Fine Dining POS

In a previous article, we covered the benefits of front of house (FOH) operations when using a point of sale (POS) system within a fast service environment.

Read the previous article here.

But as any of us who have ever gone out to eat know, dining experiences are not limited to ordering a meal from a cashier. Table service dining has been a staple as long as there has been a server to put pen to pad and a cook to prepare the food. Unlike fast food, where the goal of the POS system is to move customers through an order line as quickly as possible, table service has an entirely different philosophy, where the dining experience of the customer is as important as the food prepared.

Employee Interface

We discussed the initial stage of an employee’s interface with the POS system being the simple act of clocking in, and that is no different here, although what follows is a vastly different user experience. First, the menu created for table service businesses may differ greatly from the organization of items in a fast food environment. In many cases, the menu is organized less by frequency of order, but rather by the layout of the physical menu. Grouping items together, such as appetizers, salads, entrees, deserts, etc., can guide the order process. By organizing in this manner, the ordering itself can emulate the manner in which a customer orders, i.e., starters first, then entrees, then deserts. As mentioned previously, one of the major hurdles staff will have when first using a POS system is, simply put, where things are on the screen. POSitouch, our general reference point when discussing POS systems, uses a series of tabs, or screens, which allow the server to navigate through the menu categories in an organized fashion. Additionally, some restaurants may have different revenue or cost centers that dictate different needs. For example, a restaurant with a bar may want to implement fast food-like speed, whereas other servers will use a more traditional table service environment. If your business includes a bar where diners may wait for a table, or a separate revenue center in which speed is more important, be sure your POS system allows for different types of ordering behavior based on the revenue centers in your restaurant.

Check Management

Now that our server is familiar with ordering, we turn our attention to check management. Unlike fast food, in which an order is immediately paid, in a table service-based business, the food is sent and the check left open until the dining experience is complete. To add items to an existing check, we again turn our focus to touches, or the number of buttons pressed to achieve the desired goal. We want to ensure that adding an item may be done in as few touches as possible. To this end, POSitouch has a “Reopen Checks” feature, which allows the server to select a check, touch the Reopen Checks button, and then add to the existing check in a very simple fashion. In fact, POSitouch has even incorporated a “Repeat” function, which allows a previously ordered item to be ordered again without having to use the order screens at all! This is very useful in situations where customers order multiple bar drinks, or even reorders for “all you can eat” items.

Kitchen Coursing

Kitchen CoursingIt is also worth addressing the notion of “coursing,” which is a process used by some establishments to enter an entire table’s order into the system and then have the POS system dictate when and where the order is delivered to the kitchen. For example, I may order drinks, appetizers, entrees and deserts all at once, and the POS system will then send the appetizers, pause for a pre-defined period of time, and then send the next course. One note in the setup of such a feature… POS systems, like all computers, enjoy specificity. When you or your POS dealer programs such a delay into the delivery of items, it is important that the coursing structure be strictly defined and implemented with consistency. One of the largest gaps to bridge in the fluid nature of the hospitality business and software is the lack of ambiguity in the latter. Always ask about the limitations of any POS system in regard to your operation.

Presentation and Payment

Once the check is ready for presentation, the server may split the check, combine separate checks, etc., as the table requires. Depending on the number of parties or events you generally schedule, splitting of checks into separate checks may be of particular interest to you. Be sure that the POS system you purchase allows for a convenient and quick way to manage this occurrence.

Lastly, what about payment? Again, every restaurant will have its own methodology, but the two most common means of taking payment in the table service environment is via server banking or the utilization of a cashier. For many, server banking represents the most convenient way for guests to pay and exit as quickly as possible. Servers are responsible for keeping cash to make change for the customers’ bill, known as a server bank, and the POS system is merely a means to close the check completely. Likewise, credit card payments taken under this server banking model are the responsibility of the server. They will run a credit card, present the authorization slip and retain the signed slip to turn in at the end of their shift. In a later article, we will discuss the reconciliation process, but, for now, let’s leave the money with the servers!

In a table service restaurant with a cashier, often seen at casual dining establishments such as a Shoney’s or Denny’s, the server steps will be the same, but, once presented, the check is then taken by the customer to the cashier. Within POSitouch, this process has been made simpler by allowing the cashier to simply hit the “Take Payment” button and then close the check or authorize the credit card and settle the check in a matter of as few as two touches. If you are operating a business that uses this model, be sure that you discuss the ease of payment with your POS dealer. The benefit of this cashier-based model is best seen in regard to table turns, where the customer leaves their table even before the check has been paid, allowing an employee to clean the table and seat the next waiting guest before completion of the transaction.

No matter which model you choose to employ in your business, if you are using a POS system to facilitate the process, be aware of the relevant questions to ask your POS dealer. Though many POS dealers will present themselves as consultants as well as salespeople, there is no substitute for you, the restaurateur, being fully aware of the needs of your business. After all, there is no better expert on your business than you!