Firing by item prep time

Timing order preparation accurately, so that every component of the course or meal is ready for service at the same time, can increase guest satisfaction and reduce waste. Typically, servers send all of the items in an order to the kitchen at once (or all of the items in a course for a restaurant that serves in courses). Similarly, all of the items in an online order get sent to the kitchen at the same time. In restaurants that use Toast KDS devices, that can result in all of the sent items firing immediately to the prep stations.

In addition, this Toast Central article provides an overview of automated item firing.

About item firing by prep time

When the Toast platform fires all of the items in an order or course at the same time that they are sent, some items are fulfilled quickly and can end up getting cold (or warm) while waiting for service, and other items need more time.

A timeline showing four items sent and fired to the prep station for an order, with three completed by 100 seconds and the fourth not completed until 240 seconds.

Many kitchens that experience this situation rely on employee experience or training to time when to actually fire items. An expediter organizes prep station efforts, or servers send items based on timing requirements. These approaches, while they can be helpful, can also have uneven results, particularly in kitchens that use KDS devices in place of printed kitchen tickets.

An alternative is to provide a scheduling framework that fires the items in an order or course sequentially and automatically. The Toast platform bases this scheduling framework on how long it takes to prepare each menu item. If you configure prep times for your menu items, servers can send all items at the same time (either for the entire order or for a course). However, the items do not appear on the KDS device prep station screens until the Toast POS app automatically fires each one.

A timeline showing four items sent to the expo for an order, with one fired immediately and the others fired 140 seconds or more later.

In this example, only the double turkey burger, which takes the longest time to prepare in this order, fires and appears on a KDS device prep station screen when the server sends the items (or the online order is received). The other items do not fire or appear on a prep station screen until automatically scheduled to do so based on their prep times.

On the expediter screen, tickets for all items appear as soon as the server sends the order. The expediter ticket includes the following visual cues to item status.

  • Fired items appear in normal font (with KDS color-coding as configured).

  • Unfired items appear in gray italic font (with KDS color-coding as configured).

  • Fulfilled items have green check mark icons.

When the order illustrated in the timeline above is sent to the expediter screen, it appears like the following example.

A ticket showing four items, with one fired immediately and the other three held.

If you decide to enable the item fire by prep time feature, note the following considerations.

  • This feature is only available in kitchens that use KDS devices to display prep station and expediter tickets. This feature is not supported for use with kitchen printers.

  • In addition to configuring menu items with their prep times, you can also configure prep times for modifiers that have a direct effect on how long it takes to prepare a menu item.

  • You can give expediters the ability to override configured prep times and fire or fulfill items ahead of their scheduled times.

  • If you void an item after it is fired, the system does not adjust the scheduled firing times for the other items in the order. The system uses the original timeline to fire the remaining items.

  • In a restaurant that serves in courses, each course has its own timeline for automating item firing.

    A pair of timelines showing two appetizers sent and two entrees sent. In each timeline one item fires immediately and the other fires later.
  • If you use online ordering, note that the Takeout & Delivery > Quote time strategy > Quote times that display when an online order is placed does not change based on the prep times of the items in the order. Review these default settings to make sure that they provide adequate time for any of your menu items to be prepared.

  • To use this feature, you must set the Individual Tickets for Every Item in an Order option to Don't print or show individual tickets on the kitchen display screen on the Kitchen > Printers, tickets, & kitchen display screens (KDS) > Kitchen page. The item fire by prep time feature applies only to tickets with more than one item, so selecting another setting prevents you from benefiting from the prep times you configure.

  • You use a configuration option to enable or disable this feature. As a result, you can update all of your menu items and modifiers with prep times first, and then begin using this feature for automated scheduling when you are ready.

Configure prep times for menu items

To configure your menu items to include prep times, you must have the Restaurant Admin > Edit Full Menu access permission.

Follow one of these procedures.

To add prep times for multiple items

  1. Determine how many seconds each menu item requires to prepare.

  2. Access the Toast administration back-end and then choose Menus > Menu management > Advanced properties. An interactive grid appears.

  3. To include the column for prep time values, from the Show/Hide dropdown select Prep Time.

  4. Expand the corresponding menu and menu group for the items you want to add prep times to. The notation "secs" appears in each editable prep time cell.

  5. For each item, enter the number of seconds it takes to prepare that item in the Prep Time cell.

    • Enter all times in seconds.

    • To fire an item last in every order or course (no prep time required) enter 0 seconds.

    • To fire an item as soon as an order or course is sent (always start prep as early as possible) leave the cell blank.

    The Advanced Properties page showing items in the appetizers group with prep times in seconds entered in the cells of the prep time column.
  6. Save and publish your changes.

    To use the prep times to schedule and fire items automatically, you must also enable the item fire by prep time feature. If this feature is already enabled, your changes take effect as soon as you publish.

To add a prep time to a single item

  1. Determine how many seconds the menu item requires to prepare.

  2. Access the Toast administration back-end and then choose Menus > Menu management > Edit menus.

  3. Click the name of the menu, then the menu group, and then the menu item that you want to update.

  4. Scroll down to the Preparation section and in the Preparation Time field enter the number of seconds the menu item takes to prepare.

