(Self) Serve it Up!
More restaurants are discovering the benefits of self-serve ordering kiosks. Have you?
Having constant long lines of customers waiting to order is the dream of any quick-service restaurant. It means you’re doing your job right. You offer quality food at good prices and customers can’t wait to get their hands on it. But wait they do. And sometimes they get frustrated if they wait too long. What can you do to alleviate that problem? Add a self-service kiosk.
Kiosks, those standalone machines with interactive screens, have popped up everywhere from airports for check-in to the USPS to send packages. So why not restaurants? Whether you have a fast-casual spot or a quick-service store that offers freshly made food, adding kiosks can speed up the ordering process and cut down on ordering mishaps.
If you have a kiosk doing a certain job, it allows your staff to do another job and take care of customers in other ways.
– Travis Bryant, regional sales manager at Jason's Deli
“From an operator standpoint if you have a kiosk doing a certain job, it allows your staff to do another job and take care of customers in other ways,” said Travis Bryant, regional manager at Jason’s Deli, which has 254 stores across 29 states. “One of the hidden advantages [of a kiosk] is the accuracy. The customer is putting in their own order. An order taker could forget to ask if you want a protein, an iced tea or soda. The kiosk will always ask. It’s an up-sell.”
Will adding self-ordering kiosks to restaurants replace workers? Probably not, but many restaurants have found it helps increase sales and customer satisfaction. Bryant does say the kiosk removes some customer interaction and that’s why Jason’s Deli limits the kiosk orders to drink, soup and salad bar preparation and keeps the sandwich ordering a live act.
Sheetz, a Pennsylvania-based quick-service convenience chain with 500 locations across six states, added kiosks to all their locations in the mid-90s and saw an immediate impact. Sheetz offers full made-to-order menus with everything from sandwiches, salads and burgers to burritos, pizza, smoothies and specialty coffees. Everything can be custom ordered through their interactive, picture-based kiosks. “We wanted to make the ordering process easier for the customers because when you offer like 60 toppings and have high volume, you can’t put up a menu board with all those options,” said company president and CEO Joe Sheetz. “Everything is customized. It allowed us to make the ordering not be the bottleneck. All of our stores have a minimum of four kiosks.”
Using machines manufactured by NCR, Sheetz can customize the front end to better market new items, add in a Spanish interface and even track sales across the company. “You can track from a foodservice management perspective and it helps track margins,” Sheetz added. “From a cost accounting standpoint, you can deplete your inventory on your books and it allows you to put an actual cost on each sandwich. It helps with ordering and we do our own distribution so that helps with ordering on a per-store basis.”
Other restaurants are slowly dipping their toe into the kiosk business by offering online and mobile app ordering. Chicago-based Native Foods Café, with 26 restaurants across six states offering plant-based menus, recently launched their first Native Foods Express. While they haven’t yet added kiosks, CEO Craig Grimes said they’re considering it, especially for the Millennial market. For now, however, the Express concept, with four categories — sandwiches, wraps, salads and bowls — allows customers to bypass the in-store lunchtime lines by ordering ahead and picking up their order from a built-out cubby section. This helps workers in the city’s business district get in, eat and back to work in less time. “Lunch is about quick service,” Grimes said. “This gives business people a great fresh lunch so they can get back to their desks.”
The bottom line? Kiosks are all about convenience and efficiency. Sheetz said there are three key points to consider: Kiosks make it easier for customers, improve order accuracy and allow you to put more labor in the kitchen. Sheetz said they had concerns in the 90s whether people would take to the kiosks, but because they have such an easy, intuitive interface, most people caught on quickly. But there is always someone to walk you through the process if need be.
“We train people to watch if someone looks confused at the kiosk,” Sheetz said. “There’s always someone to talk to.” So it looks like the machines aren’t fully taking over. Yet.