Most businesses have undergone a massive disruption this year. Restaurants, in particular, have had to close their dining rooms and pivot to online ordering with curbside pickup or delivery services and contactless payments just to stay alive.
Even as restaurants are opening up again, albeit at reduced capacities, curbside pickup and delivery continue to be popular with many customers. Diners aren’t only concerned about how well restaurants follow the CDC health and safety guidelines, they also have high expectations for order accuracy, short waiting times and food kept at the appropriate temperature when it’s delivered.
And with so many food orders being bagged, making it nearly impossible to distinguish one from another, labeling takes on a new level of importance.
Some restaurants rely on hand-printed labels to distinguish between the burger with bacon and lettuce but no onions, and the burger order with cheese, onions and no bacon. Not only do these hand-written notes slow down productivity, but they also can significantly increase the odds of making errors — whether from poor penmanship, smudged ink or a mental mistake. Besides the possibility of annoying customers and risking repeat business, if the error contains a food allergy that causes harm to the customer, it could hurt the restaurant’s reputation.
For takeout and delivery, the onus is on restaurants to assure their guests that the food is safe and meets freshness, order accuracy, and fast delivery expectations. That’s why automated food labeling — with accurate order details and tamper-evident labeling — is vital more than ever before.
With the right label printers and media, restaurants can speed up their workflows and order accuracy helping them survive and maybe even thrive in these difficult times.
Printers can play a vital role in all three phases of the POS process:
- Ordering — online, at a kiosk, or a counter
- Food preparation — in the kitchen
- Delivery — drive-thru, curbside and home
For smaller businesses, such as airport baristas and grab-and-go operations, one printer may be enough to meet all their needs. In most cases, however, the merchant will need one printer for each of the above requirements.
Here are some tips VARs and MSPs should keep in mind during the printer selection process to ensure the best outcome for their restaurant customers:
Connectivity: How will the printer connect to your restaurant customer’s network, computer, or mobile device and their POS system? Printers support options such as parallel/serial ports, Wi-Fi, USB, Ethernet, Twinax/Coax, and Bluetooth.
Printing methods: Direct thermal printers are well suited for restaurants. The media is resistant to fading and smudging, and the printers are well suited for shorter term applications, like order identification, food delivery, and takeout. Restaurants can use them for receipt, chit, and barcode printing applications, and they’re compatible with a variety of specialized labels.
Label size and barcode symbology: Make sure the printer provides support for all of the different barcodes, graphics, and languages your restaurant customer needs and that it supports the correct range of label sizes as well.
Accessories: Some thermal printers are available with options such as automatic label cutters, peelers, or rewinders that can help streamline the labeling process.
Label selection: Besides choosing media approved for the printer, it’s imperative to use the right kind of media. For example, thermal paper or labels are typically the best choices for smear-free printing, vital for applications such as food package labeling. However, thermal media is sensitive to heat. If the wrong media is chosen, the printer can’t be used near a hot stove or coffee maker, or the media could become unusable. There are, however, options for “high heat resistant” media.
Die-cut (i.e., “peel-off”) labels are an excellent choice for applications requiring consistency. In some instances, die-cut labels come pre-printed, too — no printer required. For example, if a restaurant wants to highlight a potential food allergen on a product, it could use a die-cut label with a unique image or font on the food item’s package or wrapper.
It’s also important to note whether your customer needs to print bar codes or images, which require media that supports higher resolution printing than media used only for text.
Liner-free labels are smart choices for food packaging applications because they can be applied more quickly than “peel-off” labels. Plus, liner-free labels offer the added benefit of reduced environmental waste as there is no liner to dispose of.
Label management: Beware of using labels that aren’t certified or approved by the printer manufacturer. It can lead to printer jams and other malfunctions, along with impacting the printer’s warranty. VARs and MSPs can play a vital role in helping restaurants save money by offering label fulfillment services. Better yet, make these services part of your managed print services offering so that you can monitor and manage your customers’ printers proactively, and they don’t have to worry about downtime. For more information on this topic, visit https://www.xaasjournal.com/managed-print-services/.
Displays: Some printers are small and compact and rely on connectivity to a network or a computer to generate labels. Others offer color touch displays that make it easy to calibrate and change the printer’s settings without the need for a PC. These displays can also be used to alter label types at the point of activity, monitor media use, and perform basic troubleshooting and maintenance.
Label printing is a mission-critical activity in hospitality. Taking the time to help your restaurant customers select the right printer for their environment and application needs will help ensure greater productivity, printer uptime, and higher quality labels. Your customers will quickly realize their printer investments’ value as they see their guests’ confidence in order accuracy, delivery, freshness, and safety increase with each curbside or delivery order.