When it comes to finding the best free restaurant POS system for your bar, restaurant, food truck, hotel, etc., both GoTab and Square are both great POS systems for your business, but in the end, one stands above the rest. In fact, I’m not even going to play the neutral commentator on this one. If you’ve been watching my YouTube channel, you already know that I am all in on GoTab. It is changing the way the hospitality industry is running their service model.
With that said, while sitting in on online demos for GoTab (which I do on occasion) with owners and managers from all over the country, one of the main questions we get is: “Why not just use Square? How are you guys at GoTab better than Square?”
This is a challenge because Square POS is one of the most popular systems for small restaurants and start-ups, but that’s the question we’re here to answer. And just for the record, let me make myself clear: I’m not here to bash on Square POS at all. They are actually a very affordable and solid POS system, but they simply can’t keep up with what GoTab has going on.
Speaking of demos, when you’ve seen enough, you can click here to go schedule a demo with GoTab, and as always, if you use my link, you of course get the VIP treatment and you won’t have to pay the onboarding fee, which is $1,000. They waive that fee, just because you and I hang out together here on my blog and my YouTube channel. It’s like a loophole for cool people. Like I said, there’s even a chance that I will be at your demo. I love supporting and helping owners and managers be successful.
In addition, if you would like to learn more about other great POS restaurant POS systems, you can click here to watch my video on the 7 Best Restaurant POS Systems of 2022.
Ok, enough with the preliminaries. Let’s get it on:
GoTab vs. Square POS
Now, in this article, I’m not going to cover every feature and aspect of Square and GoTab. If you want to see an overview of what GoTab can do, you can watch this video I have here. What I am going to do though is show you the key differences between the two systems, because they can do a lot of the same things, so instead I’m going to show you where they vary.
Where They Came From
So let’s start with Square. Square started off as a payment and credit card reader. Remember when they had that little chip reader that could be inserted into a device so street vendors could take mobile payments?
That was how Square started off.
They have since then evolved into a full-blown POS system, and like I said, they are a very capable system for smaller venues. But until recently Square focused much of their technology towards the retail sector. They then spotted an opportunity in the market to add their system to the restaurant industry, but in the end, they are essentially a technology company that adapted their retail POS system so that it would also have restaurant functions. The system has never been built solely for restaurants.
If you look at the backend of the Square for Restaurants system, in their help pages they have instructional tutorial videos. In one of these videos they show an example of their menu set-up, which is not restaurant-based food at all. It’s chocolate bars and energy bars to be shipped somewhere.
Remember, this is their example for Square for Restaurants, yet they use a retail example. Nobody is shipping chocolate energy bars for their bar or restaurant.
In addition, under fulfillment it reads, “How will your shoppers be receiving this item?”
Shoppers??? Restaurant guests are not shoppers. And here, this is where they are showing you how to activate the online ordering function, but they’ve grouped it together with their retail shipping options. It even shows where you select your box for shipping items.
They didn’t even take the time to create a system in the backend just for restaurants. It’s just mixed in together with the retail options, which is a bit confusing, bordering on lazy.
In contrast, GoTab was founded by a guy named Tim McLaughlin, who was also very successful in the tech industry.
However, Tim started his own brewery and restaurant, when he eventually became frustrated by the current service model (or lack thereof). So using his tech background, he set-out to create a POS and ordering system specifically built for the hospitality industry.
In the process, they have developed a POS system that owners love, employees absolutely love, and that has the flexibility to satisfy every guest who walks in through your door because those guests get to choose their own ordering and customer service experience. Don’t worry, I’ll explain how in a moment.
Pricing and Features
Now, both systems are going to be able to do all the basics that a good POS system can do. Take orders, menu management, split checks, re-open tabs, discounts, coupons, gift cards, run reports, etc. etc., you get the point. But let’s talk about the differences. If you go to Square’s pricing page, you can see everything it can do.
If you scroll down the list you can view these at your leisure, and you can see that they have many of the options for free. But you’ll also see that they have a lot things that aren’t free and you have to pay $60/month for, including re-opening closed checks, sales reports, etc. etc.
On the other hand, GoTab has no monthly costs, no contract, cancel anytime. It is completely free to use. Their monetization motto is: “We only make money when you do,” meaning that they charge the guests a 1% free +$0.25 on each transaction that goes through the QR code ordering process. If the payment is made directly with the server through the POS, they don’t even make the 1% +$0.25. Now, THAT is remarkable.
