Sometimes you don’t appreciate the simple things that make your life simpler until they’re gone. Case in point, one of the hardest days working in retail came when our simple receipt printer broke down, which just happened to correspond with one of the busiest rushes I had ever seen on the job. Having to jot down orders on scratch paper, complete with modifiers and special instructions to give to my co-worker who then had to interpret my scratch marks, all while we both tried in vain to fix the broken hardware when we had a spare second or two, was extremely stressful.
My point is that kitchen printers can make your life as a restaurant worker much easier. If you’re running a business that is at all larger than a simple cafe or quick-service operation, you’ll almost assuredly need one and potentially multiple devices. They can streamline your ordering process and dramatically cut down on errors, ultimately leading to happier customers and higher profits for you. And many high-quality printers won’t set you back much either. In fact, if you’re just starting up, you can generally purchase a hardware bundle that includes one. But let’s step back for a minute and show you exactly how kitchen printers work and why you should consider them.
How Does Kitchen Printing Work?
If you’re thinking that this seems like it should be a pretty simple process, you’re right! Nearly every point of sale system with a halfway decent set of features will offer this functionality. When you type an order into the POS, it will then come out wherever you have your printer set up in your kitchen, presumably somewhere that’s convenient for your cooks to see and hear. This replaces the days of a server or cashier jotting down an order by hand and delivering it on foot to the kitchen or pinning it to a corkboard. And, as you’ll see, it can dramatically improve your efficiency with how quickly you can turn around tables and by decreasing mistakes.
What To Look For In A Kitchen Printer
While a printer is, at heart, a relatively simple piece of equipment, not all kitchen printers are created equally. There are a few very basic things you’ll want to consider before making your purchase. The biggest decision you’ll likely have to make comes down to whether you want an impact printer or a thermal printer. Impact printers use an ink belt to make, well…an impact on the paper. They are also generally much louder than thermal printers, which, in the restaurant industry, is actually a good thing, as it can serve as an alert to your kitchen that an order is up. Thermal printers are typically used in smaller establishments and can work fine in that capacity, but when orders are coming in fast and furious, thermal printers can get hot, which can lead to breakdowns and smudging when printing.
When choosing your printer, ideally, you want that to be the last time you ever think about it. Ease of use and durability should be paramount. Durability is going to be a key factor, as your printer is going to be jostled and, quite likely, dropped on occasion in a busy restaurant. Online reviews generally do a pretty good job at weeding out particularly flimsy models, so do your due diligence. But there are a few other practical features you should at least consider that could make your life easier.
Having a printer go down can very quickly send your kitchen and, by association, your entire restaurant into chaos in no time. That’s why your printer needs to have an internal battery to keep it functioning in case it’s unplugged or if there’s a power outage. Another easy-to-overlook feature is the ease in which the printer’s paper can be changed. Take it from someone with firsthand experience working in a restaurant where only one person knew how to change the paper properly: it can be a headache. Plenty of models make this process a snap. Make sure you get one of them.
4 Ways Switching To A Kitchen Printer & Kitchen Receipts Will Improve Your Restaurant’s Efficiency
You may be old school, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s something charming and endearing about a handwritten ticket with shorthand that only the server and cook could distinguish. But if it’s efficiency (and potentially happier customers) you want, then a kitchen printer should be on your restaurant shopping list, and here are a few reasons why.
- Accuracy:Â With a kitchen printer, the cook sees exactly what is punched into the point of sale system. There’s no need to second-guess someone’s handwriting or the sweaty smudge of a pen. Cooks can stay in the kitchen, and both the front and back of the house can be confident that the order will be accurate.
- Speed: Once the order is placed, the ticket immediately prints out to its appropriate spot in the kitchen where the chef can hear it and quickly get started. There’s no time for a server to get distracted by another customer or task between the register and the kitchen, and although that might seem like a small amount of time saved, it can add up.
- Streamlined Technology:Â Going along with speed, if you incorporate other modern equipment into your restaurant, kitchen printers can be even more useful. If you’ve implemented tableside ordering, a server wouldn’t even have to go back to a POS station to fire the order back to the kitchen, and, in some instances, customers can order from the table themselves if you have individualized stations. You may also want to consider multiple printers for different areas of your kitchen if you have a larger establishment. Then you could have different dishes automatically printed to the appropriate section, appetizers to one printer, entrees to another, cutting down on potentially confusing and chaotic conversations in your kitchen.
- Simple Modifiers:Â A customer with a handful of specific instructions, or a dish that gives a customer multiple options, can be a tricky challenge for a server and cook to handle. Having a well-organized ticket through your POS and a well-functioning printer can make the orders crystal clear. In most cases, a POS system will allow a server to type in any specific, unique instructions as well, saving them a trip back to the kitchen.
How Much Does A Kitchen Printing Setup Cost?
Like anything else, prices on kitchen printers vary, so you’ll want to shop around even once you’ve decided what printer you might be interested in. You can purchase a printer from a variety of online retailers, and, in general terms, impact printers can run between $150-$350. Again, I’d suggest checking out some online reviews to see what printers are durable and easy to load with paper. You may also need a simple ethernet cord, depending on your setup and receipt paper. Most office supply stores will sell all of this online and in-store.
You’ll also want to see if your POS company has any deals on kitchen printers, and if you’re just starting up, you can often purchase hardware bundles that include everything you need, from the POS system itself to cash drawers and printers. Certain printers may also integrate better with your POS than others, and if you just need a single piece of hardware, you can buy directly from your POS provider in most cases. But, again, make sure you price check first.
Is A Kitchen Printer The Right Choice For My Restaurant?
Now the only thing left to do is decide if your particular establishment could benefit from a kitchen printer. If you’re running a small operation with just a few employees or have close quarters where your till and your grill aren’t far apart, you can probably get by with doing things the old-fashioned way with pen and paper. But if you have customers lining up to give their orders or multiple servers and cooks taking and filling orders throughout your restaurant, kitchen printers become nearly essential.
In this instance, efficiency is paramount. You don’t have time for errors or constant checks between the front and back of the house, and you need a convenient way to track and organize orders. Kitchen printers can dramatically improve the accuracy of orders, making customers happy, and by popping up immediately in a place where cooks can see and hear the tickets coming in, they can help you turn your tables around faster and increase your revenue.
Be sure to check out more of our hardware content for restaurants and our reviews as well and happy shopping!
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