How to Choose a Kitchen Printer and a Receipt Printer for POS

November 11, 2019 • 9 minutes

Heidi Orpilla
Heidi Orpilla
Digital Content Specialist at Star Micronics. Heidi has six years of experience in B2B marketing and writes about restaurant business and technology.

Restaurants are busy work environments where mistakes can quickly snowball into kitchen backups and long wait times for tables, ultimately threatening your bottom line. Having the proper printers established in both the front-of-house and back-of-house can help you avoid those costly situations. However, it’s important to note that restaurant POS printers are only effective if you choose the right ones, those that were made with the latest restaurant technology trends in mind. Read on some tips from Heidi Orpilla of Star Micronics about how to choose the right printer to help you grow your restaurant business.

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First, let’s explore five must-have features to look for in your printer. These features are great to have in both front-of-house and back-of-house printers and serve as a good starting point for your search for a restaurant printer. Together these various aspects of printing will provide you with a printer that’s easy-to-use, cost- and time-efficient, compatible with your POS system, backed by high-quality support, and designed to seamlessly integrate into your restaurant’s décor.

1. Front-Loading Paper Design

The first thing to look for is a printer with a front-loading paper design. Front-loading printers are designed for easy loading and low maintenance. Changing the printer paper is a common task for your employees, and a front-loading design means quick access for a paper swap, which can shave time off the wait, keep lines moving, and tables turning.

2. Multiple Connectivity Options

In today’s modern world, diners expect always-on connectivity and uninterrupted service. And guess what? That expectation also occurs at your restaurant, so don’t limit yourself connectivity-wise when it comes to your restaurant POS printer.

Purchasing a printer that has multiple connectivity choices, including Ethernet, Wi-Fi, traditional USB, Lightning USB, Bluetooth, and more, allows for versatile, reliable use throughout restaurant locations. Additionally, mobile payments, including pay at the table, are becoming commonplace in all kinds of restaurants, so multiple connectivity choices will ensure your printer is always up and running.

3. Easy Software Integration and Quality Technical Support

When it comes to a restaurant POS system, integration is everything. The days of downloading multiple drivers, clicking around to integrate printers and software, getting frustrated, and finally calling technical support are over … who has time to sit on the phone to troubleshoot problems?

When deciding on a restaurant printer, be sure to look for one that features a plug-and-play setup. What does this look like? It’s simple: everything you need will come right in one box and also be available online.

In the case that you do need assistance, technical support is also an important variable to consider. Choosing a restaurant printer that is backed by a dedicated technical support team and a library of online resources (like on-demand manuals, FAQs, and more) is sure to come in handy just when you need it.

4. Reliable Yet Stylish Design

Your front-of-house restaurant printer is one part of your POS system that gets a lot of customer visibility. Make sure it looks great!

When looking at a restaurant printer’s design, choose a design that is compact and durable, yet sleek and high-end. Bigger isn’t better, and in the future, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a receipt printer for POS that takes up a lot of real estate on a checkout counter.

Instead, expect stylish, minimalistic designs, even for printers that are tough enough to work in a kitchen environment. First impressions mean everything, so make sure your printer is designed to impress your diners!

5. Value-Added Customer Engagement Services

Nowadays, printers can provide so much more than just transactional data. In fact, you can now use your printer to provide services that were previously managed through third-party companies, such as surveys, promotions, coupons, and more.

When choosing a printer, check into whether or not its manufacturer offers these value-added customer engagement services. Examples of these services include:

  • Digital receipts: Cloud-based, digital receipt solutions that allow your customers to store and manage receipts on their digital devices.

  • Receipt marketing: Services also exist that allow you to turn your receipt into a marketing channel! With these tools, you can create custom promotions that print on your receipts.

  • Customer surveys: These surveys, which can be printed directly on the receipt, serve as a direct line of communication with your diners to receive instant feedback on how your restaurant is performing.

What Kind of Restaurant Printer Do You Need?