Ok, let’s talk hardware, starting with GoTab, which is hardware agnostic. I know, right now you’re like “Alright Dave, stop using your big Chico State education and using big words like “agnostic”. What does that mean exactly?”
It means that they don’t require new hardware and typically can be plug and play with the operators current hardware. So no cash outlay. There are no contracts for your hardware. If you do need hardware, they have it for you, and they are not interested in making a bunch of money off the hardware like other POS systems. They give it to you nearly at cost, just providing you what you need.
Since we’re already talking about cost and money, let’s go ahead and talk about processing fees. This one is huge. When it comes to payment processing, Square cannot compete with GoTab. Everyone talks about how affordable Square is, but check this out.
Square’s in-person payments are at 2.6% + $.10, while their online processing fees are 2.9% + $0.30.
What’s the difference here? In-person or card present means that the guest is at your location and they are paying right then with their credit card. Credit card processing companies consider this to be lower on the risk scale because the guest is paying in person, as opposed to an online transaction, which is why that is higher.
In contrast, GoTabs processing fees for in-person card present are 2.0% + $.15, and for online payments it is only 2.5% + 0.25.
What’s the difference here. Well, for very average restaurant sales, this can be $6,000 – $8,000 per year you are saving. For larger restaurants with higher sales, you could be saving $20,000 – $30,000 per year. Or more.
In addition, if you find credit card processing rates lower than GoTab, they will match it. You can’t beat that. Also, don’t be fooled by a Square representative who shows you their card present rates with another POS systems online rates.
That’s not measuring apples to apples. I’ve heard of them actually doing this, and it’s just not right. The correct comparison here is 2.6% + 10¢ vs. 2.0% + 15¢.
QR Menu Codes
Next, let’s talk QR codes and online order and pay, because this is the wave of the future. Square does have an online ordering feature in which you can scan the QR code, bring up the menu and order and pay from your phone. Then runners bring out the food. It’s a fantastic model for bars, restaurants, breweries, hotels and food trucks. One of my favorite features that has evolved over the past couple of years.
However, and this is where GoTab really separates itself from all the other systems, not just Square. First, at this time, with Square online ordering, you are not able to leave a tab open. That means after you select your menu items and pay, your check is closed, and if you want to order more, you have to scan the QR code again to place more orders, and then pay again.
GoTab, on the other hand, allows you to open a tab, leave it open, and even share that tab with other people at your table, or text the QR code to someone who isn’t there yet. That means they can order on that tab so their order is being made while they are still arriving. And even if everyone is on one tab at the table, guests can then split the check at the end if they want, or one person can treat and pay it all.
In addition, once the tab has started, a server can jump on the tab and order anything requested, just in case the guests don’t feel like being on their phones and just want to shout out their orders. Like genie wishes. Or, if you want to run a traditional service system and have your servers take orders at the table, you can do that too. It’s completely up to you but no other system can compare to this.
With that said, I haven’t even got to the best part yet. Once the tab is started, guests can two-way text back and forth with their server. Need more silverware or a refill? No neck-craning and looking for your server who is stuck in the back. Just send a text and your refill is on its way.
Kitchen Display System
Now, let’s talk about the KDS, or the Kitchen Display System where the orders show up once they are sent. Square has a very capable KDS that displays times and shows the servers where to deliver the food and drinks.
However, with GoTab, the kitchen can also communicate with the guests right through the system if they need to. For instance, they might say, “Sorry, we’re out of mushrooms, do you still want your burger or would you like something else?” And the guests can communicate right back from their phones.
In addition, the GoTab KDS automatically groups orders together based on location in the restaurant so that runners can efficiently run orders out to tables located near each other. They can even batch orders from the same table, meaning you can put a rule in that states any orders that come in from the same table within 5 minutes of each other, or 10 minutes, whatever you want, will be brought out together. Moreover, with GoTab you can set your throttling settings in case orders are coming in too fast. You can toggle on a setting that limits the number of orders that come in, and it provides a message to those trying to order how long it will be before their order will be ready so they are aware that it might be awhile. Square has nothing like this for any of their KDS or ordering. They use a “first in first out” ordering system for their KDS which means the orders on the screen are scattered all over the place and only organized based on when they came in.
