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Behind the scenes of the new Toast POS experience with Lou Orfanos, SVP Product & GM

Cheryl Neoh and Garrett GoehringAuthor

A Q&A with Lou Orfanos, SVP Product & GM at Toast, on why Toast has invested in rolling out an updated POS experience

Q: Lou, thanks for taking the time to chat today with us. I was wondering if you could quickly give us some background on yourself and your role at Toast?

A: I joined Toast in 2022 as the SVP and GM of Commerce R&D, which is the product team focused on restaurant operations. I love to eat and eat well. But more importantly, I grew up in restaurants. I spent much of my youth watching family and close friends in the immigrant Greek community work tirelessly in small diners and pizza places to support their families (and each other). It’s been exciting to come back full circle and focus on helping restaurants adapt, innovate, and grow in an incredibly challenging macro environment.

Q: So, we’re here to talk today about a pretty exciting upgrade to the Toast platform — the new POS experience. Before we dive in, can you give me some background on the classic experience at Toast? When was it introduced, etc…

A: The journey first started in 2012 when the founders launched an app designed to let guests pay the check from their smartphones. The app gave customers a way to start a tab at a restaurant and link a credit card. We’ve made huge strides since the early days of 2012 — from that simple mobile app to the robust restaurant point-of-sale platform that restaurants know and love today. Throughout that time, we’ve continued to innovate and enhance the experience based on rigorous research, testing, and customer feedback. 

Q:  Why did Toast invest in a new user experience on the Toast POS?

A: Everything we do is in service of helping restaurants operate better.  Like many industries, restaurants have had to adapt a lot, especially over the past few years. Running a restaurant is more complex than ever before. Restaurant guests want more ways to order and pay. Operators must identify more restaurant revenue streams and juggle multiple takeout and delivery channels. And staff often find themselves navigating multiple technologies at a time. We saw an opportunity to assess how to improve operational efficiency throughout an entire restaurant —  for owners, operators, and staff alike. 

We conduct thousands of interviews, surveys, calls, advisory board sessions, pilots, and more each year. Throughout these interactions, restaurants keep returning to the same three key goals: improve profitability, employee productivity, and the guest experience.  With this in mind, we set out to improve speed, make the experience more intuitive and give staff more control. And so users will see this come to life in a number of ways — from larger font sizes and design tweaks that improve visibility to surfacing actions and hiding others for more streamlined screen navigation to introducing new features that help shave seconds off every order.

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Q: We’ll dive into the specific updates in a bit – But first, I know personally whenever an app or website gets a redesign, there can be somewhat of a learning curve. Do you have any tips or tricks for operators or staff introducing this new workflow into their restaurant?

A:  We know change may take some time, no matter how big or small. Updating product design is not something we take lightly. With that in mind, our design team has intentionally aimed to ensure that  the screen layout and workflows stay relatively consistent with what users are already familiar with. At the same time, incorporating more navigation elements helps make the POS more intuitive and faster for teams to learn and use. We also recognize that restaurants want control in deciding when to effect this change, so we’ve given all restaurants a lot of time to try out the updated experience and provide feedback before making this transition the “new normal.”  

Our customer education teams have put a lot of thought and effort into building tools and resources to help restaurants prepare for the change and get up to speed:  The Toast Central New POS Experience Hub is a one-stop shop for numerous how-to videos and other essential articles. Much of this material is also available on the POS terminals and handhelds to help prepare staff for the flow of service. As a best practice, we recommend turning it on for your staff and training them during a slower period to minimize disruption during open hours. 


Q: At a high level, what updates can customers expect from the new POS experience? 

A: Earlier, I shared that the new POS experience is designed to improve speed and ease of use – In the hospitality industry, every second counts. When it comes to running a seamless operation, muscle memory is critical. So, we took the lens of identifying efficiencies to shave seconds off highly repeated actions, resulting in significant time and labor savings when executed over the course of hundreds or even thousands of times a day. We factored that into our design guiding principles and applied it to optimizing how restaurants manage orders, tables, and payments. 

Q: What’s a new feature or change the team is especially excited about putting in customers' hands?

A: Dark Mode! Screens can now match the restaurant ambiance, which may be especially important for evening service or bars and lounge environments that tend to have dimmer lighting. It’s one of the ways we wanted this update to further our promise of being purpose-built for every type of restaurant.

