Computers Used in Restaurants

By Lee Morgan

You might not notice, but your favorite restaurant almost certainly uses computers.
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The restaurant industry once functioned primarily on manpower, gas flames and paper and pencil. Today a modern restaurant is a high-tech computerized environment where many tasks are accomplished automatically by computers to make the operation run smoothly and to lighten the load on the employees of this demanding service business. Restaurants ranging from fast food burger joints to fine dining establishments rely on computers to lend a virtual hand.


The POS system revolutionized the restaurant business. POS stands for point-of-sale system, and it is responsible for a variety of tasks. The most advanced restaurants have POS systems that servers use to input their guests' orders. The system routes the orders to the kitchen, where a series of printers divides up the order by cooking station and sends tickets to the proper cooks so that each knows what to prepare and when. The system can be configured to send a delayed signal so that appetizers are cooked a few minutes before the entrees. The system is also responsible for tallying the bill, can be used as a cash register to collect payment. It can also be programmed to serve as a time clock for employees.

Credit Card Machines

It's tough to find a major restaurant that doesn't accept credit cards. So many people rely on debit cards rather than cash that restaurants would miss out on sales if they did not accept plastic. Computerized credit card machines often link directly to the POS system and send a batch of transactions to a processing company at the end of the day, when funds are deposited directly into the restaurant's bank account.

Desktop Computers for Managerial Functions

The restaurant manager is a busy person. He or she is responsible for the overall operation of the restaurant from the front of the house to the kitchen, and must try to maintain the bookkeeping end of the business as well. Office computers are a must for restaurant managers. They are used to order supplies, track inventory, process payroll, and track sales trends.

Self-Service Ordering

While it isn't commonplace in the restaurant industry yet, self-ordering programs may soon be more frequently used in large restaurants to speed service and cut down on labor costs. Some fast-food restaurants already have kiosks where the customer can punch in what he wants to eat. An electronic message is sent to the cook, obviating the need for an order-taker or waitress.

Frequent Diner Programs and Gift Cards

Some restaurants take part in frequent diner programs or other reward or incentive programs to encourage the public to return. Membership cards issued to guests are run through a reader hooked to a computer by a member of the waitstaff. Its software calculates any discounts, totals point-reward benefits and informs the server of any action to take, such as offering a free drink or other reward. Similarly, electronic information on gift card totals or amounts remaining require a computer.