Tales from a Former Server: Don’t Treat Your POS Like a 'POS'

By an Anonymous Former Server, as part of our new 'Tales from a Former Server' column

I’ve worked in over ten restaurants in my life — from fine dining establishments to local pubs — and one thing I have noticed across the board is that the POS system is such an integral part of operations. A POS system can make or break you. Having a poor POS system or one that isn’t set up properly decreases productivity and efficiency, costing time and money. 

During my time as lead server for a local pub, I was required to change out the specials in the system. This was a daily task and it took a lot of time — plugging in all of the dishes, selecting applicable mods and shortcuts, rebooting the system and causing a ten-minute meltdown from the staff, and so on and so forth. I always made sure to put every detail into the system, but that was because I was a server and knew what I needed to succeed. My managers, however, did not. 

It’s All in the Details

One evening, a manager had plugged in “SPECIAL 2” as the special for that evening in the system. If you clicked on it, no mods came up and if you wanted to change anything or give special requests, you were required to type it in manually. Not only would servers have to be reminded constantly as to what “SPECIAL 2” was, but it would take forever for them to place the order. When you only have two POS screens for ten staff members and a fellow server is taking an eternity to type in directions, things start to get tense. I’ll admit — I’ve exited people out of their screens just so I could ring in a Martini and have it in time for my table’s meal. It’s rude, but hey, I had things to do. Serving is about time management and something like that screws up everyone’s flow. I guess I hadn’t really though about it, though, until a friend of mine pointed it out. 

While standing at the POS, putting in all of my directions, she became flustered and explained it to me like this: 

Ten extra seconds at the screen for one server pushes everyone back ten seconds. The next server is now behind, and falling further behind, thus delaying other servers even more. Tables are waiting longer for their food and, as a result, aren’t flipping fast enough. The wait gets longer, the kitchen has to pump out food faster — it’s all connected. The restaurant itself becomes less efficient, which leads to one thing: loss of money. The exact amount, I can’t tell you, but as a former server, I know that increased check waits impacted my tips, as would a slow turnover rate.  

Over the years, I have worked with many POS systems and I have my favorite. I won’t name-drop, but this particular POS is intuitive and follows the natural progression of putting in an order. If you would like a burger, you simply select the burger type. You are then prompted to a temp screen, followed by a mod screen, and then finally a side screen to choose what will accompany the burger. 

For those not in the biz, or for those who are not servers, I cannot express to you the frustration of not having a POS set up properly.

I can’t tell an operator which POS would be best for their restaurant. However, I can remind GMs, AGMs and Managers to take the time to correctly put in menu items and all of the necessary modification and substitute buttons associated with them. What might take them a few extra minutes could help increase productivity, operations and, ultimately, the restaurant’s bottom line.