designed to keep those queues moving, cloakroom ticketing and ID scanning, plus a range of other dedicated features that solve everyday (or night) problems for nightclub owners.

You can expect similarly tailored features if you’re in any of the other hospitality niches listed above.

Aside from these specialised features, pointOne covers all of the basics you would expect from an ePOS platform but it also has some other unique offerings for hospitality businesses. Here are “some of the key features” listed on pointOne’s website:

  • Fast transaction processing
  • Easy navigation both FOH & BOH
  • Robust design and architecture for reliability
  • Flexible functionality, scalable for new features to meet your needs
  • Multiple APIs for integration with the latest industry technologies
  • Integrated contactless Verifone chip & pin
  • Enterprise Stock Control
  • Cloud reporting
  • Online Ordering with iOS/Android white labelled App
  • Multi-Site Loyalty & Marketing
  • Caller ID & Postcode Lookup
  • CCTV integration
  • Driver & Dispatch Management
  • Kitchen management screens
  • Android Tablet options
  • Interval Ordering for theatres & venues
  • Time & Attendance

As you can see, pointOne strives to be the only POS system hospitality brands – across the entire industry – need and it’s great to see it go the extra distance by providing dedicated features for niche sectors and business types.

What Kind Of Businesses Should Use pointOne ePOS?

  • Business size: All sizes.
  • Inventory size: All sizes.
  • Business type/industry: Restaurants; pubs and bars; theatres and venues; nightclubs; hotels and hospitality businesses of all sizes.
  • Budget:
  • Hardware: Support for multiple card readers, physical tills and multiple locations.

There’s not really a lot more to add at this point. We’re talking about an award-winning POS system for restaurants and other hospitality brands with a selection of specialist features for niche businesses such as theatres, hotels and nightclubs. These can be demanding businesses and pointOne ePOS is designed to make accepting payments and managing these businesses easier.

Verdict

Hospitality brands won’t get some of these features anywhere else and pointOne goes far beyond the basics with its POS system.

Pros
  • Excellent POS features
  • No limit on the number of store locations
  • Easy to use
  • Strong loyalty programme
  • Extensive integration options
Cons
  • Priority support costs extra
  • Expensive for very small retailers

Vend: The Simple, Powerful POS For Multiple Locations

Vend is designed for retailers of all sizes, no matter how large your businesses or how many stores you have.

What Makes Vend Unique?

Vend was one of the first POS providers to offer a cloud-based solution, all the way back in 2010 and the company has continued to innovate since then. Today, it’s one of the few options that caters for small-to-medium retailers with multiple locations and it’s refined its POS system into one of the most easy-to-use platforms in the industry.

Here’s a summary of Vend’s POS features:

  • In-store payments: Accept cash and card payments.
  • Online payments: Accept payments on your website and sync all your data.
  • Inventory management: Manage your inventory across multiple locations.
  • Customer management: Create customer lists and manage them along the consumer journey.
  • User accounts and permissions: Create user accounts and define permissions for each of your staff depending on their role. Customize to align with your store processes, and keep sensitive information hidden and secure.
  • Cash management: Reduce errors, theft and discrepancies by recording all changes from cash float to register closures. Handle cash withdrawals with ease.
  • Register closure reports: Get a printable record of your daily totals. Add notes about the day and check your totals by payment type.
  • Parked sales: Did a customer forget an item? Temporarily park any sale and quickly retrieve it when your customer is ready to complete their transaction.
  • Gift cards: Bring in new customers and increase revenue with flexible and brandable gift cards. Available with Pro and Enterprise plans.
  • Store credit: Keep your customers coming back by issuing store credit instead of refunds.
  • Refunds and returns: Give every customer the flexibility to change their minds with simple refund processing and returns.
  • Split payments: Let your customers choose how they pay you. It’s no sweat to split payment types, or to accept payments from multiple parties.
  • Discounts: Add discounts that will apply to all the items in a customer’s basket or to specific items only.
  • Custom receipts: Customize receipts with your logo and website. Create receipt templates in different languages or for a specific purpose. Choose to email or print receipts after a sale.
  • Offline payments: Accept cash payments offline and everything will be synced next time you’re connected.

We could keep going with the list of features for quite some time but you’ll probably be better off heading to the Vend website for more details on the full package. Essentially, it’s one of the most complete POS offerings for retail brands who want to sell in-store and/or offline and one of the few to support multiple locations without any real restrictions.

What Kind Of Businesses Should Use Vend?

  • Business size: All sizes.
  • Inventory size: All sizes.
  • Business type/industry: Retail businesses, no matter how many stores or employees you have.
  • Budget: Medium to high.
  • Hardware: Support for multiple card readers, physical tills and multiple locations.

If you’re a retailer with multiple locations across the country, there aren’t many POS systems that are going to cater for your needs. Vend gives you extensive stock, staff and customer management for unlimited products, unlimited users and support for as many locations as you need.

Prices are very reasonable, too, starting at £49/mo for a single location with no more than £15k monthly turnover. That’s not exactly a low-budget option for the smallest of retailers but you’re still getting a lot of POS for your money. I

Where Vend really starts to shine, though, is for retailers with more than one location – especially if you also sell online. This is when Vend’s synchronised POS system and its businesses management features come into their own, bundled into a single platform that’s always ready to grow with your business. If you are retailer, we’d would also recommend reading our EposNow review

Verdict

If you’re a retailer with multiple locations or need a POS that enables you to sell in-store and online seamlessly, Vend is the first option to look at.

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