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Note: Texte fondé sur des processus automatiques de reconnaissance optique de caractères. Seule la version PDF a une valeur juridique

[ EN ]
The present invention relates to a
communication and data processing system.
In restaurants and other places where personal service is provided by a mobile member of staff, the task of ascertaining the nature of the service required communicating instructions for the required service and rendering and accepting a charge for the service once completed are all tasks which take time and require additional support particularly in terms of manpower.
Many attempts have been made to automate some of the tasks, mostly without any significant savings.
It is an object of the present invention to provide an improved communication and data processing system.
According to the present invention there is provided a plurality of portable units each having a keyboard, a display and a printer, each portable unit being capable of storing keyed-in items of data representing at least two different groups of
information, a plurality of saddle units, each data output unit being associated with a different one of said groups of information, and a control unit, said control unit being arranged to receive data stored in a portable unit when the portable unit is coupled to a selected one of said saddle units and to direct the data representing the different groups to
corresponding ones of the output units.
Advantageously each portable unit is arranged to process the data keyed in, and to provide a summarised print-out.
Preferably one of said portable units comprises a master unit, the remaining portable units being slave units, and wherein the data stored in each slave unit can be downloaded to master unit through the control unit when the master unit and the selected slave unit are each coupled to a
corresponding saddle unit.
The data keyed into each portable unit may comprise an order for a meal and the said summarised output may comprise the bill for the meal.
A communication and data processing system embodying the invention will now be described by way of example with reference to the accompanying
diagrammatic drawing which is a block diagram of the system.
As shown in the drawing the system is intended for use in a restaurant. The system
includes a plurality of portable units: two slave units 2 and 4 and one master unit 6 being shown.
Located at suitable fixed sites in the dining area of the restaurant are two saddle units 8 and 10. Two printers 12 and 14 are located
respectively in the cooking area and the bar area of the restaurant. A central control unit 16 connects the saddle units 8 and 10 to the printers 12 and 14- Each portable unit 2, 4 and 6 includes a keyboard 2a, 4a, 6a, a screen 2b, 4b and 6b and a printer 2c, 4c and 6c. In addition each portable unit 2, 4 and 6 includes a coupling 2d, 4d and 6d which is arranged to mate with a coupling 8d and 10d on a corresponding saddle unit 8 and 10.
Each portable unit 2, 4, 6 also has a corresponding trigger button 2e 4e and 6e.
In operation each waitress is provided with a slave unit 2 or 4 and the head waiter or manager is provided with the master unit 6. The master unit 6 has all the facilities of a slave unit but includes other facilities as will be described in more detail hereinafter.
When taking an order for a meal the
waitress keys into the unit 2 her personal code, the table designation and both the food and drinks ordered. Once the order has been keyed into the unit the waitress takes her unit to one of the two saddle units and causes the coupling 2a of her unit to couple with the coupling 10a of say saddle unit 10.
The trigger button 2e is then pressed and the saddle unit 10 causes the data stored in the unit 2 to be read out and directed to the control unit 16. The control unit 16 includes a discriminator (not shown) which discriminates between the food content of the order and the drinks content. The control unit 16 then directs the data concerning the food content to the printer 12 located in the cooking area. The printer 12 then provides a print-out of the food ordered. The cook in the cooking area can then act on the order.
Likewise the control unit 16 directs the data concerning the drinks content of the order to the printer 14 in the bar area whereupon the printer 14 will provide a print-out of the drinks ordered.
Once the waitress has served the food and drinks to the table ordering, the bill for the meal can be automatically printed out from the unit 2 simply by keying in the table code and an appropriate bill code.
The customer then settles the bill with the waitress who will then retain the takings until the end of her shift.
At the end of the shaft the waitress approaches the person holding the master unit 6 and then asks him to couple his unit 6 to one of the saddle .units 8 and 10. The waitress then couples her unit 2 to the other saddle unit 10 and 8 and operate the downloading code on her unit 2. Thereafter the trigger button 2e is operated and the data stored in the unit 2 is downloaded into the control unit 16 via the saddle unit. The control unit 16 recognises the downloaded data and directs it to the master unit 6 through the associated saddle unit. The master unit 6 stores the downloaded data of the unit 2.
In this way the data from every store unit is transferred to the master unit 6 at the end of every shift.
The master unit 6 stores the data in an enlarged store and at the end of a suitable period, such as a day or a week, the stored data is fed to a mainframe computer for example through the public telephone network, for checking and analysis.
It will be appreciated that the described system provides significant savings in the amount of travel the waitress is involved in and allows her to spend more time in the restaurant area to attend to customers. Also the automatic print-out of bills avoids the need for a cashier and will much
appreciated by the more impatient customers.
The portable units 2 to 6 are suitably
programmed with a number of prompting systems to reduce the level of training for operation of the portable unit to a minimum.
Eor example the keyboard may be an
alphanumeric one containing the numbers 0 to 9 and only a minimum number of the most used letters of the alphabet, say 1 letters. To enter the name of drink the waitress enters the first letter of the drink such as S for sherry. A prompt will then be
displayed listing some if not all the drinks having S as a first letter and a simple yes/no button can then be operated to confirm the correct drink to be ordered.
A similar system of prompts can be employed with the food order. Since each unit will store data concerning the price of each item of food and drink on the menu, the unit is programmed to sum the cost of the meal as each item is entered and so a total figure is always available at a moment's notice.
The speed of transfer of the data from each unit 2, 4 and 6 to a selected saddle unit 8 or 10 is such that transfer of data is effected in a fraction of a second.
While the system has been described for use in a restaurant environment it will be appreciated that there are many other environments where the system can be suitably operated. For example the system can be used in a garage, where the mechanic working on a car can order parts from different locations and automatically print a bill for the customer's convenience the instant work on the car has been completed.
Other possibilities will also be apparent.
While the system has been described with just one master unit, two store units, two saddle . units, and two printers it will be appreciated that as many store units, saddle units, and printers as required for a given situation can be provided.