    • Enter the time in seconds.

    • To fire an item last in every order or course (no prep time required) enter 0 seconds.

    • To fire an item as soon as an order or course is sent (always start prep as early as possible) leave the cell blank.

  5. Save and publish your changes.

    To use a prep time to schedule and fire items automatically, you must also enable the item fire by prep time feature. If this feature is already enabled, your change takes effect as soon as you publish.

Enable the item fire by prep time feature

To enable the item fire by prep time feature, you must have the Web Setup > Kitchen / Dining Room Setup access permission. Then, follow these steps.

  1. Access the Toast administration back-end.

  2. Choose Kitchen > Pacing > Meal pacing to open the Meal pacing page.

  3. Verify that Item Fire by Prep Time has Enable item fire by prep time checked.

  4. Save any change.

  5. Choose Kitchen > Printers, tickets, & kitchen display screens (KDS) > Kitchen to open the Kitchen page.

  6. Verify that Individual Tickets for Every Item in an Order is set to Don't print or show individual tickets on the kitchen display screen. The item fire by prep time feature applies only to tickets with more than one item, so selecting another setting prevents you from benefiting from the prep times you configure.

  7. Save and publish your changes. The Toast platform uses prep times to schedule item firing as soon as you publish your changes.

Giving expediters the ability to override prep times

You can give your expediters the ability to override the automated scheduling framework. This option gives expediters a way to fire items to prep stations ahead of their scheduled times, as well as to mark scheduled items as fulfilled or unfulfilled as needed on the KDS device. If you enable this option, both of the expediter screens in a kitchen with two-level fulfillment have the same options to fire, fulfill, and unfulfill items on the KDS device.

Your expediters screens interact with tickets differently based on whether you have the Fulfill Items configuration option set to Enable individual item fulfillment or to Disable individual item fulfillment. To set this option, choose Kitchen > Printers, tickets, & kitchen display screens (KDS) > Kitchen and scroll down to the Ticket Screens section.

Overriding prep times: individual item fulfillment enabled

To fire or fulfill items ahead of schedule, an expediter selects a ticket on the KDS device and a dialog box opens. The expediter then selects one or more of the items in this dialog.

A ticket with fired and unfired items, with two versions of the dialog showing that the unfired item can be fired or fulfilled ahead of time or that the fired item can be fulfilled ahead of time.

If the expediter selects more than one item, only actions that apply to all of the selected items are available. In this example, selecting both items enables only the Fulfill option because the Double Turkey item is already fired.

Selecting a fulfilled item enables the Unfulfill option.

Overriding prep times: individual item fulfillment disabled

To fire or fulfill items ahead of schedule, an expediter selects a ticket on the KDS device and new actions become available in the title bar above the ticket.

A ticket with fired and unfired items, with the title bar showing Fire and Fulfill options.

Expediters can take the following actions for a ticket.

  • Fire fires all of the unfired items on the ticket. Fire appears only if the ticket includes an unfired item.

  • Fulfill fulfills all of the fired and unfired items on the ticket.

To unfulfill a ticket, select Show Recently Fulfilled and then select the ticket. The Unfulfill action appears in the title bar.

Configure prep time override for expediters

To configure your KDS device so that an expediter can fire items ahead of schedule, you must have the Restaurant Admin > Edit Full Menu access permission. Then, follow these steps.

  1. Access the Toast administration back-end.

  2. Choose Kitchen > Printers, tickets, & kitchen display screens (KDS) > Kitchen to open the Kitchen page and scroll to the Expediter section.

  3. Set Override Item Prep Time to Yes.

  4. Save and publish your changes. If you enable this option, both of the expediter screens in a kitchen with two-level fulfillment have the same KDS device options to fire, fulfill, and unfulfill items.

Using prep times for modifiers

You can define prep times for modifiers as well as for menu items. Based on the configuration settings for your restaurant and for the associated menu item and modifier, the Toast platform uses a modifier's prep time in one of these ways.

  • For an integral modifier, which is a modifier that is necessary to the completeness of its associated item, the system sums the prep times of the modifier and the item and then updates the prep time for the item.

  • For an independent modifier, which is a modifier that is prepared separately from its associated item, the system uses the modifier prep time to schedule and fire the modifier on its own ticket.

Examples and the required configuration settings for each type of modifier follow.

Prep times for integral modifiers

Some modifiers have a direct effect on how long it takes to prepare their associated items. An example is how thoroughly to cook a beef item: a steak that is ordered rare takes several minutes less time to prepare than a steak that is ordered well done. For modifiers like these, which are integral to the associated menu item, you can configure prep times that add to, or subtract from, the item's prep time.

For example, most guests order your charcoal grilled hamburger cooked medium, so you set the hamburger menu item to have a prep time of 460 seconds. To accommodate guests who want the item cooked to other temperatures, which take more or less time than a medium burger to prepare, this menu item has a modifier group of meat temp options.

