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Utilizing Restaurant Technology

restaurant employee using pos system From the cash registers to the marketing techniques, many aspects of a contemporary restaurant can benefit from modern technologies. Consider the benefits of the following forms of restaurant technology and learn about how they may help you contemporize your concept and market to more customers.

Point of Sale (POS) Systems

Contrary to popular belief, POS systems are more than just hyped-up cash registers. Modern POS systems include all the hardware and software a restaurant owner needs to enter in an order, display it for kitchen staff, and even perform additional tasks such as recording inventory counts and labor costs. Like accounting software, POS systems can cost a pretty penny. Nevertheless, systems like these can take a load off any manager's shoulders. » Learn More About Point of Sales Systems

Order-entry touch screens.
With a POS system, all orders are entered using touch screen technology. All touch screens can be configured to your exact restaurant menu items and options, so entering in a guest's order is simple and intuitive.

Credit card readers.
These days, restaurants that do not accept all major credit cards are at a serious disadvantage. Be sure your POS system comes equipped with a credit card reader. These readers can also load gift cards with money or read gift card information during transactions.

Kitchen Display Systems.
Also called KDS screens, these display monitors hang above kitchen work stations and transmit information from the order-entry screen in the front of the house (FOH) to the kitchen. By eliminating the need for paper tickets, these screens enhance accuracy, help record service times and help expedite orders from the kitchen to the guest.

Handheld inventory device.
Handheld inventory devices are portable POS systems that sync up with your other POS software. Instead of writing down inventory counts and transcribing them into your computer, just input your inventory counts into this mechanism to create reports faster and more accurately.

Financial Software

Restaurant managers can benefit enormously from installing software programs on their back of the house (BOH) computers. Financial software can help restaurant owners and managers by organizing data and creating accurate reports in any of the following areas:

  • Labor hours and payroll information
  • Actual and theoretical usage
  • Inventory
  • Purchases
  • Expenses

Most popular restaurant chains use accounting software to run these reports and keep their profit and loss (P&L) statements in order. You can easily find restaurant accounting software online or at computer and media stores. Popular restaurant financial software includes Quickbooks, Microsoft Dynamics GP, and Peachtree, to name a few. Although many restauranteurs consider financial software to be indispensable, software packages like these can cost anywhere from one hundred dollars to ten thousand dollars—be sure to do some research before purchasing.

Restaurant Pagers

Busy restaurants often need to use some form of paging system to communicate with their guests when a table becomes available. Many restaurant staff still write down names on a list and call the party when a table is ready. Still, modern restaurant owners decide to implement restaurant pagers at the host station, which are arguably less intrusive and more streamlined than calling out names. Pagers also give customers the freedom to wait outside or by the bar area without confusing the host or hostess. There are several paging technologies that restaurants can use to alert patrons that their table is ready. The following list represents a handful of those technologies:

Coaster pager.
Basic pager technology includes the handheld pager, often called the "coaster pager" because of its size and resemblance to a drink coaster. When the guest's table is ready, the host or hostess enters the appropriate pager number into the pager system keypad, which causes the pager to vibrate and blink. However, conventional pagers like this can limit the distance customers can wander while waiting.

Paddle pager.
The paddle coaster is works just like the typical coaster pager but has a plastic tab attached for advertisement space. Many restaurants will use this space to advertise their name and slogan, or perhaps a special product.

Cell phone paging.
Some restaurants are opting to take a more modern approach by paging customers' personal cell phones. The restaurant host or hostess simply takes the guest's cell phone and enters it into the cell phone paging system keypad. When the table is ready, the paging system sends a call to the cell phone with an automated voice the guest to report to the front of the restaurant to be seated. This can be a convenient way for guests who want to roam farther than conventional pagers will allow, although there is the danger that these customers will decide to leave and find a restaurant with a shorter wait.

Technology for Creating Ambience

Ambience is important for any restaurant, but full-service, fine dining restaurants in particular rely on providing a memorable, pleasant atmosphere for their guests. This includes two major aspects: temperature and music.

Indoor temperature.
Restaurants need to conform to local health codes and maintain a functional heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system inside the building. This is important for both the kitchen as well as the dining room. The temperature, although a fairly simple variable to control, can make or break a guest's restaurant experience. Install a programmable thermostat to maintain a consistent, moderate setting so guests can stay comfortable.

Lighting.
Restaurant owners have a world of options when it comes to lighting their dining space. Create the atmosphere you want with different colors, strengths and types of light. It is also fairly simple to take advantage of energy-efficient lighting technology in the restaurant. In fact, switching from incandescent to compact fluorescent lights can save as much as $30 per bulb over the lifetime of the light.

Music.
For a variety of restaurants, the music adds to the overall feel of the restaurant. You will need to decide whether you want to use satellite radio technology and an expensive sound system in your restaurant, or simply tune in to a local FM station and install some speakers. Before you buy, research music systems online and ask other restaurant owners what they use. Music systems for full-service restaurants can cost tens of thousands of dollars, so be sure consider what would be appropriate for your restaurant concept, as well as whether or not you will require professional installation.

Internet technology

Restaurant owners are tapping into the possibilities of the internet technology to promote their establishments, market to different crowds and even offer different options for ordering food or making a reservation. From social media websites to online reviews, the internet is a major player in technological advances affecting restaurants today.

Pizza Chain on Facebook
Papa John's popular pizza chain created a Facebook profile, offering a store locater, email specials and free pizzas to anyone who signs up as a "fan" on Facebook.

Social media.
Restaurant owners can create profiles, websites and blogs to promote their restaurants on the internet, effectively marketing their concepts to a world of potential guests. Restaurants may use social media websites such as Facebook, Myspace, or Twitter, to name a few.

Online reviews.
To many restaurant owners, Zagat ratings have become a thing of the past.1 Restaurants now hope for good reviews on sites like Yelp.com and Urbanspoon.com for increased traffic. These websites encourage the public to review restaurants with ratings and comments, and potential patrons access these reviews and make dining decisions based on the rating. Hence, online reviews can deliver great advantages for restaurants with good reviews, or unfortunate shortcomings for those with low ratings.


1 Ed Levine, "Zagat Vs. Yelp: A Restaurant Review 2.0 Showdown?" SeriousEats.com http://www.seriouseats.com/2008/09/zagat-vs-yelp-restaurant-online-reviews.html (accessed November 29, 2008).