Customizing the Panasonic 7800 POS system

Created For - Work

Created - Nov. 3, 2009, 10:08 p.m.

Language Used - proprietary

One of the coolest things I got to do while I was working for Cedar Enterprises dba Wendy's of San Antonio was customizing the Point Of Sale (POS) system. We used the Panasonic 7800 terminal system. Cedar Enterprises used a "master" template for the layouts on the home screens. Whenever we had a new promotion, or price change, the IT department would push through updates to all the affected restaurants. This made perfect sense from a business standpoint, as it greatly simplified the IT departments job. Unfortunately, this led to more than a few problems and annoyances at the store level, as we often had to contend with items on the screen that we did not sell. In addition, the layout had obviously been designed by someone who had never worked a cash register. There were certain buttons that were used hundred of times per day that were too small to hit with any reliability. The flow of the menu pop ups was also sub-optimal. One day, sitting in the office, I realized that the program to modify the layouts was on the back office computer, and I began to experiment.

I spent the next few weeks learning how the layout editor worked. I had to use intuition and trial and error, as the manual for the program was nowhere to be found. Eventually, I would end up changing around half of the layout, from button size, placement and color to the sequence of generated menus. The end result was a marked improvement in order accuracy and speed. For example, on the kitchen screen the system would color code certain things, to aid in comprehension. The base text would be white, and other items could change color, like green for pickles or red for ketchup. By default, onions were left white (just like the base text). This led to issues with cooks not recognizing the customer had requested holding the onions. When I changed things around, I programmed it to display onions in cyan, which greatly aided the cooks. While certainly a minor change in isolation, the combined effect was much more profound. Ultimately, despite the obvious benefits of a per-store customization, the IT department shut me down when they discovered what I had done. (Database integrity took precedence over my changes) The lead IT guy, Tony McAllister, sent me a very nice email that told me very politely to quit screwing around with the POS system. He advised me to channel my interests in technology towards a college degree, and a year later I took him up on his challenge.