How much trouble can an outdated management system cause to your restaurant? A lot – trust me. I used to work as a server at a full-service restaurant. The food and the ambiance were great, and the place was popular. Unfortunately, the owner did not make it a priority to have a functional, updated POS and management system. This put the entire restaurant in a lot of trouble, and at times made my work as a waiter an absolute nightmare.
Let me tell you how bad things can go in just one night…
The restaurant used to run a steak night every Friday, with three types of steak on the menu. The special menu was successful: come Friday, a lot of people would show up. On this specific Friday we had a full restaurant. All was going fine until suddenly, in the middle of service, we ran out of one of the three steaks. Unfortunately, our patchy management system couldn’t keep track of availability, leaving us waiters unaware of the issue. On the floor, we kept on taking orders for the popular steak until finally the kitchen realized the problem, and told one of the servers that we needed to stop selling the steak immediately. At this point, we were left with a bunch of orders we couldn’t fulfill. We waiters were left to go back to all the diners who had recently ordered the steak, apologize profusely and ask them what they would like to order instead. As you can imagine, this was very time-consuming, and resulted in longer waits, leaving us on the floor to deal with a lot of unhappy and hungry customers. The nightmare was not over. Our outdated software also did not allow us to change an order after it had been sent to the kitchen. This meant that, when it was time take the check to the table, we had to create new receipts for all the customers who had to change course, printing the old ones and manually making sure that the total was correct in the cash register. Not a night to remember for the diners, the kitchen or the staff.
Thanks to our terrible POS system, we had to deal with a quadruple disaster that night:
- Disappointed diners. Probably the biggest problem was that what was supposed to be a quiet, enjoyable Friday night for the customers turned into a nightmare of excuses and waiting. Many families ended up eating their main course at different times, as many people who had ordered the missing steak had to wait to be served the replacement dish. I honestly couldn’t blame any customer who wouldn’t want to patronize the restaurant again after this experience.
- Slow service. The delayed service made the night feel longer for everyone. Every single order took longer than usual to go through, testing everyone’s patience and destroying the flow. By the end of the night the customers were fed up and the staff was stressed out and drained, which didn’t help the quality of service.
- Confusion and errors. The fact that we had to recreate all the customers’ orders and receipts created a lot of chaos and errors along the way. On top of it, all the manual work we had to perform delayed service even more.
- A whole day wasted aligning data. After recreating all of the customers’ orders and receipts (which was a time-consuming enough task), it took a whole day of aligning data to make sure that all the old and new receipts matched, and that all the customers had been billed correctly.
This hard, distressful night could easily have been avoided with an up-to-date, integrated management system. If the POS had warned the servers instantly of the missing dish, we could have notified customers immediately, saving us apologies, delays and problems. Thankfully no review of the steak night ever appeared on TripAdvisor or similar websites. Had our guests been more active on social media, this kitchen nightmare could have become a full-blown disaster. We were lucky; but this story taught me that no restaurateur should risk their money and reputation on a clunky, outdated system.