September 15, 2023

Toast vs. Square: Which POS System Wins for Enterprise Priorities?

Start shopping popular restaurant POS platforms and your stress response may start kicking in. In choosing among them, you probably want a simple comparison of two top contenders, Toast vs. Square. Do you wonder which of the two is a better fit for you, your staff, and customer experience? The links above offer a deep dive into each platform, and here we set the two at odds.

You'll see both are sometimes convenient, often costly choices for payment processing in the restaurant and hospitality industry. In fact, they seem to equally offer a wide range of tools for many kinds of businesses not limited to restaurants. These extend point-of-sale systems into mobile payments, online ordering, integrations, and so on.

Some are attracted to Square's "free" features, especially its online ordering platform that works with Google food ordering‒just like we do at Revolution for enterprise restaurants. Others still prefer the safety of Toast's heartier hardware which can be heat-resistant and spill-proof. But, the only thing clear is that prospective users must take a closer look.

Key Takeaway: Neither popular POS system offers the total combination of customization, convenience, and cost-effectiveness for restaurants. Enterprises, look elsewhere.
When comparing Toast vs. Square, consider alternatives that offer data integration insights to supercharge your restaurant operations.

Toast vs. Square: Solving the Payment Problem?

Both Toast and Square are popular solutions to the payment puzzle for many restaurants, though many of them choose these tools when they are in their infancy as brands due to the promise of low operating expenses‒at least, initially.

For instance, Square's POS system, itself, is ostensibly free for use. Though many businesses need this cost-effectiveness at startup, few can tolerate the processing rates over time as they easily eat into business profits and customer pockets. Recently, Toast, for example, experienced some backlash as it leveraged what many saw as a heavy expense against end-users when it opted to add an "online ordering" fee for carts below a certain threshold.

In truth, Square's online ordering system is cheaper in terms of processing rates (a 2.6% transaction rate vs. Toast's 2.99% ). Then, there's a per-transaction fee (which is $0.10 for Square vs. Toast's $0.15 cut on the pay-as-you-go plan). Square might seem like a clear winner, but many users report significant, business-risky drawbacks.

During surges or irregular activity, the platform suffers some instability during online ordering. When accounts freeze and business is completely lost, a free terminal hardly justifies the relationship. By the same token, Toast is not transparent about pricing, as we saw earlier this year. Instead, those who enter agreements with Toast may face steep cancellation fees, even despite an online reputation for challenging customer support experiences.

Toast vs. Square: The End-User Experience

Square is more ready with its plethora of online tools for accepting payments and plugging into online ordering platforms like Google Ordering. At the same time, Toast is more restaurant-specific with perishable inventory management, menu management, and check-splitting.

Both offer different kinds of integration and augmented functions that allow small businesses to reach new capabilities with relative speed and ease. But, this isn't always right for the enterprise restaurant seeking to manage delivery at multiple locations, handle immense order volumes, and raise ticket averages across the board with inventory, menu, and staff optimizations.

To cover the basics in an easily accessible way doesn't serve the brand ready to engage true restaurant marketing with segmented customer populations. Neither can they enhance online ordering with the same customizations that most large enterprises demand as they grow more complex.

For instance, neither may be right for the manager passionate about restaurant data intelligence who wants more than an exportable spreadsheet as their reporting and analytics backbone. That might be why customers express dissatisfaction about climbing pricing‒in the case of Toast. Their inflexible, long-term contracts which lock in their fees finally reduce the gains made from hard-fought business growth.

With Square, a free POS system, the alternative seems to be supporting multiple locations at the not-so-slight risk of account freezing and system instability.

Efficiency: Key Differences Between Toast vs. Square

The silent war waged over order fulfillment puts the whole online ordering and modern restaurant experience into focus. All players, Toast and Square included, propose to streamline operations with ease as the hard numbers hang menacingly in the balance.

When it comes to speed, most restaurants ought to be sure that Toast's mobile POS and kitchen display systems ultimately enhance the snappiness of on- and off-premise service. That remains to be seen with the simple and more plentiful integrations offered by Square, especially for Google's buttery online ordering option.

Robust restaurant tech solutions like online ordering integrations help restaurants scale. That's the bottom line. Sadly, both options seem to bring counterweights to their promised advantages. One may lack the powerful integrations so clearly needed in a digital age driven by customer data. The other sacrifices overall system stability in exchange for an easily advertised, low-hanging price tag.

Customer Reviews & Realities: Toast vs. Square

Finally, what do actual customers have to say about the debate between Toast vs. Square? Well, with exception to industry-wide backlash for steep fees and inflexible contract terms, Toast seems generally well-received by customers. Among its perks are multiple payment options, available support, and a clear user interface. And would you ask less for your restaurant?

What's not said in reviews is that Toast systems are not suited for gift cards during the customer's online ordering experience. This can be a detriment when more and more customers fully expect the safety, convenience, and satisfaction of pick-up and delivery ordering. They'll also tack on a few more fees if you're getting into digital menu ordering, to say nothing of marketing suites.

To flip the issue, Square's reputation is simply mixed. Many appreciate the ease of its interface, the speed of its integration options, and even the payment processing experience. The true merit of Square seems to be the free hardware option, which is a great benefit to small, ambitious restaurants looking to taste success, perhaps for the first time.

More seasoned reviews will highlight another kind of issue: there's very limited options for customization. Without menu design flexibility, experimentation, and optimization, success feels capped with Square's ecosystem. After all, how can you sell better when you can't make subtle-but-serious changes to attract customers even better than before?

Looking at Toast vs. Square, you realize the need for custom menus and more personalization throughout restaurant experiences. Download our free eBook to learn why this matters for ambitious food brands.

Frequently Asked Questions about Toast vs. Square

We get a lot of questions from clients about Toast, Square, and many more heavily competitive POS platforms for restaurants. While some are merely starting their business journey, many remain staples of the national palate. Learn what Jimmy John's knows by exploring our FAQ below.

What's the difference between Toast vs. Square?

Both Toast and Square are popular POS systems for some restaurants. Square offers the small enterprise a place to begin with free hardware and processing-only plans. On the other hand, Toast goes for more specialization, but without the openness that Square brings.

Instead, Toast has faced backlash for hiding fees behind a series of feature-specific doors, such as their "marketing suite," which are optional, but often necessary in the hot-bed market of a multi-location restaurant business.

Between Toast vs. Square, which is better for restaurants?

Toast has been working more specifically with restaurants for more time, but Square seems better at angling for modernity with more plentiful and powerful online integrations with tools that many on- and offline businesses will need to succeed.

The decision between the two is completely confused by the addition of other POS partners who can offer more industry-targeted solutions with much more effort put into true client satisfaction and brand-by-brand customization.

How do costs compare with Toast vs. Square?

While the startup costs for Square are much lower than Toast (since many sign up for their free-hardware plan), the losses to businesses may not add up in the minds of restaurant owners. To make matters worse, Toast suffers from a penchant for fees, fees, and more fees. It's not clear that either POS system will save your restaurant money in the end.

Rather, enterprise restaurants serious about growth, customer experience, and scalable satisfaction (including unprecedented customization options) will look elsewhere for true-blue restaurant payment solutions.

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