Opening a Restaurant Checklist: Square vs. Toast

Opening a Restaurant Checklist: Square vs. Toast

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With orders coming in, deliveries going out and customers standing by, the last thing you need is a problem with your Point-of-Sale (POS) system. You need your payments to work smoothly so you can focus on running your restaurant.  

Digitizing your ordering system has many benefits, including solutions for credit card processing, sales reporting, inventory control, theft prevention, improving service efficiency, and more.

The POS industry has been dominated for years by old school companies like Micros and Aloha. Two rising stars – Square and Toast – are proving to be popular with small restaurants. So refer to this cheat sheet below to confidently select a POS as part of your checklist to open your new restaurant.


Square focuses on speed and intuitive payment experiences. It has beautifully designed hardware, robust software, and plenty of options for restaurants of different types and sizes. What many restaurant owners like about Square is that it is a simple, no-frills system that can be used on a phone or tablet.


Square provides advanced analytics for restaurant owners


  • Built to integrate front- and back-of-house
  • New software designed specifically for restaurants
  • Includes employee management and timecards
  • Ability to assign and transfer checks between staff
  • Sleek look
  • Easy and convenient integration
  • Intuitive interface
  • Fully customizable layout
  • Run POS software on an iPad
  • Comes with advanced analytics and reporting


  • Contacting support can be difficult
  • Payments and payouts can be terminated or frozen (more on this below)
  • $250 a month maximum for disputed payments and chargebacks

Below is a breakdown of the various POS hardware systems Square offers:


Square Reader for contactless + chip
Cost: $49 (Square Reader for magstripe is free)
Credit card charges: 2.75% per tap, dip, or swipe


Square Terminal
Cost: $399
Credit card charges: 2.6% + ¢10 per tap, dip, or swipe


Square Stand for contactless + chip
Cost: $199 (iPad not included)
Credit card charges: 2.75% per tap, dip, or swipe


Square Stand for contactless + chip
Cost: $199 (iPad not included)
Credit card charges: 2.75% per tap, dip, or swipe

Is Square for you?

Square is a great option for restaurants of any size, especially given that it can be used with a phone or tablet. But consider two important points before settling on the popular POS system:

  1. Square is designed for easy setup and installation. The system should be simple to setup if you have a basic level of technical know-how. If you aren’t a technical person, you’ll need a Square expert to come and help set up your POS. This not only takes time but costs $600.
  2. Square has generally aggressive fraud prevention policies. Without any notice, and often without providing a clear reason, a small restaurant can find themselves unable to access their income because their transactions have been flagged. While this generally affects companies other than restaurants, it’s important to keep this in mind. If your business cannot survive without accessing your income for a couple of days, think twice before choosing Square.

Square runs a special $60 a month program for restaurants, which includes one restaurant POS system. Additional POS systems can be bought at $40 per month per device. Credit card costs are 2.6% + ¢10 per transaction. Note that in terms of pricing, Square charges fees based on transactions, while Toast has a tiered monthly rate based on the restaurant’s volume.



Toast was designed and built with smaller restaurants in mind. Toast’s main offering is its POS system and its handheld mini-POS system. It also comes with reporting and analytics, which you can access on your phone, as well as an online customer ordering and delivery system.


  • A dedicated POS system with robust back-office integrations
  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Amazing customer service
  • Constant improvements and upgrades (nearly every month)
  • Can keep processing cards even if the internet goes down
  • Makes time-consuming tasks like splitting checks easier
  • Back-end makes entering menu items easy


  • Have to use Toast credit card processing (although they do have a “meet or beat” policy, where they will reduce fees based on a formal quote from a competitor)
  • Can’t track individual sales (e.g. for bartenders)


Toast hardware options

Is Toast for you?

By not having a large upfront payment, getting started with Toast is easy – and every restaurant owner knows how important it is to preserve cash flow. You can get the hardware “Starter Bundle” with 0% interest financing. You’ll have to pay $499 for installation, but you can finance this amount too. Monthly payments per terminal start at $79 a month, and you can get competitive flat rates on payment processing. This pricing structure makes Toast a great option when opening your new restaurant.

Another advantage of Toast is its reliability. For example, Broad Street Pizza in Jackson, Mississippi, switched to Toast from Digital Dining because they were looking for a glitch-free, always-on solution. As Managing Partner Jeff Good notes, “With Toast, we’re dealing with the people who write the actual software and are available to help so that my team isn’t staying up all night with fingers crossed, hoping it would work”. Using Toast’s “Suggested Tip” feature, they’ve even seen a 58% increase in tips, which has helped with employee morale and retention.


Toast’s guest-facing display

Toast is good for casual dining establishments, cafes and bakeries, and fast casual restaurants. It can eliminate waiting time at the main POS terminal with its handheld payment devices, provides options for loyalty and gift cards, and offers guest-facing displays and pre-authorization to increase operational speed and reduce unpaid tabs.


Your opening a restaurant checklist: choose a POS system wisely

Overall, Square is best suited for small- to medium-sized businesses in the retail and food industries, while Toast is specifically designed for restaurants.

Whichever payments system you choose, it’s a decision you’ll only want to make once. Both Square and Toast try to lock you in as a customer for the lifetime of your business and the costs and distraction of switching POS systems while you’re operating your business can be draining.

Whether it’s your POS system or ordering supplies, the right partner can make all the difference.

The right POS system can reduce the cost and hassle associated with taking payments from customers and can help take your business to the next level. It’s the same with choosing the right platform for ordering your wholesale groceries and supplies. That’s why restaurant owners turn to Cheetah. Whether they’re at home or in the kitchen, they can use a mobile app to order and receive all their quality supplies, quickly and at transparent, affordable prices. Ordering with Cheetah can help boost your restaurant’s efficiency and profitability – two massive advantages over your competitors and a huge help in the success of your restaurant.


About Cheetah

Cheetah is an e-commerce platform originally designed for independent restaurants to order wholesale food and supplies for next-day delivery. Due to high consumer demand for groceries and supplies during the COVID-19 crisis, Cheetah has expanded its wholesale services and facilities to give local communities access to the supplies they need. Cheetah offers home delivery and  has turned its refrigerated trucks into mobile fulfillment centers whereby consumers can place their order through the Cheetah mobile app and pick it up from the truck, which are parked at 9 locations in the Bay Area.

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