A POS System That Won't Slam Your Wallet

Simple software solutions to ordering and tracking sales

The pricey point-of-sales equipment that requires tedious paperwork, outside technicians and lengthy installation is facing some competition from its antithesis: the iPad

Catering to restaurants large and small, iPad’s POS systems provide a simple, sleek alternative to the long established standard at a fraction of the cost. The up-front savings on investment and software are significant—fully-equipped traditional systems can cost up to $15,000, while long-term benefits include low monthly hosting fees and minimal rates on credit cards. Plastic remains the preferred payment method, but tablets can integrate with cash drawers, printers and smartphones.  Restaurants can also cut time and drive sales with functions like instant menu access, which allows servers to review ingredients and descriptions, including food allergy alerts. This means less running back and forth to the kitchen and more time with customers.

Customization is another big draw, allowing users to tailor the system’s interface to meet their restaurant’s specific needs. Icons and menu descriptions can be created instantly with a snap of the iPad camera, while accessories like unique enclosures add security and versatility. Most iPad systems are up and running in under two hours, including software training, and require little time to upgrade. And if a terminal experiences performance issues, an iPad can be easily and cheaply replaced.

Here’s how some available IPad systems are stacking up:


Self-described leader in the iPad-based POS market with its “enterprise system.” Though not technically classified as higher level enterprise equipment, its performance goes beyond outdated counterparts, and with less effort from the end user.

Enables payment by mobile phone, eliminating transaction fee. 

Offline mode keeps the system operating when there’s no Internet.

Cost: $1,000 and $1,500 per iPad, plus a $100 monthly cloud-hosting fee.

Customers: National chains like Camille’s Sidewalk Café, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and Twistee Treat.


Appearance on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares put it on the map. Smart and simple; no previous tech knowledge needed.

Support for all areas, from installation to in-house training. Detailed reports viewable in real time.

View table layout, number of guests and up-to-the-minute sales.

No online mode but provides an in-house server that lets owners continue daily operations with Internet.

Cost: Less than $2,000; monthly hosting fees from $29.95 to $99.95. Free iTunes app and free software updates.

Customers: Big Lou’s in Vancouver, British Columbia; Cozy Oaks in Lakeland, Florida; and White Beach Hotel in Shimoda, Japan.

Olympus POS

In-house tech support, 24/7.

Restaurant’s iPad can be handled remotely to change applications, add users and monitor any other aspect of the system.

Back-end support available, which takes the gritty financial aspects—accounts payable/receivable, payroll and budgets—off of an owner’s hands.

No offline mode, but allows customer payment via credit card and plans to add a mobile payment plan.

Cost: $995 for the first iPad; additional units are offered at a discount. Monthly hosting fees range from $45 to $95.

Customers: Mom-and-pop restaurants like The Rose Establishment, Sub Zero Ice Cream and Pizzeria Limone, all currently based in Utah.

Stacy Warden is a Chicago-based freelance writer obsessed with all things tech.