What is a restaurant computer system and how does it work?

Cameron Summerson
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What is a restaurant computer system and how does it work?

Once upon a time, “restaurant computer system” could have been defined as easily as “a point of sale system.” In today’s modern restaurant, however, the computer system is so much more. It’s everything from the POS system and line busting tablets to tabletop ordering systems, kitchen display systems, and even front of house management software.

Mobile Modernization for Restaurants

The restaurant POS system is the cornerstone

When it comes to restaurant computer systems, the POS (point of sale) system is the backbone. Many restaurants rely solely on the POS and nothing else, though larger or more complex operations will often expand this system to include other components.

The restaurant POS is used to handle customer orders and accept payments. Modern POS systems can accept cash, credit cards, and even checks or money orders. Most modern restaurant POS terminals also accept contactless payments with NFC tap to pay (e..g, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay). Restaurant POS systems typically include a touch screen display, a credit card reader, a receipt printer, and a cash drawer. Bar code scanners and other input devices are less common on restaurant POS systems, though restaurants that also sell goods (such as branded sauces or in a gift shop) may incorporate them.

But the POS can extend past the cash register

The POS system can also extend past the front counter to self ordering kiosks in the dining room of modern QSRs (quick service restaurants), tabletop ordering systems in sit down and fast casual restaurants, and even online ordering systems through a restaurant’s app or a third-party service. All of these systems have the same goal in mind: to streamline customer orders, automate the ordering process, increase throughput, and improve order accuracy.

You’ve likely seen these systems in many restaurants, but oftentimes tabletop ordering systems offer more than just ordering abilities. Tabletop systems like Ziosk also include payment options, as well as games, deal options, and menu suggestions.

Line busting tablets speed up operations and streamline communication

In many QSRs, line busting tablets are also being utilized during times of peak demand. As the name suggests, “line busting” is designed to bust the line — in other words, the purpose of line busting is to get orders in, paid, processed, and sent to kitchen staff quickly.

Many modern restaurants utilize line busting tablets in the drive thru, where employees meet customers at their cars, take their orders, and process their payments on the spot. They then move to the next car and so on. This is a marked improvement over each customer waiting until they get to the ordering speaker or drive thru window, as it gets the order to the kitchen staff much quicker than in a traditional drive thru ordering scenario.

The Kitchen Display System ties everything together

The Kitchen Display System (KDS) takes order information from the POS, self ordering kiosks, tabletop ordering systems, or line busting tablets and sends it to the kitchen. This back of house system is a modern take on the traditional ticketing system of old. Instead of orders being printed on a physical piece of paper and delivered to the kitchen staff, orders automatically show up on a display (or series of displays) in the kitchen.

In the case of larger kitchens with multiple stations, the KDS can even route orders to the correct place. It can also prioritize dishes according to preparation time, further improving kitchen efficiency. The typical KDS consists of a display — either a computer monitor or a tablet in most cases — with either touch input or keypad.

A front of house management system is just as crucial

While the POS, kiosks, tabletop systems, online ordering tools, and KDS are all hyperconnected, there’s another piece of the restaurant computer system puzzle, especially for sit down or casual dining restaurants. Front of house management software plays a crucial role in streamlining the in house dining experience.

Front of house management software takes the place of the traditional pen-and-paper approach to managing walk-in diners, call in orders, and reservations. This type of software typically runs a tablet or some other touch screen device and can dramatically increase seating efficiency, decrease guest wait times, and improve FOH operational efficiency. Some front of house software also tracks customer loyalty, including ordering history and seating preferences.

If you need an end to end solution in your restaurant, call Esper

Whether you need to manage a handful of POS systems or a full restaurant computer system across multiple stores, Esper can help. Try us out for free today.


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Cameron Summerson
Cameron Summerson

Cam is Esper's Director of Content and brings over 10 years of technology journalism experience to Esper, including nearly half-a-decade as Editor in Chief of a technology publication. He currently oversees the ideation, execution, and distribution plans for numerous types of content from blog posts to ebooks and beyond.