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The best POS systems for bars and pubs

Point of Sale (POS) systems are an essential piece of kit for any business selling to customers, especially if you’re running a bar or pub. However, modern electronic POS systems come with a vast array of features, offering much more than the once standard cash register. We’re going to look at some of these advancements and review the best POS systems currently available. 

What is a POS system?

Most customer-facing businesses will need a POS system in order to handle and process transactions. Traditionally, this was done using a cash register perhaps with the addition of a portable card terminal. 

However, in recent years tablet and cloud-based POS systems have become popular, particularly as contactless card payment becomes the norm. These electronic devices are perhaps more accurately described as retail management systems given their extensive features and integration with, for example, CRM and accounting software. They are sometimes referred to as EPOS systems (Electronic Point of Sale).

As well as facilitating cash and card payments, a modern POS system may include the following features:

  • Inventory management
  • Automated invoicing and purchase orders
  • Sales reporting
  • Bookkeeping and accounting functionality
  • Customer loyalty programmes 
  • Staff management tools

What are the advantages of using a POS system?

We’ve already touched upon how modern POS systems boast a wide range of additional features. Here are some of the reasons why picking the best POS system for your pub or bar can make a big difference, with a particular emphasis on modern consumer trends. 

  • Cash transactions have been declining for a number of years and, in 2016, card transactions overtook cash for the first time. With many consumers, particularly younger people, no longer using cash at all, ensuring you have a POS system that enables customers to pay on card is imperative. 
  • Whilst being busy is a good thing for your business, no one likes a long wait at the bar. An efficient POS system that enables card transactions will reduce queue times, improving the experience for customers and your staff. 
  • The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has accelerated the need for businesses to take card payments. From a hygiene perspective, not having to handle coins and notes will reduce the risk of germs being spread.
  • Recording transactions electronically and incorporating this with software opens many possibilities. Depending on the POS system, you’ll be able to gather insights that will enable you to better manage stock, monitor your financial performance, and develop sales-driven strategies (e.g pub opening hours and staffing requirements).
  • In a loud and busy pub or bar, it’s easy to make mistakes when handling food and drink orders. Whilst a POS system won’t eliminate human error, an integrated system with an easy-to-use interface can help with staff onboarding as well as making communication between your bar and kitchen team easier. 

What do I need to consider when choosing a POS system?

Given there are so many POS systems available on the market, it’s a good idea to evaluate what particular features you’ll need. Here are some considerations you’ll need to factor in:

  • Who are your typical customers?
    For example, younger customers are more likely to want to pay on card or even using their smartphone (e.g Apple Pay). 
  • What are your hardware requirements?
    Mobility is a key consideration if you’re taking orders and payment on the move. Whilst a more expensive solution, tablet-based systems are increasing popular with pubs and bars – particularly those serving food.
  • What additional features would be useful?
    Beyond just being able to take payments, POS systems can help you with stock management, performance analytics, bookkeeping, and staff management. Think about what would be nice to have and what you actually need. 
  • What product support is available?
    Even the most reliable POS systems will occasionally have issues. You’ll want to check what support is available (for example, 24/7 telephone support) as well as considering backup solutions such as being able to take payments offline. 

Clearly, your budget is important but cost shouldn’t be your primary motivation. Simply picking the cheapest POS system might mean you’re missing out on other features that would actually save you time and money in the long run. Equally, paying for a whole host of features you don’t really need would be a waste of money. Weigh up both your short term and longer term needs when thinking about what you’re willing to spend. 

Six of the best POS systems for bars and pub

We’ve picked out the six of the best POS systems for bars and pubs based on popularity and customer reviews.

To begin with, we’re looking at the cheapest packages and the basic hardware/software options. Most POS companies will offer a wide range of additional options depending on your particular needs. 

  • Best for busy bars… Zonal
  • Best for small pubs… iZettle Pro
  • Best for larger pubs… Epos Now
  • Best for larger pubs serving food… Lightspeed
  • Best for busy pubs on a budget… Goodtill

Continue reading below for a more detailed summary on each POS system. 

