A Guide to Choosing the Right Cash Register for Your Industry

The cash register has come a long way since its invention in 1879. The first model, the Ritty Model I, was primarily designed to prevent employee theft and see to it that sales records were tallied correctly.

Today’s advanced cash registers do much more than just ringing up sales. They can help you manage inventory, track customer data, and generate detailed sales reports, among other things.

Yet, with so many options available for different industries, business sizes, and demands, choosing the right cash register for your business can be a challenge. You really want to get it right from the start. Or maybe you already have a cash register in place, but you’ve realized it’s not quite meeting expectations or keeping up with your growth.

That’s why we wrote this guide. We’ll explain the steps to selecting the ideal cash register for your business, whether you’re starting from scratch or looking to upgrade your current setup.

Begin by Understanding Your Specific Business Requirements

Understanding Your Specific Business Requirements

To start on a strong foundation, take a step back and assess your business. Every industry has its own set of requirements, and what works for one type of business might not be the best fit for another.

Assessing Your Industry Requirements

Different industries have different priorities regarding point-of-sale systems. For example, a retail store might prioritize inventory management and customer loyalty programs, while a fast-paced cafe may prioritize quick transaction processing and the ability to modify orders easily.

Consider your industry’s specific challenges and demands, and list the features that you believe are essential for your business to run smoothly.

We’ll be taking a closer look at business-specific requirements later in the guide.

Determining Transaction Volume

Another consideration is your business’s transaction volume. How many sales do you process on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis? 

This will help you determine the level of processing power you need in a cash register. If you have a high volume of transactions, you’ll want a system that can handle the workload without lagging or crashing.

Identifying Specific Features Required

In addition to industry requirements and transaction volume, think about any specific features that are must-haves for your business. 

Do you need a barcode scanner for fast and accurate checkout? Is inventory management a top priority for tracking stock levels and reordering products? Would integrated customer relationship management (CRM) help you better serve your customers and build loyalty?

Make a list of these non-negotiable features to help guide your cash register selection process.

Types of Cash Registers for Small Businesses

Let’s break down the different types of cash registers available.

Traditional Cash Register

When most people think of a cash register, they likely picture the classic, no-frills electronic cash register that has been around for decades. These traditional cash registers typically consist of a simple interface, a cash drawer, and basic functionality like ringing up sales and calculating change.

Some businesses still use basic cash registers, particularly those with straightforward transaction needs and a low sales volume. They’re often inexpensive and easy to use, making them an appealing choice for small, local shops or businesses just starting out.

However, as technology has advanced, even the most basic cash registers have evolved to include more features. Many electronic cash registers come with features like built-in receipt printers, programmable keys, and basic inventory tracking.

That being said, it’s becoming increasingly rare to see a truly old-fashioned cash register in action unless you’re visiting a nostalgic, vintage-themed store. Most businesses today opt for more advanced point-of-sale systems that can keep up with the demands of modern commerce.

So, while traditional cash registers may hold a certain charm and simplicity, they’re not always the most practical choice for businesses looking to upgrade operations and stay competitive.

POS (Point of Sale) Systems

A POS system is a modern way to handle business transactions using a combination of hardware and software.

Traditionally, a POS system was just a fancy cash register. But nowadays, they are much more sophisticated. They can run on tablets or computers, allowing for a versatile setup that can adapt to different business environments.

These advanced systems can do so much more than just process sales. They can help you manage your inventory, track customer purchases, and generate detailed reports on your business performance. Some even come with built-in loyalty programs and email marketing tools to help you engage with your customers and keep them coming back for more.

With a POS system, you can accept a variety of payment methods, from good old-fashioned cash to credit cards, debit cards, and even mobile payments like Apple Pay or Google Wallet. No more turning away customers because you don’t take their preferred payment method.

And let’s not forget about the time-saving benefits. With a POS system, you can ring up sales super fast, reducing wait times and keeping your customers happy. You can also automate tasks like inventory tracking and purchase ordering, freeing up your time to focus on other aspects of your business.

Of course, with all the added features comes a bit of a learning curve. POS cash registers are more complex than their traditional counterparts, so you and your staff may have a bit of a training period. But trust us – once you get the hang of it, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without one.

Mobile POS Systems

A mobile POS cash register is a great choice for businesses that need to move around or operate in multiple locations, such as food trucks, pop-up shops, and market stalls. Mobile POS systems include many of the same features as traditional POS systems.

These systems typically run on tablets or smartphones, so they are portable and easy to use for processing transactions on the go.

Cloud-Based POS Systems

As the name suggests, these systems run on the cloud. All your data is stored online and can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection.

