Restaurant Tech Terms For Dummies
In the United States, 10% of the population is employed by the restaurant industry, meaning that you have at least a one in ten chance of knowing someone who works in a restaurant every year. Those odds go up when you consider people who have worked in a restaurant at some point, meaning that you or someone you know have or do currently work in a restaurant. Beyond that, you’ve likely been to a restaurant in the recent past or plan to in the future. This means that you’ve encountered some jargon that may not be part of your daily grind. So what are the restaurant tech terms that you hear so often, and what do they mean?
What Slang Tells You About a Kitchen
Restaurant tech terms come in a few shapes and sizes, from the literal terms used to identify the gear that we use in the restaurant space, to the slang that sometimes goes along with that. We’ve written about restaurant terms and slang, which begs the question: why is there so much of it? What is the purpose of slang?
Slang does a lot of things, from teaching you about history to illustrating generational differences. But what it does perhaps the best is to streamline language to its most efficient, which is exactly what you want in your kitchen.
Through slang, you can learn how something impacts a person. For example, if your staff have slang or terminology for a piece of kitchen tech that is, let’s say colorful, you may be able to discern the usefulness of that tool or to identify a pinch point. We can say the same thing about the inverse: if your staff have an affectionate title for something, chances are they like it.
Below, we’ve compiled a list of restaurant terminology and slang that you might hear while you’re out and about. You whether that’s through people you know or just overhearing it. But restaurant tech terms expand beyond the confines of the restaurant. We’ve separated the list between things you’d hear in the kitchen, to words that off-site support staff may use.
Things you’ll hear in the kitchen
- Bin Management – Bin management is a way for busy restaurants to manage the ingredients that go into every dish. Some restaurant automation tools will let cook staff know when they are running low on certain items (think popular menu items) and nudge them to make more.
- Bump Bar – A bump bar is a piece of hardware for kitchen display systems (KDS) that allows users to manipulate order items.
- Bump It/Bumping – When you have to remove an item from your KDS, you “bump it” off. This action signals that the order is complete.
- Controller – A controller is the brain of your kitchen, the computer core of your Kitchen Display System, built to last in a restaurant environment.
- Dark Kitchen – Also known as a cloud or virtual kitchen, a dark kitchen exists exclusively for off-premise orders. Since it doesn’t have a dine-in area, you won’t find any customers there.
- Digital Kiosk – Digital kiosks are self-serve stations that operate through the use of digital touchscreens. You’ve encountered versions of this if you’ve ever used a freestyle soda machine.
- Digital Signage – Signage is used both interior and exterior to the restaurant. Outside, digital signage may display time-sensitive messages like sales, where interior signage is typically used as an easy to update menu board.
- Graphical Display – Not all kitchen display systems are created equal. Some are text only and some provide color-coding. These features provide restaurant staff with quick visual tools to enhance their efficiency. For example, if an order is taking too long, it may turn red to indicate the urgency of the delivery.
- KDS – The abbreviation for Kitchen Display System, a KDS is an efficiency tool that helps with order logistics and delivery. Some KDS’ offer a range of options from a wide variety of integrations to data analytics.
- Load Balancing – This KDS feature keeps tabs of how many orders each station has to work through and then monitors the speed of service from each. Load balancing features help your kitchen appropriately distribute orders to staff with less of a workload, allowing everyone to carry the weight the same.
- Mounting – Mounting is the hardware that secures your various restaurant tech in place. It’s the physical infrastructure of your computational needs, designed to thrive in a kitchen environment.
- Nuke It/Nuking – Thankfully not taken literally, to nuke something is to microwave it.
- Off-Premise – A restaurant tech term adjacent, off-premise refers to orders that are for carryout or delivery. They happen off the premises of your restaurant.
- Pass Order – A function of some KDS programs that will pass orders to different stations based on their availability. For example, if your QSR’s drive-thru is backed up, but the front line is slow, those orders can be sent to another line for quicker processing.
- POS – The abbreviation for point-of-sale systems. This is likely the piece of restaurant tech that is most visible to customers because this is where you tender your electronic payment.
- Recipe Viewer – Because restaurants tend to have a high turnover rate, some restaurateurs invest in recipe viewers, which is effectively a how-to guide for incoming cooks. This helps expedite your onboarding while ensuring your quality.
- Sticky Printer – As advertised, sticky printers create print stickers that staff can affix to an order. Operators use sticky printers for quality assurance and customer satisfaction so that you are certain you have what you ordered.
- Table Management Software – Used in the front-of-house in restaurants, table management software helps your host station to sort out seating logistics. Some restaurant reservation and table management systems take the host station on the journey from reservations to when they leave, giving you real-statistics on when customers are coming and going so that you can expedite your table turns.
- Tag on Touch – By using a touch monitor, you can select individual items to strikethrough. This allows you to show which portions of the order have been satisfied and what you still have left.
- Touchscreen – Much like a smartphone or a tablet, a touchscreen is a device that allows you to manipulate information by touching the screen. It’s all there in the name!
Things You’ll Hear Behind in the Office
- Business Intelligence – Using the data analytics process, business intelligence looks at collected information, employing machine learning to find statistical trends.
- Data Analytics – Like business intelligence, data analytics is a breakdown of the information you’ve collected. Some KDS tools can help you with this. For small “mom and pop” restaurants, this isn’t regular shop talk. For larger operations and chains, having good metrics in your operation can help you determine everything from how to improve your speed of service to how the appropriate times to staff.
- Data Hygiene – This is clean as direct as it sounds, a means of cleaning and sorting data. If you’re looking at the data that you’ve collected to analyze, you need to make sure that your information is devoid of duplicated information or other redundancies that may impact your research.
- Geo-Fencing – Marketing teams might talk about geo-fencing, which is a means of targeting your reach to particular areas. Neighborhood restaurants might do this to identify subjects of interest to people nearby.
- MTBF Calculation – One of the more complicated terms on this list, MTBF is an acronym that stands for “mean time between failure.” The MTBF calculation has IT/accounting applications that in the case of a restaurant, unique to their technology rollouts. For example, you might use this formula to help determine the long and short term needs of a restaurant operation.
- POE – A restaurant tech term for the IT crowd, POE stands for “power over ethernet.” This is a passive power source that is outside of the standard three-prong outlet. In a restaurant, this is a useful means of staying in business if the lights go out.
- TCP/PCI – These conjoined abbreviations are specific to consumer protections against theft through digital payment measures. Transmission Control Protocols (TCP) is a digital communication language that communicates these cashless transactions. These run concurrently with payment card industry (PCI) protocols that help safeguard against any outside incursion.
In embracing modern technology, we open ourselves up to a world of language and learning. The volume of terms and slang used in relationship to restaurants illustrates how much goes on beneath the surface. As the terms get more granular and tech-oriented, we see how far we’ve come from handwritten tickets to integrated restaurants.
Did we get them all? We’re sure that we missed something along the way. Hit us in the comments with anything you think we ought to add. There’s a great chance that we’ll update the list!
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About the Author
Syd was a content marketing specialist, which are fancy words for writing pretty to tell a good story. He likes writing things about food, drinks, and music. He’s a musician himself, a father of two, and loves his wife a whole lot.