What is a Barcode Reader?
Ever wonder what those beeping devices that employees use to check customers out at the grocery store are called? A barcode reader is a device that scans a barcode and uses a laser or a camera to read the pattern of black and white lines on the barcode label. There are many types of barcode readers, but they're all used for the same thing- to read a line of code and locate the critical data that's embedded in the pattern of lines. Various industries use them to process payments, monitor inventory, and gather valuable data that helps optimize decision-making.
Restaurants also use barcode readers to maintain accurate inventory levels and even read customer receipts. They also can be integrated with mobile devices to read QR codes, which are similar to barcodes. The great part about barcode readers is that they make the inventory process easy. There are no more time-consuming inventory counts or managers worrying about which items to sell or not sell.
All relevant barcode data is readily available to you in the form of reports. You can know exactly which items are popular, which aren't, and how much of a certain item you have in stock. A barcode reader is a critical component of a successful restaurant or retail store.
Origin of Barcode Readers
Before barcode readers were invented, grocers had to checkout customers manually. This was a time-consuming and labor-intensive process that was ripe for error, particularly if a customer had a lot of items. In 1948, a grocery chain in Philadelphia asked researchers to create a solution to this problem.
The Drexel Institute of Technology took on the task. Their goal was to automate the checkout process and shorten wait times so grocery stores could accommodate more people. It took a few years, but one of the top researchers named Norman Joseph Woodland at the DIT found a solution. The first barcode reader used Morse code, extending dots and dashes in each specific symbol to generate a line of code. Woodland then created a device that reflected the light into a set of numbers. After applying for a patent, the Philadelphia Storage Battery Company purchased it 3 years later.
The very first barcode scanner was used in Marsh Supermarket in 1974. It scanned a juicy fruit pack of gum. It took many years and more advanced technology until barcode readers evolved into what we know today. Now we have mobile computing usage, QR codes, cordless readers, and more. Industries from airlines to grocery stores to restaurants to healthcare companies to manufacturers all benefit from barcode readers.
Other Fascinating Historical Facts on Barcodes:
- It was not until the early to mid-1980s that grocery stores adapted widespread barcode reader use
- RCA almost bought the patent for the barcode, but was beat by IBM who did not have the patent, but had the original inventor
- The original pack of gum and receipt that was scanned for the first time is now at the Smithsonian Museum on display
- The UPC (Universal Product Code) is the barcode of choice across all industries, unless they use QR codes
- QR codes are now gaining in popularity because they can hold more information than barcodes. Restaurants prefer them because they can use them to upload menus. Customers can scan and access the menu through their mobile devices.
You want to use barcodes in your restaurant, but you're not sure how.
Barcodes are everywhere, but they're not always easy to understand. They can be intimidating to the uninitiated.
Why Barcode Readers are Important
The use of barcode readers has become so prevalent in retail and supply chain management, it's hard to find a business without them. Barcode readers can be used in a variety of ways. They can be used to scan and read the barcodes of the products you sell, and they can also be used to read and scan barcodes on items you purchase. Barcode readers are an integral part of any business. Other benefits include-
- Universal Use- Every industry and government entity understands barcodes and knows how to read them. This universal acceptance makes it easy to find optimized scanners and incorporate readers into your business.
- Reliable- Manual processes lead to errors and barcode readers minimize them. This leads to more reliable insights and better customer service across all industries.
- Efficiency- Barcode scanners are easy to use and train employees on. They are much faster than manual processes and more reliable. There are so many use cases like uploading your Restaurant Menu with a QR code or tracking inventory. All of this increases efficiency across the supply chain.
- Less Time-Consuming- Managers can incorporate barcode readers to save employees time and minimize labor-intensive work. This improves morale and enhances customer satisfaction.
- Inventory Control- Best of all, barcode readers optimize inventory management and inventory control. They also attach to POS solutions and other software so you have a comprehensive view of restaurant data. You also have more accurate insights because data comes from a Payment Technology system.
What Barcode Readers Do
You've seen them around at your local grocery store. You might have even seen someone scanning a barcode on their phone. Barcode readers are a quick and easy way to scan a product and find out what it costs, but they do a lot more than that.
There are readers in warehouses, retail shops, libraries, and more. In a warehouse, there are millions of products being shipped each day. Trackers are used for tracking inventory and to know when to replenish stock.
Retail shops use bar code readers to quickly scan the barcodes of the products to be sure they are in stock. They also help managers optimize customer service in case an item is not in stock. The list of use cases goes on. Read ahead for the top 2 uses of barcode readers today.
1. Real-Time Inventory Insights
Modern restaurants and retailers can entirely depend on smartphones that integrate with a mobile computer to monitor and track inventory. Or, they can use more traditional barcode readers and scanners that integrate with mobile apps and a Pos Solution to keep updated on inventory levels in real-time. This helps managers make quick decisions about menu choices, reordering, and more.
It also helps those employees who have access to the system offer better customer service. They know exactly what they can sell when they can sell it, and when an item may be restocked. Customers appreciate the improved quality of customer service and more reliable menu insights. Restaurants can save money on reordering costs and ensure the most popular and profitable items are readily available to customers. It's a win-win for everyone.
Benefits of Using Real-Time Data Insights:
- Make quick decisions that align with the speed of your business
- Increase business agility and optimization
- Quickly pinpoint and resolve operational problems and bottlenecks
- Identify and act on short and long-term market changes
- Personalize the marketing experience to meet customer demands and increase sales
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2. Accurate Inventory Counts
Restaurants also use barcode readers to scan the number of ingredients in the refrigerator or storage area. In the past, managers had to spend weekends or downtime manually performing inventory counts. This led to a lot of problems, including human error and unreliable data.
Now, barcode scanners accurately count how many items are in stock and save the data in a computerized system. The barcode reader can also integrate with a POS or other software to maintain accurate stock levels for everyoen to see. This is much less time-consuming and far more accurate. It also helps the front-of-the-house staff perform their jobs more effectively and increases customer satisfaction.
3. Mobile POS Integrations
Customers can use mobile POS systems to optimize online ordering and speed up the delivery process. These solutions use barcode technology and are integrated with the restaurant's Inventory Management system. When customers order online using an online ordering platform, the data is immediately sent to the restaurant's POS system.
This way, online inventory doesn't become separate from in-house inventory. Both in-house employees and online customers have an accurate view of what's available to eat and when. This eliminates a lot of errors and ensures restaurants can provide the type of customer service required to optimize brand loyalty.
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