POS Printer Checklist: What to Know Before You Buy

By Eduardo Calero, Owner, Il Campanello | March 18, 2010

When shopping for point of sale (POS) printers, operators need to consider several very important criteria that will greatly affect their restaurant operations upon installation. At Il Campanello, a fine dining Italian restaurant in New York City, management learned this the hard way. What follows is Il Campanello's story, and their top POS printer selection tips:

In 2006, Il Campanello implemented three thermal printers as part of a POS system running hospitality software on Posiflex Jiva all-in-one terminals. Two of the three printers were positioned in the dining area and the third, in the kitchen. By mid-2007, Il Campanello had a $50,000 system that had stopped functioning; the integrator that had installed it had gone out of business. While the Posiflex terminals continued to function properly, the POS software and two of the three thermal printers had ceased to do so.
 
Eventually, Il Campanello engaged KenntekPOS, a New Jersey-based VAR, to install its KenntekPOS software on the terminals and replace two non-working printers, one in the dining area and the other in the kitchen, with Star Micronics TSP650 thermal printers. Several months later, the system was expanded to incorporate a Star Micronics SP700 impact printer for the kitchen, as well as another Star Micronics TSP650 thermal printer to replace the remaining original dining room printer.

But this time, Il Campanello was very methodical in the printer selection process. As a result of this process, Il Campanello walked away with the following tips that every operator should consider when making a new POS printer purchase:

Printer speed
From efficient transmission of orders to the kitchen, to delivery of food to diners' tables, to completing transactions at the POS, speed means everything in a restaurant environment. In today's competitive environment, keeping customers waiting for their checks or seeing orders backed-up in the kitchen because a printer is operating too slowly, simply doesn't cut it.

When Il Campanello consulted KenntekPOS about replacing their antiquated printers, Il Campanello noted that above all else, they wanted to eliminate the consistent printing delays wthey were experiencing. The extent of the delays was such that it was not unusual to have a "queue" of 10 checks waiting to be printed. Often, one of the printers would stop working for no apparent reason; turning it off and then on again generally was not an effective solution to the problem. By contrast, the printers specified by KenntekPOS generate receipts and order tickets within seconds, and printing delays have become a rarity.

Print quality
Print caliber is as important as speed to restaurateurs. Frustration, which sometimes leads to attrition, occurs when customers cannot read their receipt or can only view part of its contents clearly. Inaccurate orders, stemming from the inability of kitchen staff to view order information transmitted from the dining area, have an identical negative impact on business.

To avoid situations of this kind, operators should seek out units that will print all receipt and ticket content clearly and uniformly, rather than generate a seemingly random combination of exceedingly dark and excessively light letters and numbers.

Durability and getting more bang for your buck
Like most foodservice operators, Il Campanello neither wants to nor can afford to replace POS peripherals on a frequent basis, thus durability should rank high on any operator's list of POS printer criteria. Replacement units need to withstand being hurriedly pulled open and slammed shut by staff in the course of changing paper rolls. Plus they should also stand up to high printing volumes without breaking down.

Moreover, operators should be determined to select printers that offer maximum value for their money. For Il Campanello, it was essential that despite the moderate price of whichever units being implemented, their configuration would allow for printing, in red, and modifications to customers' orders on order tickets sent from the dining room to the kitchen. Il Campanello's kitchen staff can now easily identify special requests, from "extra pepper" or "extra cheese" to "no salt," without difficulty.

Beyond basic functions
Maximizing a printer investment by using the units for functions other than generating basic receipts makes good business sense. However, such an objective cannot be achieved unless the model or models selected offer the appropriate capabilities and feature set.

At Il Campanello, management wanted printers that could function as a marketing tool that would allow for the generation of promotional coupons, gift certificates and customer surveys approximately once a month. With their original units, this was not an easy task. For example, reproducing an image from a JPEG file to create a coupon necessitated that staff first size the image to the width of the printer. This somewhat complicated process alone took at least one minute, inconveniencing customers and wait staff alike.

Conversely, with their new printers, the re-sizing of images is not necessary and an interface with the KennetekPOS software makes managing coupons and other graphics on receipts extremely simple. In turn, Il Campanello is far more able to turn its receipts into marketing vehicles. Responses to special offers and surveys have been very positive, thereby sharpening Il Campanello's competitive edge. The restaurant hopes to replace its Star Micronics TSP650 printers sometime this year with the vendor's TSP100 thermal printers to take advantage of the Star Micronics futurePRNT software that comes complimentary with all TSP100 printers. futurePRNT will permit Il Campanello to perform receipt re-design, incorporate graphics, and design coupons based on text triggers, without having to change any settings within the KenntekPOS software.

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