In the ever evolving world of POS options, Toast has seemingly come out of nowhere, claiming a piece of the action for itself. Marketing itself specifically for restaurants, bars, and other food and drink establishments, Toast’s industry-specific program is garnering a lot of interest. After all, a POS built specifically to cater to the needs of the restaurant industry sounds promising. With its Android-based technology and extensive features list, at face value, Toast is marketing itself as the best thing since sliced bread (pun intended). Let’s look a little more into Toast and see what exactly it is and how it works.
Toast provides all the hardware you’ll need, including many customizable and bundle options. If you’re a new business looking for a one-stop shop for all your POS needs, Toast offers everything from terminals, to card readers, self-ordering kiosks, kitchen displays optimized for workflow management, and all sorts of kitchen accessories.
They also boast 0% interest and financing options if you can’t afford to pay the full price upfront. They’re most popular hardware package is priced at $899 (10” terminal, flip stand, and magnetic card reader) and remote installation starting at $499 with options for onsite installation.
Here’s a quick breakdown of most of the hardware they offer:
Toast’s Android-based cloud technology means that it has a lot of flexibility and can easily be synced and updated across devices. In order to understand how this can work for your restaurant, Toast’s software options are neatly split up into four sections: managing, ordering, payment, and reports. Let’s expand on each of these:
Management is focused on menu management. Toast promises complete digitization of your menu onto tablets, terminals, and other hardware as a part of the installation process. They also have an option of creating a menu webpage for online ordering. Because these menus are fully digital, updates and menu specials are easily edited and added. Modifications made on a single device by an admin is reflected on all devices and on online menus if applicable.
Toast’s ordering software sends orders directly from servers’ tablets to the kitchen, and back to the servers when food orders are ready, saving time and increasing efficiency. Group orders can easily be divided using a “drag and drop” mode when it’s time to settle the bill, making splitting the check easy and calculation-free.
Fully optimized tablets means that credit card payments can be processed directly through the server’s tablet, saving time going from table to register, although Toast requires that you use their credit card processor. This may be something to consider if you are already locked into a different credit card processing plan. You also have the ability to generate a digital receipt that can be emailed or texted to the customer.
In addition, restaurants can choose to add customer rating surveys and loyalty program opt-in features during the checkout process. This is by no means a new idea, as I’ve seen this in many POS systems, but it’s nice to know that it can be easily integrated if that’s something that interests you.
As someone who’s recently done a lot of research on data analysis, I can say with certainty that reports are extremely important to a business’s long term success. Toast’s reporting and analytics software seems to be a blend of CRM, email marketing, and business intelligence; a pretty powerful combination if done properly. It mainly works by gathering customer data such as what’s being most frequently ordered, general check size, popular times, and other relevant information and turning it into understandable reports.
If you have a loyalty program, customers that sign up and provide additional information generate more data and easy integration into direct email marketing campaigns.
Toast offers software integrations with tens of other companies with everything from HR and payroll management, enhanced web ordering, accounting, inventory, and more detailed analytics (hinting that the services they provide on those platforms are standard). I’d recommend checking their website for the full list. https://pos.toasttab.com/integrations
Android-based technology is generally cheaper, as seen with mobile phones and laptops, and it seems Toast is trying their best to keep their pricing competitive. Here are a few quick numbers to help you understand how much things will cost:
Keep in mind that many of Toast’s features come at additional expense, so think of these as a starting price. Add-ons like online ordering and gift cards can cost you another $50/month each, and many desirable integrations are through third party companies. So if you’re considering Toast, think about which add-ons you’ll want and what you can afford.
If you are involved with a large restaurant operation or a few locations, always try and get quote directly from them. They do offer deals if you need over the “average” amount of terminals (think 6-7) and it’s always best to see what they offer you.
Toast is created specifically for food and drink establishments. They’re plethora of features, add-ons, and other customization means that they can be used for all food industries, from full service restaurants, to quick-serves, bars, coffee shops, bakeries, cafes, and more.
They are also equipped to deal with single location or multiple location businesses, so size is not an issue.
Features and Add-Ons
A lot of Toast’s flexibility as a POS system comes from the variety of features they offer. In this way, it’s a little like a build-your-own-system. This has some pros and cons – customization is always nice because it allows each client to have a system that is unique to them and specially equipped to their needs. But, as I mentioned in “Pricing,” users have to be vigilant about what features they need and how much they are as costs can easily rack up.
The standard features Toast comes with are:
Besides for the basic features, other add-ons come at additional costs, like:
Online Ordering: Integrated online ordering costs users and additional $50/month. This means either linking an existing webpage or creating a webpage for orders if you don’t have any. Full system integration means that changes will be synced across all platforms, so a menu change on your POS device will be reflected on your online webpage.
Gift Cards: For another $50/month, your establishment can issue either physical or digital gift cards. Toast promises complete design, printing, and integration if you choose to use this add-on which definitely helps if you’d like to use physical cards. Digital cards can be purchased online or in-store and just need the customer’s phone number or email address. Digital gift cards can also be tracked and updated in Toast’s system, easily letting the customer adjust balances and add value.
Toast also has 60+ integrations and API’s with other popular restaurant software that deal with things like mobile pay, labor, inventory, accounting, online ordering, loyalty and gift cards, reservations, security, and analytics. I would recommend checking out Toast’s website for a full list. (https://pos.toasttab.com/integrations).
What Toast Users Have To Say
Since Toast has been around for a few years now, I checked out what actual users of Toast had to say and was quite surprised at what I heard. Experiences with Toast seemed to range from extreme to extreme, with clients either feeling like they’d found the holy grail of POS systems or wishing they’d never even heard about Toast.
The positives of the system were in line about what is advertised by Toast themselves – an intuitive, user-friendly system that worked in all the ways it was supposed to. They seem happy with overall functionality, minor bugs are easily overcome, and customer service was either praised for being exceptional or noted that it is steadily improving. Some even acclaim that Toast has completely revamped their business and are getting great returns.
On the other hand, negative experiences seem to say the exact opposite. From connectivity issues to overcharging, other Toast users are unhappy with both the software and unhelpful customer service reps. Neutral users were harder to find, but the few that were “just okay” with Toast thought that the technology wasn’t super innovative and didn’t see much of a difference between Toast and other POS systems.
Seeing such a drastic range in experiences seems a bit sticky to me, but a logical conclusion could be that Toast is still improving. Restaurants that are perhaps larger or using more complex features and add-ons could be running into problems that others never will. I suggest doing your research well and finding similar establishments to your own that use Toast and see what they think.