One of the biggest advantages of a cloud-based POS system is that you can manage your business remotely. You can check your sales data, update your inventory, and even make changes to your menu or pricing – all from your smartphone or laptop.

Another reason to consider cloud-based systems is that they’re always up-to-date. With traditional POS systems, you might have to manually install software updates or deal with compatibility issues. However, with a cloud-based system, updates are automatically pushed out to all users.

Cloud-based POS systems are also often more affordable. Rather than paying a high upfront cost for hardware and software, you typically pay a monthly subscription fee based on the features and number of users you need. This can be a big relief for small businesses or startups that don’t have a lot of cash to spare.

Of course, there are a few potential downsides to consider. Because cloud-based systems rely on the internet, they can be vulnerable to outages or slowdowns if your connection is spotty. And if you’re dealing with sensitive customer data, you’ll want to make sure your system has strong security measures in place to prevent breaches.

With more businesses moving to the cloud every day, this trend is definitely worth considering for your own operations.

Self-Service Kiosks

Self-service kiosks are becoming increasingly popular in the retail, hospitality, and entertainment industries. Customers can place orders and make payments without the assistance of a cashier.

Self-service kiosks can help reduce wait times, so they are instrumental in fast-food restaurants, cinemas, and large retail stores where quick and efficient service is required.

Features to Explore

explore cash register features

When it comes to choosing cash register features, it’s easy to get caught up in all the bells and whistles. But the truth is, you don’t need every feature under the sun. Focus on the ones that will actually matter for your business.

So, let’s take a closer look at some of the features you might come across when shopping for a cash register. Remember: this isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation, and there’s no best cash register! What works for the chain restaurant down the street might not be the best fit for your coffee shop.

Inventory Management

If you’re in the retail game, a top priority is likely to include the option to track inventory. Look for a cash register that can help you keep track of your stock levels, set up low inventory alerts, and generate purchase orders when it’s time to reorder.

Sales Reporting and Analytics

Want to know which products are flying off the shelves? Curious about your busiest times of the day? Sales reporting and analytics features give you great insights into your business performance. You can then make data-driven decisions to improve your operations.

Employee Management and Tracking

For businesses with multiple employees, POS systems that include features to set up individual user accounts, track hours worked, and monitor employee sales performance are worth further investigation.

Customer Management (CRM)

If building customer relationships is something important to your business, a cash register with built-in CRM will be on your feature list. This might include the ability to capture customer information, track purchase history, or set up loyalty programs to reward your best customers.

Integrations with Other Systems

You’re likely already using other software tools to run your business (like accounting software or eCom platform), so you’ll probably want a cash register that can integrate with these existing systems where possible.

Hardware Durability and Maintenance

Your cash register is going to see a lot of action, so it needs to be built to last. Cash register hardware components like a rugged touchscreen or a sturdy cash drawer and a reliable manufacturer warranty will make all the difference.

Payment Processing

You want a cash register that can handle all the options your customers want to use. Of course, that includes old-fashioned cash payments.

But these days, customers expect businesses to do a lot more than just accept cash payments. From credit and debit cards to Google Pay, the more options you can accept, the better.

Still, you do have to consider transaction fees. Some payment processors charge different rates for different types of transactions. Make sure you understand these fees and factor them into your decision – they can add up quickly and eat into your profits if you’re not careful.

Security Features

All the big brand POS systems won’t cut corners when it comes to security. You are pretty much guaranteed security measures in place to adequately protect your business and your customers. 

However, advanced POS systems with built-in security features closely monitor and control cash handling. These features include tracking cash drawer openings, balancing cash at the end of shifts, and providing role-based access.

Industry-Specific Considerations

Industry Specific Considerations


For retail businesses, the top-of-the-list feature is inventory management. A cash register that can help you keep track of your stock levels, set up low inventory alerts, and generate purchase orders when it’s time to reorder. 

You’ll also want a system that can handle a variety of payment types, including credit cards, debit cards, and mobile payments. And if you offer customer loyalty programs or discounts your register should also accommodate those.

Restaurants, Bars and Cafes

For restaurant POS systems, it’s all about speed and accuracy. You’ll want a POS System that can easily handle fast-paced transactions, modify orders on the fly, and split checks. Seek out features like menu management, ingredient tracking, and kitchen printer integration. And don’t forget about tips – ensure your register can handle gratuities and split them among your staff.

Small Businesses and Boutiques

If you’re a small business owner, you’re likely to be looking for an affordable cash register that’s simple to set up and train your staff on. You’ll also want a system that can grow with your business – one that can accommodate additional features or integrations as your needs change over time. 