  • You set the prep time for the medium modifier to 0.

  • It takes a minute less time to cook a burger to rare than to medium, so you set the prep time for the rare modifier option to -60.

  • It takes two minutes longer to cook a burger to well done than to medium, so you set the well done modifier option to 120.

The KDS device sums the prep time of the item with the prep time (if any) of the specified modifier option. In this example, the result is that orders for rare burgers are scheduled to take 400 seconds, well done burgers are scheduled to take 580 seconds, and burgers ordered medium are scheduled to take 460 seconds.

Before you configure prep times for integral modifiers, consider the following.

  • If the modifier group is associated with more than one menu item, the Toast platform adjusts the prep time of every associated item by the same amount of time.

  • You cannot configure prep times for premodifiers.

Configure prep times for integral modifiers

To configure prep times for modifiers that have a direct effect on how long it takes to prepare an item you must have the Restaurant Admin > Edit Full Menu access permission to the Toast administration back-end.

Follow these steps.

  1. Determine how much time each modifier adds to or subtracts from the item's prep time.

  2. Access the Toast administration back-end and then choose Menus > Menu management > Advanced properties to open the Advanced properties page. An interactive grid appears.

  3. To include the column for prep time values, from the Show/Hide dropdown select Prep Time.

  4. Expand the corresponding menu, menu group, items, modifier groups, and options for the modifiers you want to add prep times to. The notation "secs" appears in each editable prep time cell.

  5. Enter the number of seconds that the modifier option adds to or subtracts from the item prep time in the Prep Time cell.

    • Enter all times in seconds.

    • To reduce the item prep time you enter a negative number in the format -{seconds}. For example, -60.

      Note

      If the total prep time for an item and its modifier(s) is negative, the Toast platform uses a prep time of 0 seconds, which fires last in every order or course (no prep time required).

    • If a modifier should not change the item's prep time, set the prep time to 0 seconds or leave it blank.

  6. Save and publish your changes.

You must also enable the item fire by prep time feature. If this feature is already enabled, your changes take effect as soon as you publish.

Prep times for independent modifiers

In some cases, the modifier selected for an item is prepared separately from that item, and might even be served independently as well. An example is a side salad for an entree, which is included in the price of the entree but prepared and served independently of when the entree itself is ready for service. You can configure prep times for independent modifiers so that the Toast platform automatically schedules and fires independent modifiers in the same way that menu items are scheduled and fired.

For example, you offer several salad options with your entrees, including a Caesar salad that is prepared tableside and a garden salad that is prepared in the kitchen. You can define a different prep time for each salad so that, when the same party includes multiple orders, all of the salads will be served at the same time.

Before you configure prep times for independent modifiers, consider the following.

  • You must configure course service for your restaurant, and specify a course for the menu item and the modifier. The course that you specify for the item and modifier can be the same or different, but the course cannot be left as inherited.

  • If the modifier group is associated with more than one menu item, all of those menu items must be configured to specify a course, and not inherit it. Otherwise, the system treats the modifier as an integral modifier for some menu items, and as an independent modifier for other menu items.

The steps for configuring prep times for independent modifiers follow.

Configure prep times for independent modifiers

To configure a prep time for a modifier that is prepared independently of its associated menu item you must have the following access permissions to the Toast administration back-end.

  • Restaurant Admin > Edit Full Menu

  • Web Setup > Kitchen / Dining Room Setup

Follow these steps.

  1. Determine how many seconds the modifier requires to prepare.

  2. Access the Toast administration back-end and then choose Kitchen > Pacing > Meal pacing to open the Meal pacing page.

  3. Verify that Course Pacing is set to Enable course pacing and Modifier Course Firing is set to Fire modifier to its configured course.

  4. Save any changes.

  5. Return to the Home page and then choose Menus > Menu management > Edit menus.

  6. Click the name of the menu, then the menu group, and then the menu item. For example, select the menu item that has the side salad modifier option.

  7. Verify that Inherit Course from Menu Group is set to No, specify course here.

  8. Save any changes.

  9. Return to the Home page and then choose Menus > Menu management > Advanced properties. An interactive grid appears.

  10. From the Show/Hide dropdown select Course and Prep Time.

  11. Expand the corresponding menu, menu group, items, modifier groups, and options for the modifiers you want to add prep times to. The notation "secs" appears in each editable prep time cell.

  12. Verify that the course for the modifier option is not inherited from the menu item. The modifier can be set to a different course or to the same course, but it cannot be inherited.

    A menu item and a modifier option that are set to different courses on the Advanced Properties page.
  13. Enter the number of seconds the modifier takes to prepare in the Prep Time cell.

    • Enter the time in seconds.

    • To fire a modifier last in the course (no prep time required) enter 0 seconds.

    • To fire a modifier as soon as the course is sent (always start prep as early as possible) leave the cell blank.

  14. Save and publish your changes.

You must also enable the item fire by prep time feature. If this feature is already enabled, your change takes effect as soon as you publish.