Zonal

Zonal was established in 1979, after founder Ralph McLean created an EPoS system for his family’s Edinburgh hotel business. Today, Zonal describes its EPoS solution as an “essential part of any hospitality business”. Multi award-winning Zonal is used by more than 16,000 hospitality-sector businesses and it is reported to power about 75% of the UK’s managed pub market.

Payment integration:

Whichever merchant service provider you choose.

Price:

Available on request and determined by your specific requirements.

Key selling points:

  • Available as software-only or with terminal hardware solutions.
  • Created to help your operations run smoothly. Optimised for a more-efficient customer service and better guest experience.
  • Designed and built in the UK and can be fully tailored to your exact requirements.
  • Provides detailed reports on sales, promotions, discounts, loyalty transactions and payments processed by each employee.

Support:

Comprehensive customer support. When you sign up, you’re assigned a project manager who guides you through set up and implementation. If you require additional support or training, support is available 365 days a year.

Customer review:

“Zonal’s experience of the hospitality sector and pubs in particular is second to none. We had confidence in the stability of the technology and team, who are so knowledgeable and give us great service and support.”

Steve Elliot – The Snug Kitchen & Cocktails

Find out more about Zonal

iZettle Pro

iZettle is a Swedish fintech company founded in 2010, launching its first app and service a year later. iZettle “revolutionised mobile payments with the world’s first mini chip card reader and software for mobile devices.” Now part of PayPal, iZettle says it’s on a “mission to help small businesses succeed in a world of giants”.

With iZettle Pro, you can “use your iPad to get paid and increase sales with the iZettle Pro app”. It comes “packed with advanced features that help you offer better service and make smarter decisions. Pair it with our card reader, and you’ve got a complete POS system – at a fraction of the cost.”

Payment integration:

The iZettle Reader 2 (£29 per reader) integrates seamlessly with the iZettle Pro app, enabling you to accept chip and contactless payments from all major credit cards, as well as Apple and Google pay. 

Cost:

£39 per month plus VAT per iPad, with a 1.25% fee per card transaction. No lock-in contracts.

Key selling points:

  • Simple to use.
  • Works on iOS and Android devices.
  • Advanced sales reports and analytics.
  • iZettle has partnered with Xero, so your sales and payment data is automatically exported if you’re a Xero user, saving time and preventing mistakes.
  • You can easily create customised loyalty programmes and promotions.
  • Free trial available.

Support:

Free unlimited phone or email support. You can also access customer support by chat through the app.

Customer review:

“We have doubled in size in the past two years and we needed a system that would help us grow the business, while also maintaining very high levels of service and quality.”

Tom Allerton – FD of Deliciously Ella

Find out more about iZettle

Epos Now

Founded in 2011, Norwich-headquartered Epos Now is a market-leading cloud-based EPoS software provider. Multi award-winning Epos Now has “helped over 30,000 businesses to grow”, and says it has built its business on exceptional customer service.

Epos Now has more than 4,000 customer reviews on Trust Pilot and an official rating of “Excellent – 9/10”. Epos Now is primarily a POS software provider, but hardware is available if you want fixed till locations.  

Payment integration:

All major card payment provider​s.

Price:

Complete systems (ie EPoS system, cash till and printer) from only £349 or £25 a month (you can pay upfront or monthly).

Key selling points: 

  • Responsive and fast. Marketed as the world’s easiest POS system (“Staff can be fully operational in just 15 minutes”).
  • Works both online and offline (so you “Never lose a sale, even if your internet goes down”).
  • Real-time analytics and reporting. Access data 24/7 from any device, so you can “make smarter business decisions”.
  • Features stock management system that “gives complete visibility over your inventory”.
  • iPad and Android – works with any device.
  • Export reports to Sage, Xero or QuickBooks.

Support:

One-to-one onboarding with 24/7 customer support thereafter.

Customer review:

“The number one benefit for me is stock control. We sell from breakfast until 3am. Our Epos Now system helps to take the headaches out of the process. The information is clear, which helps us to keep on top of things 24/7.”

Paul Rowntree – The Keys (North East restaurant, bar and club)

Find out more about Epos Now

Lightspeed

Founded in 2005, Lightspeed is a point-of-sale and e-commerce software provider based in Montreal, but with offices overseas (including London). Its customers include 23,000 retail, restaurant and hospitality businesses in more than 100 countries. 

