There’s nothing that sells better than nostalgia.
The Grateful Dead have been playing the same 75 songs for the last 30 years but that—and copious amounts of LSD—doesn’t stop people from forking over their money to see them do it over and over and over again. Star Wars Episode VII is the highest grossing film of all time, despite being essentially the exact same movie as 1977’s Episode IV. Over in the U.S., Donald Trump is riding a wave of “Back In My Day” sentimentalism to drum up support for his vision to make America white again. It’s part of the human condition to hold the positive associations of your formative years close to your heart—and to wistfully reminisce how things used to be by way of lamenting the current state of affairs. But an affinity for the past is one thing; remaining stuck on things processes that don’t is another. You absolutely should go out and get a record player and make vinyl your primary musical source, if that’s what you want to. But you definitely shouldn’t continue running a business using obsolete and inefficient tools just because “that’s they way we’ve always done it.” Pen and paper order taking is officially a thing of the past while kitchen printing and remote displays are no longer just for big restaurants and chains.
Nevertheless, we’re still seeing the formation of a divide. On the one hand is a new breed of owners who are young and unencumbered by experience. And then there are the old-schoolers, the ones who’ve been running restaurants for decades and laugh at the noobs while declaring that pen and paper worked just fine for years. Why invest in hardware and software to do things we can already do? Goes the thinking. Though to be fair, “thinking” is a generous term here—just because a thing generally works doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement.
And, frankly, even if you were 100% accurate with your handwritten orders (which you are not) and every customer was satisfied (which they are not), the increase in efficiency by going to a more modern method means you’ll be able to satisfy even more people in the same amount of time (meaning: more revenue). To put it another way, nostalgia might sell—but your nostalgia for old-timey restaurant methods is costing you money. Maybe ten years ago a tiny little shop would be hard-pressed to justify the expense of putting in a full-fledged POS that could send orders to remote displays or printers. But this is 2016: a top shelf POS app can cost as little as $50 a month, and hardware gets cheaper by the hour. As you can see, the question isn’t Should I kick the pen and paper habit?; it’s become something more like, What’s the best way to get off pen and paper? With Kounta, you’ve got two choices—paper dockets printed to a remote printer, or orders transmitted directly to another screen. While each of these has its advantages and disadvantages, both are going to be light years better than just writing it down or committing it to memory.
With Epson’s wireless cloud printers, it’s never been easier to reroute a print job wherever you like. Orders taken tableside are instantly sent to a kitchen printer (or printers and you have control over where each item appears)—and here you’re already ahead of the game. This automation eliminates the need to bring anything back to the kitchen and elsewhere. Since you can ID which items get printed where a customer order is going to land all over the restaurant simultaneously before the server even turns around to walk away. The food orders go to the kitchen; the drinks go to the bar area, and prep can begin. Menu selections are clearly and legibly spelled out, as are any variants or modifications requested by the customer. The clarity of the order is the primary driver behind the increase in efficiency. No explanation is needed, no chance of forgetting about special instructions from the customer. This system isn’t foolproof, though. The first issue, of course, is that you’re still taking little bits of paper and hanging them all over the kitchen, where they can get burned, lost, sauced, or overlooked. And if someone changes the order after the fact, there’s no elegant way to correct that situation—you’re either handwriting the change directly on the paper, or you’ve got to print out the order again. Then there’s also the matter of paper waste, with hundreds of slips being printed out each day only to be tossed out.
The Bump Screen gives you all the benefits of printed dockets, plus the bonus of not having to throw any paper away after use. Additionally, it has the ability to be more dynamic than paper: if a patron changes his mind on an order, or wants to make changes after it’s been submitted, this is no sweat for a Bump screen setup. Just update the order form the POS and the change appears on the screen. Otherwise, a remote display offers the same kind of legibility that paper dockets do. And just like its printed counterpart, the Bump screen has a couple of drawbacks of its own. There are only so many orders you can view at once on a screen before you have to scroll. Likewise, there are only so many items in each order you can view at once, and it might not always be obvious when there are more items than can fit on the screen. Depending on how you’ve set up your workflow, your kitchen staff may find themselves not multitasking nearly as well as they could, simply because they can’t see the next batch of orders without intervention. And with Kounta, a Bump Screen counts as a register. This means that enabling the bump screen might put you at odds with the limits of your plan—and could end up costing you a higher subscription to being with.
While each of these methods comes with its own set of issues, that’s to be expected. These shouldn’t turn you off to using the technology, so much as guide your thinking regarding which option would work better for you. Besides, these drawbacks are minor when you compare them to the waste—of money and time—that relying on your own sloppy hands to keep a record of everything creates.