Restaurant vs. Retail: Which POS System Do You Need?

When you’re looking for a point of sale system, you need to choose one that is right for your business. Restaurant and retail POS systems vary greatly, and choosing one can be difficult if you need a bit of both. Here is a breakdown of how restaurant and retail POS systems differ to help you decide which one is best for you.


Retail systems focus primarily on barcode scanners to work, whether it’s a fixed checkout or a mobile device. The register usually has a keypad or touchscreen keyboard to enter manual data, but this is only to find items that the machine cannot scan. Customer receipts are issued automatically via printer as an update to accounts payable. Newer POS systems have the ability to send a receipt via email if a customer chooses. Finally, retail systems keep track of your inventory and adjust it accordingly after purchase.

Restaurant POS systems keep a running total and give you the ability to make additions to orders that have already been placed. Additions include drinks, appetizers, or desserts after the initial entrée is served. Rather than issuing a receipt, an order is sent to the back of the kitchen without prices. An invoice prints following the end of the meal and a receipt is issued after payment. Most restaurant services utilize touch-screen machines to easily add and customize orders to account for allergies, specialized foods, and other unique meals.


Point of sale software for retail focuses on numbers. The product barcode, the inventory amount, price, total price, tax, and total transaction cost. After the total amount is displayed, a payment must be made either using cash or debit/credit cards. The process is almost immediate. In some circumstances, the software can determine if there is additional stock in a warehouse, alert you to low stock, and keep you updated on shipment status.

Restaurants need a more customizable and user-friendly system where you can alter items from day to day to account for daily or seasonal specials. Additionally, rather than a typical register, restaurants are also equipped with tablet terminals that are often portable. This software will display menu items by description, icons, or both. Once an order is placed, the order doesn’t expect payment immediately. You have the ability to add more information later, and orders can continue to be sent to the bar or kitchen.


Retail systems tend to be an all-in-one system with few tweaks that companies can use to their advantage. On the floor, the systems tend to be customer-oriented to show products as the transaction processes. In the backroom, the systems are business-oriented to show inventory and order status. Not only can front house employees look up stock, but they can also access loyalty accounts, check prices, discounts, and special deals.

Restaurants POS systems are designed with the restaurant in mind. For example, if you accept take-out, you’ll need the option to input take-out orders, but if your business doesn’t do this, you have no need for the take-out process. Customers never see the machine, so the hardware and software are designed with employees in mind. There are also restaurant-friendly features like tableside ordering and kitchen automation.