Lightspeed is marketed as an EPoS system “that helps you focus on what matters – creating unique experiences for customers”. Lightspeed promises to enable you to “manage your inventory, service, data, staff and customer relationships with a single technology provider”.

Payment integration:

Accepts chip and contactless payments from all major credit cards, with cash, credit accounts and gift cards also possible. 

Cost:

The most popular plan starts at £59 a month.

Key selling points:

  • Detailed revenue and employee reporting.
  • Scalable solution – can grow as your business grows.
  • You can “enter orders and process payments fast with the Direct Sale Mode” and “create combos for top menu items to speed up ordering”.
  • You can easily set up customer tabs and split bills.
  • Automated stock control.
  • Cloud-based system enables you to access data wherever you are.
  • You can automatically transmit financial data from your EPoS system into Xero.
  • Free trial available.

Support:

Personalised onboarding for new customers and unlimited support. Users also get access to free webinars, demos and videos.

Customer review:

“You can differentiate Lightspeed from a number of systems. We couldn’t think of a better way to run a pub.”

Gaurav Khanna – The Gladstone Arms, Borough, London

Find out more about Lightspeed.

Goodtill

Goodtill is a popular iPad-based POS software solution. The Goodtill story began when co-founder Ani Chowdhury was working in a supermarket and a restaurant to earn cash while studying. He was struck by the limitations of the EPoS systems he encountered and set out to change that after graduating as a software and web developer.

He set up London-based Goodtill with Oliver Rowbory and Jonathan Hunot, who had worked in telecoms/tech for ten years. They “sensed that automation and software was about to disrupt the POS space”.

Payment integration:

Cash and all popular payment cards. It can integrate with iZettle, SumUp, Square, Barclaycard or PaymentSense.

Cost:

Core POS Module £29 per till per month. If you need more functionality, additional optional modules are available for £9 a month.

Key selling points:

  • Runs on iPad and combines interactive interface, stock management, reporting and loyalty programmes.
  • Fast, easy and wireless.
  • Meaningful analytics, system management and reporting capabilities.
  • Enables users to manage stock and better understand their sales.
  • Easy table and tab management. Simple ordering and payment.
  • You can add hardware, payment and accounting software (Xero or QuickBooks).
  • You can book an online demo.

Support:

Goodtill operates an online support portal, where users can access “help with lots of topics ranging from connecting hardware, using our POS apps, to navigating the back office”. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can message Goodtill’s technical support team or call them directly.  

Customer review:

“We got lots of support during set-up and Goodtill are very quick to respond if we need them.”

Spyros Parissis – owner of London-based Parissis

Find out more about Goodtill.

Nobly POS

Nobly POS is a complete iPad EPOS system created especially for SMEs. Merchants in more than 20 countries use it. It’s not just an EPoS system, it also tracks sales, helps you to manage stock and can be integrated with QuickBooks. 

The business was founded in 2013 and is headquartered in London, but has offices in the USA, Australia and Uruguay. According to Nobly: “Our next generation, iPad based, easy-to-use POS system allows merchants to set up in minutes, without expensive onboarding contracts.”

Payment integration:

Can be integrated with a variety of popular payment methods.

Cost:

£39 per month per register.

Key selling points:

  • Built for speed and ease of use, “with simple and intuitive software running on world-class hardware.”
  • Robust stock control and inventory management features (“See what’s selling and what you’ve got in stock as it’s being sold using powerful back-office features”).
  • Quick set up (“Simply download the Nobly app from the App Store, connect your hardware and you’re ready to roll”).
  • Offline Mode records all transactions and syncs everything once you’re back online, which can be useful if you have dodgy broadband.
  • Easy to train staff to use.
  • You can book a free demo.

Support:

Nobly offers “award-winning 24/7 support, so you can access help and advice whenever you need it.”

Customer review:

“We’ve had Nobly since we opened – it’s very user friendly. When you have 500-plus whiskeys – and that’s not even including wine, gin, rum, tequila and other things we sell – and you’re trying to find the one you want quickly, it’s good to have that simple layout that works easily.”

Kieran Rocks – Merchant House Cocktail Bar, London

Find out more about Nobly.

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