In the backend of the GoTab KDS, you can also 86 menu items on the fly, instantly. You can even 86 individual ingredients on the fly, like pepperoni or cheddar cheese. And when the orders are ready, the cooks select the order and moves to the Done area of the screen, and if you are a quick-order food spot or food truck, the guests will receive a text that their order is ready.
Building Customer Loyalty
Next, Square treats all guests the same. In other words, they don’t have anything in their system set-up to identify their best customers. Yes, they have customer loyalty, which is great, but that’s based off of getting discounts after the guest spends a certain amount.
Inside GoTab they have what is called segments, where you can create rules to treat guests differently based on who they are. In other words, you might want to provide a military discount to those who served our country. That’s great. You should. Because they’re awesome.
So once that person has been identified as military, it will be embedded in their profile and every time they come into your place and scan your QR code, the system knows it’s Bob the marine, or whoever, and his discount will be applied automatically.
In fact, the rules and options that can be created inside GoTab will blow your mind. It’s only limited by your imagination. For instance, there is a bar that uses GoTab that has something called “Crappy Hour”. Great name. And they’ve put a rule in that states when the weather drops below 50 degrees, if guests will come sit out on the patio outside, they get a 20% discount.
So the system knows that any orders made on the patio during that time automatically get that discount. That’s just scraping the surface with what you can do with GoTab.
In addition, GoTab also allows you to create separate menus for separate areas of your business. If you have a bar area that just serves drinks, you can have a cocktail QR code menu, and then have a separate QR code food menu in the restaurant. Or a happy hour QR code at the bar. Square does none of this. It has a “one-size fits all approach”, one menu for all areas, which limits the experience you can provide to the guests.
Next, with GoTab, you are able to create what they call “Notices”, which are promotions or reminders that pop up after you’ve scanned the QR code, reminding people of happy hour or karaoke night or some special going on right now, right on their phones.
Square does not have this either.
Let’s talk about reporting. As you can see here, with Square, you get zero reports on the free plan.
With GoTab, you get all of the sales reporting, the Pmix (Product Mix), refunds, discounts, sales by revenue zones, etc. etc. All for free.
And then the last couple of things I’m going to mention here. First, customer service. One of the most important factors when choosing a POS system. Square’s customer service on the free plan is Monday – Friday during the day, so hopefully you don’t have anything go wrong on the weekends or at night or you’re screwed. But what could wrong on the weekends? Nobody comes in on the weekends anyway (sarcastic tone).
GoTab, on the other hand, just won a national award for their 24/7 customer service. You are getting direct lines to hustlers who are there to make sure everything is going great for you. You can even message them during a busy shift and say, “Hey, can you please throttle my orders for the next 30 minutes,” and they will do it for you. Who does that? GoTab, that’s who.
And then the last thing I will mention, when it comes to onboarding and setting up your account, Square POS gives you the bare bones of set-up support. It basically doesn’t really exist. This is where GoTab hand holds your hand every step of the way. They show you the ins and outs and they have a thorough training program for you and your staff. They build out your entire menu, add all of your employees to the system, do three trainings per week. And, as I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, if you go through my link, the $1,000 onboarding and set-up fee that everyone else has to pay, will be completely waived so you’re getting all that help and support for free. That’s GoTab’s thank you to me, for bringing people to them.
Yes, I know that was a lot, and I know I didn’t go over everything each system can do, but like I said, you can check out my video on Gotab by clicking here, or my advice is to go sign-up for a demo to have a real conversation with them. There is even a chance I will be at that demo, as I love getting involved helping businesses get this into their place because it is so great.
So the only question you really need to ask yourself is, do you want a better system in your business? Do you want to be more efficient? Do you want more sales? Do you want lower labor costs? Do you want your guests to have a better experience? And do you want a company that is dedicated to making it happen for you?
Ok, I hope that helped you some. If you have any questions, post them in the description or you can even email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want me to make the introduction directly to GoTab so we can set you up with a demo.
Thanks for being here. I really do appreciate it. I’ll see you next time. I’m out.
P.S. ***Full disclosure: I have officially partnered with GoTab because I believe they are just that amazing, which means I do earn a commission for everyone that signs up through me (thank you very much, I do appreciate it). As most of you know already though, I do not recommend anything on my YouTube channel or websites unless I believe it will truly help make your life easier and help you succeed on a grand scale. I receive a boatload of emails every day from people and companies who want me to sell their crap, but I only promote a small handful of products and services that I believe in. I’m not selling crap just to make money. That is a losing formula for everyone.