And don’t forget about customer service – choose a register with reliable support and a strong user community to help you troubleshoot any issues that come up.

Budgeting and Cost Considerations

Expense TypeEstimated Cost (approx) Description
Initial Hardware$500 – $2000 Cost of a cash register or POS hardware
Software License$50 – $300/month Monthly subscription or one-time purchase fee
Training$0 – $500 Cost of training staff to use the new system
Integration Fees$0 – $1000 Cost to integrate with other systems
Maintenance$100 – $500/year Annual maintenance and support fees
Transaction Fees2.5% – 3.5% per sale Fees for processing credit/debit card transactions
Additional CostsVaries Additional expenses such as receipt paper, barcode scanners, or other peripherals

Comparing Different Brands and Models

Best POS for Retail

  • Square POS: Square is known for its simplicity and affordability, making it an ideal choice for small businesses just starting out. Its free software, easy setup, and transparent pricing make it accessible to businesses with limited budgets. Square POS also includes a range of hardware options and integrates with various e-commerce platforms.
  • Shopify POS: While primarily known as an e-commerce platform, Shopify also offers a range of POS systems for businesses that want to sell both online and in person.

Best POS for Restaurants, Bars and Cafes

  • Toast: Designed specifically for the restaurant industry, Toast’s POS system features menu management, kitchen display systems, and tableside ordering. Its strong focus on customer support and training makes it a popular choice for restaurants of all sizes, from small cafes to large chains.
  • TouchBistro: Another restaurant-focused POS system, TouchBistro includes a user-friendly interface, tableside ordering, and inventory management. It’s well-suited for small—to medium-sized restaurants, cafes, and food trucks.

Best POS for Small Businesses

  • Clover: With a range of hardware options and a large app marketplace, businesses can easily customize the Clover POS to fit their specific requirements. Clover also has a variety of pricing plans for businesses of different sizes and budgets.
  • Zettle by PayPal: Zettle offers a straightforward, user-friendly POS solution for small businesses. It includes features like inventory tracking, sales analytics, and easy integration with various payment methods. Zettle’s hardware options are sleek and portable, making it a great choice for businesses that need mobility, such as market stalls and pop-up shops.

Making the Final Decision

You’ve reached the final step in choosing the best POS or cash register system for your business. By now, you should have a good grasp of the different types of systems available and a shortlist of potential options that fit your budget and feature requirements.

But how do you make that final decision and choose the one that’s truly right for you? Here’s a step-by-step approach to making that choice.

1. Create a Checklist of Essential Features

Based on your business requirements, create a checklist of essential features. This could include inventory management, sales reporting, customer management (CRM), employee tracking, payment processing, and integrations with other systems. Prioritize these features according to your specific needs.

2. Compare Shortlisted Options

Using your checklist, compare the shortlisted cash register systems. Consider how each option meets your essential features and any additional features that could benefit your business. Evaluate the following aspects of each system:

  • Functionality: Does it have all the features you need?
  • Ease of Use: Is the interface user-friendly for you and your staff?
  • Cost: What are the initial, ongoing, and hidden costs?
  • Scalability: Can the system grow with your business?
  • Support: What kind of customer support and training are available?
  • Security: Are there adequate security measures to protect your business and customer data?
  • Reviews: What do other businesses in your industry say about the system?

3. Request Demos or Trials

Most cash register providers offer demos or trial periods. Take advantage of these to test the systems in a real-world setting. Pay attention to how easy it is to set up, use, and train your staff. Note any issues or limitations you encounter and consider how they might impact your operations.

5. Consider Future Growth

Think about your business’s future growth and how your cash register system will support it. Choose a system that can scale with your business, adding new features and capabilities as needed. 

Can it handle the increased transaction volumes and integrate with additional tools and systems you might adopt in the future?

6. Plan for Implementation

Once you’ve made your choice, plan for implementation. Schedule the installation, train your staff, and set up all integrations. Have a plan in place for transitioning from your old system to the new one, minimizing downtime and disruptions.

Wrapping Up

By now, you should have a pretty good idea of what you need in a POS system and which options might best fit your business.

But we know that making a final decision can be tough. After all, this is a big investment – not just in terms of money but also in terms of the time and effort you’ll put into learning and implementing a new system. That’s why we’re here to help at POS USA.

If you’re still unsure which system to choose or want to learn more about the top POS systems on the market, be sure to explore the rest of the site. We have the most comprehensive reviews and comparisons of the best POS systems across various industries.

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