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who ORDERED WHAT? the evolution in ORDER TAKING

In Concept & Design, Practices for Thought

For us who eat out on a regular basis, surely you have encountered occasions where the ser vice staff is standing by the table, as if auctioning off a dish because everyone is too busy talking or have forgotten what they ordered. Adding to that, the staff is not able to match the dish to the customer. In the ideal world of foodservice, customers should not have to worry about such slip-ups for operators ought to be working on an order system to also ensure that the kitchen and front-of-house are in sync and service progresses smoothly. While most establishments are running on a Point-of-Sale system today, they would be based on 4 main methods that were written with pen and paper. Imagine a table of 20 people out for dinner; how did the service staff ensure things are done right?

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DUPLICATE METHOD
Generally used in smaller hotels, budget friendly restaurants or cafes or at establishments offering a set menu with a few ala car te items. A check / bill pad with a serial number is filled with 50 – 100 pieces of food checks. The top copy is carbon-backed to make two copies of one order; one going to the chefs and the other for the waiter.

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Waiters are to write out the number of covers and price of the dish before sending it to the kitchen. The top copy of the set of checks is usually made up of a number of perforated slips. A different perforated slip should also be used for each course; for example first, main, dessert. As the required dish is ready to be served, the kitchen’s aboyeur (announcer) will tear of the waiter’s number (15) on the end of the slip and place it with the dish concerned so that all waiters know which item is for their customer. The waiter should remember the estimated time before handing in the slip of the following course, giving adequate time for guests to finish one course and the kitchen to prepare.

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The duplicate method is considered to be versatile and is the basis for the many possible variations to an order system. For example:
• Menu and customer bill combined in one sheet, allocated to each party of guests. Guests’ requirements such as number of covers and /or special needs are written down in the space next to the price column:

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SERVICE WITH ORDER
An order is taken, the customer is ser ved and payment is received according to that order. This is suitable for bar service or take-aways.

TRIPLICATE METHOD
As implied, this system consists of three copies and typically used in the majority of medium and large first class restaurants. The top copy is handed to the kitchen/ announcer, the duplicate goes to the cashier for bill tabulation while the flimsiest piece is kept by the ser vice staff as a reference. There are four corners of the check to be filled:

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In occasions where guests intends to order extra items after the first food check has been recorded, there should be a stack of checks bearing the term “suivant” which means ‘following’ check.

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Sometimes the kitchen may overlook and leave out an item, in which case is normally a ‘no charge’ to the customer, the head service staff must sign off on the check with the heading
“supplement”. Meanwhile if a wrong dish was ordered and had to be sent back, a special check called “retour”(return) followed by the name of dish going back and “en place”(in its place) the name of the replacement item.

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PRE-ORDERED
This method is used in individual ser vice such as room service breakfast, hospital meals or at functions where guests decide beforehand what they want.

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FROM PEN TO KEYBOARD
The first foodservice outlet to employ a micro processor controlled system is none other than McDonald’s. Built by William Brobeck and Associates in 1974, it provided each station in the outlet its own device displaying the entire menu. A numeric key is assigned to each item and the staff only needs to punch the respective key and the number of orders. When the customer is ready to pay, all that needs to be done is pressing the [TOTAL] button which calculates the bill; including the sales tax. The system allowed up to 8 devices to be connected to one of two interconnected computers enabling printed reports, prices and taxes to be handled from any device. Also, if one computer failed, the other could handle the entire store.

With the evolution of Information Technology and computers, Mar tin Goodwin and Bob Henry created the first POS software that was able to run on the Microsoft Windows platform in 1992.
Opening up possible developments, a wide range of POS applications have since been made available on Windows and Unix platforms. Businesses were also more keen on adopting POS as costs of such systems became more affordable. Keying in orders on a machine soon became attractive to business owners and the industry called it the “legacy” or “traditional” POS system. Think of it as storing all of your music files, pictures and videos in the hard disk of your computer which can only be accessed from that one point. The system comprised of a CPU, monitor, numerous software and setting up took a long time. So did fixing should anything go wrong; and with the POS system being a single-point terminal, businesses end up facing downtime during service. The legacy POS system enabled mobile order taking and service staff would punch in orders on a handheld device; thus eliminating errors that can occur with the pen-and-paper method. However, that is the only extent of its mobility as everything is still controlled by the huge desktop setup at the cashier. Speaking of which, most of us would remember our first desktops which
needed plenty of space with its boxy monitor, processor, keyboard and mouse in separate components.

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Undeniably, traditional POS system helped F&B establishments streamline its ordering system, track revenue and sales repor ts yet progress is only natural. As discussed earlier, modern POS models can do so much more for business owners to improve on its entire business strategy. At the same time, simplicity in a system will win as society looks for greater accessibility, ease-of-use and convenience in managing the numbers.

Eileen Chanwho ORDERED WHAT? the evolution in ORDER TAKING