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POS Killed the Short Hand Star

Restaurant Short Hand

Do you remember the bad old days before the POS? Poached contributor Clea Partridge remembers….

Breadcrumb, Squirrel, Toast, Aloha. These aren’t part of a secret code or a hipster album name – they represent the era of the modern restaurant. Back in my day, when we used pen and paper, these words would have held no association. Today, however, these twee-sounding words stand for the top restaurant Point of Sale (POS) systems.

If you’ve worked in a restaurant over the past few years you’ve probably used at least one of the above POS systems. You possibly even participated in the painful gear shift from hand-written tickets to “chits” sent straight to a printer in the kitchen.

Learning a new POS system is like learning a new language. There are only so many variations in restaurant lingo; “fire course two,” “on the fly,” and “4 top” are universal phrases. But how you communicate these phrases to a computer is a whole other world of cockamamie buttons, gratuitous steps to get to the end-point, and surprisingly mathematically challenged machinery. While the situation is quickly improving, it’s been a tight learning curve.

Once you’ve gotten to know a POS you can often find the loopholes and workarounds in a system’s staunch arrangement. Reaching this level of understanding with a POS system is sometimes like a compassionate understanding between two peers and other times like a masterful domination of human over machine.

POS systems, though a dialect of their own in many ways, leave little need to create internal restaurant shorthand. Product names on POS buttons don’t need to be shortened – it only takes a fraction of a second to punch in that order and get it sent off to the bar. The bartender will be working on your drink before your past self has even finished writing Marker’s Mark Manhattan. While we’ve all gained in terms of efficiency, perhaps something was lost, too.

POS systems may be ubiquitous now, but I remember a not-so-distant time in which all tickets that went to the kitchen were handwritten by the server. It was a time in which rapidity and penmanship did a colorful mating dance – hopefully a legible offspring was created, and woe betide you if the chef couldn’t read your shorthand.

So, how old school are you? Take this shorthand quiz to see how you’d fare in pre-2010 restaurants. (See answers below.)

1. Chix
2. CZR
3. Gls
4. Btl
5. Spag
6. Rox
7. Mono mart 1 ol
8. Xvoo
9. BFC
10. Pkl
11. “Ppl,” or “pp,” or simply “p”
12. NY
13. AIC

It’s easy to look back fondly at a time you could simply draw an “up arrow” to indicate that a patron’s drink was not to be served on ice. But no one wants to go back to the days of tallying how much San Pellegrino you sold versus how many glasses of red wine, adding these totals into separate categories and hoping like hell you could balance your books.

What are some of your favorite server shorthand tricks? We’d love to hear from you!

1. Chicken
2. Caesar
3. Glass
4. Bottle
5. Spaghetti
6. On the Rocks
7. Monopolowa Martini, one olive
8. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
9. Big F’ing Cube
10. Pickle
11. People (as in how many people in a party)
12. New York (as in steak)
13. As it Comes

Clea Partridge

Clea Partridge has never not worked in the service industry. Each time she stepped away from restaurants she felt something lacking and always happily returned to front-of-house service. She loves staff meal and pre-service coffee.

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