Q: What other ways does this update demonstrate that Toast is built with restaurants in mind and can serve every restaurant concept? 

A: For full-service restaurants, we’re very excited about giving staff more table management functionality so they’re better equipped to deliver seamless dining experiences. Server item fire is designed to put control of meal pacing in the hands of servers, while table timers alert servers when to appropriately check in with guests. We’ve also optimized order by seat to reduce the number of screen taps and introduced more table details via pan and zoom, such as guest count, total spend, and server assigned. So now staff have even more of the right details literally at their fingertips.

Q: Seems like this update has something for everyone. Any improvements quick-service establishments can look forward to? 

A: Absolutely!  Speed is pivotal in any food and beverage operation, especially for quick service. After observing several dozen quick-service operations, we’re very excited to introduce Open View ordering – it’s built to give staff the option to take orders faster by displaying all the menu items and modifiers on a single scrollable screen,  dramatically reducing tapping back and forth between screens. Open View ordering is crucial for concepts with high volume or orders that require a lot of modifications, such as coffee shops,  salads, and smoothie bars. In addition to helping improve the day-to-day workflow, we expect this to simplify menu setup. And so far we’ve been getting really positive feedback, with customers telling us it makes the flow of transactions smoother and more efficient. 

Q: Earlier, you also mentioned improvements to how restaurants manage payments – can you share more specifics there? 

A:  Checks are now easier to find and manage, thanks to more filters and check counts in the tab bar. With updates to the payment options layout and a new pre-authorization banner, entering payments is also faster and easier.

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Q: Any other updates our customers should be excited about? 

A:  So many more, but I know our customers will be excited to hear that we’ve also updated shift review – Users can now close out shifts faster with fewer clicks. So overall, it’s more intuitive and simpler to learn.

Q: What has the reception to the new POS experience been thus far? 

Excitingly, over 50,000 restaurant locations are already using the new POS experience – This demonstrates the value and ease of adopting these enhancements. One of our customers, BBQ Holdings, is a multi-brand restaurant company that has benefited from the enhancements. Their portfolio of brands includes Famous Dave’s, Granite City Food and Brewery, Urban BBQ, and many more across the United States. Per Michael Plate, their POS Manager, “We have seen great adoption of the new POS experience within our brands and are excited to have a point-of-sale partnership that provides us with new and exciting features.” 

Q: That’s great to hear – Our customers play a big role in everything we do at Toast.  And on that — since this might be a change for some, is there any feedback you’ve received that was implemented into the new system during the rollout process? I know some Toast customers have been using this for a while, and I’d love to hear about adjustments you’ve made.

A: Most of the constructive feedback we received from servers and managers was around the new handheld ordering experience. We validated this feedback by going on-site to restaurants, documenting the exact workflow and design issues through notes and videos, and sharing that with the team. 

We made a number of improvements to the handheld experience as a result:

  • The menu button is now automatically open to make it faster to enter orders. But servers can also tap to close the menu view to maximize screen real estate to view the contents of the check.
  • The hold, stay, and send buttons now stay fixed in the footer at all times instead of moving to the header when the menu is open. This preserves muscle memory while using the new handheld experience and is consistent with the classic handheld order experience.
  • The print button switched positions with the discount button so it is now larger and always visible on the screen next to the pay button. This is more consistent with where the print button was in the classic experience and ensures servers always have quick, easy access to it.
  • The service charge, discount, and split buttons now have text instead of icons. This increases their touch target size and makes each of these button’s functions more explicit.

Q: And finally, if customers do have feedback or a new feature they think would just, you know, make their restaurant experience that much better, what’s the best way to go about that? 

A: Customers can report feedback directly to customer care or their restaurant success manager if they have one. Both teams are in regular communication with the Product team and will ensure the feedback gets back to the right people!

Q: Thanks, Lou, and finally, what’s next for Toast? We’re always trying to improve our features and our platform. Can you give a sneak peek into something the team has on the horizon at Toast? 

We’re committed to continuously enhancing the entire Toast platform and delivering on our promise of Toast products & devices working even better together. In the near future, customers can also look forward to improvements and additional functionality across areas such as the self-service kiosk, the guest-facing display, guest engagement functionality, resiliency in the event of outages, and more. 

Lots of exciting things to come! 

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