The next variable to consider is what kind of printer you need, and there’s no better way to find out than considering where the printer needs to exist. Are you looking for a receipt printer for iPad POS or a chit printer for the front-of-the-house? Or do you need a hardy restaurant kitchen printer for the back-of-the-house? Keep reading to learn about the different considerations for each location.

Back-of-the-House Printers

The back-of-the-house is where heat, spills, particles, and steam can damage a restaurant order printer to the point where it stops working, which can cause work to slow down or, even worse, force your staff to handwrite tickets. At the end of the day, any of these scenarios affect your profits. Because of this, it’s important to choose a restaurant ticket printer that’s rugged and able to alert your kitchen workers even during busy shifts.

In modern kitchens where heat and oil are well-controlled, direct thermal printers can also be used. However, they also need some very specific features, such as splash resistance, warning buzzers, and an insect-proof design.

One kind of kitchen printer you can choose is an impact printer, which uses bond paper that can withstand the hazards of a busy kitchen. Impact printers are designed so a printhead makes impact with an ink ribbon, transferring the message onto the receipt paper. The advantage of the ribbon is that two colors can be used (black for orders and red for order modifiers). Bond paper also withstands humidity and extreme temperatures, which are commonly found in hot kitchens and cold storage.

Impact printers are loud and help to notify cooks when orders are coming, even in a noisy kitchen environment.

Front-of-the-House Printers

As we discussed above, in the front-of-the-house, aesthetics is critical and because there are fewer hazards, the printers don’t need to be quite as rugged. With this in mind, a good goal for your front-of-house printer is a thermal printer that’s sleekly designed and has a compact footprint, so it doesn’t look like electronic clutter sitting out in the open on the countertop.

A thermal printer is quiet and uses a printhead to apply heat that transfers characters and images to receipt paper and labels.

These receipt printers for restaurants are perfectly suited for front-of-the-house printing needs like customer receipts because they have a higher resolution than impact printers, so they print crisp, clear images.

For restaurants that want a nicer-looking receipt, or want to print coupons and marketing information, thermal printers are the right choice.

Multipurpose Printers

Front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house printers aren’t mutually exclusive! You may also shop for a modern thermal printer recommended for both your front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house needs.

Some features to look for in a front- and back-of-the-house printer is a compact, front-loading and front-exiting design. Be sure to look for multiple connectivity options such as USB, Lightning USB, Bluetooth, and Ethernet, which will allow for the printer to connect to any PC, tablet, or cloud-based software application.

To also protect it in the kitchen, check to see if they printer has an IPX2 splash-proof design to protect the printer from hazards such as water, debris, or insects. Compatibility with a modern kitchen buzzer to alert staff to orders is also a plus.

Now that you’ve learned all about front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house printers for restaurants, here some key takeaways:

  • Look for a printer that features front-loading for fast paper changes, to save time and maximize profits.

  • Don’t limit yourself right off the bat with a printer that doesn’t have the right connectivity options. Be sure to select a printer with myriad connectivity options for mobility and flexibility (i.g. tablet POS, pay at the table, and more).

  • Choose a printer that is integrated with your favorite POS software, and is backed by a strong technical support team at the manufacturer level.

  • To take your restaurant POS to the next level, choose a printer manufacturer that offers value-added customer engagement services, like digital receipts, receipt marketing, on-receipt customer surveys, and more.

  • Selecting a receipt printer for the front-of-the-house vs. the back-of-the-house doesn’t have to be difficult. Typically, for restaurant kitchens, you should look for an impact printer that’s built to withstand spills, humidity, dust, and more.

  • For the front-of-the-house, ruggedness is less important, but a stylish design is even more crucial. Select a printer that features modern connectivity options and is integrated with your POS software, and comes in sleek designs and colors that match your restaurant’s aesthetic.

  • Looking for a restaurant printer to handle both front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house applications? You may also choose a versatile, sleek, and fast compact printer that can tackle it all and includes a splash-proof enclosure.

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