While we’ve previously discussed front of the house (FOH) operations, your POS system’s usefulness is not confined to the terminals.

When choosing a new POS system, or simply taking the time to make the most out of your current system, one must first define how the kitchen operates. Only by understanding the way the kitchen staff currently operates may one adapt the POS system to your needs.

The very simplest configuration, useful for smaller kitchens, is a single printer. Generally speaking, the prep chit delivered to the kitchen will print the main item in purple and all attached modifiers in red, indented a bit, placing it below and to the right of the main item being modified. This allows the kitchen employee to easily discern between main items and modifiers. Often, two-ply paper is used in these printers to allow for a prep copy and an expediter copy. Again, how you use the printer and resulting prep chit will depend heavily on your specific operation.

Routing and Coursing

Kitchen POSWe spoke briefly about coursing and routing in previous articles. As previously mentioned, coursing requires very specific definitions of which items should be fired to the kitchen and what time intervals separate them. If you are using a more fluid definition of prep times, it might be more helpful to use a system in which the server is responsible for firing separate courses and given times. This is available in most mainstream POS systems, but, as always, contact your dealer for specifics. Also, leaving coursing decisions up to the server may result in items not being sent at all! With regard to routing, a single prep printer offers little in the way of configuration. In larger kitchens, though, you may see a dozen or more prep printers, all placed at various prep stations within the kitchen. In these configurations, it is common to see one printer designated as the “expo” printer, attended by the head chef or expediter, whose job it is to ensure that the assembled plates match the expo prep ticket. As for the other stations, they can get a copy of the entire ticket, or, in more advanced programming settings, they may receive only the items their station is responsible for preparing. The coursing feature may also be used in this scenario, firing an entrée at the grill station, while the side item, for example a potato, is fired later as they have already been prepped in advance. In these scenarios, it is important for the person responsible for assembling the order to be meticulous in sending food out, at the risk of sending out half-prepared or incomplete orders to a table.

Video Displays

Video Display Units (VDUs) may also be used in the kitchen. These are terminals that mimic, to an extent, the behavior of prep printers. Rather than using paper printouts, VDUs display the orders in a column format on an LCD screen. Using bump pads, an order can be prepared, “bumped” with the press of a button, triggering a visual cue that tells the expediter that a certain component of the meal has been prepared. More simply, a VDU can act like a single prep printer, where a bump results in the dismissal of the order completely. Many fast food environments use VDUs as opposed to prep printers due to the height at which they can be mounted, keeping the displays away from fryers or heat lamps. The large display also enables much of the staff to see orders in need of preparation at a glance, rather than the relatively small text of a prep printout.


Another method of sorting the prep tickets, printer or VDU, may be achieved through sequencing. Using sequencing, every item ordered is assigned an invisible prep sequence number, allowing the check to be sorted in the desired form, regardless of the order in which the items were ordered. A practical example would be a deli environment in which the items were sequenced according to toppings, i.e., meat and cheese first, vegetables next, then condiments. This allows for explicit organization of the prep chit for the kitchen employees.

Kitchen Printing

In a later discussion we will cover the types of reporting that will benefit the kitchen staff and management. For now, we will end with a very brief discussion of the two types of printers most commonly found in a kitchen: serial and IP. The serial printer is connected directly to a terminal via a network cable. This configuration was the most common until the advent of IP printing technology, and, although seen less frequently, is still widely used today. With IP printers, all the printers are connected to a central hub shared by all terminals and computers. The greatest benefit of the IP configuration over the serial is the point of failure. With a serial printer, should the terminal it is attached to become damaged or lose network connectivity in any way, the printer will also cease functioning. With an IP printer, as long as the hub is active and the printer can find the POS software, no matter how many terminals are damaged, powered off or suffering network connectivity problems, the printers will continue to function. This is the configuration we generally recommend.

Just as no two people are the same, no two kitchens operate in the same way. When discussing your POS needs with your dealer, be sure to address the specifics of your operation to make the best decision possible!