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Tableside to Walk-Up: Types of Restaurant POS Systems

In 2018, restaurant sales grew more than 10 percent year-over-year, the largest 12-month gain in more than 3 years. To differentiate themselves in the industry, modern eateries are adopting more diverse point-of-sale (POS) systems than ever before. In a single location, a diner might find a traditional check-to-table restaurant POS, as well as tablets on tables, walk-up checkout, and other forms of restaurant EMV card reader POS systems.

Let's take a look at various types of restaurant POS systems businesses are using to improve the customer experience. See pros, cons, and what types of dining establishments each POS system works best for.

1. Self-Service Walk-Up Counter

Some restaurants give their customers the power to order whatever they want from a touch screen, pay, and even tip all in one place. Countertop terminals, tablets, or even smartphones can be used as restaurant POS systems. With the EMV liability shift placing the burden on restaurants to combat fraud by using EMV terminals, the most secure self-service POS systems accept EMV chip cards.


  • Customers save time and can order instantly.
  • A restaurant saves on staffing resources.
  • Server order errors are eliminated.
  • The kitchen can get to work on orders as they come in.


  • Other than food drop-off, there may be little human interaction in the restaurant experience.
  • Diners might accidentally order the wrong thing. Support staff must be present to help correct errors or assist confused diners.
  • Customers who are ordering food themselves might be unsure about tipping and whether it is expected.

Works best for:

  • Casual, quick-service restaurants that want to turn and burn tables.

2. Tablets on Tables

In some places, diners may be sat by a host and greeted by a server, but they may have the power to order themselves using a tableside restaurant POS. The POS on the table may be a tablet system that can be passed around from table to table, or one that is housed in a stand that stays in one location on the table.


  • Diners can order extra drinks or foods whenever they want, without having to wait for a server.
  • Servers still bring out the food and can assist when called upon, but there is less of a burden placed on waitstaff.
  • The server team can work together to meet the needs of diners throughout a restaurant as they come in.


  • Diners who expect a full-service dining experience may be disappointed about having to use technology and order themselves.
  • Diners may be confused about tipping, because they're more involved with the ordering process.
  • Servers may not receive tips that are as high as they would if they were taking down orders. A restaurant may want to increase the hourly pay of servers for this reason.

Works best for:

  • High-traffic restaurants that want to keep servers but also create a quick dining experience.
  • Restaurants that want to utilize a serving team for the entire restaurant, rather than focus on individual servers for individual tables.
  • Restaurants who have tech-savvy diners and that want to give diners more ordering options.

3. Mobile Restaurant POS

With mobile POS systems in restaurants, servers can transact diners right at the table, from a smartphone, tablet, or handheld device. Instead of dropping off a check, going back to the table to pick up payment, running payment, and then dropping the check and card back off to the diner, all of these actions happen at one time while at the table. With a feature like EMV Tip Adjust, diners can add a tip before making their total payment on EMV terminals.


  • The checkout process speeds up.
  • Diners are able to review and confirm the total quickly, without a server having to run back and forth to correct errors.
  • Diners are interrupted less, so they can focus more on their meal and company.
  • Adding a tip on the handheld device eliminates calculation errors.
  • Diners feel secure that a server is not taking their credit card away from the table.


  • At-table payment processing may make some diners feel rushed or like the server is watching them as they add a tip.
  • Mobile, tablet, and handheld readers must be properly maintained, stored and cared for to protect their investment.

Works best for:

  • Any type of restaurant where a server processes payments.

4. Countertop Terminal POS Systems

Countertop terminal POS systems are wired computers that process payments. They may be scattered throughout a restaurant, so that servers have multiple places nearby in which to process payments. The terminal POS can send orders to the kitchen, print out checks, and process transactions, just like other forms of restaurant POS systems.


  • Using terminal systems confines payment processing to certain places in a restaurant, which can keep diners focused on their dining experience.
  • Orders are automatically sent to the kitchen on a computer system, which makes them much clearer and less error-prone than handwritten orders.
  • Loyalty programs can be integrated with terminal POS systems.


  • Countertop terminals can look unattractive in an elegant restaurant setting and can be bulky in any setting.
  • If there are more servers than countertop terminals, that may create lines of servers in a restaurant waiting to use the POS system.
  • The countertop terminal-check-to-table process takes longer than tableside transactions.
  • Countertop terminals may take up more restaurant space than other types of restaurant POS.

Works best for:

  • Restaurants that have space to house countertop terminals, without them damaging the ambiance or creating server back-ups.

5. Online Restaurant POS

According to Restaurant Business, 86 percent of consumers use off-premise restaurant delivery, including services like Grubhub or Uber Eats, at least monthly. As of October 2018, online delivery orders increased 16 percent year over year, while off-premise orders increased 25 percent for consumers. Restaurants who want to make their food available to off-site diners can use an online ordering system that uses a virtual terminal for transactions.


  • Restaurants can reach more customers.
  • Restaurants can increase revenue through off-premise services.
  • Restaurants can maintain profits even if in-person dining dips.
  • Restaurants can expand services, such as offering regular home delivery or meal subscription services.


  • Using off-premise services requires training for servers putting together meals.
  • An increase in deliveries may mean servers take a hit in tips, which means restaurants may want to increase hourly pay of to-go servers.
  • Restaurants must create systems that ensure both delivery needs are met, and in-restaurant dining service standards are maintained.
  • Restaurant customer service must be available for delivery customers.

Works best for:

  • Restaurants that want to increase sales and have the personnel to meet delivery needs.

Get the Best Restaurant POS for Your Business

These are a few types of restaurant POS systems that modern eateries are using today. Some might focus on just one type of POS or use multiple types in a single restaurant, to ensure all needs are met for guests.

With any type of restaurant POS, it's important to make sure all systems meet EMV PCI compliance standards because of the EMV fraud liability shift. Not doing so means when a customer uses an EMV chip card, but your business does not have EMV terminals, any fraud that occurs places the liability on your business. Work with a restaurant POS vendor like North American Bancard, who can help ensure you meet all EMV compliance standards.

Want to improve the restaurant POS systems your business uses? We have PayAnwhere 10-inch tablets with stands and built-in EMV card readers, mobile POS systems, countertop EMV credit card terminals, restaurant POS with EMV Tip Adjust, and more. Learn more about our restaurant payment processing solutions, and contact us for a free consultation for your restaurant.


Contact NAB today and see how easy it is to get the merchant services you deserve.

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